Regular readers will have heard mention of Stanlie, the stray on our doorstep. He’s been there a while but his story hasn’t been fully told. In truth it won’t be fully told now either – As with most stray cats, the first chapters are completely unknown to us.
But lets start at what might be Chapter 5 of his life. We took in a couple of adult female cats way back in January this year. They hadn’t been spayed. Although we arranged this asap it wasn’t before the hormones went out and there was an almighty cat fight in our front garden. We went rushing to see what was happening and try to break it up. It was raining heavily and two cats were wrestling each other in the mud. They were so filthy that I can’t be sure … but I think this was our first meeting with Stanlie.
If it wasn’t … Stanlie appeared on my drive a short while after. He was dirty and limping and very scared of people. I went out to ask him if he needed anything or would like to stay for tea. His fear was more or less balanced by his hunger and he stood frozen to the spot trying to decide which was more pressing. In the end we agreed that I’d put the bowl at the end of the drive and go safely indoors whilst he ate.
We had a few days like this and then he disappeared. I assumed he’d swiped right and gone off after another potential lady friend. Then a couple of weeks later my neighbours mentioned a cat that had been in their garden looking a bit shifty and asked if I’d seen it. He was back.
We did the usual search on social media and lost and found sites. No one looking for him, and no one answering the “does anyone know this cat?” posts. He gradually became more of a regular. Rather than just stopping by every few days for a meal, he’d drop round for tea every evening. The resident cats would call out when he arrived and I’d nip out to feed him. Then he got the hang of my changing shift patterns and would be waiting on the drive for me. Gradually it came to be that he was there for breakfast too. Then he susssed that the residents always had chicken treats a little while after they’d had their tea … so he’d hang around after his tea for ‘pudding’.
At first it wasn’t very nice outside to spend time with him, but as the days got warmer it was comfortable to sit outside on the front step and feed him treats and chat. Then it was possible to confirm what we’d suspected .. no microchip. As the summer reached its hottest it was lovely to come outside in an evening to chill a bit and spend time with him. He grew in confidence so he’d eat next to me and take treats from my hands, and let me stroke him and even pick him up. He learned to trust my neighbours … not naturally cat lovers … but lovely enough to care about him and protect him. He spent so much time in one spot on their lawn that it went yellow the way pitched tents yellow the grass over a long weekend.
All the time of course we’re thinking what’s best to do. Obviously he needs neutering but we had nowhere indoors to keep him safe after his op. Couldn’t just put him outdoors straight away, and what if it scared him and he ran away and then didn’t have anyone feeding him? Needed space to get him in. If you’ve followed the blog you’ll know which cats managed to get ahead of him in the endless game of Lifeboat that is cat rescue.
If I’m honest I was also anxious about depriving him of his liberty. How could I justify it being a better life stuck in a small room when outside it was warm and sunny and we were feeding him? A good argument would be to stop an unneutered cat going after female cats … but all he was doing was camping in the neighbour’s garden waiting for his next meal. What if I tried to trap him and didn’t manage it and it just scared him away?
As the weather turned cooler and wetter my guilt about dragging him indoors was replaced by concerns about leaving him out. I came straight home from taking Harold to his new home, cleaned his bedroom and got Stanlie indoors.
We’d thought it might take a trap to get him. However we’ve practised coming into the house for chicken treats over a few weeks, and even practised having the door shut. That’s what happened on Monday … then we scooped him up in the carrier that had come back from Harold’s new home.
I didn’t expect it to be an easy transition. Stan has usually hissed … out of habit almost … when he first sees me, even though he’s been shouting for me to come to feed him, and is waiting for me to put the food in his bowl. I was upset to see how put out he was to be indoors. He hissed and scrowled like I’ve not heard since the big cat fight back in January. He ate something which was good. But refused the chicken I offered. I think he may have vowed never to eat chicken again since that’s what got him into this mess.
Overnight he sang a long low lament for the damp spot under the hedge where he used to sleep. Did I say it was a looooong lament? Did I say it was bl@@dy endless and did I mention that his bedroom is right next to mine?
On Tuesday we managed to get an appointment at the vets. I’d not anticipated it being easy to get him into the carrier. I’d not quite anticipated this.
The thought of having to repeat the process to have him neutered was seriously daunting. Amazingly they were able to keep him, neuter, chip, start vaccs, health check and pick up an hour later! They really are awesome. Hugely relieved to get all that done. Surprised to learn that the limp he had wasn’t arthritis as we’d suspected. It seemed to have come and gone and been a bit difficult to pin down over the summer. I’d wondered if the warm weather was helping it. It turns out he has dermatitis on his hands and feet. I’ve never got close enough to see the pads of his feet. Poor lad. Must be so sore. He’s had bloods take to try to find out more about why he’s having this problem.
He spent Tuesday night lamenting the loss of other things. So another night with no sleep.
And the next couple of nights followed a similar pattern with him sitting in his bedroom loudly accusing me of having ruined his life whilst I laid in bed sleepless and guilty. When I went in to him he’d sit hiding and looking miserable, refusing to come out for food whilst I was there.
This evening I’ve gone in and offered turkey … I’m tactful enough to not offer chicken again just yet … and things have definitely changed. He hissed a little but then jumped down from his perch and came to eat more and be stroked and snuggled.
Who knows when we might sleep again.