The Cat Who Couldn’t Cat #MyUnspokenPet
It was 118 degrees in Phoenix on the late August day I met Crazy. I was watering the dusty remains of my vegetable garden when UPS drove by and yelled over the wall, “There’s a weird cat on your porch!”
Hmmm. A “weird cat” could mean a lot of things, so I just waved at our driver, as if acknowledging a weird cat on my porch is a regular occurrence.
I checked our security cameras and sure enough, there was a cat lying on our welcome mat, mouth open as she panted from the heat. The mackerel tabby, perhaps around 3 months old, looked up at me with her wide green eyes.
She was very overheated, and had burned paw pads from meandering through the neighborhood on pavement that was well over 160 degrees. She hadn’t moved when UPS dropped a giant box near her, didn’t move when he knocked loudly on the door and rang the doorbell.
Watching the scene between her and UPS unfold on video, I contemplated how I could get her indoors or if I even should. Most of the cats who enjoy a cold drink of water or meal in our yard are pretty feral and only come by late at night, long after the streets have cooled down a bit, and the majority of humans have retired. This cat was ridiculously oblivious to the hot sun, long days, and dangers that await her in the open. It was clear that she didn’t know much about “catting” in our environment.
She spent the first day in the room on her best behavior, taking everything in with her wide eyes. I now realize now what a struggle that good behavior must have been for her. I snapped a photo of her and left her to rest in the quiet room with food and water, determined to unravel the mystery and find her home.
Imagining Her Back Story: #MyUnspokenPet
I often wonder what would have happened if I had known her back rescue story. What if we knew our pet’s rescue story before we adopted?
When CUDDLY asked to imagine our pets’ rescue stories in the #MyUnspokenPet campaign, I knew it was Crazy’s story that I wanted to imagine.
Security for You, Simplicity for Animal Rescues
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MyUnspokenPet: Imagination Runs Wild
At the time, I imagined that some family was missing her terribly. Clearly, she wasn’t wild. A feral cat would never allow me to pick them up and carry them inside. Perhaps, a small child let her out during the hot summer day? Or a repairman had left the door open? I had visions of the owner squealing with glee as I returned her kitty.
A quick search of NextDoor and local lost/found groups left me empty-handed. Other than her paws being burned from walking on the 160-degree pavement in this weather, she seemed in good health. It seemed odd that no one had noticed their cat missing. But, perhaps the owners were at work and didn’t even know she was missing…
We didn’t have room for another cat, meaning it was important we find her owner.
That night, I made up “found cat” flyers and when the night air had dropped to 95 degrees, I placed them around the neighborhood and posted images of her online. Brooke Arnold Photography volunteered to take professional photos so that we could present her in the best possible light!
She happily climbed into a carrier with coaxing, and made not a single noise while she was in there.She behaved well for the veterinarian as he gave her a once-over.
An examination told us that there was no microchip, but she had been spayed within the past few weeks. That told me, she was privately owned. Since she was spayed, I knew she likely had her shots, but it would probably be time for a booster, so I went ahead and had the vet vaccinate her due to her being in close proximity to my own cats.
Days passed. Then weeks and months. until eventually a year had gone by. Still no one claimed her.
Setting her up for success
When we returned home, the behavior problems began. She had hyperesthesia, a rippling of the skin that made her “bitey”.
I was nipped for my trouble as she loudy demanded food. The dogs became curious, Brock became obsessed. I knew from my long history with the dogs that she would never be able to make this house a home. Brock wouldn’t let his anger towards go, and Crazy was fast becoming a handful.
So the search continued and eventually, I began to put together her background (despite being largely imagined). It was becoming more and more likely that she was dumped or turned out, not lost. She bit and scratched everyone, but she was not without a “tell”. We quickly learned to predict the majority of her attacks.
Not a problem, I thought. She just needs exercise, time and love. We took her for walks on harness. She learned to integrate with the cats (not well).
It was clear that she had been removed from her mother at a VERY young age, and probably abandoned after the cuteness wore off (which we guess was around 12-14 weeks).
Eventually, we called a feline behaviorist. After hearing her story, my friend said, “Take her to a no-kill.”
“Not an option,” I said. “I can’t do that. No-kill or not, she will be put down. The behavioral issues are too severe.”
But, as it turns out, my friend wasn’t wrong in her assessment…while we have spent countless hours playing, petting, brushing, and training Crazy not to bite or attack, she is still a handful.
Discovering Her Triggers
We spent a lot of months figuring out what triggers her. This was tough because she’s almost at the level of a high-functioning autistic.
- Routine: She is just about perfect when sticking with a strict routine. She has a routine bedtime, feeding times, litter box cleaning times, and playtime. As long as we stick to a routine, she avoids most meltdowns.
- Food: She requires a speciality diet. She cannot have any grains – at all. The second she eats grain-based treats or food, she reverts to her crazy self. That’s one thing we cannot compromise on.
- Noises: She is fascinated with noise. Certain noises, grain-based food, and overstimulation during brushing or petting sets her off. She needs a specific routine in her life – the same feeding time, the same sleep time, the same play time. She requires specific play rituals and specific toys.
- Safe Spaces: Some cats don’t want to be around anyone. Crazy has learned that she needs to isolate when she’s uncomfortable or aggressive. This is a huge step for all of us! She usually bolts into one of her tunnels until she is ready to socialize again – a habit I not only respect, but relate to!
Finding Her A Home
We continued our search for her owners and after months of fruitless searching, we finally opted to place her in a good home. But, it didn’t take.
Her first adoptive family lasted about 18 hours. They returned her to me with a note saying, “There is just something wrong with this cat.”
Her second adoptive family lasted nearly three weeks. The man was very sweet, lived alone, but had a 13 yr old grandson with autism who he picked up after school. We fielded numerous phone calls and emails during the transition – even sent her along with her favorite toys and a speciality food.
Alas, it was not to be…
By then, Crazy had bitten the grandfather, grandson and daughter at least once. She spent her days hiding, then terrorizing them in bed by stalking and attacking their feet through the blankets all night.
Finally, the man’s daughter called me frantic saying she had to get her out of her father’s house THAT DAY. Why the sudden turn? I don’t know for sure. She arrived with Missy stuffed into a carrier too small by half. I didn’t question the reason – I was glad she was safe and welcomed her back into the pack.
Adoption – By Us.
After two failed placements, we’ve all accepted that she is now a member of the family. She’s been with us just over four years now and every day has been a bit of a struggle. But, I’m happy to report that she is adjusting.
Crazy has negotiated a fragile peace and dare I say, friendship, with Magellan. He has even taught her some cat-like moves. Cassie visits her from time to time and they have learned to talk and relax in each other’s presence.
I was asked what would have happened had I known her full story. Was she abandoned because she didn’t get along with a child? Dropped off in the desert because she bit someone? Most importantly, would it have changed me helping her?
My heart tells me that it wouldn’t have mattered a bit. I will always help animals. But, it would have been incredibly helpful (and still would be) if I had the funds to get her properly diagnosed, put her on a diet that meets her needs, given her access to a behaviorist or foster home that is quieter. It would be even more helpful to find her a lifelong family that is devoted to her every need. That’s where CUDDLY comes in…
CUDDLY is the only dedicated crowdfunding platform built specifically for small animal welfare organizations worldwide. They enable animal rescues to create fundraisers and wishlists to support animals in their care. Through CUDDLY, animal lovers can purchase and give in a modern, transparent way. With over 2,000+ animal welfare organizations on board, CUDDLY’s mission is to help save as many animals globally through community, innovation, and creativity.
Like us, CUDDLY believes that animals often “rescue” us and it is our obligation to support those who do not have a voice. As a company, they believe the best way to make an impact is by providing the “business” tools, namely fundraising, marketing, and a valuable community, to animal-focused non-profits so that they can fulfill their potential and continue to do good.
We hope you’ll consider supporting CUDDLY and the many animals and rescues they support. It’s a great way to give back and imagine the backstory of your pet’s life…