This story is written as it unfolded in weekly posts to my personal Facebook account.
On May 20th this year my husband and I were anxiously waiting for our friend Maria to arrive with our new kitty Glinda. Glinda’s adoption is another great story, but her part in the beginning of Squirt’s story is serendipity. We felt like we had been blessed with the care of two special babies, all at one time.
We had noticed a very small brown tabby hanging around occasionally. She liked to show up for breakfast with Starving Tabby once in a while. I thought she was adorable cute, but she was very skittish and feral.
One day we noticed she was walking funny and we thought perhaps it was the funny, butt in the air walk from being in heat. It was about a week later we noticed a shiny spot on her side. I thought she had been hit by a car and we agonized over trapping her in fear she would injure herself further trying to get out of the trap, so we waited to see what she would do next. She definitely kept her distance, so we couldn’t get close enough to see what the injury was. I had even tried watching her with binoculars and couldn’t make out just how much damage had been done.
By the way, if you have a feral colony that you’re keeping tabs on and caring for, binoculars are a godsend. Get yourself a nice set.
By now, this kitty was hanging around all the time. I dubbed her Tabby Too.
The night Glinda arrived we had set up the laundry room for her to transition in. There was a potty box, food, water and a few nice soft cat beds. Chris spent a lot of time down there with her that first night just letting her know she had arrived in her forever home and was already loved.
We planned to close the laundry room up for the night because we have a cat door downstairs and the ferals can come and go as they please. Since Glinda was new, we didn’t want anyone scaring her or making her feel unwelcome.
The next morning my husband came running back inside to get me. The laundry room door had not latched properly and the door was open.
He couldn’t find Glinda.
And so, our story begins….
Today we have a severely injured feral kitty sequestered in the laundry room downstairs. This isn’t one of our regular ferals. She only comes around occasionally, so getting close to her is impossible. Our new kitty Glinda is also in there and she has positioned herself at the hurt kitties head and kisses her.
I’m waiting to hear from the vet about how to get her into the office. We may give her a shot of kitty crack to knock her out, so I can safely get her out from behind the water heater, where she has wedged herself.
I won’t lie, the wound is deep and oozy. It looks bad. I may have to make a decision today that I am not looking forward to making.
Operation Injured Kitty begins.
She’s a cute little girl and I named her Squirt, appropriately named due to her injury.
The injury is from a cat bite on her back. It had abscessed and because it could not drain properly, the pus pocket became rather large. She only weighs about 5 pounds, if that, and this pocket is the size of my palm. I’m extremely squeamish, but Dr. Welch insisted I see the wound so that I can actively participate in her healing process. OMG! It’s big and nasty.
Dr Welch said she’s narcotic silly because he shot her again and she’s still awake. She did lose her bowels this time though.
He has her back in surgery now and depending on what he says, we may be putting her down today, or we may be fixing her up. The wound has absessed.
He is installing a drain, which he says she will probably pull out herself, but hopefully not. She got a big dose of antibiotics and her rabies shot too. We are hopeful she will make a full recovery. She goes back in a week for another big dose of antibiotics and to be spayed. She’s all shaved now and looked so helpless on the surgical table 😦
She is super cute though!
If anyone would like to come visit Squirt, she will be sequestered in our laundry room while she convalesces. I’m sure Nurse Glinda will be generous with visiting hours 🙂
Squirt and I are back home. I just released her in the laundry room, where she will stay until Thursday or Friday of next week. Then she goes back in to be spayed, and hopefully have the staples and drain removed. Right now she looks a little bit like FrankenKitty.
Dr. Welch said she’s a tough old bird and will probably always be feral. He asked me if I could live with that. I didn’t hesitate. As long as she lives through this, I’ll be just fine.
As my friend Heather would say, her surgery today was a bit spendy 🙂 and I know it could have been much more if they hadn’t given me feral pricing. I’ve never been able to put a cutoff price on a cat’s life. So this is the way I’m going to look at it…that new bedding I was going to order will just have to wait for another day.
Day 1 of Squirt’s Recovery…
I went in the laundry room this morning to turn on the lights to simulate daytime and to refresh her food and water. I noticed she had eaten all the kibble I left, which was less than a handful because she was coming down from anesthesia, and she had used the potty box. I was happy to see this, considering she hasn’t been able to use one of her back legs much.
