TALES FROM THE SHELTER
Case studies collected by Chelmsford CP during the early 1990s. They may provide inspiration to other owners and potential owners of shelter kitties.
The tabby cat had been her owner’s companion for 18 years, but when the old man died his grown-up children wanted nothing to do with the cat and turned her out to fend for herself. The cat was no longer agile enough to hunt and had few teeth which made scavenging difficult so after two weeks in the cold February weather she collapsed. Only then did neighbours take her to a local vet who spent many days nursing her back to health.
The first ‘rescue’ organisation the vet spoke to told him that old cats didn’t get homes and he should put her to sleep. Instead, the vet contacted the Cats Protection League and ‘Kitty’ was taken to the Chelmsford & District Group’s rescue shelter.
Her new owner only adopts old cats as they more suited to her lifestyle, quieter and more inclined to spend the day dozing while she is at work. Kitty was ideal. Far from being a waste of the vet’s time, Kitty is now 19 and active and healthy for her age. Although she no doubt misses her companion of 18 years, she is enjoying life in her new home and is spoiled silly. If only her owner’s children hadn’t been so thoughtless, and if only the neighbours had taken note of the old cat’s plight earlier, why are people so thoughtless?
Postscript: Kitty was put to sleep aged 21 due to heart failure. Until then she had showed signs of being immortal and only her heart and lungs had let her down. She was accompanied by her owner and was purring at the very end.
A DISABLED CAT & A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
Lady was blind and also somewhat hard of hearing so her owners had taken her to be destroyed. The vet explained that she had enough hearing left for her to continue to enjoy life. The owners left her with the vet and so she came to the Chelmsford shelter.
The same day, two friends came looking for a cat. One was a would-be owner, the other was giving her a lift, but was not allowed a cat because of her husband’s racing pigeons and other fancy birds. The would-be owner chose a cat and the two departed. Half an hour later, the friend who was not allowed a cat, returned for Lady. Her husband could not possibly object to a blind, hard of hearing cat. Lady posed no danger to his birds and would be spending the rest of her life either indoors or on accompanied trips around a securely fenced (to keep other cats out!) garden. It was a match made in heaven.
When the young couple moved into their new home they found more remained than ordinary ‘fixtures and fitting’. Awaiting their arrival, presumably left behind by the previous occupant, were two heavily pregnant cats. Luckily the two expectant mums had not been shut in for long and were in good health when they arrived at the shelter, although one lost all-but-one of her kittens at birth. Thank goodness the house did not remain empty for long, especially during the current housing market slump when so many houses are empty for long periods of time.
There is a real danger of cats creeping into empty houses and being accidentally shut in or boarded up inside. A cat-sized gap should be left when empty houses are boarded up for long periods of time.
The owner explained that the 3 year old British Blue was spraying the bedroom furnishings, even though a litter tray had been provided. As the woman handed over the pedigree papers, she told us that she could no longer tolerate such unhygienic behaviour and it was ‘you or the vets to have her destroyed’.
Finally the truth emerged. She had recently acquired a pedigree puppy after seeing the breed on a television programme. The cat did not get on with the boisterous puppy and was spraying ‘territory’ to make herself feel secure. The owner was adamant, the cat had to go.
Was the cat, we wonder, a similar impulse buy 3 years ago after the breed had appeared on some program or other?
Scrapper was a ten year old semi-feral tom who had been terrorising the neighbourhood cats until the CPL swooped, relieved him of his ‘important bits’ and set about tidying him up. with crossed eyes, a mangled ear, a broken tail, fleas, ringworm and a dreadful disposition, Scrapper appeared anything but a pet cat. Minus his fleas and the ringworm, not to mention his ‘important bits’, he became friendly, but would-be adopters were still put off by his fearsome appearance.
A young couple visiting the shelter 11 months later demanded the ‘two oldest, tattiest moggies in the shelter’. Shortly afterwards, they reported that Scrapper was more teddy-bear than cat; he had latched onto the wife and accompanied her to bed and even on short walks. The only remnants of his semi-feral days was a tendency to raid dustbins - although he preferred to take his scavenged home with him and eat in the comfort of the living room!
Postscript: Sadly Scrapper was put to sleep aged 12+ due to kidney disease. As a former free-living cat he would have been unable to understand a restricted diet and restricted lifestyle so euthanasia was chosen as the kindest option. The owner reports that Scrapper obviously didn't know he was dead because that night she heard him join her and the remaining cat in the bedroom as usual, then heard him pad out of the room. On several occasions she felt his presence nearby. This continued until she adopted another old, tatty cat.
SILVER - A PEDIGREE ‘GONE WRONG’
The 4+ year old neuter was a perfect Silver Tabby Shorthair - American style, not British style - but his temperament was dreadful. He had been found as a stray and adopted by a local family, who watched in horror as he proceeded to wreak carnage in their garden. Silver shredded several chickens before their eyes, dragging his prey to the top of a 6 ft fence panel in the same way a leopard takes its prey into a tree. He tried to tear his way into the children’s rabbit hutches and even attack the children although they did nothing to provoke him. He terrorised the lady of the house and only her husband could handle the cat.
This monster of a cat came to the Chelmsford shelter and was nicknamed Ivan the Terrible. He attacked volunteers cleaning the pen and hated even the sight of other cats. Eventually, Silver was put in solitary confinement well away from other cats (but with good views of the shelter and neighbouring pastures) and he began to calm down and demand attention.
With his aggressive streak, he was not a novice’s cat; he loathed other members of his species and still saw himself as a Tiger or Leopard. Too many people fell for his beautiful markings and tried to stroke him (against the Warden’s advice) only to come away bleeding. He could be picked up and cuddled, but not by the nervous! Finally a single man saw him. The striking markings were immaterial; he needed a cat that would keep down the mice and rabbits that plagued his garden as well as provide companionship. Silver did not let him down on either score.
DIDI - A SURVIVOR
Didi walks with a rather odd gait today, though by all rules he should not be able to walk at all. To tell the truth, Didi should not even be alive, having come off worse in an argument with a motor vehicle. Exactly what happened, only Didi knows, but when he arrived at Chelmsford CPL shelter, his back legs looked distinctly ‘odd’ and he walked with a wobble. Despite this, he charged out of his pen to greet every visitor with a head butt and a friendly purr.
The X-rays told part of the story. Didi’s back legs and pelvis had been smashed, injuries indicative of a road accident. The bones had set, but not quite in the right positions, giving him rather crooked legs. Somehow he had managed to find food and water while the injuries healed before turning up as a stray at a nearby house. He defied veterinary science by not dying of internal haemorrhaging, by apparently surviving unaided with two broken legs and by learning to walk again on legs which had set crooked.
Determined Didi had survived through sheer purrsonality.
REGGIE - ANOTHER SURVIVOR
Children had been throwing stones at the ‘odd looking’ cat which had turned up on the street. The poor creature was a mass of suppurating wounds and scabs which had developed from a single untreated bite abscess.
The vet had shaved much of Reggie’s head and neck and peeled away the infected scabs to allow healthy tissue to form. This was necessary, but all the raw flesh looked absolutely horrific and shelter helpers were in tears over this mess of a cat. Reggie’s remaining fur was black and tatty and the cat shunned human company— hardly surprising after what he had been through.
He was fostered by one of the wardens while his wounds healed and his condition improved. Gradually, most of the raw flesh was covered by healthy tissue and finally by fur. Today, Reggie is no longer a tatty black cat with horrific open sores; he is now a sleek Chocolate Oriental crossbred and has been permanently adopted by his fosterer.