Wobbles [aka April]

A couple of weeks before Superstorm Sandy ripped through the Northeast, a new cat found her way to one of our feral colonies.  She’s a pudgy little white and tabby kitty, quite friendly and loves people.  It is obvious someone dumped her.  She doesn’t act feral at all.

I was watching her one afternoon.  I try to gauge the personalities of the frequent visitors at the colony so I can anticipate their behavior and adjust mine according to each cat.  The feral kitty cried a few times in the distance.  When I spoke to her, she arched her back and rubbed against a tree.  A meow back.  The charade lasted for some time, until she was close enough to sniff my hand.  As she slowly approached my vicinity, I noticed that her hindquarters didn’t quite communicate with her front.  I was pretty certain she had cerebellar hypoplasia.  The shelter manager confirmed after a few sessions of watching our wobbly friend.

I started to call her Wobbles.  While the volunteer staff names the cats to be adopted by somewhat “normal” names, fun names that describe physical traits are reserved for the feral colony.  This way, everyone is on the same page as far as who’s who.  Wobbles was very people friendly.  Even if it wasn’t feeding time, she would let us pet her and rub up against our legs.  She wouldn’t let us hold her, though.

The weeks the shelter was closed because of Sandy, Ron and I broke through police barricades, tangles of electrical/cable wiring, and flood waters to feed the feral colony.  Wobbles was stuck on a concrete wall that separated the feral barn from a golf course.  She was surrounded by water.  Ron trudged through stagnant muck to rescue Wobbles from her solitary perch.  He showed her the way back to the barn so she wouldn’t get stuck in mud or high water.

Since then, she has been extremely sociable with volunteers.  The more time I spent with her, the more I became angry that someone could dump a special needs cat.  Wobbles was on her way of becoming a candidate for adoption.  She even let us give her flea medication.

In the beginning of April, something happened to Wobbles.  The shelter manager and I opened the barn one morning to find her sitting on one of the perches with her eyes glazed over.  Her neck looked like the size of a grapefruit, while it was evident by the loose skin at her sides that she lost weight.  As we carefully approached her, we saw coagulated blood around her neck with missing tufts of fur.  I was horrified.  The shelter manager tried to trap her, but Wobbles ran off, backside swinging after her.  It looked like she got bit by a raccoon or fox.

Another volunteer who monitors the feral colony managed to trap Wobbles and take her to the vet.  According to Doctor P, it appeared that Wobbles suffered from a severe laceration across her neck.  As far as cause, the vet postulated that it could have been from getting caught on sharp fencing or the claws of another animal.  Wobbles was giving s.q. fluids, a rabies vaccination, and antibiotic.  She had to have drains put in her neck as well as many stitches.  The volunteer named her April for her medical records.  I still call her Wobbles.

Wobbles was kept in a small cage for about a week after visiting the vet.  There was no way in hell any of us were going to let her back outside in her condition.  She was frightened.  After two days living in a cage, Wobbles managed to rip both drains out of her neck.  She spent the remainder of the week under close supervision at the vet.

I saw Wobbles on Wednesday.  She’s back at the shelter, sans drain and stitches.  And she looks amazing.  Her old, spunky personality returned.  The best part is she allows volunteers to give her hugs and kisses now.  I think she’s relishing in the extra attention and love.  We all agreed that we would not allow her to go back outside.  We made it our mission to find her a forever home.


O Wilson, How Art Thou?

The first cat I started writing about at START II was Wilson.  I began volunteering a week after Ron and I adopted Castiel and Ishtar.  When you walked through the door at the shelter, Wilson’s cage was eye-level across the room.  He was a run-of-the-mill brown tiger-striped tabby with a scrawny tail and huge head.  Seriously.  His head looked like it was too big for his body.  But there was something about him that attracted me to him.  I remember when Ron and I met Castiel and Ishtar for the first time, I had also looked at Wilson.  Somehow I knew the match wouldn’t be right.

