As many of you have asked me all about the sick kitty, and I only have space for 1 Katz Tale in The Star a month, I've written up Rosie's story and am offering it for free. Enjoy!
A Katz Tale By Ellen Whyte
One of my secret pleasures is to go for a hair wash. I've got a nice salon near me that throws in a mini massage so I come out feeling relaxed and looking as sleek as an Afghan hound.
So there I was, sneaking off on a Sunday afternoon in glorious anticipation of a good time, when a little cat appeared at the bottom of our road. As I slowed down for him, I could see he was hurt. His whole side was bloody.
When I pulled over and got out, the little cat took refuge under a parked car. I lay on the street, took one look, and raced for the house. I'd seen such damage before but only in pictures. Someone had thrown boiling water over this little fur.
T-man, my partner in life and all round good egg, has the advantage of being brought up on a farm. He came out and pronounced the cat to be a serious state but no infection.
While we crawled around on the street, an elderly lady came out. She told us the cat was a stray, and that the injury had happened a day or so before.
We couldn't get to the cat so I did the next best thing: I got my camera, took some shots, and went to see the vet. Dr Baz looked, exclaimed, and gave me some super duper antibiotics. He refused to let me pay too, the darling.
I went home, ground up a pill in some aromatic tuna and chicken cat food, and went to the car where the kitty was hiding. I put the bowl down and backed off. There was an instant of silence, and then the sound of hurried chomping and slurping.
Two minutes later, a black girl cat came out followed by a good looking blue eyed cat with a grey mask and ears. The medicated food was gone but I had a handful of biscuits with me as backup. The two other kitties made a meal of those, and I realized I had just adopted 3 stray cats.
The next morning the black girl was friendly and greeted me with loud meows while the sick kitty hid under the car. The blue-eyed cat distinguished himself by rushing over and clawing me over the knuckles so that I would drop the bowl of cat food. I named him Mugger, and upped his biscuit ration.
Over the next week I made two trips a day to medicate and feed the cats. I had only met one or two of the people at the end of our street before but trudging down there twice a day introduced me to the other residents.
What was cheerful was that everyone expressed shock at that poor cat's plight. As one new friend put it, "It makes me feel creepy that someone in our neighbourhood could do such a thing." Another lady who came out to see why I was crawling about under her car burst into tears when I pointed out the sick little cat.
We all speculated on who could have done it but we couldn't identify a culprit for certain. Some new friends pointed the finger at the workers who are renovating a house near us. However, as these kindly men demanded daily updates on how the sick kitty was doing, and I saw them sharing their rice and curry with the strays too, I pointed out that was most unlikely.
I thought, and still think, it's the work of a foreign maid who feels frustrated and unrecognized, or of an elderly person who has the old-fashioned belief that animals are objects with no souls or feelings.
While the culprit remained a mystery, the sick kitty slowly began to trust me. At first he darted out from under the car, and then darted back into the safety of the darkness again. Then he became brave and stood on the street, eating out of the bowl while I stood a few steps back. Finally he ate out of the bowl while I held it.
Now I was allowed to come close, I could see the wound was improving. The layers of dermis were thickening and there was no sign of infection thanks to Dr Baz's wonderful medicine. But the damage was so great, that I knew this little cat needed professional help if he were to heal properly.
Unfortunately I couldn't pick him up. I didn't want to frighten him. I had to be patient.
When a month had passed, the little cat allowed me to rub his ears. Then I was allowed to rub his good side. Emboldened, I brought my cat carrier along to one of our breakfasts. My furry friend took one look and bolted.
I thought this a small setback and was prepared to be patient but suddenly, in the space of 24 hours, the little cat seemed to sink. He missed two meals and came back looking sad and sorry.
As it was a Monday morning and everyone was at work I alerted my neighbour Jett who works from home like me. He helped me crawl under various cars but our effort at catching the little cat proved useless. Convinced he was in real trouble, I was in despair.
At this point another neighbour, Umi, volunteered to take a turn. She and her husband are very fond of cats. They feed the strays that live in their back lane, have a tribe of indoor cats, and also provide a home for our last rescue Cole the Tuxie cat.
Umi borrowed our cat carrier, set up a dish of food inside, backed off and carefully lulled our sick friend into a sense of security. On the third day he entered the box for his breakfast, Umi crept up on him and shut the door.
This was last Sunday, six weeks to the day we first spotted him.
Concerned that this cat might not make it, and in the false belief that I could distance myself from too much hurt, I had carefully refrained from naming him. But Umi had no such reticence; she informed me that she'd called him Rosie.
I must admit that when I first saw this cat, I thought he was a girl until T-man pointed out that the kitty had man-parts. Umi laughed when she realized but we decided to let the name slide for the moment. The most important thing was to get Rosie into hospital.
The moment Dr Baz opened his clinic, we were on his doorstep. There was nobody there so we went straight in. When I put the carrier on the table, Rosie was sitting at the back, growling furiously. I was armed in a thick work shirt, and I had gloves and a towel with me too.
Convinced the gloves would freak Rosie out, I left them off and gently moved the towel around the cat. He let me edge him out of the box, and all look well until the surgery door jangled and a pack of girls came in with a doggy patient.
Quick as a flash, Rosie turned around in his skin, slashed a claw into my thumb, and shot off into the dispensary behind us.
