What can I say about a stray named Jack?
That he’s handsome. Loves Temptations. Loves me (or at least I think he does.) And he’s sitting on my lap kneading my chest while I type one-handed, still holding onto him.
Fact is, Jack is no stray anymore. He began as our outside cat, then, when winter hit, became the frightened grey blur in our basement who hid each time we went down to feed him or scoop his litter box. Then, when he realized we weren’t going to hurt him (well except for having him neutered and taking away his manhood) he begged to come upstairs with us.
He’s been on our laps ever since. He actually gets angry at you if you make him stay alone overnight all by himself.
We have the SHAID Tree Animal Shelter in Bridgewater to thank.
It all began with a little grey cat digging in the neighbour’s garbage.
Now, there’s always cats wandering around the country. Barn cats. Pets let outside to roam and mouse despite the many coyotes, bald eagles, and speeding cars (police cars included) in our area.
This little guy was different. Obviously malnourished. His long grey fur needed a good bath.
Even though we had a cat already (Tillie, our Maine Coon) we began feeding Jack on the doorstep. And calling him Jack even though we weren’t sure of his sex. The raccoons came and ate his food, so we tried to put out something tasty when we knew he’d be around. Soon enough, he came almost on schedule. For cheap cat food. For some leftover turkey smothered in gravy. Anything to fill his belly.
All along, we would’ve taken him in, but Tillie was highly territorial. It wasn’t until winter came and Jack was digging in the snow for food that my mother and I decided we had to do something to save this cat from utter starvation and hypothermia.
The SHAID Tree Animal Shelter in Bridgewater (well, on the outskirts of town) is a reputable shelter where dogs, cats, and occasionally small furry critters are housed until they find their forever homes. However, there’s such a demand for their services, they have a waiting list.
We got on that waiting list (because obviously Jack was still getting a fair amount of food from us) and when the time was right, we borrowed a live trap from SHAID and tried to trap Jack so we could escort him to the shelter, where he’d be safe for winter.
Jack would have none of the trap; instead, I had to lure him inside one night with treats, a process that took well over an hour because he didn’t trust me. One step forward, two steps back.
Hunger won out though and he crept inside. We slammed the door shut.
A wide-eyed cat scampered around the living room all night, frantic, looking for escape, slinking like a fox.
To our surprise, though, he didn’t make a mess to protest his confinement, and even found himself a warm spot over the hot air register to sleep. Unfortunately, we had to man-handle him a bit to get him in the cage, but we told ourselves it was for the best and for his ultimate survival.
It was with heavy hearts that we took Jack to SHAID. Though we knew he was going to a good place, he howled, wondering who these two women were and what were they doing with him?
Once Jack was in a cage, he became frightened and aggressive. When we took him to the shelter, they accepted him, but warned that if he remained aggressive, he might not be adoptable. Add to that his advanced age (seven or eight years old) and he might not find the right home.
Mom and I looked at each other, knowing in that moment we couldn’t risk him being euthanized.
We arranged a deal that if Jack became part of the Trap, Neuter, and Release program, we would take him home. Worse case scenario, we would release him in the spring.
It was almost Christmas. Our present? To bring Jack home, fixed, and needled, and dewormed.
It took months for Jack to trust us. He trusted us, but there was so much fear in this little cat that you couldn’t brush him without him nabbing onto your hand. He hid in a corner when we fed him, when we emptied his litter, when we checked on him. It wasn’t hatred that made him act that way; it was pure, utter fear.
Time went on. He began trusting us more and more.
Then, something happened. Jack decided he’d had enough of his captivity and began banging his head against the door from the basement.
He wanted to be upstairs.
Having him upstairs was difficult, as Jack wanted to become Tillie’s best friend with benefits. Because Tillie was fixed when she was young, she had no sexual urges. Jack, because he was fixed only as a senior, still had the desire to chase after a female cat.
Cat fights ensued. Fur flew. Claws scratched.
Perhaps due to the stress, Tillie, even though she was four, died unexpectedly one Friday shortly before I came home from work. It might’ve been a heart attack; the vet had picked up a heart murmur in Tillie when she was young, and Maine Coons are prone to heart problems.
Losing Tillie at such a young age was heartbreaking. However, some of the pain was assuaged by Jack.
It’s been three years since we brought Jack into our house. He hasn’t been outside more than two or three times, when he accidentally sneaked out. One time he returned on his own terms because it started to rain.
Though he began to live here as a frightened stray who was likely beaten in his former life (he is still terrified of feet, hats, and large objects) he has become an absolute sook. He goes limp like a ragdoll cat when you pick him up. You can sling him over your shoulder like a baby. Every time you sit on the couch, he jumps on your lap for cuddling. He has even become trusting enough we can wipe his eye boogers for him.
What is most incredible about this beautiful cat is how delighted he is with his new home. He eats, sleeps, cuddles, and watches out the windows for other strays and raccoons. When he gets sick, he’s taken to the vet. When he cries to be held, he is picked up for a cuddle. In short, he’s in cat-heaven. You can see it in his beautiful green eyes.
Jack may have started out as a stray, but he’s wormed his way into our hearts. It’s like he’s always been here.
Adopting him back was the best thing we could’ve done. We didn’t care if he was a senior cat. We didn’t care if he had some aggressive tendencies. In the end, all it took was patience and love.
We just wanted Jack. And now, we have him. He is an incredible animal who now only knows love.
There are many more Jacks out there, waiting to be saved. The problem of stray animals can be fixed one animal at a time.
Visit SHAID for information on pets awaiting their forever homes. Make a financial donation or contribute to their annual yard sale June fifth. Score a few bargains yourself or donate gently used items throughout May.
Help the kitties, doggies, and small animals. Humans have domesticated them. Now it’s time to care for them.