I had spent a good four years trying to catch him. I glimpsed him first up the road, playing with his friend, a big ginger cat who looked domesticated on first sight but who also resisted all temptations to come over for a head rub. I was amazed at just how stupid someone could be to let what appeared to be a Persian cat out on the street.
I saw him again in my road and then again on the allotments. A fleeting grey shadow of a cat, getting more and more tangled-furry, a little dirtier each time I saw him. When both he and the ginger arrived in my garden I knew it was time to try and catch him. Long-haired cats need constant grooming – not only do tangles and burrs eventually affect their mobility but flystrike in the summer is a constant danger.
Flystrike occurs when the matts of fur become impregnated with faeces, a haven for flies, who lay their eggs in the matts and whose offspring burying into the animal’s flesh, causing a long, painful, drawn-out death from septecaemia.
He was impervious to attempts to feed him, lure him in, get anywhere near him. Seemingly determined to be a street cat, he turned his nose up at my hamfisted overtures of friendship. A trap in the garden proved fruitless, even with a lure of topnotch noms in it.
Avoiding cars, people who enjoy setting their dogs on cats, fly strike, starvation and illness, this cat trudged his way through the years. I saw him and the ginger cat last just before my Mum died, up the road again, still together, still alive.
I then saw the ginger cat on his own, here and there about the neighbourhood and assumed that the Persian had died or at best, someone had taken him in.
About a year ago, my neighbours’ kids reported seeing him in their garden, alone. I then saw him, or rather his back, as he made a very hasty exit from my patio. Then nothing. No ginger cat, no Persian. My heart sank when I thought about them both, which was often.
A couple of months ago, I found some strange fur in the conservatory. Assuming it was Chelsea’s next door, I picked it up and put it outside for the birds to find, to line their nests. One night, Guinevere was at the window, bobbing up and down. The two younger cats next door love sitting in the conservatory and annoying mine, patty-paws on either side of the glass. I couldn’t see anything. I still couldn’t see anything later, when she started again. I assumed it was the fox, come in for a bit of warmth. She wasn’t annoyed, just interested.
Coming down late one weekend morning a week or so later, I made the tea, opened the kitchen door which leads into the conservatory, to see one raggedly grey leg depart from the cat flap. I really should stop calling it the catflap. It’s the foxflap, the catflap and used to be the hedgehogflap too!
I recognised the leg and dashing to the back door, looked out to see one cross little grey Persian face, framed by brown dirty fur, glaring back at me. Turning quickly, desperate not to lose time, I shovelled some fish into a saucer and put it down. Glancing back, he had sat down, still glaring at me. I pushed it into the entrance of the flap and a minute or so later, a dear little face popped through and began munching. I did nothing except leave food out for a few nights more in the early hours of the morning, after the next door kitties had departed for better opportunities. A few more bundles of fur appeared.
The fish was gone each time but I couldn’t be sure if it was him or not. One night, the Stalker and I were doing our usual, playing on Youtube, drinking wine, laughing and chatting. It was late, so I got up to feed Arthur his fifth meal of the night (boy, can that small cat eat) and do the washing up. I went into the put the fish away and, on the offchance the Persian was in there, put my head round the fridge to look into the basket. Fast asleep he was. Turning as fast as the wine would let me, I closed the catflap. This woke him and he careered around the messy conservatory in panic.
Yelling for the Stalker to bring a carrier, I tried to calm him whilst holding one foot against the flap. To no avail and as the Stalker opened the back door, he tried to run into the kitchen. All would have been right and fine had I not put the carrier I had just been given by a friend and which was full of a neck massager which I had also been given, on top of the pile. Sent away sharply through no fault of his own, he fetched another whilst my vision filled with Panicked Persian.
I had the Benny Hill theme song running through my head as I eventually grabbed him and we got him pretty neatly into the second carrier. I took it straight up to the spare room, the kitty inside bucking and roaring like a horse unfortunate enough to be part of a rodeo.
Placing the carrier in the main bedroom, I empties, scrubbed and cleaned the litter tray, hoovered and disinfected the room before placing him in it.
There is currently no light in the spare room (waiting for a new pendant) so it was by candlelight that we both sat, him glaring at me, and me marvelling at how long it had taken to get him safe.
The rest of the story is fairly easy to tell. Sadly, his life on the streets of my neighbourhood, unspayed, meant he was covered in wounds, new and old. Giving him a couple of days to settle down, I then took him to the vet.
I had started to groom him and he soon lay down when the brush came out. However he still needed to be shaved, his matts so close against the skin I couldn’t help but hurt him to get them out, so I did what I could and left the rest alone.
I knew that he was probably going to be FIV positive, which proved correct. He had an exceptionally bad canine tooth which needed to be removed and because of the FIV, he had a gum infection. I had him spayed at the same time. The infection didn’t clear. Back to the vet and a course of antibiotics were scheduled.
He continued to eat well. He and I developed a kind of schedule, in first thing for a stroke, in again to feed him, in again when I got home for what should have been cuddle time, but which ended up being him cowering in the corner, glaring at me and swearing.
The Stalker helped by spending time with the others, who adore him whilst I tried to get Grumpy to trust me, even like me a bit.
He didn’t resist overly much when being picked up, but was a great wriggler. Antibiotic pills went left, right and occasionally centre and I learned how to pick them out of his fur.
Once he realised that I wasn’t going to hurt him, he stopped cowering.
After the first course of antibios ended, I took him back to the vet. Sadly, he had osteo-myelitis in his jaw, a common side-effect of FIV but very uncommon in the jaw. The vet, a locum, but a damned good one, shook his head sadly and said he was willing to give it a try, but the odds were not good.
I came home, Googled, read everything I could (which wasn’t a huge lot), swore copiously, swore some more and fed him his antibios whilst giving him as much time and attention I could, with 8 other cats in the house. M did some work on him, herself not very well. I did some work on him. Facebook friends sent love and healing. I called him Stinky, because he was and then amended it to Grumpy as his personality took hold. Also a close friend has a cat called Stinky and we kept on getting confused.
I had never seen a cat so frightened and yet so placid. Despite everything, he didn’t once bite me hard or intentionally scratch me.
I did some more Googling. I gave up when I could only find post mortem evidence. I drank loads of wine, had several chats with the Universe in between holding him, grooming him, reteaching him what cuddles were all about. The Stalker helped but in truth, Grumpy wasn’t keen. I suspected that his interactions with men had not been positive.
I searched all over for a home for him but it became apparent that he was never going to morph back into a domestic cat and I was not going to find the right place – an indoor home with an FIV positive cat or no other cats, with owners who would be willing to build a catio.
Back to the vet every few days and Gordon, the amazing locum vet continued to persevere. Grumpy continued to be erratic about the pills, swallowing with no issue a couple of times, then demonstrating a remarkable talent for spitting them out just as I thought he had swallowed, once biting a capsule in half, which did nothing for either of us or our burgeoning friendship as I made him swallow the halves.
I looked at his gum each time a pill went in. Slowly, slowly, slowly, what looked like gangrene receded, leaving a lividly red, swollen patch in his mouth.
Two weeks ago, he went back. Gordon wasn’t available at the time I was able to go down, but, well-briefed by him, Dean declared the war won. We had collectively, knocked the osteo-myelitis on the head. I suspect a little bit of vet history happened, just then.
When I had to go away for a night and two days, I put Grumpy in the main bedroom, to give him some more space. He hated it. He sat in a grumpy pile when I left and not only did my neighbour not see him at all (there are plenty of hiding spaces in the bedroom) but when we got back, he was back in full terrified mode, his little cross face peeking out to glare at me.
I had to crouch down under a chair to get him after re-cleaning and disinfecting his room. He kicked and wriggled and whinged when I picked him up, until he realised where he was going and jumped out of my arms to sit in his favourite spot, at the window.
Today, he is still Grumping, still in my spare room, whilst we wait for the sanctuary he is going to, to get in contact with a date. I took him back to the vet yesterday as he has developed conjunctivitis in both eyes. So now he is putting up with drops in both eyes, twice a day.
A back room is no life for a cat, but he seems to be have adapted well and whilst it will break my heart into pieces to let him go, he will be far better off in a sanctuary with other FIV kitties. As always, my vets have been spectacularly marvellous.
Dean in particular is awesome and I have to admit, when I heard he was away, recovering from an operation, and there was a locum, I was very nervous. To discover that the locum was Gordon, who saved Arthur’s life last year, was a huge relief and once again, Gordon has shown what an excellent vet he is.
I am still amazed that someone could just let Grumpy go. There is apparently another cat, who is also a Persian cross, living wild on the other side of the main road, who looks remarkably similar to Grumpy and who has been out for around the same amount of time. There is a good chance that not one, but both cats were dumped. I have given up trying to work out what type of person abandons cats, especially cats so unsuited to a feral existence, to their fate.
The fact that Grumpy has survived at all is pretty near miraculous, to have him survive an illness and complication that in itself rare and fatal, is beyond comprehension and totally down to my vet’s skill and care, along with love and lots of healing work.
Taking an animal of the streets is nearly always best for that animal, but when I see Grumpy looking out longingly across the garden, I can’t help but feel guilty that he isn’t out there. The truth is that I got hold of him just in time. With that sort of infection in his mouth, his life was down to weeks, not the years he can have now, with proper food, care and love. He can’t go back outside, as he will be a risk to other cats and he can’t live at mine for the same reason.
I just hope they are good years, full of contentment and an absence of reasons to make him Grumpy.