It’s just over a year since I took some fairly drastic action and catnapped a near-feral, slowly-starving-to-death cat. Which sounds terribly dramatic. In truth, it kinda was.
Note: Make yourself some tea or something. Grab a snack. This is kind of a long post.
Soooo… a cat had been hanging around for months. We saw him often enough to name him.
- Smeagol (grey, skinny, lamplike eyes – you can see where we were coming from, right?)
- Misty (because Smeagol really isn’t a nice name for anyone)
- NotMyCat (at this point he was showing up every day and I was struggling to tell myself that he might actually be someone’s pet so I shouldn’t adopt him)
And I really did tell myself a LOT that he probably belonged somewhere, that someone, somewhere was desperately missing their beloved pet. I looked for posters. I actually, deliberately, began taking an evening walk just to look for posters. I checked the Cats Protection site (they have a ‘missing cats’ page).
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
I put food out. He ate it, but only if I didn’t stay in the garden. I put more food out, talking and talking to him. Over a period of months, he began to eat whilst I was in the garden. Sometimes he’d hang around while I pegged out washing. Eventually, I could touch him. But not his head. Never the top of his head. His fur was matted and thin and dull. His age was indeterminate, but I guessed he was pretty old. He was unneutered. His pupils were constant pinpricks and he weaved when he walked, which made me wonder how much sleep he got. Conversations in our house went a lot like this:
Me: I really don’t think he has a home, you know.
Me: Seriously. Look at him. I really don’t think he has a home. And it’s not really stealing if he’s coming into our garden, is it…?
I learned he liked being talked to. He liked being sung to, too. (even though I sing very, very badly) He began turning up every day. He developed a real liking for cat treats (he would even take them from my hand, but race away quickly to eat them). We realised he’d begun sleeping underneath our car most nights.
And so it went. NotMyCat turned up, I fed him and talked to him and kept on looking for posters for a missing grey cat and worrying about how the weather was slowly getting colder. Conversations in our house shifted a little:
Me: We could get a hutch.
Me: For NotMyCat. When it gets colder. I mean, he’s so thin. (he wasn’t gaining any weight)
Jams: Yeah, that could work.
We looked at hutches. We scoured Freecycle and started pricing up little wooden structures in the local pet shop. Nothing seemed right. But we developed a plan – get a hutch, or something to offer some shelter, leave food out, slowly win him over and get him to the vets to check for a microchip. That way, if he was simply missing, he could be reunited with his owner and I wouldn’t be awake at night worrying about him.
That was the plan.
Perhaps I should explain at this point that I’m not the most patient or diplomatic of people. And when it comes to problem-solving I’m a bit ‘Gordian Knot’ – you know, slice it right down the middle, whatever works fastest. I’m willing to admit that’s not always the right way to do things.
One day, in October, I’d sat outside with NotMyCat for about half an hour. By now he was tolerating the slightest of touches to the top of his head, although he didn’t mind having his back rubbed. My hands were blue with cold. And I suddenly realised that if my hands were cold, how the hell did he feel? His body was bunched up, his movements slow and stiff. Leaving him outside whilst I went indoors to a warm house suddenly felt like an absolute cruelty, a kind of betrayal.
And that’s when the catnapping happened. So much for the plan, right?
Jams was brilliant. Surprised, but brilliant. He immediately phoned the vets and arranged to get him checked for a chip. Which left only the task of getting him into a carrier and getting him there. Which was nowhere near as easy as I make it sound.
He remained silent for the whole journey. Utterly terrified, stunned into silence and immobility.
“I hope he’s not microchipped,” Skipper declared. “I want to adopt him.”
Yeah, that was my feeling too. But throughout the journey I steeled myself for the reality of handing NotMyCat over to someone else.
“Oh, he’s a Blue!” The vet exclaimed. “And only a year old.”
A year? This starving, weaving, near-feral creature was only a year old? We couldn’t believe it. We held our breath as the vet checked for a microchip.
“What are you going to do if he’s not chipped?” She asked. “Have you considered homing him yourself?”
I think we were all holding our breath at this point. We looked at each other, and nodded.
“Well,” she smiled. “Happy New Cat Day! Do you want to book an appointment to get him neutered?”
We were all, including NotMyCat, silent on the way home. I don’t think we could really believe it.
“We’ll have to think of a name for him,” Jams said.
Skipper didn’t even hesitate. “Karl.”
“Karl?” We looked at her and she shrugged.
“Karl.” Jams said. He paused, looked into the carrier and said, “Hey, Karl. Is that a good name for you?”
And suddenly, NotMyCat was not silent. He looked straight at Jams and meowed. And that, really, was the beginning of Karl’s new life. It took time, of course. If you’ve ever adopted a cat from a shelter you pretty much know what happened in the following weeks; he was like a secret cat, emerging only at night to feed and use the litter tray. He found a spot beneath Skipper’s bed and stayed there, ignoring us completely. He wasn’t overly keen on indoors to begin with; he destroyed the blind at the window and the wallpaper underneath. He especially hated the vet, even before his op and the cone of shame (which, by the way, lasted about 7 seconds). He wasn’t overly wild about his follow-up appointment, either.
We didn’t despair. He was indoors, and slowly gaining weight and we knew he wasn’t going to freeze to death or get beaten up by any of the toms in our area. Patience we had, in abundance.
And then, one evening, he emerged earlier than usual. He made straight for my lap (!) and made himself comfortable, emitting a low rumbling purr that would rival any V8 engine. Jams and I just grinned at each other, utterly unable to believe it.
Karl’s a very different cat, now. He’s so much a part of our family, it’s hard to imagine he’s only been with us for a year. He and Skipper play for hours, running in the garden (and he’ll chase pretty much any yarn she’ll wave about for him) and he likes to sit with Jams and me every evening. More than anything, he loves Jack.
Happy Birthday, Karl! And love really does conquer all. Karl’s the proof of that, right?