Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I live on a main road. It’s a small town area, but the main road is used by a lot of 18-wheelers as well as commuters who come to town for work. My two cats are indoor only, but the majority of folks in my neighborhood seem to have outdoor cats.
There is one cat I’ve been watching for the last year or so. It disappeared for a while, and when it returned, it was in horrible shape. It had obviously been injured. It had also mostly healed. It still has a rather bad limp, and it’s very ragged and mangy looking. It’s obviously friendly, and while it’s scrawny, it’s not skin and bones. However, if I pet it, it’s fur is disgusting and oily. It also freaks out if I touch anywhere near its hind legs or rear end.
I’m incredibly worried about this kitty. It has no collar. I have no idea if it does or doesn’t have an owner. If it does have an owner, maybe they’re taking care of it. It could be that the cat disappeared because its people took it inside to heal after its injury. Maybe it’s gross because it’s too old to care for itself. I had a friend whose cat was mangy and oily because it was almost 20 years old and just couldn’t care for itself well enough.
I would like to do something to help this cat. I spend a lot of time worrying about it. I don’t see it daily; maybe once a week. I take the time to pet it, and I have once given it some of the cat food from my house.
What can I do for this kitty? Would it be OK to take it to a vet not knowing if it has a family somewhere? Should I search for a family that this cat might have and try to find out what’s wrong with it or if they care? I’m at a loss. This kitty breaks my heart, but I can’t figure out what to do for it. Please help me!
Siouxsie: First of all, we’d like to say thank you for caring about this cat and wanting to do something about his sad state of being.
Thomas: We know you’ve been calling the cat “it” because you don’t know its gender. But for now, we’re going to refer to this cat as “him” because even though we’re not sure the cat is male, we don’t want to refer to him as “it.”
Dahlia: Here’s what we think. If this cat does have people who take care of him responsibly, they’d keep him indoors with that kind of injury — particularly since it’s clearly still bothering him.
Siouxsie: Even if you were comfortable bringing the cat inside, you’re right to put off doing so. There’s always the risk of disease transmission when you bring an unknown cat indoors. Not only that, but a cat that can’t groom himself properly may also have fleas or ticks, and you don’t want those critters inside your house.
Thomas: If you have the financial resources to do so, we recommend that you get the cat to a veterinarian. As Dahlia said, it’s clear that the injury is either still healing or it’s disabled him to the point where he can’t groom himself or fend for himself well outdoors. If you don’t, please contact an area animal rescue group and have them try help him.
Dahlia: You have every right to take an injured cat to a veterinarian, even if it does technically belong to someone else in your neighborhood.
Siouxsie: We’d recommend that you call your veterinarian and talk to them about this cat. Tell them you’d like to bring him in for treatment, but you need to capture him first. They might be able to lend you a humane trap which you can bait with some tasty canned food. If they can’t, they may be able to direct you to someone who can, such as an animal control officer or an animal rescue organization in your area.
Thomas: When you capture the cat, call your vet and see if they can look at him that day. Your vet will be able to do some X-rays to determine the extent of his injuries. They can also tell you how old he is and do blood tests to see if he has FIV, feline leukemia, or other chronic diseases.
Dahlia: Your vet’s assessment of the cat’s condition will help you understand what your choices are in this situation. You and your vet can discuss his injuries, age, FeLV and FIV status, possible treatment, and prognosis for recovery. You’ll also want to talk about the potential cost of treatment to see if it’s something your budget can bear.
Siouxsie: If it turns out that this cat can make a full recovery with proper treatment and is overall healthy except for the injury and apparent undernourishment, it’s quite possible that he can be rehomed with someone who will care for him properly.
Thomas: Veterinarians sometimes help out in these situations. Our last vet, Doctor Sarah, oftenhad a cat or two available for adoption at her office. There were always a couple of posters for cats currently being fostered by staff or kind patients and looking for new homes, too.
Dahlia: If one of your area shelters is a no-kill facility, they may be willing to admit an injured but recovering cat, and they may even be able to take care of the cost of treatment. If they can’t, they may have a corps of volunteer foster homes where the cat can finish healing.
Siouxsie: However, if this cat has a chronic illness, is very old, or has a poor prognosis for recovery, you may find yourself having to make a very difficult decision.
Thomas: But rest assured, even if it comes to that, this cat is clearly suffering in his current state. And even if the only thing you can do for him is to give him a humane end to his suffering, you will have done the right thing. Life in the wild for a severely injured or disabled cat is never good, and it often ends slowly and miserably. If you can spare him that agony, you’ll earn his soul’s gratitude.
Dahlia: Whatever ultimtely happens, Ourika, we encourage you to get this cat to a vet and find out what’s going on with him. You’re a kitty angel, and we thank you from the bottom of our furry little hearts for caring so much. Please keep us posted, and we hope this story has a happy ending.