I, like I am sure many of you, feel that I have always had a sort of magnetic attraction to animals. I, in my own modesty, feel as if it is mutual, of course. In retrospect I now understand that they aren’t really attracted to me, moreover, I am always looking out for them. I drive down the road scanning the horizon for deer, groundhogs, and yes, to be perfectly honest, even toads in the road during the summer. I take every opportunity that presents itself to me to try to save every apparently injured, or in need, homeless animal. Its borderline compulsion and I am working on it. At least that’s the mantra I provide my husband.
Jitterbug, is one of the cats that found his way to my house. I live in an old stone farm house in York Co, Pa, where everything is considered “living in the country”. Seems like the cats like it out here. I have 2 cats a year show up. You can almost set your clock by it. I think I know where the source is, but in the country cats are sort of a kin to mice. They are part of the landscape and most people let them just try to keep each others populations in check. I will admit I am not of this school of thought. A cat is a domesticated species. Mankind bred them, and they don’t exist in the wild. They were a species developed by us, and thus I see them as our responsibility. This means that when a cat shows up at my house it is fed, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.
Jitterbug was about 6 months old when he started stealing food off of my cats back porch. I saw a little tiger-tabby darting on and off to eat as much as he could as fast as he could for about 2 weeks before I made any attempts to talk to him. My cats were split down the middle by his arrival. Half cared to the point of hissing, yelling, screaming and then attacking, and half had naps to catch up on. I always knew when he arrived. Fearing he would begin to retaliate the hostility I decided it was probably best to try to make friends, see if I could find his “real home”, and then send him back there. Inside we all know he left because the pickin’s were easier at my house. After another two weeks I set a have a heart cat trap for him and within 30 minutes he was caught.
For the first time in a month I could see him in his entirety. He was a beautiful white and black tabby with big green eyes, and he was petrified. I put the cage with him still in it in the garage so he would stay warm and dry. I put a towel over his cage, because every animal feels safer in a dark quiet small box. And I said goodnight.
The next morning he took a ride with me to the clinic. The first thing we always do with a found pet is scan for a microchip. Every pet at my clinic is offered a microchip for free. We provide them for free because we know firsthand how many pets it saves. Did you know that less than 13% of pets find their way home if they get lost? He didn’t have a microchip, it wasn’t a big surprise. He was young unneutered, full of fleas, and not tame. I called every local authority to report him as found, placed him in quarantine, and gave him a FeLV/FIV test. He was clear of both of these deadly infections and he was placed away from all of the other pets for his two week quarantine period. I also started his vaccines, gave him a flea and tick preventative and a formal introduction. Two quiet weeks passed. No one called for him and he didn’t ask for anyone either. He hated being caged, refused to interact in any way shape or form, and his solitary confinement period was ended by his last set of vaccines, a neuter, a microchip and a name. I tried to put him into the general cat population here at the hospital but he still refused to interact in any way. He would lash out at anyone trying to befriend him and I knew his misery was only being matched by the danger he was presenting to the staff
It was at that point that I had to make a decision. There aren’t many options for an unfriendly wild cat. I had to decide whether I would euthanize him or bring him back to my house and release him. I fundamentally was apposed to euthanizing a healthy animal. It wsnt his fault no one ever took the time to give him any time or attention. There is a key period of time that a kitten can be socialized. If you can start touching and socializing and exposing a kitten to human beings before about 3 weeks old they will make a great housecat. The later you wait to do it after that the less likely your chances of success will be. After about 6 months a wild cat stays pretty close to a wild cat. This is part of the reason I love cats. They are their own individual. These no wooing a cat. You have to be determined, patient, and lucky. Dogs, well, dogs are just easier to win over. I like a challenge of a cat, and the pay off of being patient and kind. You earn a cat’s affection, you can buy a dogs. (ok, I really, really, do love dogs, I just identify with cats). So of course, without telling my husband I took Jitterbug home. I let him free by the back porch hoping he would remember these once familiar surroundings and not run away from fear or resentment. The second I opened the trap he ran like a refugee for freedom. I really wasn’t sure I would ever see him again. The next night there were the familiar cat calls from the back porch. He was back. I was happy to see him.
It has been about a year since then. He now spends every night on the bed next to me and Jekyll and he waits for me everyday I come home from work. I would love to have him inside full time, for his safety, but he is always right by the house, and always comes when I call him, so I will continue to be patient until the day the winter starts to wrap its frigid fingers around us, then he will move in for the winter. He is usually in my arms upside down purring away, 0r playing with the puppies in the front yard. I may indentify with the cats better, but he thinks he is a dog.
For more information on FeLV or FIV please see the attached link below: