Scat-ology

If you think this is referring to jazz, you will be hugely disappointed to learn that I’m about to chat about Oscar’s um… bathroom habits. Should I apologize?

I know Oscar has been outside for a long time, so bringing him inside raised some big questions about his toilet-training. Was he toilet trained? Would he have a problem using a litter box? What kind of litter should I offer? Is he a healthy bathroom user?

Oscar is not pooping and peeing regularly – and I’m frankly concerned because it might be that he’s never used a litter. I’ve offered two choices… one a gravely one, and the other a wood chip type which would more closely resemble the outdoors. He’s used the gravely litter only – and this was very little. He refused to drink for the first couple of days (I coaxed him with tuna soup) but I’ve now seen him drink water. He eats when I show him food. But where is it going? It doesn’t seem to be coming out the other end regularly!

I’ve had him for 5 full days and I’ve seen 3 big pees and 1.5 poops. Other than that, he seems fine… and the stuff coming out seems healthy. Yes: I look. You can always tell lots about the health of an animal about what comes out! I realize that part of this 5 days included a short fast prior to his operation, and then a full day or a little more of him feeling out of it and uncomfortable in the post-op period.

I was really hoping to see more …um… success before I left today! He will be in good hands, but not my own, for the next 5 days. My sitter will look after him… and I can only hope he starts to get more used to the routines of his indoor life!

Aren’t you glad I’m not including a photo that matches this topic?

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Dear Oscar

According to your vet, you are a healthy boy of about 4 years. You are a domestic short-hair buff tabby, and that doesn’t mean you’ve been working out. I love the term ‘buff’… for dilute orange coat! You are a good 12.4lbs and with a thick puffy coat. You are healthy all round and that toe of yours is just the way you were born – it’s slightly off centre and longer than its neighbour. You have a few fleas – don’t worry they will be gone in a few days. The doctor didn’t mention your tattered ears, but that is sadly typical of frostbite… and they’ve gotten worse over last winter. They won’t bother you, so don’t worry.

On big-shock Monday, you got neutered, got your rabies vaccine, got Revolution round one (for ear mites, fleas, worms … in case!), got micro-chipped and got your FIV/Felv test. And guess what? You are negative! Somehow you have beaten the odds, buddy!

I know your teeth are fine because last morning you bit me.

Yours truly, Natasha

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What? Yes: I got my first-ever cat bite. Oscar was probably feeling a bit uncomfortable, but he wanted petting so I petted him gently on the head, then he ate, then he walked over and flopped on my toes to be petted again. I stroked his head about 2x and then CHOMP! I think I yelped. No typical cat ‘danger signs’ or warning. (Danger signs include ears back, shrinking way from petting, a strong tapping of the tail and of course hissing, growling.)

Now that I’ve mentioned this, I will add some info here… you have to keep up with your tetanus shots. When I got the bite (he did break the skin in 3 places and one is quite deep) I washed my hand immediately with cool (some suggest warm) water and soap. I then applied pressure to stop the bleeding, and dabbed on hydrogen peroxide. As soon as that dried, I put on pure iodine. Of this process, the main two are the good hand-washing and the iodine which might sting and look awful, but it’s poison that can contact-kill the bacteria transmitted by a cat bite. You should finish off with a topical antibiotic cream. Cats carry some nasty bacteria in their mouths and their fangs deliver it deep into your tissue – so unfortunately this often leads to infection because you can’t treat inside the wound. I’ve gone to the doctor for a preventative 7-day course of antibiotics. My hand is sore but fine.

A couple of info articles for you:

http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/how-to-treat-cat-bites-puncture-wounds

http://www.vetmed.lsu.edu/animal_bites.htm

Thanks to Joanna for encouraging me to see the doctor… an ounce of prevention…

As for Oscar, I’ve already forgiven him. He was just stressed. He’s immediately back for more loving, but I’m a bit fang-shy.

A Known Cat

Okay, I will fess up and say that because I don’t walk a dog or have kids, I don’t hang out outside and chat with the neighbours and people walking along my street. I’m a private person by nature.

