My second feel good story does not involve any dogs (nothing wrong with dogs mind you!!) but a feral cat whom we shall call Bella and her cat guardian whom we shall call Celia.
Celia, an elderly guardian angel of the feral cat world, was the feeder/carer of 6 rescue cats. Two of them were domestic cats that settled straight away, but the other 4 cats, a Mum with 4 kittens, were really wild. Celia saw them running around in her area, a small agriculture village, with no one caring for them so took it upon herself to be their guardian angel.
Over 5 years Celia had been working with Mama and her kittens
with 2 of them tame to the point where she could stroke and handle them for longer than a few seconds. For anyone that knows feral cats this is a huge step forward and took lots of patience and TLC.
Unfortunately for Celia mama cat Bella is a very long haired cat and, still nervous of humans, had resisted being groomed to the point where she had become terrible matted. Also difficult to touch and handle! In the past Bella and her kittens had to be caught in a cage to be seen by a vet. This enabled the vet to health check them all and spay Bella. This was no easy task with the local vet 10 miles away. Celia witnessed Bella going ballistic, throwing herself against the cage until she bled. After that episode it took two years for Bella to return and put a little trust back Celia’s way again.
Now no longer driving, after a stroke and extremely worried regarding the state of Bella’s coat, Celia emailed me desperate for help and seeking advice.
It was clear this was going to be extremely difficult. Celia lived in a small village with no animal rescue support nearby and with a vet 10 miles away whose solution to the problem was to put her to sleep. Celia, thankfully, ignored this advice, horrified to hear the solution being given rather than real help.
I knew Celia had no other choice but to take Bella to a professional organisation to de-matt her under sedation but how would we catch her and how could I convince Celia that maybe some kind folk out there would be willing to assist with the financial costs, also that the de-matting might not be as expensive as she was presuming?
Emails went back and forth whereby we worked closely together on trying to build on Bella’s trust using jackpot food and plenty of patience. Advice was also given regarding a good sized carrier to get Bella used to resting in it. As time went on Bella would allow Celia to get closer, especially seeing as her kittens, now adults, were looking pretty relaxed on her terrace.
Celia was so scared of trapping Bella. She knew she might get bitten or scratched and so patience was also required talking through what Celia finally had to do. Get Bella in a suitable carrier again and ask for help from kind neighbours of friends.
I felt so sorry for Celia. This burden was really weighing heavy on her mind. A lot to ask for a 70 year old pensioner who was dealing with recovering from a stroke.
But Celia persevered. I convinced her to try and find an animal hospital rather than a vet. She was still terrified it was going to cost a fortune but I felt sure that anyone she spoke to would have sympathy and would help out. The main thing was to catch Bella, no matter how tough, and get her shaved whilst asleep.
I gave advice as much as I could. I won’t reveal Celia’s country but it’s right to assume she was an international client. If in the UK I could have been so much more of a help.
Then weeks went past without me hearing anything until an email popped in my inbox.
The email read:
Thanks to your HELP and replies, I decided to catch my 50/50 tame feral cat and get her to the Hospital Clinic where they sedated her under excellent care. I did manage to catch Mama Cat after all. I am so very pleased I took the step!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I am sure she is very happy as well. The strange result is that she suddenly has become a much more tame cat and now lets me stroke over her whole body for the first time. She was never like that and would have bitten or shows her claws. What a change, I can hardly believe how she has changed in behaviour. Now I would say in a few days she is 75% tame but I still work on all the feral cats to tame them, a gentle stroke at the time.
I am sure you will be very happy to know how you played a big part is helping this poor thing get rid of her mats. I am sure if she could you would tell you so.
Me and Mama Cat will be for ever grateful for your advice and patience answering a lady far away….who needed desperate help with one of her cats…. You have given the courage and confidence and professional advice that I needed and had looked for for so long.
A big, big thank you
Celia, Mama cat and friends
This made my day. It did indeed take so much courage for Celia to catch Bella.
So what happened. How did she manage it and who did the shave? I was so excited to hear more.
Here’s Celia’s reply.. (It was a long reply that needed a little help with english and sentences to write down here. Below are her words organised in the correct way to be readable)
Knowing that she no longer let me touch her, I decided in the beginning of the summer already that when she came to eat; I would concentrate on her neck only never to touch her body as she would show her claws. I have done this for months now and the best time for this was when I gave my 6 cats their last night feed (midnight).
The cats are never far from my sliding door where they have their two small rabbit kennels (cat kennels were to big for winter) and high roofs. When they hear the door opening they all come running. I always sit down and try in one way or another to touch them.
