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The Story of Spot

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hmm, best to start off from the beginning - I came here asking questions about playful biting and scratching, and this forum was so helpful that I guess everybody would be interested in hearing about this stray I'm feeding. He's a black and white shorthair which I named Spot, mostly because it was the first thing that came into my head when one of my friends asked me what its name was. In retrospect I wanted to name him Cow because of his fur pattern, but somehow I didn't think it'd be right.

At the time, I was feeding a black cat that I would eventually find out belonged to a neighbor across the street (I knew no stray or feral could be that plump and well-behaved!). Spot just came running and started trying to share the bowl. The black one is very antisocial, so it kinda hissed and ran away. After it finished eating it headbutted me a lot, and so he started coming regularly.

Eventually the feeding became routine, and he started hanging around my place. He was really tame for a stray, over the course of a few weeks he grew trusting enough for me to pick him up and sit on my lap, where he would purr until I tilted my legs to let him slide off. My folks are very anti-cat, and they were already thinking I was carrying all sorts of diseases just by touching him, so there was no way I could take him in as a pet. I figured the least I could do was take him to the vet for a checkup.

Hooo boy, Spot was a piece of work indeed. One noticeable trait about Spot is that his right eye is damaged or something - it was milky white, and at one point it became very red, and had some discharge, then went back to whitish red, no pupil visible. The vet couldn't even figure out what was wrong with it - she said it could've possibly been a wound that scarred over, but the only thing I could do was take her to a cat eye doctor for an evaluation, which she said could be expensive. The bigger problem though, was that it had feline leukemia. To top it off he had hookworms. She gave me some deworming medicine, and told me to think about it for a couple days to see if I wanted to take him to an eye doctor or not.

My problem is, I don't think I could afford an eye doctor, especially if it turns to be something serious. She says for now it looks like it's just a scar, but she can't be sure. Worst case scenario is that the eye would have to be removed. He doesn't seem to be in pain from it, so that's at least relieving.

Anyways, I took him back and let him out again - he was a lil traumatized by the whole going to the vet (he even peed into the pet carrier I bought for him), but after a lil while he was back to his usual self. Forgive me if this a bit long-winded and rambling, but I'm now leading to the reason I decided to post this.

Since I was feeding Spot outside, I guess word got around to the other cats, and I've been seeing them cross my house more often. I'm pretty sure they're all strays or ferals. Two cats in particular have become regulars - a grey and white feral, who I mentally named Smokey, and a golden female I named Demonsbane. Why such a name you ask? It had a beautiful gold coat, and big green eyes, and it mewed at me. Quite the innocent lil thing. It would hang out on the border of my lawn, but it gradually came closer, until it would just sit at my doorstep.

For a lil while, I decided trying to feed the both of them. It was tricky at first, but I got down a routine where I would open two cans simultaneously and place them a couple feet away from each other. For the most part, they were content. But then I got spot his own blue food bowl. I would put canned food in it for Spot, and when he finished I would refill it for the gold one.

What would happen though, is the gold one will come up to Spot, stare at him, and then swat at his face. Spot would run away of course, and Demonsbane would start eating his food. I ended up having to stand guard. But Demonsbane was persistent. She would pretend to play nice, rubbing against my leg while eating. Sometimes she would try to headbutt him out of the way. And once in a while, when I wasn't paying attention, she would hit his face again.

Demonsbane was also very tricky - sometime she would let me pet her and scratch behind the ears, other times she would run around me, not letting me touch her. One time she seemed relaxed and full, lulling me into a false sense of security. I made the mistake of trying to stroke her back. As soon as I reached closed to her tail/butt she lashed out at me, and one of claws dug into my thumb. I dripped blood all the way from the doorstep to the bathroom. Fortunately, I just have a scab now, and it's been about a week since it happened, with no ill side effects yet. But that was the last straw for me - my kindness has a limit.

I stayed watch over Spot while he ate, and I tried to convince Demonsbane that she couldn't eat here anymore. Whenever he tried to butt in, I would shove her face away. But she kept trying. At one point, I picked her up and threw her into the bushes. She landed without a sound, licked herself, proceeded to scratch against the bark of my tree, and then plop back down at the bottom of the steps of my house.

