This is Dexter, but it is just one of many names he has been called. He lived his life on the streets of Phoenix for many years. He evaded every trap that kind people set for him—and who knows how many that bad people set. He was covered with scars and his ears were all screwed up, but he was still gorgeous when you looked into his soulful eyes. When he knew the end was near he sought out my friend who had given him food and soft words, asking to end his days with her. She gave him a home for the past couple of weeks while he peacefully faded away in a quiet place. She was with him, petting and consoling him, when he passed away on Saturday. Dexter was a strong cat, a brave cat. He lived life on his own terms and died that same way. RIP to a cat I will never forget.
Dexter was very sick in these photos. I couldn’t let him pass away without sharing his story because courage isn’t an attribute special to humans (when you can find it) or to dogs. Cats and other animals also can be very brave and strong, facing up to the unfairnesses thrown at them in life. I wanted us to appreciate the strength this boy had to live his life the way he lived it. And the courage he found not just to battle for that life every day on the streets, but the courage to come to my friend when he finally felt he needed her. Bless her for noticing that he needed help beyond the usual.
Dexter lived in my friend’s neighborhood and was at least 12 years old, possibly as old as 15. He was a stray, not truly feral (I’ve written before that a lot of cats are classified as feral who truly are strays–and Dexter would have been seen as feral by some, but he really was not). He trusted my friend and some others enough to get close so they could feed him and even pet him. He lived in an area where coyotes hunt cats. My friend says he “owned” her neighborhood and now he is buried there.
Dexter is not confined to the cage you see. The door was open so he could move into the room. In case you wonder, my friend is very experienced and knows quite a lot about medical and behavioral issues with cats. She decided that he would be completely freaked out by euthanasia by a vet, although she held it in her mind as an option if he didn’t pass peacefully.
So please grieve for Dexter, but also celebrate his bravery and his strength and when you have a chance to help someone, please take the opportunity. If you don’t know about the good work of Alley Cat Allies please check them out.
I can’t leave you without showing you some happy cat rescues that I have recorded with my new iPhone.
Kana, my Home Fur Good rescue princess, is in the stage light mono portrait mode.
Felix is, um, I can’t remember which portrait mode. Felix was rescued from the streets.
Perry is in stage light portrait mode. As you know, he was also rescued from the streets a la our backyard.
So what’s a feral cat? According to Alley Cat Allies, the wonderful charitable organization that helps feral cats, “Millions of cats share our homes, but not all cats are suited to living inside. For many community cats (also known as feral cats), indoor homes are not an option because they have not been socialized to live with humans. They would be scared and unhappy indoors. Their home is the outdoors—just like squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. They are well suited to their outdoor home.”
Sounds simple, right?
But it isn’t. I suspect that a lot of cats that are assumed to be feral are merely strays. Feral cats are terrified of humans and view them as a real threat. But many cats when they are frightened may act the same way: cowering or running away, speechless (no mewing), or thrashing wildly if confined.
The gardener and I have been supporting the efforts of Alley Cat Allies for years as they try to promote TNR: trap-neuter-return. That keeps a feral colony from having more kittens, but doesn’t confine cats that can’t live inside.
But how many cats end up in feral colonies or merely dead because they are assumed to be feral, but are actually not feral at all?
Why am I bringing this up? Because of Prince Perry Winkle. Remember when we first trapped him? We got him neutered at a clinic and brought him to the shelter where he proceeded to act like a feral cat.
I told them that the clinic vet had said he wasn’t feral, but nobody believed me. They thought the vet lied, that I lied, or that the vet made a mistake. A big one.
For about a month I went to the shelter almost every day and read to Perry. It was the only time he got any positive attention because he hid in a cave and had staff persuaded he was a difficult and possibly dangerous (to them) feral cat.
The only hint anybody had that he wasn’t feral was that when I read to Perry he would blink at me. If you have a cat you know that blinking means I love you or I trust you. It’s a way of talking, communicating with a human. I would blink back at him so he knew I understood and trusted him, too.
