A couple on months ago I published an article on this blog entitled Saving Fatface. Fatface was a stray, rather mangey looking black cat, that had been coming into our garden for some months, eagerly eating the leftover cat food we put out for the hedgehogs.
Fatface, (rather uncharitably named by my husband Andy, as he has a distinctive round face), didn’t seem to have a home, and would timidly appear at the end of our garden, only to run off if we attempted to get anywhere near him.
Someone commented on the post that it would take a lot of patience to gain his trust and it certainly has! In the last six months, he has slowly moved closer and closer to the house and we were eventually able to feed him just outside the kitchen door.
“Fatface” has become part of our family, without actually becoming part of our family. Countless mornings I woke up at 5am worried about him and hurried downstairs to find him patiently waiting by the conservatory door. The fur around his ears was all matted and sticky and we assumed he had some sort of nasty infection. Sometimes he even appeared with leaves sticking to his ear, presumably from where he was sleeping in hedgerows. It broke my heart to think about the pain he must have been in.
Although he was very nervous around humans, he seemed to be relaxed around our other cats, Buffy in particular. In the picture below, it’s Buffy in the background. Two peas in a pod!
Still, his appearance was worrying and a couple of weeks ago, after seeing him looking particularly shabby, and mindful of the coming winter, I vowed we would trap him somehow, get him to a vet and if possible, adopt him.
We tried luring him in to the conservatory, but he would run off at the slightest movement toward him. We devised an elaborate plan of tying string to the conservatory door, and retreating into the kitchen, with the hope that if he stepped over the threshold, we could pull the string and shut the door. I spent hours hiding behind the kitchen door, waiting for him to take a couple of steps into the conservatory, but he was far too quick and the conservatory door, being heavy, took too long to close.
Back to the drawing board. I had another idea. If I put a dish of food in a cat carrying basket, and put a piece of string on its door (and again hid behind the kitchen door), that would be easier to pull shut. The first few times were unsuccessful: Fatface would sneakily grab a piece of chicken out of the basket and then scarper. This went on for about a week and I was beginning to lose hope. Then, one morning, I put some chicken into the box, attached the string and went upstairs for something. When I returned and peeked through the door, my heart started pounding. He was right inside the box! Quickly, I pulled the door shut with a sharp tug on the string and he was trapped!
Pandemonium erupted. Fatface was desperately tried to get out of the basket making scary cat screaming noises, and hurling himself against its sides. I was yelling for Andy to come and help me, whilst still gamely hanging on to the piece of string, and my mum was shouting encouraging words from the shower. Andy stumbled into the conservatory in his dressing gown, and quickly sealed the cat basket door. He put a heavy blanket over the box to try and calm Fatface, (which worked really well), and we all sat down panting on the conservatory floor. Blimey! We had finally done it!
We called the vet who suggested we bring him in immediately. We explained we would like to adopt him after his ears had been treated, and we were told they would have to check him for a microchip, and keep him for 7 days in case someone wanted to claim him. Because he was an ‘entire’ young adult male, (interesting phrase!), they also said he would need to be neutered.
We went home and I must admit I felt really miserable those first few days. I missed him terribly. I looked around at his little food bowls scattered around our garden and wondered if someone would claim him.
Over the next 7 days, I followed the vets Facebook page (where pictures of him had been posted asking for his owner to come forward), with something bordering on obsession. The post was shared 50 times and there were lots of comments from people wondering if he was their missing black cat. Every time I saw a new one, I was convinced that he was about to be claimed.
I wrote feverish emails to the vet asking for reassurance that he would not just be given over to anyone, and they kindly kept me informed when 3 people visited him to check if he belonged to them. None recognised him and, as the 7 day mark crept closer, I started allowing myself to think we could have him.
The adoption procedure was explained to me and I was then also told that he would have to have a blood test for FIV and FeLV. (Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline leukaemia virus.) There are both highly contagious, untreatable and common in stray cats. If Fatface was positive for either, it was likely he would have to be put to sleep. This latest information was really hard to bear, especially as the surgery was really busy and unable to do the blood test until 2 days later. A tough 2 days for me.
When the phone rang last Thursday morning, my stomach was in a knot, but the news was good, his blood tests were clear, his ears were on the mend and the neutering was done. He was ready to come home!
So he is home now with us and has a new name. We couldn’t keep calling him Fatface … so he is now “Morris”
Morris has taken up residence in our spare room. We have moved the furniture out to give him some space and he has a new bed, climbing tree, scratching post, litter tray and a host of wonderful toys. Of course he is not remotely interested in any of these, (except the litter tray). Currently, his strategy is to sit under the desk or in the wardrobe and study us from afar. He is very timid and has obviously been through a lot recently. I have plugged in some Feliway spray in order to help calm him, but we are trying to give him a bit of space and have not introduced him to the other cats or to the rest of the house yet.
I took this picture of him this morning. It’s not easy getting a good shot when he is hiding!
It’s going to be a long road, but he has let us stroke him a few times, which gives me hope. I know it will take a lot of reassurance before we can think about letting the other cats see him… but we will get there. And every time I see his little round face and those huge eyes peeking up at me, I know it has been worth every step. ❤️
If you are interested in Morris, (AKA Fatface), please follow this blog as I will be posting regular updates.. If you have adopted a stray cat, and/or have words of advice for us, I would love to hear from you.❤️