So tonight, I was feeding Spot, and he had his deworming medicine mixed in, so it was doubly important that Demonsbane didn't share his food. But right on cue, she came by again, and started circling. I stayed quiet - I'm sure she could feel my anger at picking on lil Spot, because she mewed at me all innocent-like. She then got into a swatting match with Spot. I heard him yelp, but he was healthy enough to try to swat back. It was over in a second, and ended in a draw, but I knew she got Spot first. Enough was enough!

I got Spot's pet carrier out. It's one of those with a metal grill on the top that swings open. I set it on the floor - Demonsbane saw it but didn't really think much. I waited - and sure enough, she headbutted Spot out of the way and tried to eat. I had some gloves ready, so I scooped her up, plopped her into the box, and slammed the lid shut before it even knew what happened.

She thrashed a lil, but then made this horrible sound. It had no trace of a cat's meow, but more like, "rawww!?" It was like it was sobbing at me, "WHY!?!?!?!?!?". I lifted the pet carrier up and put it in the backseat of my car, and closed the door shut. I let it stay there until Spot was finished eating, then got the carrier out. I put it a couple feet away from my lawn, on the sidewalk, opened the top lid, and backed off. It climbed out, then started trotting away quickly. It went about half a block, turned around, and looked at me. It gave one more sob, then trotted away again.

I don't know what it was about that sound, but it made a pang of guilt strike me deep. I felt like I did something wrong, when all I was trying to do was make sure Spot could eat in peace and teach her a lesson. I figured that after something like that, she would never come back again - which I thought was good, but at the same time I couldn't help feeling like a villain for. Demonsbane seemed fine enough - in fact, after I took the carrier away from sight, she came back - albeit at the far corner of my lawn. Out of guilt I opened up a can and set it close to her. In about an hour I managed to work my way so that I could get close enough to touch her head while she ate, although she would only come as far as the nearer corner of my lawn.

I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if I really was a villain for temporarily locking her up like that. I know that she does what she does out of hunger, and I don't want to hurt her, but at the same time I can't stand seeing Spot get picked on. Maybe I'm just overreacting, since this is my first time with cats, but after hearing that sound she made I don't think I could ever try doing that again.

Cats can be so complicated! Arrrgh!

(I hope no one suddenly thinks I'm a cruel animal abuser now)
post #2 of 21
Your female that you are so upset about is the Alpha of the group. I suggest if this is the way you deal with strays that you please stop feeding them. If you are not going to follow through and spay and neuter all that come to the food bowl- and many will come if you feed, then you are not helping the situation, you are creating a bigger one.

Feeding strays is a huge responsibility and something I have been actively involved with for a very long time. And if someone is going to try and trap the female to help her in the future, she will more than likely not go into a trap because of the way you dealt with her. If you are so enamored with Spot then bring him inside and let him be your cat, and stop feeding other strays.You are lucky this female did not attack you.

I realize you probably had the best intentions, but when you work with strays the operative word is you work with them- not against them.
post #3 of 21
By trying to decide which cat is alpha, or dominant, you are upsetting the natural balance. You do not get to choose who eats first, the cats do. Your choice is to go back to separate bowls, or let Demonsbane eat first.

Cats are very independent creatures, and we cannot choose for them who is in charge, they have to work it out themselves. And you just cannot take out anger on an animal in an irrational way. Never throw a cat-it can cause damage. And putting her in a crate while he eats isn't right either. Like Hissy said, it just makes her harder to catch if needed later.

I know you took him to a vet, was he neutered? And is she spayed? If not, she will be having kittens before too long. Maybe you can call a local rescue group to help out. Google can help you find one.

I think you mean well, but there is much more that can be done to help these cats. I hope you will be the one to help that happen!
post #4 of 21
A good place to start learning is Alley Cat Allies
post #5 of 21
Also, I don't understand why you are picking on one cat over the other. If you are so attached to Scott, do you think you could make him an inside cat? Felv is unfortunately very infectios. Scott running free is a danger to other kitties.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
I WOULD take Spot in if it weren't for my parents - they refuse to let me take in any cat as a pet. Their house, their rules.

And Spot is scheduled for a second visit to be neutered and vaccinated by the end of next week - the vet was booked until then. I never said I wouldn't spay or neuter either of the cats, it's just hard because work ties me up for most of the day, and the humane society only does neutering/spaying by appointment, 3pm at the latest.

Spot seems to be more lively now - I guess the deworming medicine was having an effect? He chases the catnip mouse-on-a-string that I wave in front of him, pouncing left and right.