If you read any of my bazillion posts here about Perry you know that he gradually warmed up to me, but it was really slow at first. When he learned the trick of “give me your paw,” it seemed huge. I didn’t know if we would get any further than that.
Well, now Perry is the biggest cuddle bug ever. I have never seen a cat as adorably cuddly. He curls up in my arms. rubs against me, kisses me, licks me, and demands I pet him by pushing his head up inside the palm of my hand. If I say, “Give me a kiss,” he kisses me immediately. This cat is not only not feral, he’s TRAINABLE. Like a dog.
And the other day I started letting him out to explore the house and meet the other cats, for less than an hour each day. Kana is shut up in a bedroom that Perry doesn’t know about. She will be the last hurdle. The other cats are fine, and so is Perry. Felix, friendly when approached. Pear, ignores him. Tiger, gives warning hisses to stay away, and so far so good. Sloopy Anne hides under the drape and peeks out through a gap she creates at the floor haha.
Watching TV with Mom
I found a mobile vet here in town who charges very reasonably and she came here (so as not to stress out Mr. Scaredy Cat) and clipped his nails (whew!!!!) and examined him. He’s healthy and about the age I thought (1.5 years) and definitely not feral at all. The vet told me that people dump domesticated cats at feral cat colonies all the time. IMAGINE A BIG SAD FACE HERE.
What if we had left Perry to fend for himself, assuming he was a feral cat and should just stay outside? He would have died for sure.
The only negative thing about his checkup is that this guy who was 9 pounds the day we trapped him is now 12.25 pounds, and he’s too fat. I take all the blame! I kept feeding him the same amount after the worms were gone that I did before. So now he has to lose a little weight. Like his mama.
He loves his hairbrush
To calm Perry for the exam, the vet put a little mask on him. I’ve seen those things before, and they work quite well. They are along the same lines as putting blinders on a horse or a cover over a bird cage. Or a blindfold on me for an MRI (no, I am not kidding). But the vet had to use a different mask than usual for cats because Perry has this cute little pointed rat face. (I love pet rats, so watch it). Very pointy all the way to his little pink nose. It’s hard to take a pic of so you can’t usually notice it in his photos.
I laughed about it and mentioned my comparison to a little rat face, and the vet told me it’s very likely that Perry is part Siamese. And as soon as she said it, I thought, YES, THAT EXPLAINS IT. It explains his chattiness. He’s always trilling and chirping to me. It explains his big smarts and trainability. And it explains his puppy-like behavior–the excitement and licking and all that.
It makes me sad when I think of how Perry was almost overlooked because it’s so darn hard to tell the difference between a feral cat and a scared cat. In a shelter or veterinary clinic, many cats are scared cats. If I hadn’t paid attention to his blinking and felt that it meant something, I might never have brought him home and learned the truth about him.
Lesson learned: I’ve learned quite a few from him, but the biggie is to watch for small, subtle signs of communication. That takes patience and time–something in short supply in busy shelters and clinics with overworked staff and volunteers.
If you sign up to read to cats at a shelter, you can be the eyes watching the cats for signs of communication!
For a little visit with Theo, here is a video of him learning his new activity. His mom found a free treadmill on the Next Door app (love that app!):
Hugs and prayers for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey. The devastation and flooding is horrific. My heart goes out to all those people and the animals, as well.
Why is it important to have National Feral Cat Day? Read what Alley Cat Allies (one of my favorite animal charities) has to say about the day:
National Feral Cat Day Facts
Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day on our 10th anniversary in 2001 to raise awareness about feral (also called community) cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return, and empower and mobilize the millions of compassionate Americans who care for them.
National Feral Cat Day is observed on October 16 every year.
The theme for National Feral Cat Day 2016 is “All Cats All Communities”
This year’s poster features real cats with real stories that embody the “All Cats All Communities” theme! Meet our poster cats: Inky, Pearl, and Pie!
