Hayden's Cats


Ray Hayden

Ray Hayden

Ray Hayden's Book

Ray Hayden's Book

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Ethel was our first feral cat conversion.

Ethel is very special. Ethel lived outside of where Ray's wife worked. Several people had noted that there was a cat around, and they had noticed kittens as well.

There are places in the area that have food, and a cat could have a very satisfying life in this area, the problem is that small cats, or kittens could find their way into rat traps. This is exactly what happened with Ethel's kittens.

One by one, the workers noted that they had seen fewer kittens. Ray's wife asked him if he would be interested in trying to catch the one remaining kitten (someone from her work would adopt it). Ray went out to find this kitten. He located it just lying near the side of a building that has food, and rat traps... sadly, this kitten had apparently gotten into a rat trap and eaten some of that bait.

This kitten was rushed to a vet emergency room where it could not be saved. It had to be put to sleep. This just destroyed us and broke our hearts, he was just an adorable kitten...

Ray's wife asked if he would be interested in trying to trap the mommy cat and have her fixed, and stop the cycle of little kittens getting into rat traps. A co-worker had a humane trap, and Ray's wife set it up in an area where the mommy cat was seen. It did not take long for her to go into the trap and be caught!

We took this kitty home and isolated her from our house cats (none of our cats ever go outside) until we could get her fixed. The original idea was to trap - spay - and release her back to where she lived. While we knew she did not have any kittens left behind, we thought that other cats might know her and she might have other "family" there.

Unfortunately, Ray has a cat habit that he just cannot shake. Once we had this kitty home, she was very mean and angry. If you got a hand near her, we are certain that all that would come back to you, after trying to pet her, would be a bony stump. She had claws and wasn't afraid to use them!

An appointment was set and Ray put her in her carrier. After having her fixed, we had to bring her home again so that she could heal up before being released back to her own neighborhood...

Time spent with this kitty would be Ray's undoing... There is no way that he was going to send this tiny cat back out into the cold cruel world... this cat, would become ours. We adopted Ethel and began the long process of getting her calmed down and more friendly. At first, we would pet her with an oven mitt. After a long period, Ray was able to actually pet her, and after some more time, we actually began to hear her purr!

In October of 2009, Ethel stopped eating. We did not notice right away, because Ethel never ate in front of us anyway. It was more of noticing that the food bowl she ate out of was not getting lower as fast as it should.

Ethel began to get friendly, which is a behavioral change. While it is a nice change, it is something that Ray felt he should have picked up on a lot sooner. By the time Ray could actually pick her up and hold her, she was far too light. This cat should have weighed at least eight pounds, but felt like four.

We took her to the vet and had an X-Ray done. She was empty, no food in her system at all (this vet has a really good X-Ray, on other cats, you could see food actually going through them). The vet had no answer for what was wrong. Ethel showed no signs of pain, just wasting away.

As long as she was in no pain, Ray decided that he would provide her with "kitty hospice" and take care of her to the point where she did show any pain. Then, we would have returned to the vet for a very sad visit.

A cat that lives outside might have a lifespan of four or five years. Since Ethel was obviously on her own outside, we figure that she could not be all that old. Being that she was not that old, Ray was not about to let this cat waste away and die without trying to keep her as healthy and content as he possibly could. He wasn't going to bring this feral cat into our home for the rest of her life to have her just die a few months later.

Ethel was not eating, but she did drink water. Ray watched her very closely every day. He would lie on the floor next to her and just pet her, she would purr. It was killing him.

Ray noted that Ethel stopped using the litter box (all this time, she would still try). He noted that she urinated on her sleeping pad, which meant that she was still drinking, but two days later, it was obvious that she had stopped drinking too.

When Ray's mom was in hospice care, we learned that dying from dehydration is a horrible way to go. We would not let that happen to Ethel. Ray got an eye dropper and would use water to make sure her mouth was moist. To our delight, when he did this, she would drink the water from the eye dropper!

Ray next crushed up her food very fine and began giving her a sort of kitty protein drink, she kept drinking. He spent about four hours a day feeding our wonderful Ethel cat four times a day. Slowly, she got stronger. Ray got a very high calorie food supplement (Nutri-Cal for Cats) for her and diluted that so it was drinkable. Ray began using that with Ethel mixed with water and her crushed up food. He noticed that she was actually putting on some weight again and we knew she would make it!

A really off the wall note here is that until Ethel actually got slim and weak enough, there was no way Ray could have fed her without her giving him a really hard time about it. It was her weakness that allowed Ray to give her water, then food. She did not fight him and seemed to realize that he was trying his best to take very good care of her. Their relationship solidified from then on. Even Ray's wife can easily approach and pet Ethel. She would still not trust a stranger, but with us, she trusts us completely.

Today, Ethel is very healthy and happy. She allows us to pet and love her and she purrs very loudly. She still hides under her little table, but we can go up to her and play with her and listen to her purr like crazy!

A lot of folks would have given up, I was close, but I promised this cat that I would love her and be with her for her whole life, a long, healthy life! She seems to believe me and is doing wonderfully. At night, she comes out and sits on the couch. She is a funny cat, but we love her like all of our kitties, with all of our hearts.