As nothing has changed with my foster dogs…Daisy B and Flannery O’Connor remain here with no applications, I thought I might catch you up on the cat story that began when we purchased a small, run-down cabin in the mountains of Virginia.
This has been a dream of ours for decades. We spend several weekends a year in or near the Shenandoah Valley and mountains and have come to regard it as our future home. The hiking, the vistas, the wineries, the quiet, the river, the mountains, the quaint little towns that seem frozen in time – it all speaks to my heart.
So we pledged our pennies and future pennies to this little cabin that has been neglected for twenty years. We have exactly one year to renovate it so that it can begin earning its keep as a dog-friendly rental home in Bentonville, VA, close to Shenandoah River State Park and all the water fun that goes with it and literally within walking distance of Shenandoah National Park and its endless trails and spectacular beauty. The house is fifteen minutes from Luray Caverns and ten minutes from the town of Front Royal. The ideal vacation spot. So, we are spending every available minute and every spare cent working on our cabin.
When we looked at the cluttered, filthy, smelly cabin before we purchased it, I noticed a cat. It was hard to miss her as she was sitting in a soda box on the kitchen table next to an enormous bowl of catfood. I wondered briefly about the copious amount of cat food outside spread on the ground near a window. But I was looking at everything through a lens that told me I had to have this house. And even though I did consider briefly that something might be amiss with the animal situation, I didn’t dwell on it. This house was in the perfect spot and it was within our budget and within our abilities to fix.
So a little over a month later when we arrived at our new cabin, the presence of four starving cats was a bit of a shock. My own personal cat of 16 years had just passed, and it did seem like Karma coming to bite the butt of a soft-hearted animal lover. Looking away wasn’t an option and turning them into a shelter wasn’t an option (even if I wanted to, the local shelter does not accept stray cats, this being rural Virginia, stray cats are deemed free-roaming animals).
I commenced my campaign to rescue these cats, three of which wanted nothing to do with me, although they obviously depended on me as a food source. If I was able to move to that cabin permanently, there wouldn’t be a real problem, but since they were noticeably reduced in size from a month with no steady food supply, I didn’t imagine they could survive with our intermittent residencies. Besides, no dog-friendly renter is going to be thrilled to arrive to a pack of cats on the porch.
And since cats beget cats, continuing to feed these feral friends would only amount to more cats to feed.
The local options were sorely lacking as I wrote about, so I trapped two of the feral orange kitties (dubbed Fred and George by Ian) and packed up the cat that I’d met in the kitchen two months prior (we named her Molly) and brought them home to PA. (The fourth cat disappeared, apparently uninterested in my ‘help.’)
Fred and George spent two weeks living in a large dog crate, tricked out to accommodate them with hiding spots, scratching post, and litter box. I tried every day to temp them with treats and Fred began to warm to me a little, but George remained skeptical.
Molly had the run of the room where Fred and George were. I wasn’t ready to allow her in the house and wasn’t sure I could keep her safe from Gracie, who has developed a fetish for chasing cats in her old age. Flannery and Molly became friends at the cabin, but I was pretty sure Flannery would quickly become Gracie’s wingman if a hunt began. Molly seemed content in the room with the other kitties and spent her days sleeping in a basket on a table where she could see out the window – the exact life she’d had when I met her.
This past Thursday everything changed.
I dropped off Fred and George for ‘the works’ at our local Animal Rescue where they were to be spayed (George) and neutered (Fred), dewormed, vaccinated, defleaed, ear-tipped, and checked out in general for just $60 each. HUGE shout out to Animal Rescue, Inc, for saving the day (and my bank account). I would pick them up the next morning.
Sometime that night, perhaps because Fred and George weren’t in the room, Molly pushed the screen out of the window and disappeared. Several days of searching have not turned up any evidence of her. It’s as if she’s vanished and I can only imagine she has begun her journey back to Virginia. Maybe she’ll turn up at the cabin again someday and we’ll make a movie of it. At least, I can comfort myself knowing that she is spayed and vaccinated (this happened in Virginia at a MUCH steeper price). I thought she might move into the barn with my barn cat Tonks, who is a timid little girl and would probably be fine with a roommate, but so far she hasn’t turned up.
Fred and George are home now, hiding in the back of the crate, completely furious and unforgiving of me.
In a week, they will be fully recovered and then what? They can’t live indefinitely in the crate. Should I turn them loose to seek out their wayward mother? But if I do, aren’t I just adding to the cat population that is already you of control?
I don’t know what I’ll do, but after two months of cat rescue, I am already worn out. This is so much harder than dog rescue. When I put on gloves to catch George to get her in a carrier to take to the vet, she clung to the top of the dog crate and hissed at me, swiping at my outstretched hands. When I finally grabbed for her, she actually spit. It wasn’t pretty, but I got her in the carrier, my heart was racing a mile a minute and I decided there and then, I am no cat rescuer.
Those thoughts were fresh in my mind when my oldest son came to me with a desperate request. His friend’s parents have fallen on hard times (his words) and have been forced to move out of their family home into a smaller place where they will not be able to keep the two cats they have. They’ve tried all summer to find homes for the kitties to no avail. They are out of time. Could we just hold the cats while they continue to look for homes?
You know as well as I do what they really means.
I just have one question—who opened the cat floodgates? I have lived peaceably on this hillside without any extraneous cats, just our housecat, Hermoine, for sixteen years, accompanied by two different male cats who lived with us briefly (one succumbed to an illness and the other ventured too far off the farm and was hit by a car).
We added a barn cat, Tonks, when she turned up on our porch four years ago, which coincided well with our housecat discontinuing her mousework. Since then, the cats have been an afterthought to the steady parade of foster dogs. Except for a brief misguided foray into fostering two kittens, I’ve kept to dogs and dodged any mention of cats.
And now, I can’t turn around without running into a cat in need of rescue. Why me? Why now? I’m a dog person.
And yet, these cats need a rescue. I’m hoping to locate a barn (besides mine) where Fred and George can move in and secure jobs as mousers. And as of this afternoon, I’ll have two more cats looking for homes, one of which must be neutered and both of which need all their shots, etc. And so it goes.
Just for the record—I am not a cat rescuer.
In fact, I leave Saturday for my next tour of southern shelters where all we will talk about is dogs. If you’d like to follow along be sure to subscribe to Who Will Let the Dogs Out and/or follow our Facebook page (or Instagram where Nancy will be posting lots of pictures).
If you, or someone you know, is in need of a barn cat or a pet cat, please hit me up. I’ve got plenty to spare.
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog Facebook group.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now