Fabulous Fabio

Blog author: 
Anne Zabolio

We feed a managed colony of feral cats in Dripping Springs, but we used to feed two. The second one was at a white house with a historical marker hidden behind bushes on Hwy. 290. There a whole family of spayed and neutered cats ate in an old barn every day.

One day when I went there, I found a woman trapping cats. She told me that the property had been sold and that the new owners had asked her to trap the cats and take them to the kill facility in San Marcos, where they would be immediately euthanized. She had a cat in a trap. I recognized him, a profoundly feral orange and white fellow who fled to the feed store on the other side of the street whenever I got out of my car. I said to the woman, "I'm from Thundering Paws Animal Sanctuary. May I have that cat and I will return the trap to you in a few days?" She was a kind hearted woman who did not want to see the cats killed and she agreed instantly. I told her that we would take over the trapping and removal of these cats.

Fabio

Trapping cats is stressful! I cannot emphasize this enough. When people ask me for advice in trapping cats, this is the first piece of advice I offer: Be kind to yourself while you are trapping, because trapping cats will stress you out very quickly. Put lots of chocolate for yourself in with the sardine tins. Take a scented bath after a trapping session. Have a beer. Rent a funny movie. Be sure and get popcorn. Pet your tame animals often. Remind yourself that you're a good person because the feral cats will call you the foulest of names.

Volunteers Annie Stuhr and Calene Summers and I went full tilt on this job. Every day we would set two traps in the old building. We used canned cat food, dry cat food, sardines, mackerel, chicken. We didn’t have to resort to a dangling chicken bone from the top of the trap, nor, thank goodness, caviar. We trapped Smiley and three of her grown kittens, Monty, Lexi, and Cassandra and Fred, in addition to the orange and white fellow I had already taken. After the unaltered ones were spayed and neutered, these five cats went to a wonderful family farm where there are already many spayed and neutered feral cats who are fed daily.

We relocated them using methods advocated by Alley Cat Allies, a wonderful group that works with feral cats. Volunteer Scott Haywood built one cage, and we already had two others, in which we housed the five cats for a month so they would get used to the sights, smells, sounds, and humans in their new home. Their cages were set up in an unused goat shed, and there were goats on the other side of the wall. When they were finally released after a month, Cassandra immediately climbed the wall to a small hole where she could look at the goats. It seemed like her thoughts were, "I've been hearing and smelling these things for a month. What the heck are they?" Climb, peek, hop down. "Oh, okay. It's those things."

The profoundly feral orange and white cat went in his trap to the vet for neutering. However, when he was combo tested, it was learned that he is FIV positive. FIV is the virus that causes kitty AIDS. Like its human component, HIV, it is not transmitted through casual contact, but requires sex, from which all these cats have been retired, or a deep bite, which humans hardly ever inflict upon one another, but cats can. Because of his FIV status, we knew that we had to keep this cat separate from cats with whom he would fight. Reluctantly, we caged him, pending a decision on where he could live as a feral, FIV positive cat. We truly are a no-kill facility.

But a funny thing happened. The cat decided that the feral life was in his past. As he healed from his neutering and from the beatings he had taken as an unneutered male in the wild, he became more and more personable. He reached out of his cage with his claws sheathed. He chirped at us. He allowed petting. Finally, as he grew more trusting, he started going belly up in his cage and inviting us to ravish him. As we got to know him better, we named him Fabio.

Now I swear to you that Fabio had been a feral cat. When I arrived to feed his colony, he would furtively dart under cars, get down low on the ground and slink into a nearby feed store's hay barn, or run full tilt away from me as fast as he could. He did not make eye contact. He never said a word. He was convinced that I would eat him for dinner if I got the chance. Smiley, Cassandra, Monty, Lexi, and Fred, all of whom turned out to be indeed feral, would all come running toward the food when I put it down. Not Fabio: I never saw him eat my offerings. I would have singled him out as the most feral cat in that colony. I wouldn't have given you a plug nickel for his chances of taming, ever!

If you come to Pawstock 4, on October 14th (see our website for details), you will get a chance to meet this guy. He not only begs to be petted, he happily accepts being flipped over, and having his belly kissed. He wears a harness and leash. When we take him outside and accidentally drop the leash, he runs toward us, never away. When we reach into his cage to give him food, he is much more interested in rubbing up against the hand that feeds him than he is in eating. When we put him in the hall by himself to exercise, he insists on human company. He has a great vocabulary of meows, chirps, tweets, trills, and chortles to speak to any human he meets. And he's not picky about whom he takes up with, either. If you're human, he wants you to love on him. He has none of the easily startled behavior of "recovering" feral cats.

Fabio is available for adoption. He would do well in a home with another easy going cat, or a dog, or a human who has nothing to do but pet a cat. If you are looking for a dog that purrs, Fabio is your fellow.

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