We have a new cat. It wasn't planned but our fur babies never are. My husband and I have noticed that we don't need to seek out the animals. They come to us. In various ways. Casper is no exception.
IN THE BEGINNING
A week ago, my husband, hereafter known as Man-O'-Mine ( or M.O.M. for short. He prefers as much anonymity as possible, somewhat like Dolly Parton's husband.) found a very weak and sick cat lying on the hay in our horses' run-in. Skinny doesn't begin to describe the bag of bones that was lying there. Too weak to move, he tried to run away but only made it a couple of feet before collapsing. M.O.M. picked him up and brought him home.
We had seen this cat many times before. If you live in the country it's not uncommon to have cats take up residence in your barn. Sometimes they've been dumped off by someone too lazy to take them to a shelter. Sometimes they are from neighbouring barns and have wandered off seeking food. Sometimes they want us to find them. If they decide they don't want to be friendly we're fine with that. We put dry cat food in the barn and they are welcome to supplement their mouse diet anytime they like.
Casper is one of those cats. He's been hanging around for the better part of two years and although the sightings were rare we know he had chosen our barn as his home. Up until a week ago you couldn't go near him. He was very adept at hiding, only coming out at night to call our current house cat, Ginger, to come outside. Ginger is another cat that showed up one day but she made it clear she was going to live with us right from the start. M.O.M. had found her starving and flea-bitten. She also had a severe uterine infection. We had her treated and spayed and she now runs the house, keeping the dog in his place and vocalizing her displeasure if we are too slow to fill her food bowl. I used to think she was trying to murder me so she could have M.O.M. to herself but now I know she was just helping me down the stairs, not trying to trip me as I first thought.
Back to Casper. Clearly, he was in a very bad way. We couldn't see any obvious injuries although his face bears the scars of battles he must have won. I once had a veterinarian tell me he felt sorry for farm and feral cats. He said they are nothing but worm food. Given that their diet consists of other wild animals, most of whom would be burdened with parasites as well, it's not difficult to see why he thought that. It's a myth that cats can survive in the wild. They might last for a little while but survive is a poor choice of words. They suffer with fleas, ticks, injuries, starvation and worms. They don't live long and their death can be unpleasant especially if they are caught by a larger animal, like a wolf or coyote.
We put him in a box with towels and a heating pad. He was severely dehydrated so we syringed water into his mouth. We offered him food but he was too weak to eat it. It was obvious that without some medical intervention he wasn't going to make it so we called our veterinarian and made an appointment to take him in for examination and treatment.
We are blessed with the best vet (his name is Chris) that ever graduated from vet school. He is a farm lad whose Dad is also a vet. He is practical about animals and their care, he never tries to push treatment or tests and is straightforward about the chances an animal has when faced with a serious illness or injury. I told him we thought this cat had a chance and wanted to do whatever we could for him within reason. Chris agreed. Casper was examined, subcutaneously rehydrated, given a strong antibiotic and some parasite medication and sent back home with a tube of nutritional supplement that was to be syringed into his mouth. Chris showed me how to do it and when he was squeezing the supplement into Casper's mouth the cat was devouring it. It was at that point I felt he might survive whatever had made him so ill.
It was on a Friday that I took Casper to see Chris. We decided to give it the weekend and if Casper hadn't shown any improvement or was worse we were going to have to end his suffering. I have been with animals that have needed to be euthanized and as sad as it may be, it is a kind and gentle end when there isn't any hope of a recovery.
Casper wasn't just sick, he was covered in fleas but was too sick to be putting chemicals on him so because we have other animals to worry about Chris advised not bringing him into the house. I didn't like putting him in the garage but we made him a comfortable bed with a heating pad and put a bowl of water and some cat food right next to it. M.O.M. or I went out frequently to see him, feed him the supplement and make sure he was covered up. He was stone cold when we found him, completely unable to generate any heat so keeping him warm was a priority. That and, of course, getting some food into him.
THE RECOVERY PROCESS
He was so weak he couldn't even get up to pee so we were changing his towels regularly. We also had to turn him over to prevent pressure sores from forming. It sounds like a lot of work but it really wasn't. Unlike humans he didn't need to have company or be entertained. We could tell that the only reason he wasn't running for the hills was because he couldn't. The last thing he needed was to be even more frightened than he already was. Imagine going from total independence to being poked and prodded by creatures that he had previously perceived as the enemy.
Fast forward to Monday. M.O.M. came in to tell me that Casper was up and using the litter box. He was also eating the dry cat food we had placed in front of him. He was resting his head in the bowl between bites but eating on his own was a huge deal. We gave him some wet cat food and he devoured it. Then he rolled over for a belly rub. My heart just about burst out of my chest. It would be an understatement to say it was an emotional moment. For me, anyway. M.O.M. is much more pragmatic than me and so he took it all in stride. Just another day at the Reid Rescue Farm as far as he was concerned.
Yesterday we brought Casper into the house. We had killed the fleas by putting diatomaceous earth on the towel on which he was laying, and on his back end rubbed into his fur. If you don't know about diatomaceous earth you are missing out on one of the best insect killers around. It's completely safe and natural. Here is a link if you want to know more. We are keeping him in the basement away from the other animals. He has settled in nicely and is getting used to the sounds in the house. His bed is still his favourite spot but he gets up and lies on the floor sometimes, uses the litter box and is standing to eat now. He loves to be petted and will wrap his front paws around your hand and purr when you rub his tummy.
If Casper had decided he didn't like us anymore and preferred life in the wild it wouldn't have hurt my feelings. But, as it stands we have a new fur baby that isn't going anywhere. When he is well enough, I'll be taking him back to Chris to have him neutered. If he decides to come upstairs we'll pretend it's not a big deal. It took Ginger over a year before she was completely comfortable roaming around the whole house. M.O.M. and I know that patience is the key.
IN OTHER NEWS
I just signed approval forms for the ingredients that will be in my face creams. Samples will be made and sent to me to try. I can't wait. I will be testing them for texture, smell and doing a skin patch test on myself to see if my skin reacts in a bad way. If I don't like the samples they will adjust the ingredients until I do.
Stay safe and well, my lovelies.