Three years ago this month, she was on death’s door.
Annie is now a healthy cat, somewhere between three and four years old. She was about 7 months old when I captured her as a feral kitten, sick to the point of dying any day. It took four months of intensive care and meds to remove the hookworms that had moved into her intestines, and repair the extensive damage they did. None of us was sure her GI system would ever work well, but she surprised us all, and recovered completely.
Annie was born in an outdoor colony and TNR’d when she was around four months old. Too old, in general, to bring in and socialize, so she went back to her colony. She was terrified when I captured her several months later, but too sick and weak to flee. While I had her in care those early months, she got very friendly with me, sat on my lap, and enjoyed my company. But the moment she was given the freedom of the whole house (instead of one small room) she reverted to her feral ways. I’m told this is pretty typical.
Annie attached herself to one of our senior cats, Thomas, and she was his shadow for the last three years. With Thomas by her side, her need for humans was non-existent. She came to eat, and she will play with us when we use wand toys that allow her a good distance from us, but otherwise, she prefers to keep her distance, even to the point of sleeping in a closet for most of a couple years. Annie likes to be hidden.
Thomas, as some of you know, died recently, and that rocked Annie’s world. Her security blanket is gone. But that’s also given us an opportunity to break down the barriers a bit. Annie hasn’t been to the vet since 2014 first, because I had to trap her (in our home) to get her there the last time, and second, because I don’t want to do anything to make her more afraid of us. But all our cats should have annual checkups, and beyond that, we would just like to be able to be closer to her.
So when she gets her food now, she has to put up with being pet. I’m trying to get her to associate petting with something she likes – food – and she’s getting there. She will hiss a good bit sometimes, but I am backing down less. In our cat house program, the rule for the baby kittens is that the more you hiss, the more you get pet and cuddled. That’s pretty easy when the kitten weighs a pound, and a little different with an adult cat, but I’m trying to be fearless. I’m also picking her up, ever so briefly, but just lifting her and putting her back down so she starts to get used to an action that will be needed for vet and other care.
Annie loves to play still, so we have our wand play times, and she eats out of my hand, which requires that she touch me at least briefly with her face. Little by little, we are making progress. In 2017 Annie will get an annual at the vet’s office, hopefully without trauma for anyone!
With our community cat program, folks often want to bring cats inside, ones who have lived outside all their lives. Sometimes it can be done, and that’s always a joy. But for many cats who have been born to and lived in outside colonies, the indoor life is a real challenge. Annie, after three years, still finds it difficult. She likes our cat community, and I believe she is basically happy, but she is still fearful of the two-leggeds in the house. This Thanksgiving, just as the one back in 2013, when we rescued her from death’s door, we are very thankful for her presence with us. Maybe by Thanksgiving 2017 she will be as happy to be with us as we are to have her here. Paws crossed.