But I didn’t see her in the usual spot behind the water heater.
I looked around the room as I did my chores and as I was rising up from the floor to leave, I spied those two green orbs watching me. I had put one of the enclosed kitty beds in there. It’s a pyramid with faux tiger fur, so NOT feral. That little booger was curled up in that cat bed, completely content and restful. I almost cried. It doesn’t seem like much, but to know she finally considered a plush cat bed to the cold concrete is a huge step.
Taming the feral…not as easy as you think it is.
I won’t drive everyone crazy with Squirt updates, but here’s Day 2 🙂
She is up and moving around! She ate every bit of food I left for her last night. Half a can of cat food and a handful of kibble too. She also drank her water. Not all of it, but she is hydrating and that’s good.
She was hiding behind the washer this morning. I shined my light back there to make sure she was breathing. She was on her feet, so obviously in motion when I opened the door, and was peeping back at me. Very alert and lucid. The staples are intact and she is keeping the drain clean, but has tugged on it a bit from what I can see. It’s pulled out about an eighth of an inch. That could just be from her cleaning it.
I know it’s gross to think about her cleaning a drain that’s leaking infection, but she has powerful 7 day antibiotics in her bloodstream right now and besides…cats lick their own butts, so it’s not much different. I’m happy to see she is participating in her recovery. 🙂
Day 5 of Squirt’s recovery 🙂
I had made a potty box for her, which she used the first night. The next day she wee’ed on the floor next to the box and poohed a little further away on the rug. I realized that she can’t jump, she can barely walk, so the potty box I made must be painful to get into.
I have a bunch of old 32 gallon trash can lids that I use under potted plants. I made one of these into a low profile potty box. And she uses it! I know that might not sound like a big deal, but she’s feral and a potty box is an indoor luxury. She even covers up 🙂
Today I will begin the task of eliminating her hiding spots. One by one her options to hide have to go away in preparation for Wednesday’s vet visit and her imminent capture for round 2 of her surgeries. I didn’t want her to totally freak out and think she had no where to hide at all, so I made her a new hiding spot, but one I can manipulate easily if I need to get to her.
This Wednesday little Squirt will be spayed and her abscess will be reworked.
Day 7 of Squirt’s recovery.
She finally pulled her drain out. Dr. Welch thought she would do it right away, but that drain stayed in for 6 days! I was able to get a good look at her this morning and it appears almost all of the staples are intact. It looks like some may have just come loose where the skin just didn’t take hold again. That could be due to skin rotting, but the incision overall looks solid. The drain holes are still weeping, but not as much as a few days ago.
She is getting out and moving around to eat, drink water and use the potty box. And she spends her nights in the big crate, so she’s moving around, she is lucid and checking out her environment now. Her potty activity is also healthy, and daily.
When he gave her that second shot at the vet on the first day, she lost her bowels. Three or four rock hard, huge turds fell out when he picked her up. There is no way to know how long she had been constipated, probably from the infection and dehydration, but it had to have been a long time. I could have broken a window tossing one of those turds! Dr. Welch held her up, smiled and told her he bet she sure felt a lot better now.
I think the spay will alleviate some of the body’s reaction to infection by reducing the hormones. It will reduce her stress levels and her anxiety, therefore giving her the ability to focus and heal faster. Poor little booger has been through the ringer!
I’m shopping today for a bigger carrier and preparing to transport my patient tomorrow!
All of my friends and my husband were so supportive and interested in little Squirt’s recovery process. My good friend Heather wanted me to give her a nicer name because Squirt just seemed so harsh, so Heather named her Arya.
Precious Arya Squirt moment… I have been giving her Pounce kitty treats the past few days just to get her used to having my hand come close to her.
Today she leaned in and sniffed my fingers, then took the treat from me.
Arya “Squirt” was dropped off at the vet this morning to have her abscess reworked and to be spayed.
Last night I placed a soft sided carrier with a zippered end, in her new hiding spot, the one I made. This morning I made a lot of noise going into the laundry room, which usually prompts her to scurry out of bed and into her hiding place. Then I just zipped the end of the carrier closed and off we went.