Wilson1From October 2010 to January 2011, I spent a lot of extra time with Wilson.  Every morning when I opened his cage, he gave me his own type of hug.  I dubbed them “Wilson hugs,” and I still use the term today when other cats display the same affection.  Both of his front paws found their way around my shoulders and he would climb out of his cage onto my chest.  Then Wilson would rub his cheek against mine.  His show of affection nearly made me cry at times, especially on days when coping with Morpheus’ death was difficult.

Wilson enjoyed sleeping in my lap.  I would set aside time before I left the shelter so he could have adequate lap time.  Most days he would fall right asleep, purring like a motor boat.  Sometimes he’d give himself a bath first.  Regardless, I was completely relaxed when he was on my lap.

According to other volunteers, Wilson was rescued from Paterson.  When he first arrived at the shelter he was really sick.  Volunteers that worked with him daily didn’t think he was going to make it.  However, out of nowhere, he made a miraculous recovery.  By the time I met him, it was hard to believe that he was waiting at death’s door a month or so prior.

Everyday I was at the shelter, I spoiled Wilson with extra hugs, kisses, and lap time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spoiled all the kitties at the shelter.  But I feel a different connection with Wilson.  Certainly not the same connection I felt with Morpheus or was developing with Castiel and Ishtar.  There was something special between us that words can’t begin to describe.  All I know is the way I felt.  And I felt protective of Wilson.

In late-January 2011, Wilson was moved to Petsmart in Paramus.  I was crushed.  I knew it was coming, as all of our kitties go to one of the Petsmart locations we adopt from (granted they are not in foster care or adopted from the shelter).  Still, it pained me to see him gone.  Logically, I knew the move was best for him.  He had a greater chance at adoption.  Emotionally, I was devastated.  I cried the day he left.

Ron knew how attached I was becoming to Wilson.  He suggested that we visit him during an adoption night.  So, we did.


Poor Wilson wasn’t himself.  He looked depressed.  Wilson didn’t give me any of his namesake hugs when he saw me.  In fact, it was like he didn’t recognize me.  Even Ron commented on how depressed he looked.  Wilson sulked toward the back of his cage the majority of the evening.  When he came to the front, his head was low and he picked at food, not enjoying the meal.  I felt a pang of guilt run through me for not adopting him.  I picked him up and held him for a long time, giving lots of kisses.  He didn’t purr for me.

Wilson didn’t stay at Petsmart for very long.  A couple of weeks later, I received news he was adopted.  I was apprehensive and happy at the same time.  Like I said, I was protective of Wilson.  Any home wouldn’t do.  It had to be the home.  Wilson was adopted into a family with children who went absolutely bonkers over him.  When I heard that, I let the apprehension drip away and was overwhelmed with happiness.  My big-headed Wilson finally found his forever home.

I still think about him and wonder how he’s doing.  I hope he is healthy and well, spoiling his family with Wilson hugs and kisses.  And I hope his new family realizes that they are very lucky have him in their lives and he chose them – not the other way around.

Dearly Departed

The past couple of days have felt surreal, where time seems melt in lumpy globs, like burning wax.  Apollo is gone.  While I may not have been as close to her as Ron, the loss is still painful.

The steroid didn’t work.  We tried feeding her num nums (wet food) on Friday and Saturday.  Apollo sniffed at it and started dry-heave.  This happened during all accounts when food was presented to her.  There was a complete 180-degree change in her behavior from when I had her to the vet on Thursday to the weekend.  Ron made an appointment for 8am Monday morning to have her put to sleep.

Sunday I was volunteering at START II all morning.  Ron was working.  When I got home, I found Apollo on the couch.  She was cold and barely moving.  Bloody bile stains surrounded her on the towels I put down on the couch for protection.  Morpheus vomited like this once the morning we put him to sleep.  It was scary to see it then.  By the pattern of the stains, it looked like Apollo vomited bloody bile at least four times.  A chill came over me.  I knew she wouldn’t last until her appointment in the morning.  I also knew that if she wasn’t put to sleep that evening, her death would be excruciating.  I’ve seen cats suffer from liver failure and starvation.  No matter what way you look at it, death is never glamorous or beautiful.   It’s a messy business, a gaping maw of abysmal suffering.

