This is Meghan. She is loved, she is spoiled, and she is back home after being displaced for seven weeks. Meghan’s family sent a written testimonial to Missing Pet Partnership, thanking us for the information on our web site because it offered the recovery tips and encouragement that enabled them to recover Meghan with a baited humane trap. Their testimonial was a powerful reminder of a message that Missing Pet Partnership hopes will spread throughout the animal industry: just because a cat looks and acts feral does not mean that it is a feral cat.
A common misinterpretation of feline behavior occurs when shelter workers observe a cat with a fearful temperament and assume, based on the behavior that the cat exhibits (cowering, running from people, hissing, growling), that the cat is an untamed “feral.” Sadly, these cats are often immediately killed at animal shelters because who would ever think that this wild, hissing, spitting “aggressive” cat was actually cared for, let alone loved by someone? If you don’t believe me, watch the video clips of what happened to two cats, Buddy and Rusty, when their behavior got them killed.
Here’s what Meghan’s guardian (Devon) explained happened last November:
“Meghan slipped out a door that had blown open on the night of November 10th. My parents saw her disappear. They tried to catch her immediately, but no luck. Meghan is a former feral that we caught in a live trap while trying to get a raccoon eight years ago. She has NEVER wanted to go outside, so we are sure she had no idea what she was doing and immediately got scared and disorientated. Meghan was always easily spooked and unlikely to come to us, so we knew from the beginning that live trapping would be our best bet.”
“We found good information on your web site and in the links for some tips on live trapping. But it was your site’s explanation of how many cats just go catatonic and do not break cover that helped us. We would have given up if I had not read about how long it can take. It helped to know that in all likelihood she was not far away and would hopefully find her way back to us. However, it took 6 weeks before we saw any trace of her.”
“As your web site said, Meghan seemed to just vanish. But a little over a week ago we spotted her on our road, though we weren’t sure it was her. But the next day there was snow and we could see cat tracks all over our property and the neighboring field. The tracks helped us place feed bowls to tempt Meghan closer. In a day or two my mother saw Meghan sunning herself on the porch and was able to positively ID her. We thought we’d catch her immediately in the trap, but she was too light and too wily. We finally trapped Meghan this Saturday (December 26th) by setting some cardboard over the trip plate.”
“We were very worried that we would have to re-tame her because she was so upset and snarly in the trap–to the point where we wondered if it was our Meghan. But once we got her in the house, with a pen set up to receive her, it’s as if the scents and sights suddenly clicked and she realized who we were and that we were good. I don’t think she has stopped purring except to sleep. Your web site kept us trying the food and the trap, even on those days when we all felt that we had lost Meghan forever.”
When you see a skittish cat, don’t assume its feral and untamed. Any cat, feral or tame, will hiss and spit when its panicked or feels threatened. Just like Buddy and Rusty and Meghan, the skittish or hissy cat that you see could be a loved, lost cat who is simply running, hiding, or hissing and spitting because its displaced and terrified and not because it was born in the wild.
Many cats are not loved as deeply as Meghan is loved. Many families would not be as patient or determined as Devon’s family was in their efforts to recover their lost cat. And sadly, many cats that become lost never have a second shot at sunning themselves in a warm window sill. Thankfully for Meghan, love and persistence prevailed.