Surprisingly enough, the gold cat was at my doorstep again today at feeding time. I don't think I'll call it Demonsbane anymore, after being informed about this whole Alpha cat phenomenon. I had fed Spot earlier in the day, when she doesn't come around, but just the same he was waiting by his food bowl. I set it down and they both started to eat out if it. I picked up Spot and placed him a couple feet away - he seemed to have gotten the hint, and just sat there while the gold one kept eating. I was able to sit down next to her while she ate, albeit slowly. She ate most of the food, but when there was a lil bit left she suddenly just jumped down to the sidewalk and trotted quickly away. I dumped it back into the can, and refilled the bowl again so Spot could have his share (I typically feed him twice a day, once at 5 pm and then at 11).

After he finished, I hung around the steps for a while, perhaps hoping that the gold cat might come back. Meanwhile, the grey and white feral was being bold and trying to get the remnants of the can at my steps when my back was turned. It would dash away everytime I turned around though. But sure enough, in about half an hour the gold cat came back!

With something large in its mouth. Looking closer, I realized it was a bird. It then proceeded to plop it down on my lawn, about 10 ft away from me, and began eating it. That was really unsettling, as I had thought it was already full from what I fed it. Watching it tear and chew through it, I suddenly realized how incredibly lucky I was to not be bitten or mauled by her yesterday. Or maybe this is a common thing among cats?

I stayed around for a bit, but it became a little too unsettling. Spot was just sprawled on the top of my car, so I decided everything was ok and went back in.

So while the gold cat isn't terrified of me or anything, it still seems a lil wary of me, as to be expected. I'm going to try to regain its trust again, at least enough that I can trap it and have it spayed. I would say she's been around here for about a month now, and she doesn't seem to be pregnant - yet. She and Spot are the only ones that seem bold enough to come eat. I stay outside until all the food's gone, so the other strays don't really bother.

This is a learning process for me, so I'll read up some more and hopefully this won't turn into a journal of "How NOT to treat strays".
post #7 of 21
Sounds like you are receptive to the criticisms you received. Yes, the gold cat is the Alpha and she will take a long time before she trusts you again. I would proceed carefully with her otherwise she could shred you.

Just a tip for you- if she was not being fed, she wouldn't have been able to catch the bird. Only well-fed cats have the stamina required to hunt down birds and other rodents. A starving cat can't stir up enough energy required to hunt.

I was going to suggest you change her name as well. No cat deserves to be called Demonsbane. It is kitten season, if she hasn't been spayed, she is more than likely pregnant. If she was previously owned, it is possible she has already been spayed.
post #8 of 21
I guess my first question would be what is your goal with these cats? Do you really want to be involved with all of them? Or do you honestly want to focus on Spot?

As an example, there are dozens of stray cats within a two mile radius of my place. I see at least five homeless cats when I take my daily walk. Now I could have made it my goal (1) to help all of them in a basic way, (2) to help a specific cat in a deeper way or (3) do both.

It takes a very dedicated person with strong cat knowledge not to mention significant emotional and financial resources to do #3, so personally I focused on #2. I've spent the last few months doing the best I can to meet the promises I made to myself when I rescued Nano.

But what do you want to do?
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hissy - Yea, I posted this here precisely because I need to know what I'm doing wrong, so I take any and all criticism as part of my learning experience. And I haven't decided what name to give it, although my laziness is telling me to just name it Goldie

Nano - I guess I would say my goal would be #2 as well - While I can't keep Spot as a regular pet, I figure if I get him neutered, vaccinated, and just feed him twice everyday, he should be a happy kitty. Most of the time he's sleeping at our doorstep or the lawn, and he seems quite adjusted to the outdoors. The other strays watch me feed him at night, but they don't come close until I re-enter the house, and the bowl's empty by then anyway.

As for Goldie, I'm not sure what to do with her - if she keeps coming, I guess I'll feed her as well, mostly out of guilt. I think that's my limit to cat feeding though - if any more decided to come that's a whole lotta cans to buy! And of course, a spaying if she needs it. I'll try to take some pictures of them, because she looks a little more plump than Spot, but I don't know if it's because she's pregnant or if she's just a bigger cat.
post #10 of 21
If she is outside and intact she is pregnant- bank on that. If you feed and leave the food outside all the time, more and more cats will come. It is fine to feed as long as you trap, neuter and release. Otherwise, you really aren't helping matters, you are creating a problem. As for Spot, he will pass on the FeLV to the other cats, and you have to realize that keeping him outside will not only shorten his already shorter life, but it puts all the other cats at risk as well.
post #11 of 21
I think it's very nice of you trying to help Spot. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Felv.
post #12 of 21
First, I agree with everything that has been posted so far. You have gotten some good advice and it is great you are open-minded about the comments. I would just like to expound on some points:

1. A homeless stray cat with leukemia won't have a very long lifespan. When he gets sick, he might lose affection for you and become a much less desirable companion -- but you will need to press through and try to help him past the bad times. It is quite a commitment and will require a tremendous amount of patience. Best of luck to you and please use this message board whenever you need some help or information.

