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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The barn cat drama continues

In March, we came home from a Caribbean vacation to a mild winter day. As I slid open the patio door, all four cats (two house cats and two barn cats that over-winter indoors) ran out into the melting snow. We didn’t see the barn cats again for three weeks. I thought the season of the indoor feral cats, leaving mounds of fluff balls on the couch and tearing up the carpet as they race up the stairs was finally over. I was wrong.
Three weeks after he left, Junior came back. He dragged his sorry self into the house and sat at my feet, announcing his return with a plaintive wail. He looked very thin, as if he had either found himself trapped somewhere with no access to food, or he had been ill. His fur looked matted and the shine was gone from his coat and his eyes. All the fur was missing from the back of his left leg, and the remnants of a nicely cleaned wound was noticeable there. When I snuck over to pet him (he will only allow this if another cat is in between us and food is in front of him) I found another bald spot on his side and a wee hole in the top of his head. He had obviously been in a fight and done his best to nurse his own injuries before somehow finding his way back to the house. The other two cats, Sheila and Sammy, didn’t like the smell of him.
After a week or two of resting and fattening up, Junior went back outside. He returned at the end of April with what I thought was a broken paw. He held it up and limped around the house. I was amazed that he could still get up and down the stairs and onto his favourite birdwatching perches and napping spots with three legs. He made it look easy, but painful. I thought of how we used to splint the lamb’s legs when they got them stuck in the feeder or found themselves under the horse’s hoof. But the cat’s leg was much smaller. I didn’t think I had a splint small enough. Besides, this cat would have anything I constructed ripped off in no time. I crushed some homeopathic pills into his water for pain and planned to take him to the vet the next day. Sammy drank all the water and tucked himself into bed. Junior watched as I prepared the cat carrier and decided it would be safer to sleep up on a rafter in the basement.
On a Monday morning, I waited until the cats were crowded around the feeding station eating breakfast and then grabbed Junior gently but firmly by the scruff of the neck. I scooped up his hind end and tucked him into the waiting carrier. He didn’t struggle, as if he knew he needed help. I watched as he curled up on the fleece blanket and tried to tuck what I was pretty sure was a badly broken leg underneath him. It appeared flat on the foreleg and the paw was misshapen and swollen. It must have been extremely painful.
At the vet, I warned them that Junior is feral. They thought they were ready for him, but he surprised them. When they opened his carrier he flew through their legs and slid across the floor to hide under the x-ray machine. They spent about half an hour chasing him around the clinic before they were able to examine him.
All that running around burst the abcess that Junior was hiding between the pads of his paw. The vet confirmed there were no broken bones. He got an antibiotic shot to last ten days (no way he’s letting me give him oral meds twice a day after this), an anti-inflammatory painkiller and a good cleaning.
Once back at home I opened the carrier and Junior took a spot between the two housecats on the couch. They had a little conversation and decided he didn’t smell so bad after all. And the upside of all this drama is that although he is still suspicious when he sees the cat carrier, he lets me pet him now. I think he is grateful for the human intervention. The only problem is that now I think we have three permanent housecats. He’s afraid to go back outside.


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