Alex is a beautiful tuxedo cat who has been homeless in our neighborhood for the past 10 years. He has survived freezing cold winters; scorching hot summers where the temperatures often reach into the high 90s and triple-digits; maneuvered and outwitted busy residential traffic daily; fought off countless feral and tom cats; avoided close encounters with raccoons, possums and skunks; and dodged all the other dangers and hazards that lurk outside ready to ensnare him. This is the story of Alex, a homeless cat with life-threatening injuries, who has survived against all odds, and was rescued in the nick of time.
Back in 2008, I trapped Alex for the first time to evaluate his health and to make sure that he was neutered. I took the opportunity to vaccinate, deflea and deworm Alex, and see whether he could possibly be socialized and domesticated, and maybe even optimistically—adopted! At the time, I had a full house of unadopted and unadoptable cats—all were previously homeless and rescued from the outside, just like Alex. Some of these rescue cats were feral, some were injured and sick, and some had serious behavioral issues due to being abandoned. Sadly for Alex, I had no room to add one more cat, especially an unadoptable cat. Alex had been abandoned and had gone without human touch for such a long period of time that he had become extremely afraid of people and would not allow anyone to get near him. Reluctantly and unhappily, I released Alex back outside to my fenced backyard where I continued to feed him morning and night for a few more years. I guess Alex eventually grew tired of us because he left us for another house two doors down who was willing to continue feeding him. I received regular updates from our neighbors about Alex’s health and kept a vigilant eye on him, watching out for him as I drove through our neighborhood—observing when he would lose weight and gain it back again, watching his coat go from shiny to dull and slowly back to shiny, watching his health deteriorate then improve, and mostly worrying about him everyday—that is, until today.
Ironically, I had been thinking that if Alex’s health worsened or if he was injured, I would trap him and add him to our rescue family, even though my husband had issued an ultimatum on many occasions about not rescuing any more cats! But I was resolute that Alex would be the “last” one, and that in my good conscience, I couldn’t leave Alex outside to weather the elements in his old age, or suffer in pain, or live alone in his last years when he was old and tired. My wish was fulfilled on a recent evening when I was desperately trying to trap an unneutered male who was visiting us every night and howling under our bedroom window into the early morning hours. I tried to trap this young boy for two weeks but he always successfully eluded my efforts. So one night I decided to change my trapping strategy and moved our trap to the front door, where I feed two feral cats. And bingo, I got Alex! Lo and behold, my beautiful now almost-senior-boy was in our trap! He was not happy about it—but I was!
Timing is everything in life and it turned out that we trapped Alex just in time. Alex needed medical attention immediately. He had a temperature of 106° with a severe and probably long-term abscess and infection on his chin that was bleeding and required surgery. He also had several abscessed and fractured teeth that were bleeding and needed to be removed and were causing him pain. He had severe gingivitis and needed a full dental cleaning. So Alex received all his needed surgeries on the same day and went on several rounds of antibiotics for the next six weeks. His blood test revealed high liver enzyme levels, but thankfully they dropped back to normal after treating his infections. Alex had been in great pain for probably a long time, but one month later he was a new cat with a clean bill of health—and was finally pain-free!
Alex now has a home he can call his own. He has a family who loves and cares for him and always will. He has fellow cat friends who play with him and have accepted him. He has cat beds in many shapes and sizes and a bed to sleep on every night. Alex enjoys lots of petting and affection every morning and night before I feed him, he knows that’s his special time for attention. He gets cat treats when he becomes afraid, backs away, and then overcomes his fear and lets me pet him again. He may never become a lap cat, but Alex truly loves being petted and brushed. He loves having his tail scratched and his face rubbed and he’s learning to have his nails clipped and to trust us. He loves sitting on the windowsill and feeling the cool night breeze blow in through the windows. He loves hearing the birds sing during the day and listening to classical music on FM radio. He’s learning to play with his catnip toys and can spend hours contorted around his catnip pillow, completely possessed by it. Alex is slowly learning to become a housecat and enjoy the safety and comfort of living inside, while still watching life go on outside.
True happiness for a cat rescuer comes with knowing the cat you rescued is finally safe from harm and free of discomfort. Deep satisfaction comes with knowing Alex no longer feels any pain and suffering, and can really enjoy his life, maybe for the first time. I’m happy Alex is healthy again and that he feels physically good. I’m happy Alex is no longer subjected to extreme heat and bitter cold, and no longer has to weather the elements outside. I’m glad he doesn’t have to dodge cars and hide from aggressive feral cats. I’m happy Alex can now live out the rest of his older adult life with ease and comfort and love and be with people who will always take care of him. He deserves this.
If you know of a homeless cat that needs help in your community, consider reaching out to a local cat rescue group for support or volunteer to help them in any way you can. They will be forever grateful to you!
Note: I wrote about Alex earlier in a post called Building A Simple Cat Shelter in Minutes