Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stray Cat Strut

When Rocky showed up at our house three years ago, we tried chasing him off. He'd already beaten the heck out of our neighbor's cat and stolen his food for about a year. Although we felt sorry for the cranky, bad-tempered tom cat, we had our hands (and porch) full with six cats.

Then Raz, my beautiful feline leukemia baby, died. We were down to five cats. Rocky took this as an invitation to move onto our porch.

Rocky, my grumpy old man.

He was a pest, that Rocky. He wouldn't let us get near him to assess his health. My husband lured him out of the garden with a bowl of food. Night after night, John would patiently place the food bowl in the driveway and call to the orange tom cat. After weeks of this, Rocky would venture out from under the boxwood and eat nervously, hissing at anyone who ventured near.

Rocky began to trust us enough to eat from a bowl placed on our spacious front porch. Last winter, when temperatures dipped to - 1 F, we worried about the poor boy. Our own outdoor cats spent those awful nights snuggled in our home, but what about Rocky? He took over the outdoor cat house, nestled deep within the wool blankets we left for him.

He's no dope, that Rocky.

But he was, after all, a tom cat. An un-neutered male. He never stayed around long. We assumed he had lady friends to visit.

He fought with anyone and anything that came too close, terrorizing our clan. When he showed up with gaping wounds to his face, neck and leg that ended up getting infected, we knew we had to get him to a veterinarian soon. Not only were we worried about his health, but the safety of our own cats. Rabies runs rampant in our rural area, and although all of our animals are properly vaccinated, we had no idea if Rocky was. Given his poor condition and what we thought was his feral nature, we assumed he hadn't had any medical treatment in his entire life.

I searched for owners for him but found none, and truly, we didn't expect to find any. We live in such a rural area, where people really don't like cats all that much, that he was probably born at the local dairy about three miles away, where several generations of cats live in the old hay barn.  We have no idea. All we knew is that we had a problem.

After two years of feeding and tending Rocky, we were able to capture him and get him to the vet for vaccinations and neutering. He's now a much calmer cat. He actually spent last evening curled up by the fireplace in our house, drying his coat after a downpour. He still prefers to leave the house, jaunting off for parts unknown, but I feel so much better now that Rocky has his vaccinations and won't be contributing to the surplus of cats in the area.

He still prefers being outside, but at least he isn't a risk for rabies anymore thanks to vaccinations. 

Spay and Neuter Your Cats!

I have to admit, I felt kind of guilty for having Rocky neutered. After four years of doing the stray cat strut, he was now about to experience a life-altering event. But the numbers published by the ASPCA  convinced me.

According to the ASPCA website, 1.4 million cats are euthanized annually because they cannot find homes. Think about it. One million animals, most probably perfectly lovely pets, killed for no good reason except they can't find a home!

Sometimes I want to cry when I read statistics like that. I think about all those cats and kittens who have no chance at adoption. And then I get angry. Angry at the people who take in cats and kittens and think that they won't breed, or that it's cruel to neuter them. What's worse - neutering or spaying, or killing perfectly healthy animals because they've been allowed to breed at will and contribute to pet overpopulation?

Does Neutering Change a Cat's Personality?

Neutering did change Rocky's personality - for the better. Let me emphasize that. He's a better cat now. 

  • He is a lot calmer than he used to be.
  • He isn't beating up the other male cats at our house.
  • He isn't spraying urine all over our house. He had an awful habit of spraying the siding on the house. Now he just rubs his cheeks against it to scent it, which is fine by me.
  • He won't contribute any more to the stray cat population.
  • He won't get an infected cat bite from fighting for mates or territory.
  • Although he still wants to roam the woods by our home, he doesn't stray as far away, because he's not looking for mates anymore.
Rocky is still a fun, tough, cat though. He still has a very vocal personality. He likes head rubs but won't let you pet him anywhere south of the shoulders. He's my grumpy old man, and I love him, but I am glad we could get him vaccinated and neutered.

Don't let your cat contribute to pet overpopulation. Spay and neuter, please. Rocky thanks you and reassures you that it won't make him sing soprano!

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