If you have ever looked for a cat to adopt on Petfinder or the website of your local shelter, you may have noticed that a fair amount of them have been ear-tipped. If you don’t know what that is, when a stray or feral cat is captured and fixed, the vet will remove the tip of one ear or put a notch in one ear to show that the cat has already been fixed.
Ear “tipping” or “notching” is usually done for the Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs but sometimes a well-meaning person will trap a cat that is friendly to humans and not release it but put it up for adoption. I believe that is what happened to Frankie, although we know nothing about his history. We do know he has a notch in his ear indicating he was probably captured as a feral, perhaps at a young age.
We know the history of Puck, who was a bottle-fed kitten. Puck will go outside if given the opportunity but he gets nervous easy and then wants to go back inside.
I found Chris in the shelter when he was around five months old. I know he came from another shelter but I don’t know his history before that. I do know Chris loves going outside but he also stays close to home.
Frankie is not like either one of them. He is constantly crying at the door to go out and, while he is not as good about slipping out the door as Chris is, he will get past me sometimes. When that happens, he immediately starts exploring the neighborhood. If I get close enough to catch him, he runs or he finds a car to hide under.
When I put a harness on Frankie and walk him, he tends to travel in one direction. I know most cats have a territory that is smaller than the area that Frankie takes me through. I usually have to coax him to travel in a direction toward home instead of away. The last few outings I stayed out with him a long time to see if he would eventually make his way back home. He didn’t.
I can’t help but wonder if he would ever want to come home if he escaped and I lost track of him. He might also travel too far and get lost. Frankie has too much of a wild cat in him and I wonder if he wouldn’t have been happier if he was allowed to stay outside in a TNR colony.
Something happened Tuesday night that showed just how wild Frankie still is. We ordered take-out from a nearby Italian restaurant. When the driver arrived, I shut the slider between the house and Florida room, locking the cats in the house and allowing me to open the door without worrying about Frankie or Chris running out.
Unknown to me, Frankie was in the Florida room with me and ran outside when I opened the door. It was dark outside and I had no shoes on. Our grass is loaded with little stickers called sand spurs. They are painful to step on so I quickly paid the delivery driver and ran inside to get my shoes. When I got out, the driver had followed Frankie behind the house to our left and managed to herd him back toward me. Frankie ran right up to our door and I thought the driver scared him enough to want to go back inside but that was not the case.
He continued around to the other side of our house and ran under Rose’s car. The two of us looked for him under the car but it was too dark so I pulled my little key-chain flashlight out of my pocket and looked under our vehicles. He was not there. That is when the driver noticed him near the front door of the house to our right.
I looked over in that direction and saw him standing there with something hanging from his mouth. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what I was seeing and then said, “Oh my God! He has a rabbit!”
I tried to grab Frankie and get him to release his catch but he eluded me and ended up back under Rose’s car. The two of us worked at him from opposite sides of the car, at which point he let go of the bunny and crawled out from under the car. That was when I grabbed Frankie and picked him up while the driver grabbed the rabbit and checked out his injuries.
He seemed uninjured except for a small gash on the back of his neck but he was having trouble breathing. The driver tried to stroke his neck to stimulate breathing but it was soon too late for the rabbit.
After that incident, on Friday, Rose decided to take Frankie for a walk. I hurt my back Thanksgiving morning and was not up to the task so Rose decided that Frankie needed to get out more. She was out with him for a long time and when she returned she said “Never again!” Frankie managed to force his way out of the harness and led her on a chase around the neighborhood.
Those incidents made me wonder whether Frankie’s cushy lifestyle in our home is really what’s best for him. Don’t worry. I’m not going to release Frankie into the wild. In fact, I am watching him now lying upside-down on a soft blanket on the sofa.
He seems to enjoy the good life as much as the wild life but I can’t help wonder how many other cats have been “rescued” that may have been better off left alone. I also wonder how many cats were never adopted because a “wild” cat was adopted in their place. What do you think? Is it wrong to leave a feral outside even if it is friendly towards humans?