More people respond to the call to action and celebrate National Feral Cat Day every year. Since 2011, more than 2,773 National Feral Cat Day events and activities have taken place—spreading the word and helping cats all over the country and the world. We can’t wait to reach even more people with National Feral Cat Day this year!
Feral Cat Facts
Cats have lived alongside humans for more than 10,000 years. They are part of the natural landscape. Feral cats, also called community or outdoor cats, are the same species as pet cats, live in groups called colonies, and can thrive in every landscape. They are just as healthy as pet cats, but they are not socialized to humans and are therefore unadoptable.
Trap-Neuter-Return is the only humane and effective approach to caring for community cats and stabilizing the cat population. From 2003 to 2013 the number of local governments with official policies endorsing TNR increased tenfold, with hundreds of cities and towns successfully carrying out TNR programs. That number continues to grow every year.
In many cities, cats are still caught and brought to animal shelters and pounds, where most are killed. In fact, the shelter system is the number onedocumented cause of death for cats in the United States. About 70% of cats who enter shelters are killed there, and that number rises to virtually 100% for feral cats. That’s why it’s so important for people like you to join us for National Feral Cat Day®, and every day. Together, we can change policies and create compassionate communities for cats.
Alley Cat Allies Facts
Founded in 1990, Alley Cat Allies is the only national organization dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of cats.
Over 600,000 people worldwide support Alley Cat Allies and champion our mission to protect all cats.
Be sure to go to the link above about the 3 cats on the post to read their stories!
October 16 is also my future daughter-in-law’s birthday. She’s a “mom” of two cats. Happy birthday, R!
Why is it important that today is National Feral Cat Day? Because cats are our human responsibility since we have been irresponsible in our treatment of cats (and dogs)–and not all cats can live in a home when they have only lived in feral cat colonies.
Alley Cat Allies does amazing work with feral cats. Hubby and I support their work in spirit and with our checkbook.
They are very big into TNR which means trap-neuter-return, a way of saving the lives of feral cats without the cats being allowed to produce generations more in their colonies.
This is what Alley Cat Allies has to say about National Feral Cat Day. If you tweet, look for and tweet #feralcatday!!!
Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day® on our 10th anniversary in 2001 to raise awareness about feral (also called community) cats, promote Trap-Neuter-Return, and empower and mobilize the millions of compassionate Americans who care for them.
National Feral Cat Day® is observed on October 16 every year.
The theme for National Feral Cat Day® 2015 is “The Evolution of the Cat Revolution.”
More and more people respond to the call to action and celebrate National Feral Cat Day® each year. Since 2011, more than 1,500 National Feral Cat Day® events have taken place—spreading the word and helping cats all over the country—and even outside of the U.S. with international events. We can’t wait for you to reach even more people with National Feral Cat Day® this year!
Feral Cat Facts
Cats have lived alongside humans for more than 10,000 years. They are part of the natural landscape. Feral cats are the same species as pet cats. Feral cats, also called community or outdoor cats, live in groups called colonies and can thrive in every landscape. They are just as healthy as pet cats, but they are not socialized to humans and are therefore unadoptable.
Trap-Neuter-Return—a humane approach to managing and caring for community cats—is the only effective method of stabilizing cat colonies. In the last decade, the number of local governments with official policies endorsing TNR has increased tenfold, with hundreds of cities and towns successfully carrying out TNR programs.
However, in the majority of cities, cats are still caught and brought to animal pounds and shelters where they are killed. The shelter system is the number one cause of death for cats in the United States. About 70% of cats who enter shelters are killed there, including virtually 100% of feral cats. That’s why it’s so important for people like you to join us for National Feral Cat Day®, and every day, to help change society and create compassionate communities for cats.
Alley Cat Allies Facts
Founded in 1990, Alley Cat Allies is celebrating 25 years of protecting cats and is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Alley Cat Allies is the only national organization dedicated to the protection of cats.
Over half a million people nationwide support Alley Cat Allies and champion our mission to protect and improve cats’ lives.