After 5 years, they let them touch them on occasions, so I concentrated on stroking Mama Cat around her neck. As time went on she would allow me to stroke her neck but only for few seconds before jumping away. At least she no longer wanted to bite or scratch me
The best time I found was late at night when they were sleepy in their kennels. It has been a 5 year daily process which I still work at.
I fell in coma last December and only able to care for myself fully again since a few weeks ago, but most days I was able to see my cats daily being fed in the presence of my neighbour. It felt like I could still be with them. I feed them at least 3 times a day or on demand. They take up a big part of my life as I am an older lady of 70
I started to do the daily stroke exercises so as to prepare to do something about Bella’s fur as with my ill health, I had lost my strong grip. I practiced on my other cats first to get the feeling back. Not long after, I felt confident enough to prepare to take her as nobody else could do it and she would never go near a catching cage…that I know. They are to clever all having being caught that way 5 years ago.
I phoned my local Vet who only would come to put her to sleep once caught so I knew I needed to organise her de-matting myself.
I live in a small agriculture village with no such facility here, on top of that I needed to sell my car as I wasn’t in any condition to drive any more.
Sadly I am fully dependent on other people.
On top of that I had no idea when I would be able to capture her either, so I could not tell the vet nor any hospital far away when I would be able to bring her in. This was just not to solution for me.
After a few sleepiness nights I decided to make use of the 24 hour Animal Clinic in a bigger town some 15 miles away. Luckily for me they were happy to sedate and shave her, understanding I was in a difficult situation, I could bring her in any time during the day.I knew she would be well cared for and in much better hands and I would be able to have her back the same day/evening when she was awake enough to go home and after a good check up.
I received a call 4 hours later. The people who took her could not help with her return and so they organised some other friends to take me there.
I cried when I saw her. She was so beautiful and looked so much better. It was a very emotional reunion as I have been busy with her since last summer not knowing how to solve this problem. She was still a bit drugged up.
From a friend around here I had received a big cage (those small carriers for house cats were not right for her – by experience I know). Their medium dog kennel with two wide doors was perfect. I had placed it on the side with the door on top and with a blanket on the bottom. My idea was to scruff her by her neck and quickly place her in the cage which stood inside just near the sliding door – so not too far to go.
With all in place, I decided this was the day and all was ready, cage, neighbors and me!
It went exactly as planned. One lunch time when she came alone asking for food she let me stroke a bit longer. It was now or never. I knew if I I did not succeed now it may take months again to get her confidence and trust in me. Always the biggest issue. She is clever!!!
Before she could even take her favourite wet food, I carried her inside and dropped her gentle in the cage, screaming her head off of course but without her to much trying to turn on me. I closed the cage and covered it with a big towel to make it dark so that she did not panic panic.
I called on my neighbours to come quickly and they were ready to bring her in. It was 2 pm. We phoned the Hospital first and they told me it was fine to bring her in that moment as she had priority being a wild feral cat where things cannot be predicted. They understood to well
WOW…..I was near to the perfect solution
All went well driving to the hospital and she was attended to straight away. She did cry a lot though and also managed to get hold of my finger through the towels with her sharp claws. It took a week to heal but I am fine now. If this was all that I had left over from the experience then I’ll gladly pay that price.
They also gave her a complete health check as I had asked them to do.
They were very pleased with the condition she was in except for the fur….of course! But they understood that I did what I could in the circumstances.
Arriving home, I put her in her cage in the bathroom with cat sand and some water only and it took a while before she was fully awake, crying to get out and jumping all over the place. This was proof enough that she could be let outside again. She was so very happy to be with her babies again which are now grown up of course.
On one of my before pictures, you may have seen an open wound that was small, but by not looking after it herself and with it difficult to reach, it got bigger and bigger. This was really when I realised I needed help, searched the Internet again (Didn’t have luck before with much help regarding feral cats and grooming) and came to a lovely lady, you. You was at least prepared to spend time with me and help me, demanding nothing, just to help this poor animal, and an old lady looking for a solution….You are an Angel, heaven sent.
The wound got 5 or 6 stitches and is healing and closed.
Now she grooms herself several times daily, not like before. She never did any grooming before.
There you are. The end of a good story warming both our hearts, I am sure
In the name of my Kitties, thanks for caring.
My eyes filled with tears reading this and the photo’s were amazing.
I take my hat off to Celia. With circumstances stacked against her she never gave up and eventually made all the difference to a cat calling out for desperate help.
I wanted to share this story on social media and asked her permission. In true Celia fashion she asked that I didn’t reveal her name or country of origin which I have respected.
What a true cat guardian. God bless you Celia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita, a strong advocate of a vegan lifestyle, is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Her debut booked is published by John Blake and is called Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer.