Thursday, January 30, 2014

Butterscotch, How To Care For A Found Cat.

There are some pet stories that remind me to sit back, shut up, and regale in the beauty of sharing the magic of the joy of a pet. For those of us who sleep uncomfortably short-sheeted, contorted, and without moving for fear of disrupting the sleep of our pet bed hog, or share our meal time with the sad begging eyes of the Fido food vultures, or even those of us who put out bird seed everyday just to gaze at the beauty of the winged visitors to our feeder, you will understand what I am talking about.

Sometimes we meet someone who just understands exactly what we are about. Such was the case in meeting Butterscotch and the soft hearted guy whose house he crashed one very cold winter night.


I first met Butterscotch on a busy weekday morning. He was a scruffy bony boy who arrived in a copy paper box. Now if you know a thing or two about cats you will know that scant few felines will allow transport in a box. Fewer still will sit contentedly in that box and watch the chaos of a veterinary clinic just pass by.

But, there he sat. Unabashedly perched high, nose inquiring, calm, and cool. As if he was a regular visitor who just landed himself in the box on the bench as a matter of pure fancy. 

The cats that demand the least in attention are those I naturally gravitate toward. If curiosity ever claimed a cat, mine was going to need a resurrection after meeting Butterscotch.

A quiet ominous man sat next to the red box slowly and methodically petting Butterscotch. They were a quiet calm pair in a room of commotion. My fist guess would have been that they were old solid chums. 

When I introduced myself the man he replied that he was here because this cat was huddled up next to his house and "I couldn't leave him outside to freeze to death, and I can't keep him. I am already over my allowed limit." 

"Argh!," I thought. He was here to dump a cat. How many of these do I see every week??,,,at least one..

We have been having record low temperatures. The kind that freezes unfortunate souls in hours and few things tug at me harder than a person stepping up to help, a pet in need, and the dilemma of trying to care for "just one more cat."

With these scenarios the plan is always the same.. Think a second, take a minute to process everything that you are about to say,,, long sigh, deep breathe, and try to figure out a way to help all parties involved without putting the clinic yet another kitty in the Jarrettsville Vet Center general population, or discouraging a good Samaritan from ever helping another creature again. Be strong and kind and don't get frustrated...(all much easier said than done).

Now don't get me wrong, I love having clinic cats. They remind me everyday why I do what I do. And without us every cat in the JVC clinic would have met the end of their days via lethal injection under our roof. We take the cats that clients no longer want, or are able to care for. Lately these stories have left us with our two resident blood donor cats, a diabetic, a chronic stomatitis cat, a back injury cat who cannot urinate voluntarily, and two cats who's parents died unexpectedly. We have four house cat cages and seven cats. Clearly my ability to maintain our 4 cat max policy lacks discipline.

I apologized for being full and offered to help him find this overly sweet cat a home. 

The man asked me to give the cat an exam, a rabies shot and said he was going to keep the cat inside overnight and try to decide what long term plan for him would be tomorrow. 

We quickly discussed the availability of being adopted at the local humane society, or being taken by one of the rescues, and agreed that based on his age and the over abundance of cats in a similar predicament, this cat's options were limited, and his fate bleak if he wasn't taken in by someone we knew. 

At the end of the exam Butterscotch departed in his box to the front desk.

Thirty minutes later the receptionist found me to inform me that that scruffy ornage box cat was now Butterscotch. And he would be back next week for the rest of his shots. His new dad was keeping him, and "to hell with the consequences!" 

Testing for FeLV/FIV
A week later Butterscotch was back at the clinic for the rest of his recommended health items. After a thorough examination, vaccines, a fecal sample, de-worming, flea preventative, and a microchip, Butterscotch was his same cool collected self, but a bit bolder in the seeking affection from anyone and everyone department and a bit bulkier in the body condition.

Looking for more
He was thriving! 

The only photo I could get without him head butting me
He has a corneal defect on his right eye that we are monitoring. With his lack of any sort of medical history I am taking an educated guess and presuming it is an old injury. He is on an ophthalmic antibiotic just to rule out that I am wrong and will be re-checked weekly until we convince ourselves one way or the other.

Is it an old injury? Or a new corneal infection?
The weather has been brutally cold. Everyday is frigid with temperatures hovering around zero. It is not fit for man or beast. Butterscotch is a lucky cat, but he is also a gentle affectionate cat. He wasn't a hard sell, but he was fortunate that his age, medical condition and the size of his adoptive family. His story is not unique, but it is not the norm either. Too many cats are left outside to fend for themselves and too many of them cannot adequately maintain their body temperature in these extreme temperatures and without shelter or resources provided to them.

Fewer found cats will receive needed medical care. 

Here is what you need to know if you are thinking of helping a pet in need.

1. Always assume that a cat is feral. Always. Many cats have had some human exposure, but many are adept skilled survivors, and their intuitive instincts will kick in in a split second. DO NOT PET OR HANDLE AN UNKNOWN CAT! The consequences of your assumption could kill you. If that cat gets scared, and it likely will if you try to approach or pick it up, it will bite you. That bite could kill you if that cat is carrying or infected with rabies. Be careful in your assessment of a cat. Remember rabies can look like the furious (aggressive) form or the dumb (quiet reserved "sick" looking) form. 

2. If a cat looks sick call for professional help. Your local animal control can assist in catching and transporting the cat for care. BUT, be warned if you have not vaccinated the cat, and if they deem it aggressive, sick, unsafe to be handled they can and will euthanize it. A feral cat is only yours if you are caring for it based on the local, state and federal laws. To make the situation worse, IF the cat tests positive for rabies the health department WILL come to your home and CAN quarantine or mandate euthanasia of every pet that IS NOT vaccinated for rabies. I have seen it happen and it has been devastating to the families who love their cats (and dogs). 

3. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished vs. Paying It Forward. Where would society be if we didn't take care of, look after, and intervene for each other? How does humanity survive if people don't have a compassionate soul? It is cheaper and easier to turn a blind eye and walk away from a creature in need? Can any of us say that we earned everything in our lives without the help of others? 

4. If you can help a cat know what you are getting yourself into. It is not enough to provide food and shelter. It is a good start, but you are ultimately responsible for that cat, and that cat will at some point need assistance outside of your abilities. There are rescues, shelters, and non-profits that can assist you if you cannot afford to, or are physically able to help your cats. Prepare for this day today.

In an effort to help Butterscotch his physical examinations were done pro bono. 

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