I feel like I have experienced a truly blessed event. A member of my feral colony, usually one of the friendlier cats, got a plastic jar stuck on his head. His entire head enveloped in hard plastic, he was completely unable to eat or drink. I first saw him this way on Saturday night. I spent hours trying to get him to trust me to get close enough so that I could remove the jar. But, completely vulnerable and positively panicked, the cat was far too skittish to permit me to get near.
The next evening, I tried throwing a towel, then a heavy blanket over him in order to disorient him, hoping that might allow me to get a solid grasp. But the cat proved too fast and sly for such tricks. My boyfriend even came out late that night with a large basket and together we tried to capture the frightened feline until, finally, he ran off completely, nowhere to be found. We decided to leave out a Havahart trap overnight, but that too fell short of success (although it did gain me access to a fertile female, whom I was then able to bring to the clinic for spay and vaccination; so not a loss entirely).
Yesterday, I searched every hour on the hour from the time I got home from work, around 7:00 pm until 5:00 am. He never showed. I figured he must have died in one of the worst ways I could imagine. I was beside myself, knowing I had failed this cat who had once snuggled against my legs, awaiting his dinner. I couldn’t let it go, couldn’t sleep, wondering if he could possibly still be out there, stuck inside that awful jar.
Well, tonight, as usual, at nearly 1:00 a.m., I prepared a dinner platter and carried it outside, where my colony patiently waited. I walked with the cats in tow to our regular spot (a fair distance from the building), served the meal, and had begun walking back when a woman, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, approached me. I’ve been reprimanded multiple times for feeding my kitties, so I braced myself for another neighborly tongue lashing.
She asked me, flat out, if I had just fed the feral cats. Reluctantly, I admitted I had, and she immediately began gushing about how happy she was to meet me, and how grateful she was to know that someone in the complex, aside from herself, appreciated the cats and was willing to help see to their well-being. I was, of course, very relieved, and every bit as ecstatic to meet her; finally…a fellow feral cat ally!
She told me her name was Rose, and throughout our lively, late night meet-and-greet, Rose and I exchanged stories of our experiences with aiding the local cats. I learned that she had lived in the complex for several years (I am relatively new to the property). And despite the transparency of her efforts toward maintaining a vaccinated, spayed and neutered colony, she too had been harassed by various neighboring tenants, and had even received threats of eviction from building management for feeding the cats. Needless to say, Rose and I became fast friends.
So, there we were, chattering away, when the jar-headed cat appeared! Rose informed me the cat had been stuck in the jar since at least Thursday (nearly six days)! She had also spent hours trying to save him, and had gotten mauled by him in her efforts. She said she didn’t even want to try anymore, that she had cried all weekend over her failed attempts. I completely understood her grief. Capturing the cat, at this point, seemed impossible, and I knew another failed attempt would be even more devastating to us both. But I also knew neither of us would be able to walk away without making yet another attempt.
Without any planning, I simply sat on the ground and began jingling my keys (a.k.a. the feral cat dinner bell). And because one of my regular male cats is a bit of a snob who insists on eating apart from the crowd, inside my sweater pocket, I still held a small bag of food (which I had intended on serving to “Catty Aloof” beneath a nearby tree as usual). I pulled the bag of food from my pocket, opened it and began shaking it along with my keys. The jar-headed cat seemed almost hypnotized by it–the sound and smell together. I desperately hoped for him to approach and let me help him.
After a minute or so, I noticed Rose creeping up behind the now helplessly transfixed, starving cat. I shook the keys and food to make the sound louder and louder so he wouldn’t look away or take note of Rose’s creeping. Finally, like a wild cat herself, Rose sprung at him and grabbed him from behind! The cat went wild, slashing at Rose’s bare arms! To my amazement, Rose held her grasp. I jumped up, shouting, “DON’T LET HIM GO!” But just as I was about to grab hold of the jar, the cat shot out of her arms and darted away.
Exasperated, Rose and I, almost in unison, uttered a few choice expletives, and the two of us began to slump in misery when we suddenly realized she was holding the jar!! Somehow, during the violent scuffle, Rose had actually managed to remove the jar! Rose stared at the filthy container in her hands, repeating in disbelief, ”Oh, my God, I have it. I have the jar!” I threw my arms around her…this woman, only minutes before, a stranger…my new friend and partner in cat rescue “crime,” and now…my hero!
We stood there in the parking lot of our apartment complex at 1:00 in the morning in a tight embrace, blood trickling from the fresh battle wounds on her forearms! I can still hardly believe it. The whole event seems almost impossible; the timing, the luck of it all, almost too good to be true. I felt like I had won the lottery! The rush was better than Broadway! And Jarhead is jar free! He can eat and drink and breathe fresh air! Rose and I will be working together to restore his health. I could swear, it must be more than dumb luck that brought Rose and me and Jarhead together in the parking lot in the middle of the night. It truly feels like a small miracle to me. It’s something I know I will never forget. And I am so grateful for it. I am just SO GRATEFUL.