Posted on 14 January 2012.
by Melissa Byrd, of PAWS of BI and N Kitsap, and Julie Hall January 14, 2012
Thank you Paws and Fins Pet Shop for sponsoring our weekly Animal Tales feature.
When PAWS first heard of the Maine Coons last April, 2011, they had no idea what they were getting into. The woman who bred the cats had passed away, and her friend called PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap for help. She wasn’t sure how many cats and kittens there were, but when PAWS heard they were Maine Coons and a Pixie Bob, they felt confident the cats would easily find homes because they are such popular breeds.
However, once the deceased breeder’s friend began bringing them into the vet’s office for evaluation, everyone was surprised to find them underweight, unhealthy, and poorly socialized to humans. There also seemed to be no end to the number of cats and kittens that kept streaming in throughout the spring and summer. The breeder’s friend would bring in three here, two there, mothers who looked liked they had just given birth but were separated from their kittens, litters that were being nursed by several females without an identifiable mother. . . . The people at PAWS scrambled to help them.
Some came in with names, but most of them did not. The adults were given fabric-themed names: Gingham, Paisley, Charmeuse, Taffeta, Chiffon, Gabardine. The kittens got names of country singers, gadgets, books, and so on.
The PAWS folks began taking the cats to their Cattery to recover from their spay/neuter surgeries. The pregnant ones, mothers with kittens, and weened kittens were sent to foster homes. The kittens were covered in ringworm, gasping for breath from upper respiratory infections, and were uncomfortable with human contact. They had to be scrubbed with antifungal, pilled, vaccinated, and generally manhandled for their first few days in their foster homes, which only added to their mistrust of humans. The adults would find a hiding place and hiss and growl when people came near them.
It quickly became clear that the woman who called herself a breeder may have had the best intentions with her first few cats but was not running a legitimate breeding program. The colony was going to need extensive rehabilitation. In all, PAWS recovered 35 cats from the colony, 14 adults and 21 kittens. It is impossible to say how many more may have been picked off by predators such as coyotes or may still be outside living wild.
With patience and kindness and more patience and kindness, the young kittens adjusted in their foster homes to being petted, played with, and snuggled. Some of the older kittens had a harder time getting used to being around people, and the adults at first only came out when there was food involved and when humans weren’t in the room. But over time the cat whisperers at PAWS began to win the trust of many of the Maine Coons. Some decided that being petted wasn’t the torture it first seemed, and these cats—PJ (now Thomas), Lacey, Gingham, and Paisley—have found great homes, with glowing updates of their progress from their new human companions, who understand their past and are continuing the work PAWS started months ago.
Sadly, 9 of the cats still haven’t fully come around to people. Lucy, one of the first to be brought to PAWS, was a scraggly terrified mess whose coat has grown in beautifully but who still does not enjoy being touched. Taffeta, Chiffon, and Charmeuse are a bit younger and consent to short petting but do not want to be picked up. Gabardine, Terry, and Georgette were a few of the last to arrive, and they are slowly coming out of hiding. Rhonda is still a bit leery of being petted but will withstand a few strokes to get the treats that follow. The 10-year-old Pixie Bob, Silk, has made the most progress of all of the remaining cats. She is a beautiful silver tabby with a deformed foot and an undocked tail, who now approaches people for petting. She has spent time at the PAWS adoption center on Miller Road and has done well there.
Ranging from 18 months to 3 years old, these remaining cats need families that will see the diamonds in the rough that they are and give them the patience they will need to recover from their semi-feral early days and polish them into the shining gems they have the potential to be.
Interested in meeting one of these cats or learning about others that are available for adoption through PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap? Contact them!
View photo gallery:
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Photos courtesy of PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County.