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.
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.
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.
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.
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