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How Far Would You Go to Rescue a Cat?

I brought a feral cat living in my garage on a cross-country move; it took great determination.

 |  Apr 14th 2014  |   24 Contributions


We had been feeding a stray cat who we named Zorro. He took up residence in our garage last fall and made it through a very tough Minnesota winter. I wrote about our relationship with Zorro in a previous article, but what I failed to mention is that we had a big move coming up. We were moving across the country at the end of March. While I was very excited about the move, I was really worried about Zorro.

What if I couldn't trap him in time? I couldn't stand the thought of just leaving him. He'd grown dependent upon our feeding. Because the winter was so cold, and because I had no idea how to lure Zorro into a trap if the tempting treats inside the trap froze, I had a very small window of opportunity.

Here's how I dealt with preparing my feral cat for our big move:

Zorro in the garage, prior to capture.

1. I trapped him and neutered him

After some difficulty obtaining a trap, we borrowed one and set it in the garage during a rare warm spell in mid-March. I got very lucky. Zorro went into the trap after two days. This, after I'd read accounts of how it could take weeks to get a cat in a trap. I was grateful.

I got him immediately to the vet, where he was neutered, tested for feline leukemia, and vaccinated. I had a hope that Zorro might someday be an indoor cat with the rest of my cats, and I wanted to make sure that this would be possible.

2. I confined him in a small space

When I brought Zorro home from the vet, we probably had about two weeks prior to our moving date. Here's where I may have erred, though I didn't know any better. I put Zorro in my very small office. He had few places to hide, but it was also very difficult to work with him.

I have to say, this experience really bought up a lot of edgy fear for me (and that's hard to admit!). I had never handled a feral cat before. I had no idea what he was capable of. But worse, it bought up some weird, personal fear-of-rejection stuff. I am sure that my emotions were all in a dither, anyway, while preparing for this huge upcoming move. I was just totally unused to having a cat constantly growl and glare at me. It was a new experience.

Zorro did let me stroke his head and scratch his ears. I wore gloves and a thick jacket. I probably didn't need either, but it made me feel more secure. I wore face protection as well, at first. It took me a while, even several days after arriving at our destination, to start to sense what I might be able to try with Zorro.

Zorro gives me a soulful look, through my window.

3. I confined him to a smaller space -- a large animal carrier

Now, I had an issue. How was I going to move him? An experienced vet tech I know who had tamed a feral cat suggested that I get a large crate and make it his home for a while. She suggested that the defined, smaller space would make it more easy to work with Zorro and make the move less stressful for him.

This was probably one of the edgiest things I'd done in my life! With protection on (thick jacket, gloves, etc.) and a towel, I managed to corner Zorro, grab him, and put him in the crate (which also held a small litter box). I was freaked and so was he, but he did not bite or scratch, though he did make a lot of noise. Whew! 

4. I got meds for him in case I needed them, but I also got Feliway and essential oil

Zorro spent three days in the crate before we began the drive. We could not take off because we were waiting for snowstorms in the Midwest and the East Coast to stop, so that we'd have safe roads. Traveling with animals and worrying about their safety, I did not want to have the additional worry of driving on bad roads.

My vet prescribed a tranquillizer for Zorro, though I had serious doubts about my ability to get a pill down Zorro's mouth (though this particular tranquillizer can also be given subcutaneously). I also got Feliway spray, which I used for all the cats, and "Peace and Calm" essential oil by Young Living.

5. I had a plan B

I had a good friend who was willing to take Zorro on her farm in the event that he seemed incapable of making the drive. I will be forever grateful to her for offering me that plan B -- it eased my worries greatly. As it turned out, we did take Zorro on a three-day car trip across the country.

Fearless Norton during the move, studying the dog through the dog's crate.

How far would you go to rescue a cat? Share your stories in the comments!

Author's Note:

Zorro’s story has a really happy ending! He not only made it through the move, but he quickly adapted to his new home. He became tame and loves being an indoor cat. He is getting along pretty well with the others. Read a follow-up article, here.

More by Catherine Holm:

Read stories of rescue on Catster:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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