Reader Rik Gern sent me the following story and photo. Readers might be able to help here (see bottom):
I’ve never been terribly fond of cats, not because I’m a cold and heartless person, but more likely due to a few traumatic experiences with them.
As a small child I explored a dog house that I thought was empty, but turned out to be occupied by a mother cat nursing her kittens. Naturally, she did what she could to defend her offspring from the “invader”-me-and I was left shredded, bloody and screaming, and with nightmares to last thru my childhood.
It also didn’t help that my grandmother’s Siamese cats once spontaneously decided to use my exposed calves as scratching posts and chased me around her house in pursuit of their demented sense of recreation! I was terrified of cats until my twenties, when I met a good friend whose love of cats and gentle interaction with them convinced me that they weren’t evil, and I stopped fearing them, even if I didn’t particularly like them.
Flash forward a quarter century to about five years ago when I moved into my current residence. A sickly, mangy cat would occasionally show up in the yard looking like something from Steven King’s “Pet Cemetary”. I mean, this animal was nasty! She had open sores and cuts all over, a filmy pus over one eye, huge chunks of fur missing, and what fur there was was so threadbare you could see her bony frame.
She looked so sickly that every time I saw her I literally thought she was fixin’ to crawl off and die somewhere. Strange thing is, though, that she didn’t crawl off and die; she kept coming back. Finally, last summer, when the region was in a terrible drought and a friend’s cat had died from exposure, the sight of such a sickly, suffering animal got to me and I broke down and bought some cat food and started leaving food and water out for the poor thing.
At first she’d wait practically forever ’till the coast was clear to come and furtively sip some water and eat the dry food. I’d watch her with disgusted fascination, but any attempt at getting anywhere close would be met with a frenzied display of hisses, teeth and claws, so I kept my distance.
Meanwhile, I started paying more attention to the pictures your readers were sending in of their cats, and noticed that they really are interesting looking animals. I also noticed how happy and well treated they looked, then I’d look at the scraggly kitty in my yard and wonder why life had dealt her such a lousy hand, so I started adding treats to the dry food–bits of chicken, fish, and egg yolk.
After a while, her fur started filling out, and one day, to my absolute astonishment, the mangy little animal approached me and rubbed against my leg as I was filling her bowl. I was both repulsed and intrigued, and I’m not really sure why, but I reached down and stroked her back. I’m tellin’ you, it was gross—all bony, scabby and scarred, but it was also the beginning of a nice little friendship!
It’s been over a year since I started feeding the kitty, and now her fur has pretty much filled out, the sores are gone, and she no longer staggers around looking like hamburger helper. She’s actually become very affectionate! I’ll get up in the morning to find her sleeping on the fence (one of her favorite spots) and we’ll start out the day with some petting and conversation before she gets her breakfast.
For a while I presumptuously thought the relationship was a one-way street, and that I was engaging in some kind of charity, but I realized I’d gotten hooked on my new buddy when she took off for a kitty walkabout for a few days and I found myself searching her usual haunts and moping about like a jilted lover! Anyway, she’s no prize winner, that’s for sure, but she’s turned out to be a sweet, affectionate little animal who has brightened my life in a way that I never would have expected.
I’d tell you her name, but I don’t know if she has one. Here’s her picture though; hope you like it.
It’s a lovely tale, and I’ve urged Rik to get her to the vet, but he says she’s very shy and would probably run if he tried to grab her. There must be a way to get medical care to this animal, even if she remains partly wild. Maybe readers can weigh in with some suggestions?