2. Your cat is a hazard to other cats in your area. Last year my landlord was in the hospital and the person taking care of her cats accidently let the boy escape out the door. The poor guy was brutally attacked by stray cats and he acquired FIV and leukemia plus the physical injuries which prematurely ended his life about three months later. When the substitute caretaker unwittingly brought him back inside, he gave leukemia to his sister but thankfully she is still healthy and otherwise clean. Spot has leukemia so please get him neutered (which you say is already being scheduled, so great!) and do not knowingly let him mix with other cats.

3. While you are well-intentioned, leaving food outside is unacceptable because it will draw a large amount of strays and you will be unable to keep up with maintaining them. The people who live around you -- paying rent/mortgages, taxes and so forth -- don't want a nasty mess or an eyesore when they come home from work. Stray cats usually impose significant stress on all the indoor cats and other pets in the neighborhood. Even Nano's temperament noticeably changes when there are aggressive stray cats in the area. Don't be suprised if some neighbors find you irritating enough to call the police or animal control. One of the strays you bring into the neighborhood might kill the fluffy lapcat that somebody loves as a dear companion.

As for advice? Now personally I wouldn't try to do what you are about to do...but nevermind that, here is what you can be done with the boundaries of your circumstances:

Make a commitment to take care of Spot and focus on him exclusively to do the best you can. That involves taking him to the vet for neutering and to get him current on shots (which you already said was being planned). After that, try to spend 15-30 minutes a day with Spot but have the meeting take place in a "private" area so you can focus on Spot without any of these other random cats around. Can you find a shed or a laundry room where you can sit with him? Or maybe a fenced backyard or perhaps a quickly assembled tent? Only provide food and water during these structured visits. When you are done, any uneaten food should be taken back inside so it doesn't attract other homeless cats.

That advice is far from perfect, but at least you will be providing some limited relief to Spot without endangering others. Maybe someone will have a better plan for you and regardless we all hope Spot has the best life that circumstances allow.
post #13 of 21
Definitely do not let Goldie or the other cat eat out of the same dish as Spot. Felv can be spread through saliva, as well as blood. Any bowls he uses should be cleaned and disinfected before another cat is allowed to eat off them. Also, do not let them drink out of the same water bowl. Good luck to you!!
post #14 of 21
Originally Posted by esrgirl
Definitely do not let Goldie or the other cat eat out of the same dish as Spot. Felv can be spread through saliva, as well as blood. Any bowls he uses should be cleaned and disinfected before another cat is allowed to eat off them. Also, do not let them drink out of the same water bowl. Good luck to you!!
Very good advice.
post #15 of 21
I found this old bookmark that might help.
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
Actually, no food is left out, because if there's one thing Spot has, it's an appetite! My feeding routine consists of the following:

5 pm - I go out, click my tongue a few times, and Spot usually peeks his head from under the car. I take the bowl, wash it with Dial Antibacterial soap, then put 1 can of Friskies food (I buy the 32 can variety pack). He'll come running up and start chowing down. I'll sit on the steps and wait until he's done, which usually takes about half an hour. Then I'll take the bowl, rinse it, and leave it back out again.

10:30 - 11:00 pm - Same thing, except that this time Goldie is usually around too. I'll fill the bowl with another can, and let whoever eat it first. Then I'll go in, wash, and fill the bowl with the 2nd can, and let the remaining cat eat it. Each time I wait until the cat's eaten it completely, so anytime there's food in the bowl, I'm there and only one cat is eating it.

Before, I used to leave the can next to the bowl - I figured I would let any remaining cats lick the gravy and whatnot. Having read about FLV though, I now just rinse the can clean and toss it in the recycling bin.

I don't have a water bowl at the moment - When I first started out I tried it, but none of the cats seemed to use it. Plus, I read that canned food is usually good enough to keep them hydrated.

