Stray cat: a love story, part 2

You may remember this messed-up stray cat that reader Rik Gern decided to take under his wing. He was feeding it and petting it a bit, but I had urged him to get it vet care as it was clearly infested with pathogens and needed shots.

He was hesitant because he didn’t know how to go about conveying a semi-wild cat to the vet, but, thanks to the enormous outburst of good advice from the readers (63 comments!), Rik’s getting it to the vet this week. As he wrote me:

Well, I’ll be taking the kitty to a free clinic a week from Thursday! She’s got a new hair brush, which she loves, and Advantage, which she doesn’t love! She’s also been getting raw fish (catfish nuggets) and she’s crazy about that!!! I’m going to try to transition her to an indoor cat, but we’re both a little hesitant about having her in  the house, so I’m letting that develop at whatever pace feels mutually comfortable.

Your readers have been very helpful–I’m touched!

Another reader—an artist—asked Rick for a high-res picture so he could paint the cat’s portrait!

Rik didn’t ask this, but maybe readers could suggest a name.  At any rate, thanks to all the many people who, concerned with the fate of a single felid, wrote in with advice.

50 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    How wonderful. Might I recommend a book called Your Cat by Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins for a long life of and free of many typical health problems. I’ve counseled cat owners on transitioning indoors too. Feel free to contact me

    Lunascottage@gmail.com

  2. Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Name suggestion: Bella Dama

  3. Posted September 23, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    How lovely!! I wish them both many happy years getting to know each other.
    & Mr. Rik is oviously a man with a generous heart to empathise with a fellow creature even though he had no particular liking for cats as such.
    I am wearing a smile of delight at his courage and willingness to explore, and for the pretty cat’s luck in finding a being who cares.
    Keira 🙂

  4. Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Ps and don’t be surprised if her teeth are in awful shape and she may be a bit older. Don’t be discouraged. Do get her a dental if she needs it though, or she’ll be in pain the rest of her life.

  5. Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    the fact she loves her hairbrush suggests she’s lived with caring humans before – and she looks a proud, self-possessed girl. & there’s something about her look that reminds me of Lilian Gish. How’s that for a name? Preposterous? Of course, he could always wait until she tells him….

    • RFW
      Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      It’s very important whether Kitty was raised with humans or not. Bruce Fogle in “The Cat’s Mind” points out that research has shown that the socialization period for domestic cats is between two and eight weeks of age. If they’re not socialized to humans then, it’s pretty close to being a lost cause.

      But if Kitty was socialized when a kitten, she has the potential to become a real suck of a lap cat.

      I once picked up a tiny feral kitten to pet it, and not being socialized, it wanted nothing to do with me: all teeth and claws. Kitten got put down real fast.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        “…the socialization period for domestic cats is between two and eight weeks of age.”

        I wonder how he arrived at that.

        Clawed Monet and his brother, Pablo Picatso, were feral. They were trapped inside someone’s barn, and I got them at a year old, and had them neutered and vaccinated before I brought them home.

        They spent three nights in my barn. Clawed was inclined to be friendly, but Pablo was scared to death. Pablo ran off after three days, and it must have been a struggle for him to get out. Since Clawed was now alone, I brought him into the house, where he’s been ever since (August, 2005).

        It’s a good thing this happened in summer, as I’ve since discovered that Clawed hates being cold. He’s been an indoor cat for seven of his eight years, but he never showed the wildness that his brother had.

        So, either this person is wrong about the window of socialization, or Clawed is an outlier datapoint. L

        • RFW
          Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          ‘I wonder where he got that”

          From research at, iirc, the University of
          Alabama. (Fogle is no quack: he’s a practicing vet in England.)

          The “feral” cats that calm down may (weasel word alert!) in fact have been properly handled when very young and only went feral later in life. One never knows. And of course, any result like this is sure to have exceptions. But it’s a trustworthy report.

          Fogle’s book, btw, is very good and well worth seeking out and reading.

          • ladyatheist
            Posted September 24, 2012 at 2:03 am | Permalink

            For the rebels here, I also recommend his book, The Dog’s Mind.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted September 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

            The “feral” cats that calm down may (weasel word alert!) in fact have been properly handled when very young and only went feral later in life. One never knows.

            Hmmm, question begged : what objective evidence of prior human contact could a F.domesticus (or whatever the specific name is ; it’s late tonight!) preserve that could be picked up by later study.
            I’m thinking of things like skin inhabitants (of humans that are rare outside humans, but can live on cats). Or internal Item name: Block&Quote
            Code: parasites (again, same direction of transmission).
            (Trying that BBCode-Xtra tool that I was pointed at a couple of days ago.)

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        Not true. I’ve socialized adult ferals. The older they are the less you would want young kids in the house, but it can be done to the point where they are friendly towards their owners.

      • rmw
        Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s easier to socialize a feral cat the younger they are, but it can be done with older ferals. With older ferals, I think they’re more likely to bond with just one or two people, but they can still be very loving companions.