If you have time today please visit The Animal Hospital of Nags Head on Facebook and show your support and love for her with a post or a comment. They all still know her as Squirt 🙂 her new name hasn’t caught on yet.
Arya Squirt is back home and enjoying the last bit of her buzz.
Dr. Welch did a beautiful job on her injury, leaving just a small opening so it can continue to drain. He was amazed by her resilience and told me that in a couple of weeks she will be just fine.
During her surgery Tara called to ask if I wanted her ear notched to show she’s feral. I’m a realist, so I told her yes.
Even though something is wild, if we have the ability to help them, it is our duty to do so. The more we share our humanity and kindness, the better life will be. I truly believe this.
She was a little shaky this morning. I left her alone most of yesterday because it was her first day without pain killers after having two major surgeries. I wanted her to sleep most of the day, so I only left the light on for her a short while.
The laundry room does not have a window, but it’s a nice size. In the mornings I like to open the door and air it out a little with a fan because I don’t want it to be moist with bacteria as she heals. Dr. Welch was also concerned about flies, so I hung a fly paper up and caught a bunch of them.
I even caught my own pony tail in the dam thing one morning when I was cleaning her potty box. I kept wondering what was pulling my hair. It was a truly ew moment, but I survived it without gagging.
Today I’m going to start treating her incision with Neosporin spray. It’s one of those on the go pump units and just enough to treat her for about a week. The pump means there won’t be any aerosol sounds to spook her. I’ve been plying her with Pounce kitty treats to get her used to me reaching into her sacred hiding area, so hopefully this will buy me some room to spray her with antibiotic without getting bit.
She weighs 4and a half pounds, she’s full grown. This is about normal for a feral cat. They aren’t usually big cats. This wound measures about 4 to 5 inches long. That spans half of her tiny body. It’s a deep wound because the abscess created a large pocket when it couldn’t drain properly. The wound was reworked and sutured with dissolving sutures, inside and out, with a small hole so it can continue to drain as it heals. The huge pocket has slowly filled in a bit. And don’t forget, she got spayed on Tuesday too.
On the upside, she is eating like a 20 pound kitty, which is a lot, and she is drinking her water and using the potty box. I am starting to believe that she is a warrior among kitties.
Arya Squirt on Day 12 of her recovery.
Her wound has reattached beautifully! It’s no longer swollen and angry red. The hole still weeps, but not like it was in the beginning.
She was expecting treats this morning when I went in to feed her. She had eaten every single piece of kibble in her dish, including the ones she had dropped on the floor. I filled her dish and sat in front of her to check her out. She craned her tiny head when she heard the sound of the treat bag crinkle.
Today I ventured closer. I touched the skin surrounding the wound and gently pressed to see how firm it was. She looked alarmed, but didn’t move to try to get away from me. It was more of a “hey! You’ve never done that before!” Then I rubbed her head, which she bowed down and she closed her eyes, like it felt good.
When you have a moment like that with a feral cat, you almost don’t want to spoil it, but I have responsibilities. So I sprayed the wound with Neosporin really well and gave her a bunch of treats to make up for ruining the serenity.
Someone asked me if it was possible to tame a feral cat, and it definitely is. Think of it, however, in terms of taming an animal that has always been wild.
For instance, a raccoon.
Yes, it can be done with time, endless patience and a willingness to acknowledge your own shortcomings, frustration and failure, if it doesn’t happen the way you think it should.
Guess who tried to make a break for it yesterday! That’s right! Arya Squirt is finally feeling a lot better!
She’s been in captivity for a total of 16 days. I’m not sure how many days that is in cat years. I would like for her to be able to jump before I release her and that day is quickly approaching.
I can actually handle her a little now, so today I’m going to see how well she can stand up and try to stretch out her hind legs a little. Please send me some good vibes that she doesn’t try to bite me.
Update on Arya Squirt.
Yesterday I was still finishing the laundry. This entailed using the washer and dryer, plus throwing things down the laundry chute. I knew it would be disturbing for her, but I had to do laundry and she needs to start moving around more.
She sought out new hiding spots.