Today I was talking to a real estate agent who lives 2 streets away and knows the neighbourhood really well. So well, that he had the plans for my house which was built about 16 years ago. This was enlightening. More enlightening was the fact that he said that there are a number of houses that put out food for a stray in the neighbourhood. He thinks it might be Oscar since people have been saying they haven’t seen him for the past 2-3 weeks. (This was the time he’s been visiting me more.) Then again, the day after I brought Oscar in, there were cat tracks across my deck which might indicate another stray.

Perhaps Oscar is a known cat. I wonder how long he’s been here, and homeless? I’ve known he’s homeless for about 2 years and I’ve seen him around the neighbourhood for at least 1 year longer than that. Before that, I wasn’t living here. How many people noticed his plight and fed him? How many people fed him and then just moved away (like my neighbour)? How many people never took him in to give him a home or get him fixed? Did they look past his suffering and frostbite in the cold?

Let me be honest: I just don’t get this. I am not a saint or holier-than-thou, but wouldn’t you step up and do something?

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This is Oscar’s food bowl for the past year. Its cruel irony used to strike me almost every day when I put out his food in the cold or rain. Now it is like his mantra.

A Bumpy Morning

Last evening, I took away Oscar’s food and left him only a bit of tuna-soup with calming remedy in the cat carrier. I wanted him to not hate the carrier. This morning, he had not touched the food. I had to give it to him to lure him near the carrier.

Not good. Today we needed to try to balance getting a neuter-appointment with getting Oscar back into the dreaded carrier. The vet was really nice and made room for him in the afternoon schedule.

Getting Oscar into the carrier was a colossal battle, and one I would not have won without my spouse. There is nothing this side of heaven that would have lured Oscar into the carrier. In the end we threw a thick folded fleece over Oscar and literally shoved him in. I felt horrible and I just couldn’t have done it without J.

I brought Oscar to the door while J got the car. And then he was gone.

For the second he was set down in the front hall, Nuala came by, sniffed him, there was a little hissing and she dashed off all puffy. With J off to the vet with our guest, I went to make my morning coffee.

Bad move! By the time I got my coffee, both Nuala and Shadow had gone in though my bedroom and to the bathroom. They were in Oscar’s room! Of course, I hadn’t closed the door since I needed both hands for the carrier. I am now very nervous about them catching something. After all, I’ve fostered litters three times and the first time there was a skin infection, the second time was ringworm, and the third time was a strain of calicivirus which almost killed Mouci. (And Shadow was hit really badly too – though both had been vaccinated regularly). I have been very cautious before this rookie mistake. I chased both out… puffy tails and all. Damage done. Keep your fingers crossed for us… I’m not sure how we would handle another ‘plague’.

Well, Oscar is back this evening. He’s very groggy and unsure of himself. I’m sure it was an overwhelming day. We won’t visit him until he has had a rest and some time to relax.

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An old photo of Oscar. His ears look better here than they are now… more frostbite damage for the poor guy. He’s still handsome though!

First Snow

I woke to a winter wonderland… there are a couple of inches of snow out there… and it looks fresh, bright and festive. Snow always illuminates the dull November days.

 This morning I didn’t worry about Oscar in the cold. I didn’t get up and dash downstairs to look for him on the edge of my deck huddling in the cold and waiting for his meal and little bit of human contact.  I didn’t feel the crushing weight of guilt and worry about the fate of this poor abandoned cat with the sad eyes.

 You see, yesterday I caught Oscar! After almost 2 years, I am free!

 After days of harsh self-talk about my timidness and fear, I planned carefully, screwed up enough courage before the cold snap and got Oscar into our carrier under the guise of his warm tuna soup.

 I left him on the deck in the carrier for 10 minutes while I put down a carpet in our master bathroom, and brought some old towels and a fleece for him to sit on. I’d already moved us out to our second bathroom the day before. Then J carried the carrier into the bathroom and opened the door. Despite wanting to see him I did the best thing I could do: I left him entirely alone for 3 hours. It’s a big shock for him!

 When I went to see him, he was sitting on my bathroom counter. He’d hurt his nose from ramming it against the carrier door in his short confinement. Oscar is a large cat… with a big head and thick winter coat. He’s literally double the size of Nuala. I got a half-hearted hiss, and when I bent to eye-level and had a chat with him, he came for petting. I brought him some food, water bowl, a litter (does he even know how to use a litter?). I gave him a treat or two. I petted him a little and let him stay where he was… on the counter.