Getting him back into the box was a nightmare.
At first Rosie jammed himself behind the dispensary fridge. Dr Baz tried to inject him with tranquilizer but the instant Rosie felt the needle in his bum, he levitated, turned about in the air, and dived under a counter. Not a drop of dope went in.
As Rosie was hissing like a fiend, we stepped back and decided to give him time to calm down. Dr Baz went off to treat the dog and I kept an eye on the cat.
For the next hour, I tried getting Rosie into the cage. As he was wedged into a corner, I put the cage in front of him, and then tapped the wall, hoping Rosie would move forward and into the box. He didn't.
Then I rolled up a newspaper, and gently moved it towards Rosie's tail. I hoped it would propel him forward and into the cage - but it didn't. Rosie just sat put, hissing like a python.
When Dr Baz was done with the dog, he tried using his "dangerous dog" pole. However, Rosie just pawed the loop away from his face whenever it came near. While this confirmed cats are much more forward-thinking than dogs, it was frustrating!
Each time we came close to him, Rosie would launch a hissing, spitting attack. Eventually I came up with a cunning plan that would take advantage of this.
While Dr Baz went off to inoculate some puppies, I put on the heavy-duty gloves and wrapped a towel lightly around my arm. I made sure the cage was in front of Rosie, and that he couldn't avoid running into it if he moved. Then I picked up the rolled up newspaper and edged it towards the cat with one hand while I put my gloved and toweled arm in front of Rosie.
Rosie reacted just as I hoped. He launched himself at my arm, fixed all of his claws into the towel, and bit and clawed for all he was worth. In one smooth move, I moved my arm into the cage and gently dumped the cat, the towel and the glove into the bottom. Then I closed the door.
For a few seconds Rosie lay on the floor of the cage, venting his rage on the towel. Then he realized what I'd done. He lay still for a second, and then yowled at me. His language was appalling. But I was glad to see he wasn't running wild in the cage and hurting himself. Sensible in defeat, Rosie lay still and swore furiously.
It had taken me 90 minutes to get Rosie into the cage but despite all the drama, all I had to show for it was a single claw puncture - the one Rosie gave me right at the beginning of his fight for freedom.
The rest was simple. While Dr Baz attended the patients in his clinic, I went home and had a soothing shower and some lunch. Then I returned to find Rosie already sedated and under the knife.
Much to my surprise Dr Baz was very pleased with the look of the wound. He said it was clean, the Rosie was otherwise in good nick, and that once the whole thing was stitched, Rosie would be ok. He estimated it would take about 10 days. I called Umi and listened to her cry as I gave her the good news. I didn't shed a tear. Honest.
As the surgery was full, and it takes two people to stitch a cat up, I bravely volunteered to assist. While I held the skin together with some fearsome looking technical implements, Dr Baz stitched. Thankfully, about 3 stitches into the job, Mrs Dr Baz came in. She knows how squeamish I am, and I was terribly grateful to see her take over.
In the end it took some 30 stitches to patch Rosie up. We decorated her with a lampshade to prevent her from chewing her wound, and set her back in the cage.
The recovery period posed some problems. I can't have Rosie in my home as Au, Target and Guido are vehemently opposed to feline boarders, and Umi has her own tribe at home who feel the same way. Malaysia is nice and warm 24C day and night but we didn't want Rosie to stuck in a cage outside either. It's just too stressful.
Luckily we have great friends and some excellent local facilities. I called our friend Za who runs a super salt water aquarium shop and who has a room at the back with rescued strays up for adoption. We set Rosie's cage in there, and left him to unwind.
We also renamed him Ross but for some reason the name hasn't stuck. Our poor boy is likely saddled with a girl's name for life.
Being at Za's is the best thing for Rosie because Za has a magic touch with cats. Within 24 hours Rosie let her pet his ears. By next week he'll be cuddly. Then of course I'm going to show up and take him to the vet to have his stitches out, and be neutered and vaccinated to boot.
Although I can't say I like being hissed at, I'm prepared to be the bad person here, just as Za laughing says she's willing to play the good one. What's important is to get Rosie back into shape.
We've also settled on his future. Rosie is a young cat, possibly 18 months or 2 years old, but as he has been on the streets and has had such a bad time, he's an unlikely prospect for rehoming. Also, there are shelters as well as independent rescuers like Zaa who have dozens if not hundreds of socialized pets looking for a home.
I took a poll of the neighbours at the end of the road to ask them how they viewed Rosie and his two stray pals. They agreed that if I have them all neutered and vaccinated, and that if I am responsible for feeding them, they won't mind the cats living there.
The one caveat is that we've capped the TNR crowd at 3 cats; anyone else coming in will have to be handed over to the SPCA - and most likely that would be the end of them. But I digress...
Our plan therefore is to put Rosie back on the street when he's fully recovered. It's not ideal but it's the best solution I can think of. Also, I'm not alone because Umi has agreed to help.
Once Rosie is out, the black girl is our next venture. As she should be simple to deal with, I am putting my effort into a longterm campaign to get Mugger into the clinic. He's a tough baby and very suspicious so this is going to take some doing.
Wish me luck?
PS As Rosie still looks awful, there will be no photos till next week. Instead here's a pic of Mugger and a pal who dropped by for a free lunch.