feral cat before and after

Feral Flashback: Revisiting Operation Domino

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June is Adopt a Cat Month and I’d like share an unusual adoption story. Feral Flashback: Revisiting Operation Domino. It shows that there are as many ways to adopt as there are cats. Shelters are my #1 choice for adoption but cats have many ways of finding us. This time two years ago, our former feral cat Domino lived outdoors. For seven years he made our porch his home but refused to come inside no matter what.

Somewhere in his past, he learned humans were not to be trusted. He arrived out of the blue one day, a starved and gangly teen, his tail broken in two places, tooth chipped and an ear torn. He looked part Snowshoe but it would take time for his beauty to emerge. We didn’t know where he came from or where he was going. For whatever reason he decided to stay put but on his own terms.

He appreciated the cozy nest and regular meals on his new porch “home” but no one could get anywhere near him. Touching was out of the question. Then late last spring, he got very ill with a deep abscess in his front leg. He limped in misery. The antibiotics in his food weren’t working like they had in the past. A wily survivor, he’d thwarted every attempt to trap him but we knew the prognosis wasn’t good if he didn’t get medical attention. Our mobile vet came to the rescue in Operation Domino  (a revised version below this post) and saved his life.

He’s come a long way and this “before and after” speaks volumes. He was the feral who mistrusted humans and averted their gaze. His fur went from scruffy to silky and his personality blossomed from fearful to loving. His confidence soared and his days of being on guard 24/7 melted into contented bliss. Domino’s story gives hope to other ferals and strays if given a second chance.

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Operation Domino: Capturing A Feral Houdini – June 16, 2012.

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They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what about cats? After recent events concerning Domino, one of our Cat Wisdom 101 cats, I’ll wager a yes. Over a month ago, Domino, injured his leg. He’s feral and not a stranger to abscesses. Usually, a course of antibiotics administered in his food and he’s good to go, but not this time. His left leg ballooned and he developed a limp. Two weeks of antibiotics and no improvement. Something had to be done. For years he’s eluded the best traps and schemes for capture. He’s a smart and wily survivor, a mind reader and Houdini rolled into one furry package.

A couple of weeks ago we finally lured him inside a large carrier. Slam! The door locked, we high-fived and waited for our mobile vet to arrive. Just as suddenly, Domino found his inner Hercules, rammed against every corner until a bolt loosened and he blasted out to freedom. Undaunted, we knew we needed help for Operation Domino requiring a village. Ingrid King our friend from Conscious Cat did long-distance Reiki. I did Reiki and other energy healing from as close as he would tolerate. Jackson Galaxy personally sent his homeopathic essence for stress and Feral Cat Rehab. My private healing group via super intuitive Laura Day sent healing. Our mobile vet Rich Goldstein from Mobile Vet Squad agreed to come on short notice. Countless friends and fans rallied support.

At one point, he seemed to improve after the abscess burst and drained, but he still wasn’t putting any weight on his left foot. It was time to have a serious talk with him but would he listen?

Animal Communication is a valuable tool when all else fails.

I connected with his heart and conveyed verbally and non-verbally of what needed to happen for his health and life to improve. During intuitive work I often physically pick up on an animal’s feelings and this time my heart hurt. I could feel his sadness, pain and weakening resolve. Tired of being ill and lame, he agreed to finally allow himself to be caught. The next morning we set out a drop trap and sure enough, this time he simply walked inside to grab his dinner. Success. Finally!

No wait, the trap opening wouldn’t fit the transfer cage. With the already vet on his way, we had to find a transfer cage and fast. I called Sarah Hart from the nearby private shelter Cat Assistance who raced with a transfer cage with guillotine doors. While being transferred from the large trap to the smaller one, Domino let out the most mournful cry as if to say,”You got me now. Please go easy.”

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Dr. Goldstein and vet tech Lisa, expertly transferred Domino from the drop drop into the transfer cage. Odin our one-eyed cat watched wide-eyed through the window at the commotion. They would eventually become the best of friends for many years.

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transferring feral Domino from drop trap

Dr. G. attending to Domino in the fully equipped mobile clinic.

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Now the three-hanky diagnosis: Domino’s leg was dislocated and the massive infection had spread to all the bones in his leg. It’s a wonder he was able to hobble about. The abscess was lanced and drained but will require 8 weeks of antibiotics and then re-examined. Good luck capturing him again for another x-ray. Worst case scenario if the antibiotics don’t work? Amputation. Oh, and he’s FIV+.

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Domino came out of his anesthetic naturally and recuperated for a few hours in the drop trap on the porch. I did some more Reiki on him and then went inside to work. I figured he be safe overnight in the large trap but Domino had other thoughts. By the time Dr. G called at six to check up on him, Domino had pulled another Houdini and escaped. Thankfully our helper cat, Gris Gris slipped outside with me and I asked him to help me find him. Sure enough, he led me straight to Domino hiding under a covered lounge swing in my secret garden (a favorite spot of his). I brought his dinner but he took one look at me and ran away. Maybe he felt being trapped was more than he bargained for. After all, I never mentioned neutering as being part of the bargain.

Sometimes it does take a village to help one cat. I’m grateful for the healing miracles waiting in the wings, perhaps from you? Let’s envision Domino running on all fours again playing with his pals again. Cat Wisdom 101 isn’t the same without him.

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Feral cat Domino sunbathing

Update: Food rules this survivor. The next day Domino returned to his domain, the porch where all his favorite foods were served on demand. Within two weeks, he returned to his former self and by the end of seven weeks of antibiotics, he made the second biggest decision of his life: he decided to come inside.

Wary at first, we kept the front door wide open as he gradually explored one room and then darted outside. Every day he explored further afield until he’d sniffed every corner of the ground floor. He’d stare round-eyed at the strange black rectangle with sounds and moving images. The stairs befuddled him and it took him a few more weeks. Any sudden movement from me or unexpected noise and he’d bolt out the door. Coaxed with treats, he eventually he felt safe enough to climb up to the second and then third floor.

The litmus test was closing the front door and then keeping him in overnight. We could never have done this in the winter but summer wouldn’t last forever. By the time the cool fall weather approached he faced the prospect of either another miserable winter outdoors or a cozy one indoors. You can guess what he chose.

The new mellow Domino 2.0 celebrates the good life and he deserves it.

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A feral who eluded any kind of touch for years, made up for lost time by becoming a lap cat who makes biscuits and drools in ecstasy every day. Domino loves his cat daddy and is deeply bonded with all his fur brothers. He still insists on going outdoors every day but never ventures farther than the garden and prefers sleeping on soft duvets at night. It’s been a long journey for this survivor and he’s a testament to the power of healing, love, community and patience.

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