Walking outside a local business, I shined a flashlight in the nooks and crannies of the structures behind the property, searching for my neighbor’s lost cat who had escaped his carrier. Shining my light in an old shipping container, I gasped at the sight of an adult cat with two small kittens. One was clearly sick, taking horrible rasping breaths.
I tried to catch the sick kitten, but, unaccustomed to people, he darted away. Determined to get the family to safety, I messaged a kind-hearted friend who came out that night to help me. She set up a trap, waited, and caught all the kittens and their mother! There were even two more kittens than I thought! Taking them home, we released them into a large crate I had prepared.
In the morning, I took the kittens to the shelter where I work. They received prompt medical care and went home with one employee to be socialized. The mom, who we named Sarah, stayed home with me. It’s impossible to know if Sarah spent her whole life outdoors, but she was terrified and needed a lot of work to become comfortable with people.
For the first few weeks, I did my best not to disturb her. I left her a bowl of wet cat food each night so that she’d learn good things happened when I was around. Assuming she couldn’t be touched and not in a hurry to push her by trying, I was surprised one day when she showed no aversion to gentle scratches from a wand toy.
Encouraged by her gradual progress, I used a back scratcher to gently rub the sides of her face. She leaned into it! As days passed, she began seeking more attention. Realizing she wasn’t quite so feral after all, I gave Sarah free-roam of my bedroom. She still gleans comfort from the safety of the crate, often relaxing there, but she ventures out when we’re petting her. Though still easily startled, hissing or swatting when feeling threatened, Sarah has made tremendous progress!
Many caring people try to help homeless cats by feeding them, but it’s crucial to spay and neuter outdoor cats. One unaltered male and female can lead to a rapid overpopulation of cats. Please reach out for assistance in trapping outdoor cats in your area and finding low-cost spay and neuter clinics. If Sarah and her babies had remained outdoors, she would have had countless more litters who would have begun reproducing, too! Originally, I intended to spay Sarah and return her to her original environment. But she’s adjusted to life indoors and will stay with me while I search for an adopter who can give her one more new home—one where she’ll never again be in sweltering heat and frigid or struggle to keep hungry kittens alive.
Animal rescue can be extremely disheartening, but animals like Sarah remind us to keep fighting for the ones who need it most. To have earned Sarah’s trust, and to know she is finally safe, is the most rewarding part of all.
Breonna Loxley is an animal care technician at an animal shelter. She is an avid artist, writer, and animal-lover. She lives with her parents, a younger brother, two cats, and one dog.
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