        • suwise3
          Posted September 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          Helped my neighbor capture a mother cat and her two kittens (at about two months old). Despite MY misgivings she brought them into the house to try and keep. Mother cat responded beautiful. She is grateful every day to be well-fed, pampered, indoor cat. She does not miss the outdoors one bit.

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Shy, abandoned, and feral cats can be socialized at any age. Not all of them, of course. But far more than most people (even many rescuers, shelters, and researchers)realize (or are willing to admit). I’ve got a house full of ’em, and so do the couple dozen people that I know in my city that have 10+ or even 20+ cats.

        Bringing a cat inside is often surprisingly easy. After a couple of restless nights, strays often realized they’ve arrived in the First Class Travel section of the Gravy Train, and become properly spoiled very quickly.

        Just love her and the rest will come naturally.

      • Posted September 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        I’ll chime in her with a couple of my own anecdotes. I think that it is definitely tougher to socialize older feral cats, but not impossible. And it does take a lot more time and work.

        We captured a kitten once who was probably six weeks when we got her (well within that window). She was completely feral. I handled her with gloves and petted her, and after only a couple of days of this, she was completely comfortable around people. (Though she was always a little “wild”–wanting to go outside even after she was an indoor-only cat.)

        More recently, I rescued a pair of feral kittens, closer to about twelve weeks old at the time(outside that window). They are featured here: http://sterlingstarling.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/raise-your-paw-if-you-need-some-aww/

        To say it was a challenge to tame them is an understatement. My original plan was to tame them and then find homes for them. But due to the difficulty in socializing them, along with some major health problems that developed in one of them (the Manx), I ended up keeping them both.

        And boy am I glad I did! The hard work paid off, and they are extremely loving, playful, and, dare I say, appreciative cats. If you come for a visit, they’re not going to greet you at the door like my other two completely tame cats would, but they love to be picked up, cuddled, handled, and otherwise interacted with by people.

        I do also know of others who have successfully “tamed” adult feral cats.

        Difficult and time-consuming? Yes. But hopeless? Absolutely not.

        My little “twins” will always be just a little feral, but they are indoor-only cats who always want to be near their people. They may not trust people in general, but they understand that the people they know are here to love and care for them.

      • Posted September 26, 2012 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        Oh dear! YEah – agree with you, that’s why I reckon she once had a loving home, as her reaction to the brush seems to confirm. Hopefully she’ll turn out to be a total sweetie – while retaining that mind-of-her-own 🙂

  6. Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I’ll suggest the name Fenris Ulf (a name from a C.S. Lewis story).

    • gravelinspector
      Posted September 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Wrong genus ; but probably the right class (in a taxonomic-only sense).

  7. Stever
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Catniss

  8. docbill1351
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Looks like she’s listing to one side.

    Ilene

    (Kink approves this message.)

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Ba-BOOM! And I suppose you’ll be here all week, Doc. . .

  9. Posted September 23, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    She looks like a Sir Maestro Funnypants to me.

  10. litchik
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The vet should check to see if the cat has been chipped. Probably hasn’t as most pet owners don’t do this, but really should. She seems like she has been loved before. If not already chipped it’s worth getting her chipped now and registering her. Especially as she continues to spend time outdoors she could end up in an animal control center.

    As a name I suggest Lagniappe. Here is Michael Quinion’s explanation of the word:
    This appeared in the southern states of the USA about the middle of the nineteenth century. It was used by tradespeople in New Orleans for a small extra item or bonus that they gave to their most favoured customers.
    The best early description of the word was written by Mark Twain, in his book Life on the Mississippi of 1883:
    We picked up one excellent word — a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — “lagniappe”. They pronounce it lanny-yap. … The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying “Give me something for lagniappe”. The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor — I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.
    Despite its Italian look, lagniappe is actually a modified form of a Louisiana French creole term that derives from the New-World Spanish la ñapa, a gift, which in turn has its origin in a Quechua word yapa for a gift or tip.
    (FROM WOLRD WIDE WORDS)

    Or, Katerina, since she looks both wild and regal.

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      The quechua root, “yapa”, is still in everyday use here in Ecuador, among Spanish-speakers and indigenous people alike. Vendors (whether hardware sellers or food sellers) in small towns often throw in something extra, and say “yapa”. Yesterday I got a chocolate candy “yapa” when I bought cheese.

      • litchik
        Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Love words, don’t you? I like ‘yapa.’ Not a bad name,either. I like the idea of a gift, since it seems in this case the cat and it’s humans are gifts to each other.

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I wonder how this Quechua word (used in Andean Ecuador and Peru) ended up becoming popular in old New Orleans?

  11. Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Esme.

  12. Marta
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I don’t know why I know this, or even if I really do, but cats (and dogs) respond best to names that have a strong “eeeeeee” sound, like Molly or Chloe. (Yes, I know. Citation needed.)

    But didn’t the neighbors/former owners name her?

    • docbill1351
      Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      I know how I know this, but my cat responds best to the sound made by a pop top on a can of cat food.

      So, I guess, “Pop-Skree-Ting” would be an ideal cat name.

