I have always had a thing for cats but I have a soft spot for black cats in particular. Blackie came into my life in 1991 and lived with me for over 17 years. He was the best cat ever (checkout some Blackie and Brielle photos if you don’t believe me) and even though he was crippled at the end, he would actually ‘hold it” until a person held him over a toilet so he could go. He was sweet, kind, loving and wonderful. He passed on when I was pregnant with Bianca in 2008 and I will always have a special place in my heart for him and I think I secretly (or not so secretly), I have wanted to get another black cat but knew I could never replace my one and only.
That said, I have been feeding a couple of stray black cats off and on for a few years. Sometimes I did not see them for a few months or even longer. Every once in awhile one would pop up, get some food and take off. I was feeding one black cat last fall and he finally decided to move in. He lived with us for maybe a week and then right before Christmas time we decided (with some outside encouragement) to re-home him to a farm as a barn cat. The girls and I missed him a lot and tried to get him back the very next day but the new owner refused to catch him for us (and inexplicably wouldn’t let us come get him) so unfortunately that was the last we saw of him. I have always regretted sending such a sweet animal away to that unfriendly situation and I have no idea what became of him.
Six months later or so this other black stray was back around for food again, disappeared for a few months and then a couple of weeks ago showed up again, this time I noticed a collar on him which may or may not have always been there. I set out some food and didn’t give it another thought. The next night he came back again. He ran away when my cats growled from behind the glass but came back when I put them in another room.
I put out some food for him and noticed that something just did not look “quite right” about his collar. It was just hanging weird. I had never gotten within even a few feet of this cat before but I stepped out on the patio with him. He ran and I stayed. His hunger won out and he came back and to my astonishment, I saw that his right front leg was through his collar and he was badly injured as a result. Desperately, I ran inside for a scissors and had to perform a panicked search because I keep them hidden from the girls. I found one on top of the kitchen cabinets and ran back outside, hoping he was still there. I tried to get close to him but he was skittish and would run. I kept shaking the cat food dish to get him to come back. His desire for food finally won out and he got close enough so I could grab the collar.
I was sort of worried that he would bite me or even worse just run away and eventually, well…die but thankfully he didn’t do either. He seemed rather grateful as I got my hand on the collar and snipped. As I was cutting the collar off, I noticed the awful smell. Really, it was just an overpowering, putrid odor coming from this grateful cat. It was overwhelming. I had to hold my breath while I cut and pulled to remove the collar. I even had to step away at one point and regroup before finishing the job.
He ran away again and even though the collar was cut, it didn’t fall off because it was actually embedded in his flesh. When he came close to me again I had to pull on the collar and with a sickening sort of “plop” it fell free with a small hunk of him still attached to it. I got a good enough look at the wound and a good enough smell to know the cat needed medical attention. Based on the collar, his age and his demeanor, I assumed he was just lost and someone would be looking for the cat. I locked him in my bathroom with some cat essentials overnight and started the search in the morning.
As soon as the local vets opened, I started calling to see if anyone reported a missing cat. Nothing. I called the Humane Society. Nothing. I checked Craigslist, the paper. Nothing. Finally, after a few hours of legwork, I showed my mother (a nurse) the wound. We held him upside down, I lifted his arm and there was this gash, 4 inches long and probably 1/2 inch wide when opened. It was basically cutting his arm off to protect his neck. It was deep. I can’t say how deep but it was very deep and it smelled awful and it was huge. My mom said “this cat needs to see a vet right now”. So I stopped my search and took him in.
The vet was kind and kept my bill as low as possible since it was a stray and I was still hoping the owner would cover the cost (especially since they were the ones who collared him). They checked the wound out, said it is a surprisingly common injury and notoriously difficult to repair because of the location. Apparently, since the wound is in the cat’s armpit, they will pull the stitches as they run, jump and go about their cat business. She said surgery was an option but did not have fantastic success rates. As she was examining the cat, she said “Do you want me to scan him?” and she pulled a microchip scanner out. I had forgotten all about the possibility of a chip as I was focused on his wound. “Um.. heck yeah! Please check” Within a few seconds, she announced. “He has a chip.”