I visited 2 more times yesterday… not for long. He just wanted to be petted. He will reach up to be patted and when he finally decided to come down from the counter, it was to sit at my feet (read that as ‘flop onto my toes’) and be petted while he purred in a raspy purr. I still got a half-hearted and random hiss now and then… but in a confused I-mean-no-harm way. This part is easy for me; I can’t trap them, but they come to me willingly.

 Oscar is anxious to mark me – I think he’s just so happy to have a human to pet him. He rubs around my hands and legs. The girls already have been sniffing me, though I’m washing my hands well after every visit. I will be changing to using a separate set of clothes to visit Oscar. Precautions.

 The other side of my problems are beginning. This morning there is a waft of cat pee through my house. I don’t know where it’s coming from, despite looking. I’m afraid for our carpeting, furniture, floors. Shadow has behaviour problems and had already ruined our new basement carpets from when we first got her, from when Nuala arrived, from when she’s gotten stressed. The entire floor needs replacing, and I haven’t saved up to do it. She gets upset at the drop of a pin. So I have 4 cats in the house… all are getting herbal calming remedy as of today.

 Oscar howled from 4am to 6am… but he has not made a mess of the room. He’s actually a good boy. I’m watching for litter use, but the eagle has not landed. I don’t think he’s sprayed anything yet… but the next goal is to get him to a vet.

 I’m in deep, but there was no other way forward. I’m just glad to not be ‘stuck’ as I have been for over a year. I’m out of the holding pattern, and making it up as I go. Not the best plan, but progress all the same.

After trying to catch Oscar, my appreciation of those who trap and rescue is even more than it was before.

Oscar-Worthy?

Are you interested in hearing regularly about Oscar?

Please be honest. Oscar is a stray and certainly well past his kitten days. It’s been just over a year since I started this blog – and I promised you a ring-side seat for any kitten fostering I do.

It’s been 11 months since I’ve had a kitten kaboodle in the house. And about 10 months since I wrote regularly. I’m sure you were all a bit relieved when the daily posts subsided – I did warn you that it was a fast and intense ride!

It was a crazy ride with the little Rascals! They arrived just before Halloween and took over my life entirely. They taught me, I taught them, and then with some tears, we said goodbye. Thank you for being here through it all.

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I won’t be taking in a kindle of kittens soon, because I’m really scared of harming my own cats’ health as I did last year. So I might not otherwise write much. What do you think?

What would you like to read about?

Oops I Did It Again

I am a wuss. Yes. Absolutely a wuss. I just can’t seem to get Oscar. So close but yet so far!

Oscar comes to me for food every day. And for the past month, since I moved his food to the back of my house, he’s wanted to be friendly. This is a big change. In the front, he wouldn’t even come near the food when I was outside. I tried everything… talking gently, sitting still and just waiting, reaching for him. Surely after 2 years of feeding he knows my smell? Still nothing. He greeted my visits with suspicion.

When I moved his food to the back where I fed him first (before other cats came to fight with him and take the food), he was suddenly friendly. Really friendly. Like he remembered that we were friends 1.5 years ago. Over this past month, I’ve been able to chat with him, pet him, and he reaches his head up for pets every morning. He was coming by more and more, and was waiting for me to feed him every morning or pet him in the afternoon. He’s even been eyeing my back door.

Nuala is my official welcoming committee. Every day she watches for Oscar. No hisses. Just runs to the window and watches him sit there, or eat. They look at each other just 1.5 feet apart… one safe inside and one living at the whims of the world in the cold. Every day Nuala paws at the window non-stop trying to reach Oscar. Or to go outside. I haven’t decided which it is, but she does it only when Oscar is there, and she’s relentless – both front paws doing a high-speed running-man on my window.

I have been getting Oscar into our cat carrier to eat. We have a big carrier. A little step deeper every few days. And lured with copious amounts of tuna. He loves tuna – but shuns salmon, pork or beef. Then I started lacing the tuna with herbal calming remedy for him. Each day I would try to touch him as he ate.

