This is the story of George, the feral cat, easily identified by the battle notches in his left ear, who was fed and housed on our front porch for about 10 years.  A rough, tough glorious yellow and white male, whose fur defied penetration of the coldest Michigan winter. 

After realizing he intended to accept our limited hospitality on a permanent basis, my husband constructed a small basic box for his shelter lined with old carpet, heated with a 60 watt electric light bulb and holding a pet basket softly padded with towels or blanket as the season demanded. He conned us into lining his bed with an electric heating pad, an accommodation few feral cats could boast of in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Having 2 loving indoor cats we could not permit George entry into our home although he expressed interest in them through our glass storm door as did they with him.  Not being able to approach or handle him we could not have him examined by a veterinarian and were therefore reluctant to take the risk of his passing on any cat disease to our indoor dwellers.  But he spent summers and winters in this abode on our porch, roaming the neighbourhood and surrounding territory at will. 

After about 7-8 years he disappeared. We mourned his absence and subsequently decided to dismantle the unused shelter.  Cleaned up our porch so that it now resembled all the neat and clean looking ones on Needham Road. 

One morning in late fall after 4 months absence George appeared looking scruffy but healthy and gave us that meek appealing look begging for his breakfast. He was accepted as a boarder again but we had to rebuild his shelter, this time lined with insulation as well as new carpet plus his plush basket.  One would think that George would at least appreciate our efforts and the banquets he enjoyed by permitting us to stroke or pet him, but he still shied away from our hands.  His only response to our loving care was a quick rub on our ankle, which surprised even him. 

Time flew and my husband and I found it necessary to sell our home to make arrangements for living in a retirement community 15 miles west of Ann Arbor.  The purchasers of our home expressed their unwillingness to even think of feeding George or keeping his shelter available; that would be the first thing to go when they took possession.  My husband and I were devastated because we knew that even though George was a survivor he would not last the next winter without protection and extra food from a caretaker of sorts. 

Accidentally we heard of a feral cat organization, the Zimmer Foundation, located near Ann Arbor.  We contacted the director, Kitty Zimmer, who agreed to take George providing we would live trap him and take him to the veterinarian of her choice.  Now, live trapping is another adventure. Good thing it was summer time, we had from mid July to December to do this and proceeded to let him become familiar with the trap.  Put his food dish near it moving it gradually into the trap [with the door wired open] which he endured.  But, he absolutely refused to go to his dish if it were placed in the proper area for it to trap him. Very smart streetwise cat, he knew what a trap was for and knew what to avoid. 

Time grew short and the last resort we were advised to try was to catch him in our foyer and let 2 individuals from the local Cat Clinic put him in a carrier.  Trying to entice him into the three foot enclosed foyer with food proved equally non productive. 

So it is now the last evening he will be fed by us, with much noise and activity of the movers of our furniture and belongings expected the next day.  I closed the 2 doors of the foyer to living room and den, opened the front door, placing his dinner on the threshold of the outside door.  I opened the screen door and sweet talked George, trying to lure him to his dinner.  He was interested only in sniffing it, made no attempt to enter for at least 5 minutes.  I did not wish to distract him so waited as still as possible which finally resulted in his attempt to taste his dinner and approach his dish on the foyer floor. 

Bingo! I slowly and carefully closed the screen door behind him without noise and he was closed in.  Such angry and disturbing howling he now screamed, but it was done.  Next item on the agenda was to call the Cat Clinic person whose telephone number was inadvertently in a packed box already moved to our new location.  However, after much telephoning, her number became available and she responded to my request after an hours delay.  She and her assistant squeezed in to this 3-foot foyer enclosure with a small cat carrier and after several minutes of caterwauling and hisses called out “we have him!” 

George was taken to the Cat Clinic, examined, found to be an altered male in good healthy condition and taken to the lush Zimmer Foundation quarters with house and barn available for housing the feral cats in their possession.  He was put through their indoctrination program before being released with the other cats in the lovely barn equipped with all sorts of cat ladders, beams, beds and playthings cats favour.

My husband and I have been in contact with Kitty Zimmer throughout the trials and tribulations of his adjustment, but receive good reports each time. Kitty sends us photos of George and we visited him this last summer to see how he is getting along.  Needless to say, he looks healthy and contented. 

This has been a most satisfying experience and one that took a huge weight off our shoulders to know this cat would at least have another chance.  George is now enjoying his retirement years quite comfortably

By Margaret (Chelsea, Michigan)



A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras

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