I was stunned at the good fortune. “You’re kidding me!” I was actually elated. I couldn’t believe we were going to reunite this poor injured animal with someone who must be worried sick at this point. The vet estimated that he had been trapped inside his own collar for at least a few weeks. The technician made a few calls, and found out that it was a HS adoption from a couple of years ago and the new owners never registered the standard microchip that the HS puts in all the adopted pets. So the vet called the HS who did some of their own research and tracked down the original owner’s name. They called the number and it was a disconnected cell phone. So while the vet and another assistant cleaned his wound, the tech did some online searching and found yet another number and left a message. They sent me home with that cat and we waited for a response. In the meantime, the girls and I had already decided that should the owner not come forward, we would keep the cat. We started discussing names.
By five that evening I got a call from the vet saying the owner had returned the call and was overjoyed that we found her cat. She was going to call me in a few minutes. The owner called me up, practically in tears because they had lost their precious kitty over two years ago in a city 30 minutes away by car. They had adopted him and his brother as kittens and lost him when he was only a few months old. At the time they searched high and low looking for him and obviously gave up looking a long, long time ago. She finally almost broke into tears and just said “Can i please come get my cat?”. I stopped what I was doing and rushed home to meet her. I was euphoric at this incredible, unlikely turn of events. How lucky for everyone. It seemed to be too good to be true. I guess it was.
They showed up. Mother, daughter and boyfriend. The mom was shocked to see what she knew as a bouncy kitten, to now be an adult, severely injured (and smelly) stray cat, although I am not really sure what she was expecting to see. They spent literally 40 minutes in my home, deciding if it was their cat and if they were going to take it. It was bedtime for the girls and I had skipped dinner to meet them so I was getting a little impatient after the first five minutes, because well, the cat is MICROCHIPPED so yes, it IS your damn cat and either take it or leave it but get out because I am not a freaking pet store. They finally decided to take him, did not give me a penny for the vet bill and offhandedly thanked me in a weird way for saving the cat and tracking them down.
I was left feeling very sad about it not at all joyful about the reunion. They did not seem happy at all. They had made some ignorant comments about his healthcare and I just did not feel like the cat was in good hands. The next night it was confirmed when I got a call from Gail (the owner) again. She asked if she could give the cat back to me because she did not think her cats “liked him” and she thought it made her precious Annabelle kitty throw up. Wait, what?? I just don’t even have words right now for the stupidity. At the time, I calmly asked her to give it a chance since it was her cat and I am not a shelter and I already have 3 cats of my own in a 2 bedroom apartment. The injured cat is extremely mellow and did not seem to have any problems with my cats either. She said she would try but she was going to keep the new cat locked in the basement until her cats came to terms with it. Apparently they brought him out of the basement at night. Ugh.
So I get a call from her again a couple of days ago. By now they have had the cat for about 10 days. She wants me to take the cat back again because he “ran at” precious Annabelle while she was eating. “Was the cat hurt? No. Did they fight?” No, but she just “couldn’t go through this again” and she actually said that they didn’t want to have to “put him down”. Irritated and angry with myself for finding this derelict owner in the first place, I said, whatever, bring the cat back.
For the second time, I changed my plans and met this woman and her daughter at my house. The daughter was glaring daggers at me and I realized later that the mom must have lied and said that I wanted the cat back. I am so pissed at myself for not speaking up and placing blame squarely on the shoulders of her mom. I took the cat and basically shut the door on them. Not. Happy. Is that the end? No. The cat will have the most loving home he can imagine.
We named him Frankenstein (Frankie) for the huge scar that circles around his neck and under his arm. His wound is healing nicely and of course there has been absolutely no conflict with my cats whatsoever and he even plays nice with the pet rats. Do I judge Little Miss Gail for giving the cat back? Not….really because we really did just spring this injured cat on her out of the blue. It DOES makes me like people a little bit less and leaves me very sad and depressed with the entire story and the actions just truly escape my comprehension. I would be overjoyed to see a lost pet after any length of time and I think any animal lovers reading this post would say the same thing. It doesn’t really matter if she did the right thing or not. Who cares? In the end the cat is in a warm home with love and a full belly. Serendipity put a beautiful Black kitty back in our lives again. Will I sleep well at night knowing I did the right thing? Absolutely.
(P.S. the moral of the story? Microchip all your pets and only use breakaway collars on your cats.) Just do it.