The last few days have been tense… we’re at a precipice. He’s almost all the way into the carrier. On Tuesday, I almost had him in… and then I realized that I couldn’t close it without his tail getting caught. I just couldn’t shove him in… I pushed a little and out he came! Of course I’d scared him. I petted him lots when he came back, gave him more tuna as a peace offering, and let him eat in peace. I tried it again on Friday… trying to work out the final steps. I’m still not able to get him in – and not willing to spook him for good. He’s scared and hesitant and I get it. Heck, I’m scared and hesitant!

I’m so close… but I’m not quite there.

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Oscar – Janurary 2012 when I started feeding him. He looks the same… and arrives in the same place for his breakfast.

Not a Great Plan

Well, I’m nervous but we are going to try to get Oscar.

I’m nervous for two reasons. One is that he may spook again and no longer trust me. When I last tried he didn’t trust me for a full year. It’s only been 2 weeks since I moved his food bowls back to where I’d originally started feeding him that he seems to remember our old relationship.

The second reason is personal. I am not prepared to take on another cat. The quarantines and separation needed mean that my master bathroom is the only place that is viable for Oscar to go after surgery. He cannot meet any of my cats for the fact that he’s attacked them and for the fact that he might carry something. It’s less than a year since I almost lost Mouci to calicivirus which came to my home because I was fostering. I’m barely over that. Mouci has lost her hearing after this … she hears only a little now. And she has small seizures every day. While both of these could be her age, neither were present before she got sick. We lost all of the holidays last year with our own cats being so sick. Not sure I could weather that again.

So what do I do with Oscar? For a couple of weeks I can keep him in my bathroom, and we can move to the second bathroom. I can sit with him a little daily and get to know him better. Then what?

Thank goodness that the rescue who helped Nuala’s litter will help me with the vet bills by letting me use their vet at shelter prices. I am very grateful since I have a lot of bills right now – and vetting is expensive in Canada. I will get him neutered, FIV tested, get the standard shots, dewormed, micro chipped, get his back paw looked at and since I’ve noticed he has weepy eyes, I will ask if a shot of antibiotic (one shot for a week of treatment) would be viable.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in this rather dubious plan. Maybe I can use kijiji to help find him a home? The rescue thinks that he can be re-released if I build a shelter in my yard and continue to feed him. This is not acceptable to me for a whole list of reasons. I’m actually exhausted from worrying about him, and as long as he’s in my yard, then Nuala or Mouci is in danger every time they step out of the door … even on harnesses and leashes. No – I’m certain that re-releasing him in my yard won’t work for me.

I’m half crazy to do this… but I just can’t NOT try.I’m not even sure I can catch him.

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Stray vs Feral

I just realized how long my last post was. Wow – sorry. I guess I had a lot to tell about Oscar’s story! I talked about Oscar being abandoned. Who knows really! He’s not fixed so his biological urges could have made him dash out of someone’s home and then get lost. He could have been dumped in the little park that adjoins the conservation area. Or yes, he could have been abandoned when someone moved away.

Here’s why I know he’s not a feral cat:

  • He comes up to humans. Despite being chased off by neighbours, he is people-friendly or at least people-curious. As of 2 days ago, he lets me pet him full-out. You know; the big, 2-handed, all over the body petting.
  • He tried to get into my house a long time ago. Despite having females in the house, a feral would never try to get in.
  • He meows. They say meowing is a trait picked up by cats who live with humans. Go figure. He purrs too… a little purr. While he sometimes hisses when he gets food, it’s rare, soft, half-hearted, and not really meant to intimidate. I’ve also seen this in rescues I’ve fostered.
  • He is a food snob. No really. He won’t eat bits of real meat, fish, or pork. He will not eat most wet cat foods. I’ve tried him on ones for kittens, ones my girls won’t eat, ones my girls love. He will eat any type of dry cat food I put out for him. Oscar, you are easy to please!
  • I think he understands doors.

So there you go. I think Oscar is not only human-friendly but fully re-hab worthy. And his friendly (if shy) nature will make him a good house cat. Better than that: if I can do what I hope to do in the next few weeks, he will be the perfect adoptable indoor-outdoor lap cat.

What do you think? Am I out in left field?