Tonight Goldie was waiting again, but the grey and white feral (I think I'll name it Smokey) is becoming more aggressive. It was at the bottom of my steps too. I put the bowl down, and Spot came running to it. I was determined to let Goldie eat it first though, so I did the usual pick up Spot and put him a few feet away. After a couple times with that, Goldie seemed to get the message, and started nibbling. Smokey, for the first time since I've seen it, actually meowed, and tried to go to the bowl. Goldie swatted it away though, and continued to nibble.

At this point, my goal was to gain Goldie's trust again, so I went into the house and observed through the window. Strange thing was, Goldie didn't really eat much of it. It could've been because I was using a different canned food than usual - The one I had before was sliced meats in gravy, but this was generic ground tuna fish. Maybe Goldie's spoiled? Smokey, however, was sitting mere inches away. After about 15 minutes, it got the courage to start approaching the bowl again.

At this point I opened the door - Smokey dashed off. Per Nano's advice, I was going to focus on only helping two of these cats, so I didn't want Smokey getting the idea that it could depend on me for food. I motioned Spot to come over, and let him get to work.

Another observation about Goldie, is that she stretches a LOT while she walks around, mostly her rear legs. She also must have a lot of flea bites or something, because she's constantly grooming, scratching, and rubbing her back on the sidewalk. I've noticed that she likes rubbing the side of her body on my door and potted plants, but that was when I had food with me.

And lastly, here's a photo of Spot:

You can't tell from the pic, but the right eye is the one that's funky.
post #17 of 21
You are trying to make this colony of cats perform the way you think they should. Feed Spot and then let the rest of them figure out who eats when. As I told you, once you start putting food out, more cats will come. I firmly believe they network. Next time you feed, you will more than likely see another different cat. Rather than interfere with their natural order, let them do what they would normally do at any other feeding station. Otherwise, just pick the food up after Spot eats and don't leave any more down.

The way Goldie is walking, is typical of a stray loaded with tapeworms. I am sure if you ran a fecal into the vet, they would find she has parasites. More than likely all the cats do especially if they have fleas. Don't use an over-the-counter spray or powder to get rid of the fleas- go to your vet and get Advantage- get the dog size brand and then measure it out to treat each cat.It will go farther and last longer-
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
Just an update - Spot's been taken to the vet and neutered, so that's one less thing to worry about. I've shifted my strategy of feeding a bit. I still feed Spot at 5ish, since it's still daylight and no other cats come around, but then I wait until really late into the night. I sneak Spot into the garage let him eat. He doesn't finish the bowl though, since he's in an unfamiliar place. He'll usually be calm for about 10 minutes and then start meowing, in which case I have to let him out before he wakes anybody in the house. I end up throwing away the food, but at least this way only Spot eats.

Goldie is still hanging around, which is a good sign - my guess is that if she gets hungry enough, it'll be that much easier to trap her. One question though - if for some reason, she's still wary and won't go into a trap, I'm guessing my only chance is to pick her up and put her into the carrier while she's trying to steal Spot's food. With that said, is there a "safe" way to hold a cat to minimize the use of her claws? I was surprised how my vet and her assistant were able to hold Spot down for the initial examination without any biting or clawing!
post #19 of 21
Please don't intentionally starve Goldie. If you withhold food and she is not getting food any other place, she could become quite ill and die. Just get a trap and set the trap up with food inside of it and see if she will go inside. I wouldn't advise you to pick her up barehanded, she will bite and claw and if she does escape and they generally do, you will not get close to her again-
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
So you're telling me that strays aren't smart enough to figure out that if a place that once had food available doesn't anymore, they should move on? Mind you, she DID hunt down a bird earlier, and I have no idea where she is during the day, so I can't possibly be her only source of food.

I'll have to wait till next week to actually trap her - I'm on vacation then, so I'll have time to take her to the humane society and whatnot.
post #21 of 21
I am telling you that strays should not be intentionally starved because if you are the only one regularly feeding them, and you take that away from them, they will lose the ability to hunt. Only a well-fed cat can hunt effectively. I have no way of knowing if you are the only one feeding her- but why take the chance? Withholding food 24 hours to try and get her into a trap is one thing, but taking food away from her longer, isn't something I would advise anyone to do unless a vet told them to. And yes, she could be eating garbage out of someone's trash, but with garbage comes bacteria and sickness unless she is lucky enough to find food not spoiled.
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