Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jason's Story

All of our fur babies have a unique story of how we rescued them...this is Jason's...

In early May of 2011, I was out for a run and as I returned home near dusk, I noticed two glowing eyes in the storm sewer right in front of our house. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a beautiful, buff-colored kitty. I approached, thinking he or she may need help getting out, but as I got closer, kitty was visibly scared so I backed away. I put a bowl of food out on my front porch in case he or she decided to come out - sure enough, after about an hour, I looked outside and there the kitty was, gobbling up the canned food.

This kitty was skinny and seemed to walk with a limp. It was then that I learned that this kitty was most definitely a boy. It's much easier to see the "dangly bits" on a lighter colored male kitty than say, a black male kitty. 

I assumed he had been hit by a car or sustained some other injury and needed to see a vet immediately. The problem was, he was feral - would NOT let me near, let alone pet him. I needed to trap him if I were to get him the medical attention he needed.

I promptly got my trap and lined it with newspaper and put a cozy blankie in there - I needed to make it look inviting so that he would feel comfortable going in it prior to actually setting the trap door. After a couple of days and several very stinky, fishy meals for him inside the trap, he was accustomed to it. Time to set it so that when he stepped on the plate, the door would slam shut and I could get him to the vet. Surprisingly, trapping him was a success on the VERY first try (sometimes it takes multiple times to trap a feral cat). I trapped him on Friday the we named him Jason, of course. This proved to be confusing when we had our good, human friend named Jason over to the house.

Jason (the cat) proved the be quite difficult in temperament and as soon as I dropped him off at the vet to be fixed and vaccinated, they called me and said they would have to sedate him to even do an exam. 

After his visit to the vet, we learned that he was FIV/FeLuk negative (there is a blood test given to determine this), approximately six-years-old, and indeed had suffered some sort of trauma to his hind quarters a while back and he had already healed with a dislocated hip and a fractured leg. He would, unless we opted for surgery, walk with a limp - the doc assured me that he was NOT in pain. We decided against the surgery given his temperament and the fact that I planned on releasing him back outside where I would provide shelter and food for him for his remaining days. He was also vaccinated and given his rabies shot. 

After recovering from being neutered for a day, the time came to release him. I chose to release him on my back porch, which was paved and had plenty of bushes for him to hide in and feel protected. I opened up the trap and off he groggily went into the bushes to, I assume, ponder what in the hells bells just happened to him. 

I was careful for the next few days to feed him at the same time so that he would learn that our back yard was his home base. He was a fast learner and very rarely strayed from our lot. I began hanging outside with him in the mornings with my coffee and I would just talk to him and blink slowly at him. For you non-feline experts, a slow blink is a sign of affection and love. Slow blinks all around!!!

This routine continued for a few months and each week brought more progress and trust between both of us - he trusted me not to snatch him up and put him in a cage again and I trusted him not to claw my eyeballs out. Before long, he was rubbing on me and letting me pet him - he was a little love bug. That's the problem with making friends with feral cats - they don't want to live inside, so you are constantly afraid of the dangers that the outside world can pose for a gimpy, slightly old, and weathered kitty.

Winter came and I made him a super cozy shelter out of a Rubbermaid tote lined with hay. I put blankets in there and even built a tarp roof so that if it rained, his home wouldn't get soaked. I sprinkled flea and tick repellant inside and gave him a stuffed teddy bear to snuggle with at night if he wanted. He was thriving :)

One day I heard a commotion outside in the back yard and ran out there to find my poor Jason teetering on the wooden fence that divided our neighborhood from the one directly behind us - two large dogs were trying to get at him. Of course I flipped out and chased the dogs out of my yard then proceeded to walk door to door looking for the dogs owners so that I could chew them out. No such luck. On that day, it was decided that we would get a fence in our back yard to keep Jason safely inside and other, unwanted critters out. We had been wanting a fence for a while due to an incident with one of our neighbors, so this dog issue was the cherry on top of the "Keep Jason Safe" cake. 

Fence went up and things were good. We even screened in a portion of our back porch and installed a kitty door for Jason to go in and out of in case he needed extra shelter. Jason seemed to feel more secure and I felt a sense of relief that he was safer in our care. Our bond continued to grow - Manny was still not able to pet him (this secretly made me happy...I like when our animals love me more).

During the summer, that year, we had a NASTY storm - one of those Florida rains that blows through quickly and leaves a complete mess of tree limbs, standing water, and other debris in it's path. Right as the storm was hitting, I opened our sliding door to the house and offered Jason to come in - the rain was coming in at a sideways, Forrest Gump angle, so even the shelter of the screened in porch was not enough to keep him dry. He walked right in - BOOM! Done...he never went outside again. I thought he would want to, but he immediately got along with our other cats (how many we had during that time is escaping me, but it was at least three). I attribute their friendliness to the fact that all but two of our cats wandered into our back yard and most likely came from the same colony. I imagine they also had been watching each other through the glass sliding door for a while and felt a sense of non-threatening comfort with each other.