Abandoned Again

Now and then I’ve mentioned my stray buddy Oscar. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you his story.

About 3 years ago, I noticed an orange cat who was out in the most ungodly weather. I remember being angry that anyone would allow a cat out at those times. And I noticed him walking in the woods over my fence, which made me worry about his safety since there are a few coyotes out there. I didn’t think more about it until this cat broke through my window screen one night and had a fight with little old Mouci. Mouci had to go to the vet for this, so my pocketbook and I didn’t exactly love this cat.

Time passed and I came to realize that this cat had no home. It was two winters ago…. the two year anniversary will be next month. I began putting out a bowl of dry food every day, and this cat started to come by faithfully. He had ears tattered by frostbite, a puffy furry coat, and big sad eyes. He let me pet him, and we were pals. I’m not sure why or even when, but I began to call him Oscar.

Oscar came through-out the winter. I worried for him on cold nights, and gave him a blanket to sit on and hot water packs on cold nights. He didn’t use any of this (but a happy possum from the forest did!). In spring I researched where I could send Oscar.

Finding a place for a cat is not an easy task with the cat overpopulation being what it is.

  • Animal Services in Pickering are funded municipally but do not care about strays. They don’t want them. They will take them only if they are hurt. And then, if they are upset or scared and are not deemed ‘social enough’ to be sent to a pet store for adoption, they are put down. This is not a good situation, since most cats are older, or scared, or agitated upon being surrendered into a tiny metal cage in a strange place. So many ARE put down – and this is what my tax dollars goes to.
  • The Durham Humane Society wants nothing to do with the region’s strays. They say they can only take pets being surrendered. Period.
  • There are a couple of cat rescues working in the area and they work hard, but have financial constraints and their own agendas of what cats they will focus on helping. Though I’ve volunteered in raising litters of kittens, none of the places I’ve volunteered for have offered to help with Oscar or take him into their program despite my absolute certainty that I’m dealing with a pet not a feral. (I made up my mind that if I do foster again, it will be for an agency which helps me with Oscar… if any of them do.)
  • Further afield, I found a great group who could take him if I caught him, had him neutered and ran all the tests and then delivered him to them. This is a nightmare for me since I can’t take him into my home because Shadow is such a challenge…still, I’d work something out.

Buoyed with this one option, I set about borrowing a trap and trapping him. I fed him a couple of drops of feline calming remedy (like rescue remedy) and set about setting the trap. He avoided the food for 2 days. He avoided coming to us. And then, the one time he half went into the trap, the trap closed before he was properly in. That was it… he was gone. He didn’t trust me again.

I didn’t see him for weeks. I returned the borrowed trap. I went back to putting out food, but rarely saw him. And when I did, he wouldn’t come near the bowl if I was anywhere nearby.

I moved his bowls out to the front of the house since he’d had a fight or two with some neighbours cats who had started to come by the old spot for the free meal. It was getting difficult to feed him and not other outdoor cats, raccoons, and the possum.

I fed him faithfully though the summer, fall, winter and next spring. If I was away, my cat sitter fed him. In winter, I was afraid every time we had a cold snap. I watched the bowls to see if he’d come by and was okay. I bought a winter shelter for him from the Toronto Humane Society. I looked for a place for him to to go, but my options had dried up.

What I learned in late spring was that my neighbors were feeding him. Twice a day in fact. They had once told me they wanted to do something about a cat hanging around – he was a nuisance. I told them clearly that I was feeding him and that he was homeless and struggling to make it on his own.  I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, so if they could find a place where he could go, then I would love to hear about it. They took this to heart I guess, and having a cat of their own, started feeding him. So Oscar was well fed, but homeless for another full year.

In summer, without a thought, they moved away. Oscar had been abandoned again. I think he had really come to trust them. Poor Oscar.

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I kept feeding him. And still he was wary and avoided me because he was always jittery in the front yard. Twice this past summer I was able to pet him there … a big change. Slowly the tables were turning again.

This poor cat! He has been lost or abandoned for at least 3 years. He has ears damaged by frostbite. He has scratches on his nose. He has big sad eyes. He is a beautiful boy. Surviving out in the harsh weather, in times of lack of food, with no love, and still I think he has hope.