From Fear to Trust – Story of Meatie, the Feral Cat

cute feral ginger cat sleeping

Meatie | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

Written by ©Caroline Hagedorn (Meatie’s photo set)

cute ginger cat sleeping

Meatie and his big paw | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

I have had cats all through my life, but this is the first time I have ever become involved with a feral cat. I could not bear to watch this big beautiful animal fall victim to a life of starvation, disease and homelessness in my neighborhoods. I have shed many tears over the plight of this cat.

I have four indoor/outdoor neutered/spayed, inoculated cats and try to discourage strays and ferals from invading their safe-zone, but when I saw Meatie (named Meathead for his huge tomcat head) and his tiny black companion, Teeny, my attitude changed. I spotted this large yellow tom looking quite fierce and fearful while foraging for food in my back yard in mid summer of 2007. The little companion was never far from the big guy. I could see neither were healthy, and both looked like older animals. Meatie was the heartier of the two.

I decided to put food out behind my back fence to feed them and to try to keep them out of my yard. The sight of me or any human would cause both to disappear, so I was content to put the food out and assume they got it. This went on daily. Eventually the two would come up and sit on my front steps, but still did not want to get close to me. Meatie would hiss and growl, and he was quite scary! It was a surprise to open my front door one morning and find them sleeping together on my door mat. Soon they were finding the chairs on my front porch accommodating, but still no human touch. All the while, the front porch had to be off limits to my other cats. Eventually these two did not go in the back yard anymore.

When the cold weather set in I put blanket-lined boxes out for both of them underneath the chairs and covered the chairs with sleeping bags and waterproof material so they could have shelter in the cold. I didn’t know if they would use them or not. Sadly, those two cats were in the boxes every night. My heart nearly broke when I realized they had absolutely no where to go. In the bitter cold, they even stayed in the boxes all day. I fed them as much as they would eat, hoping good nourishment would help them keep warm and boost their immune systems.

cute ginger cat and his shelter

Meatie's apartment | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

Although they both made it through the winter, Teeny passed away in the spring, succumbing to the upper respiratory infection he had ever since I first saw him. I buried him in the garden. Meatie still had a persistent sneeze and cough too, in addition to several other problems I could see. I was so afraid Meatie would also lose his battle.

Not being able to get meds from a vet because I couldn’t get him in to the office, I turned to a local wildlife rehabilitator who gave me a small quantity of antibiotic pills to help with his persistent, painful conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers and respiratory infection (probably Calicivirus, she said). But I knew I could never get pills down him and they would be useless if I could not complete the whole cycle. I spent hours trying to diagnose Meatie’s ailments on the Internet and looking for possible medications I thought might help. I called several shelters trying to figure out how I could sedate him to trap him and get him to a vet. I couldn’t get anyone to help me. I needed help. No person could handle him unless he was sedated, even then I would need another person. His eyes got so bad he could barely open them. Some kind people who work at a no-kill shelter hundreds of miles away answered my pleas for help and guidance and sent me an antibiotic powder to sprinkle on his food or put in his water. It turned him around. The pink eye and mouth ulcers cleared up. The sneeze and cough gradually went away. He got MUCH better.

cute ginger cat Meatie and caroline

Meatie & Caroline | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

A full year after feeding him 2-3 times a day, Meatie allowed me to touch his head for the first time. I wish I could say “and the rest is history,” but it’s not, and I don’t think it ever will be. This cat will always have a fear of humans and I still fear him despite the fact I am now able to pick him up and carry him (sometimes). I would never attempt to corral him against his will because he has hurt me quite badly too many times, despite the fact that he only has one tooth in his head. He has a vicious paw strike capability, and those deep scratches hurt for days.

After about a year and a half, Meatie got to the point of climbing onto my lap if I sat on the ground and put my legs straight out. He loved that, and I could pet him, but one false move by me and I was ripped to shreds again.

My joy has been based on the small milestones in earning Meatie’s trust and affection and seeing Meatie’s overall health improve. One time I saw him crossing the street and when I called his name he returned to the front porch. That was amazing. He knows his name now and waits for me to come home from work. He also greets me on my lunch break.

I know he will never be 100% healthy, but I’m taking care of him no matter what. I will cope with each problem as it arises the best way I can. It is not easy, and not for the squeamish.

cute ginger cat sitting on lap

Meatie sitting on the lap | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

Why have I undertaken this responsibility? Because as a human being I feel partly responsible for the predicament of this animal. If he had been neutered, and had a home with care and inoculations, I feel he would be a beautiful, healthy, loving pet. This poor cat has suffered terribly with his mouth problems and with the general health problems he has and continues to have. He is a domestic animal, at least 10 years old, who has been abandoned, neglected and/or abused by people.