At the end of the day it was time for me to play doctor. I reached behind the water heater and picked her up. Yes, I did! I put her gently on the rug and sat down to give her a good once over. I massaged her shoulders, checked out her legs, stretched her hind quarters a bit and finished with a nice ear rub. When I released her, she ran into her regular hiding spot and just looked at me.
She never once opened her claws, hissed, growled or tried to bite me.
I gave her a few treats and let her settle down a minute, then I flipped her over and sprayed her with Neosporin.
I got the Neosporin foaming wash at the drugstore yesterday that my friend Heather suggested. I’m going to do that this afternoon. Should be interesting for her 🙂 Depending on how her wound looks, we will probably release her before next weekend. We plan to leave the laundry room door open and let her decide what she would like to do.
This afternoon I picked Arya Squirt up and put her on a towel so I could clean her wound really well and palpitate the area thoroughly. Thanks to my friend Heather!! The Neosporin foaming wash made my job MUCH easier!
She was skittish at first, so I started rubbing her around her shoulders and head, scratching her chin and chest, places she hasn’t been able to reach since being injured. She purred and pushed back at my hand, asking for more pets. It was awesome!! She is also walking on all four legs now.
I was able to stretch her out and get a good look at her wound, which looks amazing. The flesh that had rotted away is starting to fill back in and it has almost stopped weeping. I cleaned away the dried pus and doused the wound really well with Neosporin. This little baby stayed still for the entire procedure, which was painless, but uncomfortable. The foaming wash works well to break down sticky bits of goo stuck to her fur and I was finished quicker than I thought I would be. Her fur around the wound is already growing back and THAT is a great sign.
Tomorrow I’m going to take pictures to send to the vet. I know the pictures are rather graphic and I’m squeamish, but she was depending on me, so I got over it.
Today I started giving Arya Squirt some physical therapy. She is reluctant to stand on the hind leg where the abscess was. I gave her a warm sponge bath and cleaned the bits of dried goo off of her tail, where she has curled it around the hurt area and the wound drained on it. She enjoyed that, no really, she did. I didn’t even have to keep a hand on her to keep her from bolting away. She just laid there and purred. I massaged her bare skin and treated her with ointment, while she watched me with ginormous pupils. Dilated pupils also mean they are scared.
Sometimes cats purr to make themselves feel better when they are scared. Did you know that? Feral cats do this frequently when they are fearful.
I started by holding her under her front legs, so she would put her weight on her back feet. She tippy toes and dances a little, but she does try to stretch it out. When I let her rest I gave her a treat and she nudged my hand for pets.
I called the vet just to make sure I can work with her throughout the next few days to get her flexible and strong enough to release. I don’t want to put any undue stress on her injury. If they say to go for it, I’m going for it 🙂
…and just when you’re thinking you’ve had a huge breakthrough…you find her hiding behind the water heater. Again.
Arya Squirt has been cleared for release by her doctor!!!
Her leg will rehabilitate on it’s own, or not. She lost so much flesh and received so much damage to her spine that the nerves were damaged as well. I know how that goes. I have a damaged spine too.
I’m excited to see what she does. I’m nervous that she will forget her basic instincts not to cross the street. I’m afraid she might leave and never come back, or she won’t continue to take care of herself, rest, eat right and get better. All of those valid feelings we have daily about the people in our lives that we love. We all fear not being loved back, or letting go of the ones we love so they can grow too, and that’s okay. All of us are loved more than we will ever be aware of.
It might hurt to lose her, and that’s okay too.
Most of all, I am grateful that I was blessed to take this journey with her and to learn the lesson in all of this. We do not own sentient beings. If we are able to help them, it is our duty to do so. And love isn’t about whether or not we get love back. It’s love. No matter what. It’s love.
I cried when I turned out the light and left the door to the laundry room open for her. I told her goodbye and wished in my heart for her to stay safe and to know how much I loved her.
I stood on the deck and watched Miss Arya Squirt cautiously stick her tiny head out of the cat door and then I watched as she bounded with joy into the field next to our house. She looked good and was running strong ♥
Guess who came from the back of the garage this morning to get her breakfast. Arya Squirt! I might have to sneak down there one morning just so I can make eye contact and hold my hand out to her.
And that, my friends, is a feral kitty miracle.