I spoke to Ron and we agreed we would bring her back to the emergency vet when he was finished with work.  I spent about 8 hours tending to Apollo.  At some point she tried to jump off the couch to go for a drink of water.  Her legs gave out from beneath her.  Fatigue incapacitated her movements.   I filled a shallow bowl and brought it to the couch.  Apollo rested her cheek on the side of the bowl, but did not drink.  When she moved her head back to the couch, the white porcelain was stained reddish-brown.  I picked her up and let her lay on my chest.  I almost fell asleep petting her, but she threw up more bloody bile.  I changed the towels twice so either of us wouldn’t be sitting in the stuff and used a damp washcloth to wipe vomit off her paws, chin, and chest.  She was throwing up all over herself.

By the time we brought her to the emergency vet, she was hardly moving.  I held it together pretty well up until this point.  I had a couple of short crying outbursts in private over the weekend.  However, the gravity of the situation weighed on me differently at the vet, knowing we were minutes away from putting our 15-year-old friend to sleep.  I lost it.

Ron and I had as much time as we needed to say our goodbyes.  I had only experienced the “process” of putting a loved one to sleep through our primary vet.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in the ER.  Luckily, everyone operated with the level of compassion and understanding that I was used to from Animal General.  Ron held her and I pet her head while she was administered the medicines.  We received clay paw prints from the ER that evening.  Her ashes should arrive in two weeks.  All of our cats have had private cremation.

Last night I was plugging in my cell phone in the bedroom.  I had just responded to a text and I saw a small black cat walk toward me.  When I bent down to pet him, there wasn’t a cat there.  I looked under the bed, and nothing.  I could have sworn that Orlox was just there.  I looked in the living room to find him a deep sleep on the perch of the cat condo.  It was obvious he was there the entire time.  We don’t have any other black cats.

Ron got home from work.  I was still standing in the bedroom with my hand covering my open mouth, near hysterics.  When I reiterated the experience to him, he said it was probably Apollo and I should feel honored she paid me a visit.  I can neither confirm nor deny that shadowy feline figure was Apollo.  To entertain the possibility it was, well, that makes me feel a smidge better about our dearly departed.

Lucky The Cat

Lucky talking from his cage

Lucky talking from his cage

The first week of April we had a very special new addition to the shelter.  Lucky, the cat.  He had his 15 minutes of fame.  There was an article featured on his rescue, as well as an interview with our shelter manager on a local news network.

On April 3rd, I met Lucky for the first time.  He looked awful.  Patches of fur were missing, the padding on his paws were cut up, his rendezvous with a tree caused a sizable cut on his inner thigh, and he was severely emaciated.  Lucky had already been to the vet after his rescue.  He was given IV fluids, vitamins, and an antibiotic injection to prevent any infection.  Lucky’s right eye was clouded over really bad.  The vet said it was scar tissue from a previous eye infection, but the eye was fine.  Our job at START II was to fatten him up to a healthy weight.  The poor little guy was completely emaciated.

After I finished cleaning cat cages, I spent some quality time with Lucky.  I held him close and brought him into the playroom.  We sat in a sunspot.  Lucky curled up against me and fell asleep, his body vibrating from his purr.  I gave him cheek scratches and chin rubs until he fell asleep.  Lucky napped on my lap for a good hour and a half before waking and wanting to explore the shelter.

Lucky enjoying time on my lap

Lucky enjoying time on my lap

Lucky is doing very well.  Today when I saw him, he looked like he put a smidge of weight on.  He loves Pro Plan wet food.  It is difficult to comprehend why anyone would allow this to happen to an animal.  There’s a ring around Lucky’s neck where a collar used to be.  It is obvious he was someone’s cat before he came into START II’s care.  Lucky loves to give me headbutts and gets really happy when I talk to him (well, when any of the volunteers talk to him – he loves people!).  He’s gotten a lot of calls on him so far for adoption, but his forever home hasn’t come along yet.  He’s a special cat and needs a special home.

I look forward to seeing him when I’m volunteering.  Lucky’s a strong cat.  He hasn’t given up on his recovery, nor has he become weary of people.