Ezekiel (an Extreme Cat Makeover)

Warning: this post contains images some may find disturbing (but don’t worry — it has a happy ending).

There is something about a rescued cat (or other animal) in that they seem to know they are saved.  You can see it in their eyes–the gratitude and relief, and feel it in the way they behave when you take them in–so careful not to disturb, gentle in their steps, cautious and sometimes clingy.  They seem to know that you care and an incredible bond is formed. It is a most humbling and overwhelming feeling to love and be loved by a rescued pet.

For a few years I’ve been feeding a feral cat I named Ginger. Ginger’s ear is tipped so I know someone before me had taken the care and time to TNR, (Trap, Neuter, Return) a humane solution for reducing and protecting the feral cat population.

Seemingly content with his outdoor life, Ginger visits twice a day where he dines in his custom made cooler-turned-feeding station. Though I’ve not yet gained his trust enough to come inside, he hangs out on my window sill, watching and taunting my jealous indoor cats who don’t know the trials of the life of their feral outdoor cousin.

One hot night last Summer, Ginger brought a friend; a scrawny and beat-up black cat. Each night for a few days, this cat showed up with Ginger who would share his dish of food. I could see it was in rough shape. Missing fur and scrapes, matted and dirty, I thought maybe it had been hit by a car.  After a thorough search on local websites for lost and found animals and knowing it likely didn’t belong to any neighbor close by, I decided it was probably a feral cat and began to plan for TNR. 

I borrowed a live trap and set up for his capture. But I would soon discover this was not a feral cat. It came right to me, allowing me to pick it up and be placed gently into a carrier. So with no need for the trap, it was off to the spay and neuter clinic.

For identification purposes I called him Casey, a gender-neutral name.   It was only after his return, that I would learn Casey was a “he” and discover the extent of his severe injuries and wounds.  Casey’s head and right eye were seeping from infected bite wounds.  His ears were filthy from mites and his eyes nearly sealed shut from the pressure and swelling of his head wounds.  He had been the victim of an animal attack and had likely been out fending for himself for a long time, scrounging for shelter and slowly deteriorating from lack of food and the infection in his malnourished body.  The low-cost spay/neuter clinic staff were wonderful, but they were not set up for the extensive and long-term care this poor creature would need.

I felt torn. I wanted to keep him but I already had three cats who would not be very welcoming to a fourth. I called some contacts and friends for fostering to no avail. The Humane Society would likely consider this guy a lost cause and put him down and only other option was to “return” him to his outdoor life.  There was no way I could turn Casey back out to fend for himself. So the decision was made for me. I set up the spare bathroom in my basement preparing for cat hospice and made Casey an appointment with my regular vet.

The prognosis was grim.  Although tests for rabies and other common diseases came back negative, Casey’s injuries were extreme and he was not responding to the long-lasting antibiotics given to him at the clinic.  My heart ached for this little guy.  How long had he been out there on his own? Was he going to live? I couldn’t imagine why God would send him to me only to have him die.  I could hardly bear the thought and I was determined to do whatever it took to help him survive.

After several long weeks of praying, more than a half a dozen trips to the vet to drain and clean his wounds, four more rounds of antibiotics, pills and ointments and the grace of God, Casey began responding to the treatments. His infected wounds began to heal.  His appetite and digestion began to stabilize and he gained four pounds. Casey was going to make it!

Over the next couple of months, his patchy coat was filling in and his wounds started to scar over. His eyes began to clear and his fear to subside. His energy level rose and soon he was healthy enough for me to begin the introduction process to the three other cats that would become his new family.

Unphased or startled by house noises like the toilet flushing or the rumble of the air conditioner and fridge; litter box savvy and very much a lap cat, I am quite certain Casey was never feral, but I don’t know his story or from where he came.  Was he lost? Abandoned? Worse?  My stomach sinks at the thought of how he came to be so battered and neglected.  I’m not sure I want to know.  All I do know is that for over a year now, Casey has made his new home in my house and in my heart for the rest of our lives.

Oh….and I changed his name.

Meet Ezekiel  (Zeke for short) whose name means Strengthened by God.

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