  13. Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    The quechua root, “yapa”, is still in everyday use here in Ecuador, among Spanish-speakers and indigenous people alike. Vendors (whether hardware sellers or food sellers) in small towns often throw in something extra, and say “yapa”. Yesterday I got a chocolate candy “yapa” when I bought cheese.

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Oops, this went in the wrong place, will put it where it belongs….

  14. coozoe
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    How about the name “Lucky?” My neighbor decades ago had a border collie the same color as this lucky cat.

  15. CDubya
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Very nice story – I hope everything works out for you both, Rik.

    Her face coloring in that picture makes me think of a pirate eye patch so how about Bonny, for Anne Bonny? Kind of a double entendre which I like to do with pet names when possible.

  16. Posted September 23, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful story.

    How about Erika?

    I’ve just read several articles that claim that raw fish is not so good for cats.
    “(Avoid)feeding a diet with lots of raw fish. Raw fish contains the enzyme thiaminase which destroys thiamine (Vitamin B1), resulting in thiamine deficiency. Cooking destroys thiaminase, thus protecting thiamine.”

    One link:
    catnutrition.wordpress.com/2007/09/22/eight-strikes-against-fishy-feeding-for-cats/

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Good point, even cooked tuna has mercury and fish is the most common food allergen among animal proteins in cats.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted September 24, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

        Anyone who has attempted to bathe a cat knows that they could not have evolved on a diet of fish!

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Or maybe Helena (she kinda resembles Helena Bonham Carter).

  17. Marie Cook
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    How about Felicia?

  18. Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    You may be surprised about the indoor part. 8 years ago a feral cat had a litter under the office back porch. We rescued them, got them vet checked intending to try to adopt out the kittens when ready. Unfortunately they had FIV, two kits crashed within weeks. But the mom and two kittens survived, and still live in the office with all the computers and satcom equipment. Other than having to vacuum the air filters weekly, no issues. Once inside, they have never tried to leave, despite opportunities. Of course, being FIV positive, we would never allow them out anyway.

  19. Janice C
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad you are going to work on making this kitty an indoor cat. We’ve rescued quite a few cats (including trapping feral kittens)& it’s been our experience that with lots of pets, patience & a nice cat tree you can turn a “wild” cat into a lovely indoor pet. We have four such kitties living with us right now.

    We found that providing a place within the house where the cat feels safe (in our case a cat tree worked well) helped with the transition to living indoors. Some cats feel safer up off the ground while others seem to like hiding out closer to ground level.

    Rik, your story is inspiring & thank you for helping a kitty in need. The best of luck to both of you.

  20. MadScientist
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “Scruffy” – the name’s good enough for a dog, a cat should be delighted with it.

  21. suwise3
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    On the practical side: capturing said cat to take to the vet. You might try putting out an open door carrier and feeding her in it, then waiting for the right opportunity to close the door.

    Even better (if possible) to keep feeding and waiting and getting closer and letter her take the food from your hand… she may eventually just let you pick her up.

  22. Posted September 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Your vagabond cat is absolutely gorgeous, the way she is sitting there, easily poised on that narrow spot and looking into your camera with as much friendship and warmth and trust as I have ever seen in a felines’ eyes. She is ever so beautiful. No need to comb her appearance for she is pristine just as she is…

    These are just a few reasons why she reminds me of Nefertiti, (in German that is Nofretete), which is my names suggestion. Here in Berlin we have pretty much a whole museum embracing that beautiful bust. I think your cat deserves nothing less.

    best wishes from berlin

  23. karled
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I dunno. She looks like a Maude to me.

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I love the way she’s perched neatly on that fencepost, with her paws spread out to balance her. Almost like a piece of sculpture.

  25. ladyatheist
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    On an evolutionary note, the domestic cat is responsible for the decline in population of a number of species of songbirds and toads, so trap-neuter-release or befriend-and-bring-inside is good for restoring the natural order.

    They are native to the Middle East so I suggest an Egyptian name. Cleopatra would be the obvious choice.

  26. Laura Norder
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    How about Sushi, because she likes raw
    fish 🙂

  27. gravelinspector
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Considering the locus of suggestions, and the desirability of short, pronouncable names that the cat can recognise, isn’t “Weit” (or phonetically, “Wye-Eit”) appropriate?

  28. Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’ve been away from my computer for a few days, so I didn’t have a chance to respond to the suggestions for a name for the kitty. Thanks for all the suggestions! Being a dog lover first and foremost (yes, I know–boo, hiss!)I really like Madscientist’s suggestion of of “Scruffy” but she’s becoming less scruffy by the week, so I don’t think that will be appropriate. Gravelinspector’s suggestion of Weit (“Wye-eit”, or “Wyatt”) is really appealing too. Currently, I’m trying to decide between that and Liza, as in Liza Doolittle from Pygmalion/My Fair Lady.

    • Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      You can also try out a name and see if she seems to respond to it well, let her be part of the decisison making process. I seem to think that a cat might go more for Liza than for Weit, but you can try and see!


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