The Year of the Cat :)

To the reader: One picture is slightly adult and immodest in content. This is your warning. :)

Exactly one year ago, I received a phone call at 6:30 in the morning from a young women in Ellsworth named Jane. Her call was the culmination of six months of advice and was to change my life a little bit more than I expected... because she brought Morianna into my life.

When I lived in Vegas, I used to do a lot of volunteer work for a an animal shelter called the Ark. It was a pretty large shelter and dealt with the majority of strays that were caught in the city limits. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the new skills that I learns and I was soon one of the leaders in training stray cat to become 'smooshable' - a skill that is needed for many people to choose them for a pet. It was a fun place to volunteer, where I saw some awful and sad things, but I also gained great friends, some of the most wonderful companions that I was to know over the last decade or so, and some neat skills that I figured I wouldn't use again after moving to Maine. (I also gained some wonderful rabbits for my grandfather and a few fun hamsters as well.) A few years ago when I had some spare time and my life was beginning its horrible upheaval, the 'local' shelter in Maine started a thrift store in Blue Hill to raise money and I happily joined its volunteer staff. I tagged items, sold them, and tried to help move items quickly to get as much money as I could thinking of the animals that would benefit by my service since the shelter itself was so far away. At one point a woman waked in and told me about some stray cats that lived behind the Riverside cafe and expressed her concern about their future lives and what could be done. I gave her advice on how to catch them- the slow but almost always successful way- and agreed to pick them up and get them to the shelter after she had been successful.

Six months later, I received a call saying she would try the next day and success! She caught a very terrified gray Persian covered with mattes... and eyes the six of dinner plates (maybe about six months old). Twelve hours later, I picked up my trap full with two slightly younger cats of clear mixed heritage... the spitting image of each other in markings though not color. I happily called the local shelter (also called the Ark) and was very distressed to learn a few hard facts. One is that while the Ark in Cherryfield, Maine is a shelter, they are very selective in the animals that they select- only animals that are healthy and appear easily adoptable as accepted with a donation. As I looked through the resources that I had I found that there is no really good funded organization for strays in this state and so the cats only options became clear. I dealt with them or they would be put to sleep. So I realized that all the cats that so many of us as volunteers and as shoppers thought we were supporting were not the lonely hurt strays we imagined. I still love the idea of the Ark and while think it serves a very useful purpose, I think that my energy needs to be more towards the smaller, less known, and less funded organizations that actually help the most needy and vulnerable... the feral population.

That didn't change my current situation however. I now had three stray cats in various stages of ill health and not even a real roof over my head. I needed to deal with the difficulties of introducing Brock to them slowly and trying to find them homes. In the end, one year later I still have all three of them and they have been one of the biggest blessings that I have gotten in the last year. The first thing I did was set all three of them up in a large dog crate. Their great fear of me was very apparent and I started in on some of the small things that I used to do to gain trust or at least less fear. I waited for a breakthrough and the breakthroughs can be slow (and usually are.) Stray cats that are older than a few weeks have usually had a few really bad experiences, bad nutrition as well as difficulties in their gestation and early weeks. All of these difficulties can cause brain damage, birth defects, disease, etc...

One of the youngest cracked in two days. She is a beautiful black and white female and around 1am she began to wail. Her fear, sorrow and confusion were very evident and I jumped out of bed and fought past the other two cats to clutch her in my hand. With the recklessness of past experience and the joy of the blessing, I held her softly against my bare skin (yes, I don't wear much to sleep) and crooned a hymn with some clicking and slow notes. For an hour I prayed and held her singing and talking softly and soon I was able to hold her and get dressed without a
great deal of fear from her. By morning, I could sit against the wall, warm and well dressed with a still slightly scared animal, but one who was open to learning about me. She became Morianna, my great companion, who would jump onto the bed for a few pats and would happily act kitteny one minute and feral the next. Over the last year, I have discovered a few things. Her health, while sound has been severely affected. She will never be a full size cat and may always be trapped in a 'teenage' body... slightly small and thin. She is not the sharpest cookie that I have ever had and her enthusiasm for fun and adventure can cause her great trouble as she makes the same mistakes over and over again, not learning the lesson the first time.... or the tenth time. :) Her relationship with Maximilian Robespierre
(my gerbil) has grown over time as he has consistently lured her over to the cage and then bitten her. Over time, Robespierre has gotten tired of biting her (or maybe he feels sorry for her or understands her mental limitations) because he now longer bites her and so he will stand up on his hind feet and throw shavings at her or use his hind feet to kick them in her face. Over the year, she has finally learned to sit close... but not too close! Her fear is almost gone... not quite gone, but has disappeared for the most part. But a few days ago, I walked into the kitchen and she did something that no cat that have ever been feral has done to me before....

Just awesome! She is not the smoochiest cat I have ever had, but the blessings she has given me have become more obvious over time. Caring for her and her 'siblings' has allowed me to use my underused skills and has given me some feelings of success in the rest of the failure in my life. When things have become too much, knowing that these guys depended on me for their very lives would push and motivate me to continue forward. When I get off of work, I am excited to come home and say hello to every one. Her brothers are moving forward much more slowly. The gray Persian I have named Smoke for his ability to appear to dissolve into thin air. He has a few problems. Smoke is also trapped in a stunned body and will probably always look like a teenager. He is thin but with his thick hair, he hides it well... He has problems with digestion, but boy, his reflexes are awesome. Give him a few empty studs with no walls and he can get up, jump, and climb up them in 3 seconds tops.
Egg (or Enigma) is blessed with the perfect kitty size. He is the right adult size now and holds his weight well. The only obvious problem that he has is his eyesight. It is poor and his eyes are a bit infected.... not much I can do about it as I can't hold him down three times a day to put ointment in them. All three look forward to my return every day and have even started to play with my hands or feet when I am supine and haven't moved for a while. I am hopeful in the next few years I will have three great companions. They are truly the blessing I didn't expect at the time. :)

What blessings have you gotten in the form of trouble or difficulty? Anything as 'purry' as mine...? :D

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