The front porch is his kingdom. He has a safe warm place there. He absolutely does not like to be in the house.

The second & third winters I enclosed half of the porch to provide him with a warm, dry shelter over the winter. It works out very well. He loves his “apartment;” it has a cat door. I spend time with him every single day, at least twice a day, sometimes napping with him on his favorite cot in the “apartment.” He jumps up there with me and plops down on my head, purring like a giant lawnmower. He rubs his big fat cheeks on my face and makes little sounds to show his appreciation and affection for me. To me that makes it all worthwhile.

I guess the rest IS history; till death do us part, Meatie.

cute ginger cat stretching in the tent

Stretchhhhhhh | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger cat

Meatie's big round face :) | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger cat napping silly pic

photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger cat

photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger feral cat yawning

Yawnnnn | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger cat big round face

photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger feral cat napping on porch

"shhhh... do not disturb!" | photo by ©Caroline Hagedorn

cute ginger cat snoozing

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439 Responses to “From Fear to Trust – Story of Meatie, the Feral Cat”

  1. Linda S says:

    What a wonderful story. God bless you for taking care of Meatie. I have ferals at my house as well.At least we give them a chance.

  2. Ingrid says:

    Thank you for this beautiful story. I hope you'll enjoy each other as long as possible ♥

    • caroline says:

      Thank you, INgrid, it has truly been my pleasure!

      • Ann F says:

        I loved your story. I am an older granny and not too great with the computer so I hope you get this. I have a male ferral that looks like Meatie -exactly-big head and all. I have him and his sister and it is such a problem to provide a warm place for them in the winter. I did manage to purchase a pretty good “house” from Walmart on line for less than $50 and I fill it with towels and old wool sweaters and cover it with a plastic tablecloth. I subsequently saw a better idea to make a “house” out of a large cooler. Very good insulation and water proof. Instr. online

  3. slaxx says:

    aww. that is so sweet. caring and taming a feral cat is no easy job, but all the hardship goes poof on the firsts: first purr for you, first hold, first recognition of you. it's all very worth it :)

  4. erin says:

    what a wonderful story, and God bless you for taking the time to care for meatie. he is lucky that he touched your heart, as kitties often do! he looks like a big loveable boy! i do know that you have to be careful with feral cats, but you have provided him with love, food and shelter and obviously have made him a happy boy! i'm sure he appreciates it! good luck with meatie, and i hope you get to enjoy him for a long time……

    • caroline says:

      yes, ferals require a lot of caution and patience!!!

      many have a lot of health issues, possibly life-threatening, so be careful of exposing your other cats to them.

      I was extrememly careful about hand washing and even changing clothes after a Meatie session and before i handled my other cats—i have 4 others, strays, but not feral. They are all innoculated and neutered.

    • caroline says:

      Thank you so much, erin.

  5. mina says:

    what a great story..its so sad to think of all of the cats running wild wih no homes or consistent food sources dealing with similar problems as meatie and never finding help. someday i hope people will shift their ideas of what it means to own a pet. i think if people stop thinking of them as property and instead just help the animals they see and do their best to take care of shelter animals, the world will be a better place for domestic animals.

    • caroline says:

      i agree, Mina. It is a huge problem and growing. I have to put blinders on and help 1 or 2 at a time. I guess the other thing we can do is give money to organizations making an effort to care for ferals

      and no kill shelters like Helen O. Krause. Compassionate individuals at HOK advised me and sent me antibiotics to help Meatie. I am forever grateful to them. I intend to visit there and make them my beneficiary.

      Here's a list, but i have to admit—i know nothing about them. i would research the one i was interested in.

  6. Sara says:

    Hi, what a beautiful story!!! YOU ARE AN ANGEL!!! Two beautiful, ababdoned house cats showed up on my front porch.

    I kept food and water for this two cuties. They didn't now what to think, they stayed around but not close to us.

    It was winter here in arizona. Yes, it gets cold here in the desert, freezing cold at nigth. So I bougth a fire proof heated pad at walgreens and i put inside of their little house. I put a hand towel on top of it, low temperature to avoid any burns on them.

    I also bought a timer and i plugged it into it so it was going on in the evening and off around 10 am when it was getting a little bit warm. They slept there every nigth!!! Fed and warm :)

    Now, well, now they live inside and they have kicked us out of our bed!!!!! :)

  7. Laurie says:

    There's a special place in heave for you and Meatie, I'm quite sure! God bless you, you're a true "kitty angel" :) !

  8. Laurie says:

    oops, sorry! heaven, not "heave"

  9. Brian says:

    That was the purrfect story for the day and it sure did make my whiskers grin up!

  10. Gina says:

    Beautiful story! I have a very similar story with dogs.

  11. Dawn says:

    God bless you for being his angel!

  12. Gina says:

    It is hard to imagine life without them now.

  13. Alora says:

    Great story. I love Meatie! Feral cats return tenfold the love you give them once you earn their trust.

  14. Criz Lai says:

    Thank you for your compassion and patience to give Meatie the best he could have in life. I also have one injured feral in my room now. You can call it miracle or fate as he managed to find me in my apartment maze. Let's hope "Joe" as I named him can live well with my other 5 house cats for years to come.

    You have done a great job there. Keep it up! May God bless you always. :)

    • Sara says:

      Please let us know how your kittie is doing. My best wishes for him and God bless you for been such an angel for that poor little feral kittie :)

  15. God Bless. Meatie looks like a great Cat and I can tell he loves his Mommy very much. We also feed the strays that show up; so far 12 of then have decided to come "in" for good.

  16. roma says:

    meatie is lucky- he found a great mama!

  17. Michelle says:

    The world needs more people like this! It's hard work taming a feral, but worth it. It would be nice if the 'Trap, Neuter & Release' program was used everywhere, and then this situation wouldn't be nearly as bad as it is. People who don't have there pets fixed should be FINED!

    Caroline, you are to be praised for your patience. Bless you!

    • caroline says:

      Seems to me as though we have to do what we can within our means and restrictions. Thank you, Michelle.

  18. Cristina says:

    Oh you brought a tear or two to my eyes. Meatie looks just like my Sunny who we also rescued. We have 3 kitties all found in our yard and are very happpy to be inside. One of our cats Bebe was feral too. It took us 2 years to bring her in. We started by leaving food closer to the house and opening the basement window so she would come in for shelter. I can't tell you the nights my husband and I stayed up waiting for her to come in. Eventually she did and never wanted to come out. Now, 16 years later she is a beautiful, healthy loving cat who will never get over being skittish.. Thanks for sharing

    • caroline says:

      See? You have a beautiful story to tell too—get your photos together and feature your sweet baby on Lovemeow!!!

  19. annie says:

    Ginger cats seem to be very funny I have had two in my life so far. one still with us. they are a trip. Nike just walked in the front door at about six months. 12 years ago. he has never left.he does bring home his catches or lays them out on front porch all dissected. sort of mafia style. he could not be more loving or sensitive.of course he is neutered.I have had spayed and neutered, from rats rabbits dogs. what ever. it keeps them with

    quality of life. thank you for sharing. reading

    a longer life. Thank you for sharing

    • caroline says:

      yep, cats are predators and that's the way it is. I HATE stepping out of bed on a dissected animal left for me by one of the cats. I discourage it and scold them, but heck—THEY ARE CATS!

      I'll never be able to change their DNA.

      • sarah says:

        Really?? Even though I am turned off by my pets leaving me something… (Though I luck out and they just leave me hair ties, usually) I never punish them for it. They’re bringing it home to show you. It’s a sign of love.

  20. Marg says:

    That is such a wonderful story and it sure hits home here because I have had so many feral cats here. Most of them eventually I have been able to pat but there is still one that I cannot pick up. So it is really hard to get her to the vet. You are such a wonderful person to persevere and take care of Meaty because he sure did need you. Feral cats are just the best. They just appreciate every thing you do for them.

  21. Kate says:

    I LOVE this story!!! Thank you for sharing yourself and Meatie with us!

  22. deb says:

    What a wonderful story!!

  23. Sarah says:

    What a touching story. I am a feral "mom" to 6 yard cats. I know just how special it is when one of them decides to show a little love and trust after years of fear. Thank you for sharing your story!

  24. Rochelle says:

    Wow.I can't imagine that Meatie could rip anyone to shreds as he looks so gentle!

    • caroline says:

      BELIEVE IT!!

      His demeanor has changed, but he is fully capable. OMgosh is he ever! OWWWWWWWW! My hands have swollen with the infection and pain.

  25. tanya says:

    You are such a wonderful person for taking care of Meatie during his times of need, as well as Teeny. You have a beautiful heart and I wish you and all of your cats the best of luck.

  26. Sandria Farley says:

    That is a wonderful heart wrenching story. Meatie is one very special very lucky cat. Thanks for sharing your story. And thanks for saving a beautiful wonderful cat from certain death and painful life.

    I too have a feral boy. I trapped him in Nov.'08. He was absolutely scared to death of humans. Afraid of the slightest movement inside the house. I'd been feeding him on the front porch for over a month. I should write his story.

    his sex until I picked him up from our local Snip

    • caroline says:

      yes, please write his story and post photos!

      people need to know the ins and outs of trying to help a feral cat. one woman told me she had finally coaxed a feral into living in her house, but the cat STILL would not let her touch it after 4 years!

      Now THAT is dedication.

      • I have a feral female cat who I've had since December of 2002 (over 8 years!), and she *still* won't let me touch her except once in a blue moon, I can pet her when I'm feeding her. She's a beautiful white cat who I named Buttercup, and I love her dearly. Some of the ferals, I guess, just never will want to be handled. She's very loving with my other 4 cats, and she lies 2 feet from me and purrs, but she just doesn't want to be handled, even after over 8 years.

      • Jamie Knight says:

        Meant to mention in my previous post that Buttercup is a strictly indoor cat now and seems to have no desire to go outside. She's a happy cat. :-)

  27. leahfu says:

    My grandparents had a feral cat come bring her kittens on her doorstep once. Of all the kittens one stayed behind. They named him Junior and he became their half feral pet. They had to tranquilize him to have him neutered and later in life they tried to tranquilize him and it didn't work. Junior never let me pet him the years he lived right outside their back door. He would love me through the glass door, but once that door opened he would run away. One day my grandma noted that he wasn't well and had started walking around in circles. I walked outside and he let me pet him. It was amazing, but also heartwrenching. Junior disappeared the next day and nobody knows where he went. They all assume he left to die. :( I hope you have many years of fond memories with Meaty like my grandma did with Junior

    • caroline says:

      We have to remember all the good things. Just think of the love Junior shared with you the best way he could. I hate it that our pets have to die, but that's part of loving them. I'm sorry you lost your sweet Junior.

  28. Ardene says:

    A very touching story except I'm not sure who's "Meatie," him or you after he's shredded your arm. I am deeply touched by your compassion and devotion to this animal. I rescued my Koko-san, a part Burmese/Siamese stray at 8 wks and she is a major handful, but a gem. I take her out for walks on a leash and harness. Maybe I won't deny her as she has been hissing when I try to take her in if we're in our wild back yard, attached to a park, where a lot of other cats/wildlife live. If I take her out for an hour, she'll throw a fit coming in so I have, for my own sake, curtailed her forays. Maybe I'll be able to withstand her hissy fits, though they are a bit scary. I draw the line at being hurt. Bravo for a wonderful story.

    • caroline says:

      Believe me, i try to avoid getting hurt, and i am getting MUCH smarter about that. hahaha I actually had a stint in the hospistal from a cat bite (not Meatie).

      Some cats are always grumpy. Meatie isn't, but if he is startled or fearful he will rip me to ribbons.

      Best of luck with your little lady!

  29. Ardene says:

    Ah, yes, Koko-san is six years old now…she sends sandpaper kisses.

  30. ruthie says:

    super like!!!

    God bless you!

  31. Lizzy says:

    If only there were more people as caring and responsive to the needs of animals as yourself! Blessings upon you, and on "Meatie" as well.

  32. janie jones says:

    That's beautiful. Its sad that he's so distrusting of people but its great that you two have worked out a nice symbiotic relationship :)

  33. david lawson says:

    great story. my wife and i have a stray we brought in. she was out in the bitter cold. one day we noticed. no front claws. yes a stray with no front claws. still the cat defends itself very well. she has taken down chipmunks and other rodents.

    • caroline says:

      Isn't amazing how a cat can learn to overcome it's "handicaps"?!!

      She can still hunt with no front claws—WOW!

      Perhaps she wandered away or was lost from a family many years ago…

      Personally, i would NEVER de claw a cat. I would rather have them tear up my furniture than mutilate them like that. Don't get me started…

      • Olivia says:

        Caroline I just adore this story! I have read it multiple times now and it still just makes my heart melt. Meatie is a beautiful boy and what you have done for him is just incredible! I am so glad there are people out there like you :) I also am STRONGLY AGAINST declawing – it is not responsible, humane or considerate at all. In my opinion it is animal cruelty purely for selfish human beings. I don't exactly enjoy being scratched but there are options such as clipping/filing to make the claws less sharp or putting claw covers on! declawing is illegal in Australia luckily :)

  34. Parker says:

    God bless you! What a great story and Meatie is a handsome boy!

  35. I'm so glad Meatie has someone to look out for him!

  36. Melva says:

    You are an amazing woman, I wish there were more people like you in the world! :) Melva

  37. You have been so patient with Meatie and how well that has paid off – he is now healthy and well looked after – he is bonding with you some and that is amazing.

  38. SunStones says:

    I love this story…. I think it should be published and perhaps more people will realize the rewards received when offering to help a life that is in need. Bless you and Meatie with lots of love.

    • caroline says:

      You know the rewards well, Maria. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.

      We love you and yours!!!

  39. caroline says:

    I am so blessed to have Meatie in my heart forever.

    Check out tons of other photos of the Meathead only Flickr Photostream.

    Love you for loving Meatie.


  40. caroline says:

    "on my Flickr Photostream" I meant to say

    :-) kitty kisses!!!

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