Over fifteen years ago now, I went in to see my vet with another cat who was infested with earmites. As I walked into the clinic Dr. Sullivan (may he forever R.I.P) who was at the front counter saw me coming and he beamed his wide smile and said- “Mary Anne, just the person I was looking for- come with me!”
I sighed, because I knew full well what “come with me” really meant. He wasn’t going to give me samples of kitty products, slip me some cat medications on the sly, ask me to test a new cat litter, or present me with food for my group. It was kitten season and undoubtedly, someone had dropped off a kitten in need of a home (mine.) I followed him back to the all-familiar back room where he put dumped kitties and we stopped at this metal crate that contained three emaciated kittens (mostly black).
He told me that they had been found at a near-abandoned campground in Washington by a retired couple who just drive around all year chasing the sun in a motor home. He said they had brought them in late last night, and he didn’t think that keeping them in a metal crate when he KNEW where they would get more love was with me. I sighed again- but as the saying goes- “There’s a sucker born every minute” (and I was born twice). I told him I would take them.
Two of them were the fluffiest, skinniest kittens I had ever seen. Evidently had Persian somewhere in them. I put them upstairs in the kitten room and gave them food- they wouldn’t eat! These kittens were probably 8 weeks old when found-and in the coming days I would find myself frazzled beyond belief trying to get them to eat something- I tried every brand, I tried tuna, baby food, mackeral- nothing- no dry food either so I was assist-feeding and baffled as the vet had checked them out head to toe and pronounced them neglected by pretty healthy by all standards.
One afternoon as I was on my knees in the room watching them again (not eat) I thought about where they came from- an abandoned campground that people still did camp at and I had a burst of inspiration. I scrambled to my feet, ran downstairs, grabbed some raw hotdogs and a pair of scissors and cut that hot dog into mighty small pieces. Placing the pieces on a cookie tray, I went back upstairs and put it on the ground- they DOVE for it. So for a few days, I would give them typical campground food slowly mixing it into the dry and wet food until they were only eating cat food. I named one Chaplain (now Chappy) one Dash and the last one Dillon.
They started to grow, to catch up for lost time, only one (Dash) well, she didn’t stop growing- she became huge- towering over the other two kittens until I realized that she was the mom! That’s how undernourished they were.
Dash and Chappy are still here living with us. Dillon was adopted out to couple with no children and no other cats.
Chappy’s routine he set was in the day, he was virtually invisible staying outside in the tunnels or in the enclosure, but at night, when I was asleep, he would creep into the house and lay near me. If I tried to touch him, he would bolt. He stopped bolting when I stopped trying to touch him and just let him be who he wanted to be. But I rarely saw him in the day- just at night.
About a week ago, he started coming into the house in the daytime and lying behind the couch. I noticed his back legs were turning from black to silver because he is a senior man. But this change was strange as darkness is his friend and I wondered and just watched.
When he walked, he would wobble a bit and if I tried to go to him, he would hiss at me so unlike him. Now I not only watched but I worried.
Last night, I woke up around 3:00 a.m. to a moaning sound- a low moan like a cow does right before she gives birth. It was unsettling and I grabbed a flashlight and went in search of who was making the noise- it was Chappy.
He was once again behind the couch and I knew that if I approached him, even if he was injured- he would elude me and run through the tunnels. So I boarded up the exit to the patio- the tunnel entrances and then went to fetch him- RIGHT! LOL An hour later, I finally captured a squirming Chappy and was trying to put him in the cat carrier. He would have none of it and the minute he was in- and I was trying to shut the door- he would escape…….life around here can get interesting at times. The other cats who were in the house were now gathered interested wondering why mom was so flustered and Chappy so hissed. But I finally got him and I went upstairs and made my last room ready for him. He has all he needs until Monday when I have a vet appointment and I will also take Chappy in at the same time and get him looked at. I knew, once he was released from the cat carrier he would be a formidable opponent but by Monday if he is left alone and only observed outside the room, he would be calmer. At least that is the hope.
As I watched him during the release, I saw that he was limping and what I suspect might have happened was during that butt-heads raid on my enclosure- the person who did damage also threw out the padding I have on the irrigation culverts that serve as tunnels to the enclosure. The tunnels are at a slant so without traction on the smooth plastic, the tunnels can turn into a slide. I suspect maybe Chap tumbled down this slide and landed wrong.
He’s not a fighter and although some people might call him semi-feral, he isn’t that either. He is just a cat who was born outside away from humans therefore human touch can make him nervous and put him on edge.
I didn’t want to leave him up there without apologizing for capturing him in the first place, so I was able to go to him, ignore his hissing and growling and pet him and tell him I loved him and was just concerned about an injury.
It could be that confinement will cure him- being still and quiet with enough food and water available will make him better and by Monday he will be fine, that’s my hope.
When I shut the chicken wire door to the room, he yowled for about 20 minutes but I don’t hear him right now. I will be leaving him alone until Monday so he can decompress. I did comb him out before I left and checked for heat traces on his body and found none. If he doesn’t eat or drink or use the litter pan by Sunday, I will know that something is really up and on Monday he will be seen by my vet.
My husband woke up during all the fracass of trying to capture Chappy and said he wished he had a video camera- I would make it on YouTube!
Chappy is the kitty with the white chin in the front in the photo below-