|By Mike Golec|
For over a year, all I talked about was how I wanted a female kitten that I could name Buttercup, but despite looking into different options it never seemed to work out. Until she showed up on my doorstep.
Now the most important part of adopting a stray is making sure they are actually a stray with no home. There are some obvious signs to watch out for, like if the cat in question is wearing a collar or if there are posters up in the neighbourhood looking for the cat. If you see either of these, then the moral and responsible thing to do is to return the cat to its rightful owner. However, strays often look generally uncared for. Their fur is dirty. They look underweight and will voraciously consume any food you give them. They might even have some wounds that haven’t been attended to, like my newest addition, Buttercup, who had a small open wound behind one of her ears.
Buttercup (yes, I stuck with my dream feline name) had been sighted lingering around my place on several occasions. Pitying her small thin frame and large pleading eyes, I began to feed her on the balcony. Then I gradually tried to get her used to my scent and presence. In short, I tried to make friends with her.
One day in early December, Buttercup was shivering on the balcony while she was eating. I decided right then and there that that would be the day she would officially be invited inside to stay. But simply open your doors isn’t enough when adopting a stray in need. It’s very important to take the ordinary measures you would when adding a new cat to the household. I sequestered my other two cats (Link and Thor) into a different room so that Buttercup could sniff around, explore and adjust without being stressed.
I then made sure to swap out items from each room so the cats could smell each other. They had minimal contact under the door. Eventually, when the time was right, I let Thor and Link out. Of course, there was some hissing and growling at first and in most cases there will be, so do not be alarmed. Territories need to be established and a pecking order created. Cats are remarkable creatures and they will get used to each other eventually. It just takes some time and patience. After all, nobody really likes change that much.
However, before I let Buttercup meet Link and Thor up close and personal, I did a quick check to see if she had any ear mites (something I have previously encountered and was rather unpleasant). Strays can potentially carry a variety of things, from fleas to serious illnesses which is why it’s important to take your stray into the vet as soon as you can to determine a clean bill of health. Buttercup had fleas (no big surprise there) but was thankfully healthy otherwise. Just keep in mind that the health of your cats, the new addition and your previous tenants, should be of foremost concern. You must know the risks before introducing your cats to a stray, so once again a trip to the vet is crucial.
Some strays may not always take to being around humans. Thankfully Buttercup had no problem. By the end of one day, she was snuggling on the couch right next to me. I was lucky and ended up with the cat I had been talking about for over a year. And she was lucky to find a quiet little balcony with people who would take her in, care for her and love her unconditionally. Especially in these dreary winter months, it is important to think about the animals out there that aren’t so lucky and need a warm loving home. Your new cat may not be that far away.
By Allison Vorstenbosch