by Lee Juslin
We keep bowls of food and water just inside our garage for neighborhood feral cats. The roster of these wild cats is ever changing, and I try not to think of what happens to the ones we no longer see coming to eat. We just do what we can.
Last fall we saw a half grown kitten with an obviously damaged leg. Later, we saw he was blind in one eye as well. Something was different about him from the beginning, and it had nothing to do with his handicaps. Unlike the others that only came into the front of our garage to the feed bowl, he seemed to want to explore throughout the garage and hang out with us when we were outside.
When winter came, we put down an old jacket and some towels towards the back of the garage, and he claimed the space as his bed. He stayed in every night and was not bothered by the closed door. We added a couple of catnip mice, which he happily played with by himself. He would tentatively greet me when I came out in the morning to fill the feed bowl.
Then, one morning as he stood beside me supervising the filling of the bowl, I reached down and patted him. He drew back slightly, a look of shock on his little face, and I don’t know which of us was more surprised. But, it was the night he knocked on our back door because the food bowl was empty that we began to realize he wanted to be part of the family. We decided with two Terriers and two Scottish Folds, and my husband unemployed, we couldn’t bring him in. Our vet offered to neuter him for a reduced rate, plus a rabies shot, and we stretched our budget for that knowing it would protect him and keep him close. Once neutered, L’il B, as we named him, was no longer attacked by the bigger toms and was happy hanging out on our property. From that initial shock, he grew to love attention and stroking, and he quickly learned his name.
Finally, by summer with my husband employed and our household sadly down to one terrier, we decided to try to bring him in. Neither of us had ever adopted a feral cat, but with guidance from an experienced friend, we got a cage and set it up in the garage one morning. The vet was alerted because L’il B needed to be free of feline aids and feline leukemia in order to mix with our two indoor cats. If he tested positive, we agreed we would let him live in the garage and take the best care of him we could. It took only 30 minutes for him to go into the cage. I was working in the back of the house trying to calm my nerves and hoping that he would test negative when my husband came running in yelling, “Come on. Hurry, we’re going to the vet’s.” You’d have thought one of us was pregnant.
Fortunately, he tested negative, was treated for ear mites, and was home that afternoon. Sadly, nothing could be done about his damaged leg or his bad eye.
We had borrowed a Tokyo cage for him until we could make sure everyone would get along. But, in only a few days it was apparent the Scottie and the two Folds were not bothered by the new boy, and we let him out. He did not run and hide under a bed. Instead, he began to explore the house with all of us trooping behind. He went into a bedroom and hopped up on a windowsill. He checked the bathrooms and the other bedrooms. Then, he came into the living room and settled on the couch. Somehow he knew he was in his forever home.
After a couple of months, L’il B is still learning and experiencing new things. At first, he fell off chairs, off the porch windowsills, off anywhere he climbed to because, with only one eye, he lacks depth perception. Those loud thudding falls scared me but didn’t bother him a bit. He simply picked himself up and went happily on his way.
We’ve learned, though he loves to play, certain toys like those with thin line are not good for him. One night we were playing with such a toy, and he managed to wrap the line around his hind leg. He took off like a shot and was finally able to get free, but it made us even more aware that an injury to one of his three legs could be very serious for him.
Living with a special needs pet is new for us as living inside is new for him so we are all learning together. The expression on his face the first time he sunk his claws into carpet and couldn’t release right away was priceless. His excitement at discovering something new to him but old hat to us, makes for memorable moments. He is truly a special guy, and he has revitalized a house full of old fogeys. The most amazing thing is he doesn’t know he’s handicapped or different, and the pure joy he expresses at just being alive and among friends is a real inspiration.
Meet LB: LB’s page
Read more animal related articles by Lee here in KRL.