Helping the homeless

Gemma RVN writes: I don’t know what it is, but since working at the Cat Clinic earlier this year I have had two stray cats turn up at my house demanding that I feed and care for them, so of course I’ve had to give in! The first one, a gorgeous big ginger tom we called Clarence (you may remember him from our Facebook page) turned out to be carrying the Feline Aids Virus (FIV), but otherwise appeared to be in good health.

Luckily the Blue Cross had room for him in their Cambridge centre, and after a short stay there he found a loving home where he’s settling in to being an indoor cat (a proviso of homing a cat with FIV). A couple of months later another big tom cat came trotting up the path near our house, he was quite distinctive looking and I knew I’d not seen him around before.

He had the big face of an entire male and a few scratches to his nose and I thought that he had the appearance of being another stray. Where were they coming from?! Of course I started to feed him, as did a couple of my neighbours, and soon he made himself at home in our area. His coat began to look better and he filled out a little.

We named him Mr Jinx and found him to be a very friendly and chatty boy, who soon trusted us enough to give him fuss, and even to remove the odd tick. But of course caring for a stray is not just about feeding them. You need to take a certain amount of responsibility for their overall welfare. What about when they get sick? Who will take them to the vets and pay the bills?

What about vaccinations, for the stray cat’s interest, and also for the sake of the other cats in the neighbourhood who may come into contact with the wandering one? What about routine flea and worm treatment to make them more comfortable and healthy? And what to do when the weather changes and you can’t bear the thought of them being out in the cold?

We realised that now we’d started feeding him, so were in effect encouraging him to stay, we were at least partly responsible for Mr Jinx and his future welfare. Although Mr Jinx wasn’t particularly aggressive towards other cats, his habit of sleeping on the doormat right outside our cat flap was starting to stress out my own cats, so I decided I needed to get him rehomed ASAP. However, at this time, kitten season was in full swing and the cats homes were full to bursting, so I put him on several waiting lists and hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to me, an elderly couple in a village half an hour away had just lost their 20 year old cat and were looking for another. They were told by one of the cats homes that they were too old to rehome a cat, even though they had measures in place should they not be able to care for their cat any longer. This of course upset them very much and they wondered how they would ever come by another feline friend.

Through a very convoluted route, involving about 5 separate cat-loving people, they got to hear about Mr Jinx, and I got the pleasure of being able to rehome him with this lovely and totally devoted couple. They have had cats all their lives and absolutely adore them, as well as being home all day to keep them company. After (gently) bundling Mr Jinx into a cage and transporting him half an hour to a strange location I thought he’d be stressed, but, in the fully cat-equipped bedroom they had set aside for him (!) he hopped out of the carrier, onto the bed, started purring (first time I’d heard that), looked out of the window, then jumped down onto the floor and rolled over on his back to have his tummy stroked! If I hadn’t seen it I’m not sure I would have believed it, and I’ll admit it brought a tear to my eye to see him so instantly and totally happy!

Two days later I received a phone call to say he’d been neutered (thanks to a Cats Protection voucher), vaccinated, microchipped, and renamed Timmy, but to the couple’s dismay he’d got out the house, despite the blocked cat flap, and had taken off for several hours. They worried that they’d never see him again, but despite having only lived there for about 36 hours Timmy evidently already knew it was now home, and he later appeared curled up on their doormat just like he used to do at ours!

Even as I was talking to the lady, she thought he’d gone out again, but instead found him asleep on her chair in the living room! I’m so pleased that this couple and cat found each other – a happy ending for a lovely cat and his devoted new ‘guardians’, and reassuring to know that so many people cared enough to help.