CC4C’s work with homeless cats involves a lot of contact with the ferals – defined loosely as those who’ve been born in the wild and have not had positive human contact. They are mistrustful, frightened and sometimes hostile.
Some people might think such creatures are nuisances, not worth caring about. We (obviously) disagree. Every feral we trap is assessed for the spark that shows it wants to be loved. In the never-touched adults, that spark is usually buried too deep under protective survival defenses. But the kittens can be saved. And sometimes they save us right back.
One such story occurred about 10 years ago:
Chelsea, the Wonder Cat!
In 2002, a small, scrawny black-and-white kitten was scavenging at the Antioch marina. Life was hard enough – then she was savaged by a dog. Someone rescued her from the dog, and brought her to the Contra Costa County animal shelter.
She escaped one near-fatal encounter, only to face death another way – she had a prolapsed rectum and was placed on the euthanasia list as unadoptable.
CC4C member Kay Fuller spotted spunk in the sad little kitten and asked to take her, as rescue groups are able to do. The shelter veterinarian “poked her rectum back in” and pronounced her OK to go. But her rectum prolapsed twice more in Kay’s care. Dr. Pearson at Lafayette Animal Hospital skillfully performed two “purse string” surgeries, which gathered the edges of the rectum together like the drawstring at the top of a bag. Nothing worked.
Because she was about 5 months old by then, the veterinarian decided to spay her and at the same time sew her rectum to her backbone. Miraculously, it worked and her rectum has been perfect ever since.
But Chelsea wasn’t out of the woods yet. Her early malnutrition and other deprivations made her susceptible to upper respiratory infection, eye infections, fungal lesions and diarrhea. By the time these were all healed, Kay knew that she and Chelsea were meant to be together forever – Chelsea was home.
That’s when Chelsea started paying back:
Chelsea the Kitten Trainer: Chelsea is a born teacher. Give her a litter of feral kittens who don’t know how to eat solid food, and she has them noshing from a dish the same day. She also teaches litter box techniques. And she’s been surrogate mom to many, dispensing cuddles, play time and generally keeping them out of trouble. Chelsea the Search-and-Rescue Cat: Chelsea is an intrepid seeker of a cat or kittens trapped or too frightened to move.
- Restaurant Rescue. A newly remodeled restaurant about to open in Lafayette knew a cat was trapped somewhere within its walls. They could hear it cry but couldn’t find it – then the crying stopped. Even worse! Management called CC4C and Kay responded with a trap, expecting a starving cat to readily walk in for the bait. When no cat appeared, she knew it was really stuck. But where? Chelsea could help. Kay brought Chelsea to the restaurant in a cat carrier, and placed the carrier in the back storage room. Chelsea hates being in a carrier and protested loudly. And the trapped cat answered! With the location pinpointed, the storage room wall was opened up, and the cat was readily trapped.
- Kittens Found. A rescue call came about a mother cat and kittens somewhere in the foundation crawl space of a home. The mom was easily trapped as she emerged seeking food. But the kittens were hidden somewhere in the vast, dark crawlspace, full of pipes and ducting. They were too small or too frightened to move without their mother. Kay placed Chelsea under the house, and she made a beeline for a far corner of the foundation where the litter was cowering. Extrication was awkward but do-able, and far easier than crawling around in the (spider-y!) dark searching every cranny.
Nurse Chelsea: Chelsea wants to be right there whenever a cat or kitten is being dosed or treated. She jumps up to supervise treatment, like the Head Nurse. She is understandably devoted to Kay, and her nursing abilities came to the fore when Kay was recovering from surgery and chemotherapy. Chelsea’s intensive care included therapeutic purrs, warm body snuggles, and gentle tongue grooming of Kay’s head as her hair grew back in. Chelsea continues to amaze us. At 10 years old, she’s still undersized – less than 7 pounds. And an autoimmune difficulty crops up once or twice a year, causing hair loss and swelling of her footpads. But nothing keeps her down. Chelsea could be the poster child for why we know that ferals deserve a chance!
Chelsea is certainly a special cat. But CC4C believes that all ferals deserve to live the best life they can. Sometimes the best we can do for them is to make sure the females are freed from delivering kittens with no shelter and little food, and that the males no longer have to fight their way through life.
When you read this, CC4C trappers will be catching the tough adults and tender kittens. The tough ones are fixed and fed where they were found, if possible. (The hard part is when the location is especially dangerous. We’re always looking for ranches, barns, stables, backyards with a rodent problem – any place that would let a couple of fixed ferals live peacefully away from danger.) And the kittens blossom with good care and regular meals. They’ll be appearing at our adoption sites all spring, summer and fall!
Thank you for the support you give to this work. Your donations have a huge impact on the lives of individual cats and kittens, and on your community as the population of homeless cats is reduced.
The Volunteers of Community Concern for Cats