Thursday, April 12, 2012

Munch: From Feral to Forever Home

Hi everyone, Ilonka the human here. Long time no blog, I know. Apologies for the long absence. It's been a busy few months with hound and cats, but everyone is well.

I saw the story of Meatie the feral cat online the other day and it prompted me to share the full story of our newest family member, Munch.

Munch was born outside to a Maine Coon mother (our Mrs. Emma Peel) who was dumped outside while young and pregnant. She did her best with her two kittens. We think one is being taken care of by someone nearby, but Munch stayed close to our house, even after we managed to trap his Mom and get her spayed and vaccinated. (She decided at that point that she likes humans and came inside.) We tried in vain for two years to trap young Munch, but he was a smart one and got the tuna out every time without springing the trap.

I worried about him and fed him twice a day for two years. He survived the biggest snow storm in decades under our porch. I dug out paths for him to get to his food and water, boiled water for him so it wouldn't freeze, and tried to keep him healthy. I tried trapping him again last July and FINALLY succeeded! He was not amused and let us know it. Off he went for his neuter appointment at the feral cat clinic. We agonized over what to do the day we went to pick him up--we wanted to adopt him and keep him indoors, but would he adjust? We couldn't bear to put him back out into the hundred degree heat or freezing cold, in constant fear for his safety. Paul, the other human in the household, agreed to try to bring Munch in and give him a good life.

It was a difficult first few weeks. We took him up to my office upstairs and he hid in the closet for over a month. I would go in and sit with him, work on the computer, play classical music, watch movies sitting on the floor with him--I tried everything. He would inhale his food, hiss and spit at me, and go back to hiding. It was the hardest and most discouraging time. I really wasn't sure if he would ever overcome his fear. Happily he was relatively healthy--just needed to gain weight and fill out, which he did quite successfully.

As the summer progressed, Munch started getting braver. He came out to eat, sometimes attacking my feet in the process. He also started engaging in play with cat toys. September came and he seemed a bit more confident. Then, one day he stood next to me and rubbed up against my legs. I was overjoyed! I decided to reach down and stroke his back, thinking that I might lose my hand in the process... to my surprise, he responded with more rubbing and nuzzling. We took it slow--he was still fearful, but would come and sit on my desk. He also learned to purr again--I guess he never purred while he was outside by himself. It was sweet--he sounded like he was wheezing at first, then he put his voice into it. Happily, he now purrs like a jet engine.

I moved him to the guest room after a while and stayed with him for a few months. He started off under the bed, then slowly got comfortable on the bed. Now, on the nights that Paul gets up before dawn, I bunk with Munch--he loves to snuggle and is up as soon as the alarm clock goes off, demanding his breakfast. He loves to be brushed and has gotten used to being held and kissed--that took a while. We had a real test in January with his first vet visit. He passed with flying colors. He was quiet and cooperated, and when the tech gave him back to me, he clung to me and would not let go.

Munch is getting used to living with Bernie hound as well. They have moments of hiss and growl, but they are fewer and fewer. His mother, Emma Peel, was not amused to have to share her domain with another cat. They're slowly working it out--it's a process. Bottom line--both cats and safe indoors, are recovered from their difficult lives, have regained their health, and know love every single day. He still has fearful moments, but they are few and far between. One day this winter, he sat on the window seat watching the snow flakes fall with a smug grin on his big Tom-cat face. He knew he was warm and safe and will never be cold and scared again.

They say when a feral comes around and finds his person, it's a bond for life. I have no doubt about that. I have loved many cats over the years, but this one is truly special. I hope to share many many years with my big guy, who has me wrapped around his massive paws.

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