by Ruth (Monty’s Mom)
(West Allis, Wisconsin)
Merlin the Miracle Cat
Dealing with the over population of cats, including the plight of feral cats, can seem like an insurmountable task. This is the story of a no-kill shelter which serves the needs of unwanted cats and seeks to find them forever homes. I'm posting this article under Feral Cats, because of the way this shelter has been able to do some great things for ferals.
I first discovered The Cat Network on a walk with my sister. We started to go by it every time we took a walk because we enjoyed looking at the cats through the windows. This was before I had Monty, and I wasn't ready to adopt a cat. I was frequently cat sitting for a friend and I wasn't sure how her elderly cat would react to another cat living in what he obviously considered his house. Since catching Monty and giving him a home, my little ex-feral cat has motivated me to get more involved helping other cats who are not as lucky as he has been. I donate to The Cat Network primarily because of the work they do with feral cats.
I once believed that any cat with no human contact before eight weeks of age could be very difficult to tame and any cat after twelve weeks without human contact was destined to forever remain wild, terrified of people. Before TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) became legal in my area a lot of cats were being killed simply because they were feral. It is assumed that any adult feral cat can never be someone's pet, so any older feral cat brought into animal control (or many animal shelters) was essentially under a death sentence, simply for the crime of being a wild animal.
There is a cat named Merlin living at The Cat Network who was brought in as a feral adult cat. Shelter volunteers state that there were warning signs on his cage, and you did not want to get too close! A truly feral cat is a formidable creature, and Merlin was no exception. His typical reaction, according to shelter workers, was to try to "shred you with his claws." But with time, food and love, Merlin is now completely adoptable. He's a docile, friendly cat. Looking at him you could never guess the hard start he had in life or even really picture what his reaction to humans used to be.
And Merlin isn't the only one. A big orange cat has a similar story. When I first met him he was sleeping on a carpet square on top of a cage. Again, one could never guess he was once an adult feral, as he contentedly allowed the volunteer to stroke him and scratch behind his ears. He was the picture of contentment, quite happy with his new situation in life.
This got me thinking about all the cats who have been killed because they supposedly could never have been anyone's pet. How many could have become like these cats, with a little time and patience?
Not every feral cat can be tamed. There was another adult feral brought in who had to be released after being altered and given needed medical care. The staff realized that that cat was not going to come around and the kindest act would be to make him part of the new TNR program and return him to his home.
It can be easy to despair and believe that there is no way to deal with the abundance of feral cats without killing some cats. The Cat Network proves that this is simply untrue. But we need more people who care, like the volunteers and donors who support this and other cat rescue organizations.
The Cat Network has no time limits on adoptions, and does not kill cats just because they are old, feral or difficult to adopt for some reason. If they can't find the cat a permanent family, he is welcome to live there for the rest of his life. The two feral cats mentioned above are not the only cats there who probably would have been killed at other shelters, even some who claim to be no-kill.
One cat I met has sensitivity near his tail from a previous serious flea infestation. He's a great cat unless you touch near his tail- then he'll try to bite you. He just needs to go to a home without kids, to adults who will be careful with him. How many other shelters would have given him that chance? The Cat Network realizes a cat doesn't deserve a death sentence just because he has a medical problem.
Another strength of this shelter is that they don't believe any cat should spend his whole life in a cage. The cats greet you when you come to the door, and visitors are encouraged to come and pet the cats. The result is some really well socialized cats who will make exceptional pets for people.
Sometimes cats have to be in cages temporarily because of medical issues (such as not being neutered yet) or because they don't get along well with the other cats, but efforts are made to give these cats time out of their cages as well, so no cat there is really living his whole life in a cage.
Some cats are fostered (cared for in the homes of volunteers) and this allows the shelter to serve even more cats, including cats who are in need of socialization, who are sick or pregnant. Since each cat is allowed to live at the shelter for as long as necessary, when a cat is adopted, not only is that cat saved, but the one who replaces him as well. I believe that "when you save a cat, you save a world", as Finn (a frequent contributor to this site) often says.
I want to continue to tell some more of the stories of those worlds saved at The Cat Network in future articles, but for now I will simply give their contact information in case any readers would like to learn more about their philosophy and mission or perhaps donate-- or if you live close by, take home a cat who will probably be the best animal companion you've ever had!
Personally, I think a cat with a great back story like Merlin's would be an awesome addition to any family-- a cat with a history and a past. He looks so wise in the picture I took, and I suppose that's because he is.
The Cat Network is located at 8121 West National Avenue in West Allis, WI. They can be found online at Petfinder - The Cat Network or contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 414-297-9674.