When Janine Quinn spotted a tabby cat with a peanut butter jar stuck on her head in mid-July, she had no idea that her efforts to save the feline would turn into such an ordeal and an emotional roller-coaster, one that would last almost three weeks.
"My heart was broken just looking for her," Quinn told me. "I couldn’t even eat, sleep, breathe."
But she learned Aug. 3 that "Jar Kitty" was miraculously still alive. With patience and perseverance — and a can of sardines — Quinn was able to rescue her. That was just the beginning of the cat’s story, and the end of another chapter of Quinn’s 15-year career as the resident trap-neuter-return volunteer in her trailer park near Greensburg, PA.
"It all started when I moved into the trailer park 17 and a half years ago," Quinn said. “I didn’t know there were so many cats. I didn’t really pay attention to them at the time because I was busy taking care of a newborn baby."
As her son grew, Quinn became aware that people in the park were killing the cats, poisoning them or running over them on purpose. She asked the landlord and the local humane society whether they could help the community cats, but she got nowhere. "I said, ‘You know what, this is ridiculous.’ I stepped up to take care of them."
For the first two years, it was a slow process: she TNR’d 10 cats the first year and 10 cats the next year, using her own money and resources. Naturally, feeding the cats she’d tended to attracted other feral cats, and the population mushroomed.
"Every month I was spending about $400 on food,” she said.
Then she contacted another TNR advocate who helped her get free spays and neuters for the cats she trapped. It involved a 40-minute drive both ways, but it was a big help.
One of Quinn’s neighbors died — a woman with 14 cats — and that brought out a rescue group. That’s when she met Rob Jones, a trap-neuter-return volunteer in the area, and he helped her get free spay/neuter services for her colony from a vet in her town.
"’Janine,’ he told me, ‘the hardest part is finding people who want to do this.’ He helped me to get 19 cats fixed the first summer."
With the help of her sister and Jones, Quinn has trapped, neutered, and returned 90 feral cats over the past six years. That’s how Quinn met Jar Kitty, who’s now known as Angel: The cat was a member of her colony.
The story of the rescue involves the cat being spotted, then lost for days, but eventually found by Quinn. What’s happened since that day, when Angel let herself be trapped, is miraculous.
"On Monday night [Aug. 6], something was weird about her," Quinn said. "She was lying around like she was dead, but she had fits of shaking her head, and I thought maybe it was ear mites or seizures."
She took Angel to her vet the next day, where she learned that the cat had severe infections in both ears that were making her dizzy and sick, most likely as the result of having her head stuck in a jar for 20 days.
Although Angel was anemic because she was covered with fleas — especially around her neck and on her head where she couldn’t reach them — her kidneys, heart, and liver function were great. But she weighed only 4 pounds, half of what she should weigh.
For the first week, the vet put Angel on a feeding schedule of half of a 3.5-ounce can of food every two hours in order to help her gain weight. Now she’s eating a full can every two hours. Apparently it’s working, because as of Friday, Angel weighs 5.5 pounds.
The feisty little feral isn’t acting feral at all. "The other day I wrapped her in her baby blanket and took her to the door. She just freaked out: She put her head under my chin, curled up and held on for dear life," Quinn said. "As soon as I walked away from the door, she relaxed and started purring again."
Angel did have a slight setback in recent days: A temporary change of food resulted in a severely upset stomach. But she’s feeling much better now, back on her regular food, and continuing to gain weight and get healthier. On Wednesday, Quinn made this report to Angel’s Facebook group: "Vet said Angel weighs 5 and a half pounds. That means in just a week she gained a pound and a half … her ears are no longer infected, and I was told to stop that medicine. She is on medicine for the [diarrhea] also now because the vet said she thinks it’s just the food — her body hasn’t had food for 20 days so it’s going to take time for everything to get back on track. … Angel did well at her check-up, and I got pics of everyone holding her; she just loves to be loved.”
Since Angel made her home in Quinn’s trailer — and in Quinn’s heart — she’s been living the high life: great food, lots of affection, and all the medical care she needs.
The most recent post on Angel’s Facebook page comes from Quinn: "I think she’s here to stay. :D"
I think we can all :D about that!
Photos courtesy of Janine Quinn