As an indoor kitty, Jason was aloof and any time we had company he would disappear for hours and emerge only when he felt the coast was clear. He continued to let me pet him and even smooch on him when I would lie on the floor to give him some extra lovin'. Manny and others were still unable to physically interact with him. But after about two years, there seemed to be a change in him - whether it was that he was getting older or grew more comfortable around humans, he slowly warmed up to Manny and even let the more frequent visitors of our house pet him. A few nights that I slept on the couch, he would jump up and snuggle right in for the night sleeping against my stomach. 

A few times, Jason got sick - allergies, URI, something else minor but serious enough that I thought he needed to see a vet. And here is the other, more challenging issue of having a feral or former feral cat...medicating them or getting them into a carrier is nearly impossible. Manny has suffered many a bloody arm at Jason's whilst attempting to wrangle him into a carrier. We would give up and luckily whatever seemed to ail him went away on it's own.

We moved houses once during our time with Jason and, holy shit...that was a mess - we HAD to get him to our new house so I got crafty and bought a ton of disgusting canned meats and fish to lure him into a large dog crate. I also caught The Dude, one of our other cats, in the crate during this mission along with Jason, so they made the trek to the new house (only about three miles away) together...Jason pooping in the crate on the way there...imagine me hanging my head out the car window gagging.

We just recently celebrated our one year anniversary of moving and a few weeks ago, during a visit to my house, my sister noticed that Jason looked thin to her. I suppose Manny and I hadn't really noticed since we see him every day. I thought nothing of it...chalked it up to his older age and just started feeding him more soft food in case his old man teeth were no longer capable of crunching up his hard kibble. Then, one day, I noticed that Jason was drooling and seemed to be wincing like he was in pain. I went to him and sat with him, tried to open his mouth to see what was going on but he would not let me. I noticed he was markedly thinner than usual. I immediately got that dreaded feeling knowing that I had to get him to the vet. Out came the dog crate and stinky food. It worked, again...thank goodness.

We got him to the vet and they had to sedate him to even get him out of the crate. They did a full exam (remember, the had only been to the vet once in his life), found that his ears were super dirty, they cut his claws (yay), and recommended doing some blood work to rule out FIV and Feline Leukemia. I told them he had been tested when we first got him, but the doc said he had a hunch so lets do it again. Apparently, the diseases can lie dormant in the body even when you get a negative test result early in life. He also received an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic shot for anything that could be causing issues. His gums were irritated and red (another symptom and sign of FIV).

NOTE - FIV is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It's a highly species-specific disease that only infects felines and is not transmitted to humans or other species. It is spread just like the human AIDS virus mainly through blood from severe bite wounds and sexual fluids (although this method of infection is not very common). It can also be transmitted to kittens during the passage through the birth canal or when they ingest infected milk. Cats can live a long, healthy life for years before the disease manifests itself into symptoms.

The test results came back a few days later and Jason was indeed positive for FIV. I immediately had a small panic attack about my other cats that he roamed the house and socialized with for all of the years that we have had him. Then I realized, he's fixed, so no sex...also, he's one of the friendliest kitties ever and I had never seen him fight with his siblings - a bite wound bad enough to spread the infection to another cat in my home was unlikely. Manny and I were sad, but also realized that cats can live long lives with this disease and we were hopeful that Jason was one of those. We were wrong :(

The week after we found out that he was sick, he again displayed signs of discomfort and, most alarming, was that he pretty much stopped eating. I thought it was his teeth bothering him again, so I pureed all of his food in a blender to help him get some nourishment. This went on for a few days and I noticed he was even more thin and would spend most of his days sitting in a corner drooling. This was not the way I wanted my sweet Jason to feel or live. We made the difficult decision to put him down humanely last Thursday. Again, we had to rig the dog crate up and that about killed me because I didn't want his last hour on earth to be stressful for him, but we had to get him to the vet. I wish I had taken a picture of the contraption we set was quite the venture but worked like a charm and our sweet boy actually went in without much of a fight. I think he was "ready."

Once at the vet, they again had to sedate him to pull him out of the crate. I requested to go back and hold him for a little bit before they gave him the life-ending injection. Manny and I were both blubbering messes. Manny was happy because for once he also go to kiss Jason and snuggle him - something he really wasn't able to do as much as I.

We were ready - or as ready as we could be. The doctor gave him the shot and he was gone. We gave him one last kiss before we left his little body and made our way home. Although we had that sense of relief that his suffering was all over, one of the worst parts of losing an animal is coming home and seeing the reminders of them - bowls, his favorite bed, his brush, and even the next morning getting out the usual five bowls for soft food instead of the newly needed amount of four.

Jason was a sweet kitty, he was gentle (unless you tried to pick him up or put him in a carrier), he got along with everyone and was a fantastic baby sitter to the many, many foster kittens we cared for. He is proof that animals can learn to trust and even love again.

We will miss you Jason - RIP, sweet boy!! 

Allison Otero
Owner, AlleyCat's Pet Service


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