Poor Unfortunate Souls

Jen and I went down to the local animal shelter a couple of weeks ago and delivered 16 pound bag of kitten food after they asked for donations on their Facebook page. While there, we went into the section where they keep the cats, because I wanted to look at a couple they had on their weekly bulletin.

There was supposed to be a tortie named Mama. She’s been on the flier for months by that point, but she wasn’t there. Nor was her daughter Kamiko. The shelter posts that flier every week, but it doesn’t seem like they update it with any regularity. One cat that was there was Ursula, a black domestic long-haired female who had been there for at least a month.

Much like several of the other felines in the cat room, Ursula was very sweet and rubbed against the bars while purring loudly at us. She rumbled vaguely the entire time we were wandering around examining the various kitties, so Jen opened the cage and pet her a bit more directly to see how she’d respond. She rolled around a bit and purred louder, and we both agreed if we were to take home a cat, she’d be the one.

The weird part was that Ursula was sent from another nearby county shelter, and even though she had a microchip, it was completely blank. The info card also didn’t state whether or not she was spayed. How could she have been there for over a month, sent from another shelter, and still somehow have ambiguous information? Apparently this shelter doesn’t make vet visits part of the standard intake process. The guy working that day said if we wanted to adopt her, we’d have to wait until she saw the vet. Illinois law disallows pets from leaving shelters unless they’re vaccinated for rabies, microchipped, and spayed. Since her sterilization status was unknown, that meant waiting.

We filled in the application form, and luckily the shelter uses the same vet as we do, so they could “interview” the vet about our cats prior to handing Ursula over. Somewhat unfortunately, the shelter is understaffed, and the vet is constantly booked. We visited the shelter on a Saturday, which meant that entire next week was too short notice to schedule Ursula, so we had to wait another week so they could confirm she was spayed.

The vet confirmed Ursula was spayed this Wednesday, and gave her all required vaccinations. The latter part was probably unnecessary given she was already spayed. Vets in Illinois will not operate on unvaccinated animals, so the real problem is that records for stray or sheltered pets is utterly insufficient. What are microchips for, if not for retaining a link to health records?

In any case, we brought her home later that day and sequestered Ursula in my office to keep her away from the other cats until she can get a full checkup. It’s also a prime opportunity to acclimate her to their scents and slowly introduce them over the next few weeks. The other kitties aren’t exactly thrilled by losing their favorite room, but they’ll get over it.

Ursula was not doing well in the shelter, and her health suffered tremendously. In addition to being skin and bones, she looked mangy, kept tilting her head to the right and scratching her neck, and seemed rather agitated. She purred constantly and rubbed against us while wandering the room, so I called the vet to schedule her ASAP. But I was still worried; if she really did have mange, that meant mites, and there’s no way to let an infestation like that simmer for a month. I called again and they worked me in Thursday morning.

As it turns out, Ursula was only incubating a bad ear infection rather than an army of mites or fleas. The vet gave her a parasite treatment just in case and put a bunch of antibiotic goo into her ears for the infection. Ursula has been resting since then. Without the constant irritation of the infection, she has spent most of her time sleeping and eating. She wakes up every once in a while and starts purring while staring at me. Then she’ll wander over and rub against my legs for a few minutes before laying right at my feet for up to an hour.

And eat she does. Ursula emptied her bowl four times on Thursday until her belly was bloated. She moderated her intake on Friday, and seems to have reverted to a more regular amount today. Either she didn’t like whatever food they were giving her, or the proximity to her litter box made it unpalatable. It’s natural to gorge a bit in circumstances like that, so I’m glad she enjoys the food we already use.

Otherwise Ursula appears to be a very affectionate cat. She purrs constantly and rubs against Jen or I whenever she’s not sleeping. I’m still a bit concerned about her lethargy, though. I appreciate that she’s still healing from the infection and being weak from malnutrition, but she’s almost never awake or active. Given she’s in my office, I can observe her all day. Aside from occasionally rousing herself to eat, she doesn’t play and can’t seem to jump any higher than the lowest platform on the cat tree. For her sake, I hope this is just a passing phase while she gets better.

In any case, we now have a new furry black family member. It’ll be few weeks before everyone is fully integrated, but I have high hopes. Once Ursula’s stress level isn’t as high and she feels safer, I think she’ll get used to the other kitties. Lorelie probably won’t enjoy the additional competitor for our affections, but Salem just wants to hang out and Ash loves everyone. Now we just have to figure out if she’s a lap cat.

Until Tomorrow