Mason’s case study:

We brought Mason in during a big Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) event back in October. A developer had purchased a large rural property with several derelict barns, and was just beginning to bulldoze them, not realizing they were home to about 60 feral cats and kittens. We got permission to set up a feeding station and start trapping the cats to spay and neuter them and find homes for as many as we could. We brought in about 26 cats that weekend, including Mason. He had a massive growth on the bottom of his right paw, his tail had been broken multiple times in multiple places, he had infections, and he needed extensive dental surgery. We took care of his paw, treated his infections and neutered him, and then kept him so he could recover from that surgery before doing his dental. He was the first feral I’ve had to splint and bandage without sedation, which is tricky enough with a socialized cat! He is one of the oldest surviving ferals we have seen, and throughout his recovery, he made it clear his feral instincts were deeply ingrained.

We planned to return him to his home on the farm when he was healed (the property owner agreed to continue feeding the cats and we provide food and medical care on an ongoing basis). Then we got his bloodwork back and discovered he has advanced kidney disease. It would be cruel for us to return him, knowing he would suffer and was unlikely to survive the winter. We had two options: euthanize him, or give him a chance to adjust to life in a home and provide hospice care for as long as he had left. We are a no-kill organization, and believe that any life is worth saving as long as we are able to alleviate suffering. Mason’s many scars told us how hard he had fought to survive this long, and we were determined to give him a chance to experience comfort, safety and freedom from pain during his sunset months.

I took Mason to my house, because his feral instincts told him humans were predators, and he reacted appropriately when one tried to interact with him. He was not a candidate for adoption.

I knew he was starting to feel comfortable here when I would come out of my bedroom in the morning and see the whole house rearranged – toys everywhere, rugs moved, pillows off the couch, all general indications of a happy cat engaging in rambunctious play. He still wanted no contact from me other than play time, but I was relieved that he was so clearly feeling better and happy to be alive. I thought that was a pretty great outcome for an old, terminally ill feral cat, and didn’t think it could get any better.

Then one day, I brought my foster kittens out for a “field trip” into the main house so they could experience a new setting as part of their socialization. They swarmed over to Mason’s lair, and started climbing all over him, just really invading his personal space. I was right there next to them, holding my breath and expecting him to hiss or growl and then slink away to hide under the couch… When Scrammy (ginger kitten) started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason leaned into it, I completely melted… the one thing missing for Mason had been contact with another living being, and while he didn’t want that from ME, he had clearly been craving it from his own kind.




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