It all started with Jack, in July 2019, who wandered into the area of my backyard crying. He was a sickly mess with dual eye infections so severe he could hardly open his eyes. He was so boney, starving and dehydrated and unneutered. His first weigh-in at the vet was 8 pounds. The vet discovered through blood tests that Jack was also FIV+ – which is just like HIV in humans. This means that Jack has a weakened immune system and may face a shorter life span. So we went through a lot of antibiotic meds, both orally and an ointment for his eyes. He also underwent a severe reaction to his vaccine booster which caused him to develop asthma. We have changed-out all our scented cleaners and all bleach products for natural alternatives in order to help him deal with this. After having a few bad attacks he was put on a steroid treatment for 2 months which he is now being weaned off of. And I now have an emergency Albuterol inhaler on hand for emergencies.
One thing we noticed right off about Jack were the size of his feet – they were HUGE. I remember saying to my housemate that if he grows into those feet we are going to have a BIG CAT on our hands.
This is Jack today – he weighs 12.5 pounds and is the Big Cat on Campus!
About a month after Jack arrived – 3 little kittens began scaling my backyard fence and exploring around. They were very skittish and nearly feral. I observed them after several days thinking they might be the neighbors unattended pets but noticed that they, too, were too skinny so I began putting food and water out for them. There were 2 females and a male. My housemate, Kathy, took a look at one of the females and immediately stated her name HAD to be Millie! So we named her Millie.
I named her brother “Spot” for obvious reasons –
The little sister, clearly the runt of the litter I called her, “Little Sister” – after they came into my house permanently I changed her name to “Laser” as she spent a lot of time sleeping on one of my printers in the studio.
It took weeks of careful feeding, watering and just going out and sitting with them to get them to begin trusting me. But after a while they would allow me to pet them and occasionally pick them up. There are some young children next door who I think may have roughly handled them, causing them to become fearful of humans.
By this time is was October and the weather was getting colder, especially at night. I provided a little heated shelter in the backyard but I knew they would soon grow out of it and there was also evidence of raccoons in the area. Raccoons eat kittens as snacks. So I began to worry more and more about my little backyard charges. They had reached the point where they spent the majority of their time in my backyard – and Millie, the friendliest of the 3 expressed a desire to come into the studio each time I opened the sliding glass door to put their food out.
So I rigged the back door of my garage to stay open just enough to let them come and go as they wished and I began feeding them in there and provided a heater. After they had acclimated to the idea, one night after they had all come in, I closed the door. That was the last time any of them would ever go outside again.
The next few weeks that followed were challenging for the kittens and me. Spot did not like the idea of being inside and would howl and cry and claw at the door. Little Sister was so fearful she hid among the shelves of packing boxes. Millie remained very friendly though and that gave me hope.
Until I had them tested, I could not allow them up into the house with Jack – and so I arranged for Millie to be spayed, blood tested and vaccinated. This is her – freshly home from the hospital wearing her cone of shame –
The vet found her to be free of FIV and Feline Leukemia and a vet tech told me that since she was negative, her litter mates would not require testing and could be assumed to be okay.
So at that point, Millie was in the house and Jack was allowed to go down into the garage and meet the other two – acting as an “ambassador of goodwill & house cat living” he showed them how to climb the stairs and come into the house – I left the door propped open to facilitate this migration. It took about a week – and coaxing with yummy food, but eventually all 4 cats were in the house. Spot was slowly realizing that indoor living was pretty nice and his crying and panic attacks soon abated.
The miracle of all this is that all 4 cats immediately became a family. Jack, who is normally not a “lovey-dovey” sort of guy began grooming and caring for them – and one in particular, Laser, has become his love interest. They are so lovey-dovey with each other – it is too damn sweet. When Laser came home from her spaying surgery, Jack would not leave her side. He groomed her and cleaned her face for her while she was in the cone of shame. They just really love each other.
And they all love to play and roughhouse – the sound of the 4 of them thundering down the hallway is hilarious. I have a 30 year old giant carpeted cat tree that has seen numerous generations of cats in my past – so I put that in the living room and I can tell you it was a hit right away!
They have ALL come through their spay and neuter surgeries now and are really settling-in well – here’s a bunch of pics taken over the past few weeks –
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has so generously donated to help me pay for their vet and food bills.
If you would like to help out, here’s the link – Donations