I’ve always been an animal guy, as a kid I grew up with cats, dogs, fish, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits and my younger brother even had a pet tarantula! (I wasn’t too fond of that though)
My mum had a black cat named Sarah since I was baby and later on we added Becky a golden retriever to our family too…
As an “adult” there were several other cats in my life before we rescued Cole and Marmalade, so I thought I’d write about the the “others” and share them with you…
I first moved to America in May 2008 to work at BIG CAT RESCUE, I lived on site in a trailer and had a leopard for a neighbor! Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary in Tampa for rescued big cats, it was founded in 1992 in a pretty rural area, but since then outlets had sprung up around it and a mall was opened half a mile away in 1999. BCR had always done their part to help small cats too and any feral cats that wandered onto their property were trapped and fixed and then cared for at the sanctuary or adopted out with volunteers.
They even offer a FREE PASS for a tour at the sanctuary if you show them proof that you have spayed or neutered your cat/s in the past year! – “SPAY & PLAY” 🙂
Cali was one of those cats who lived on the property with a staff member and when she left, Cali came to live at my place and kept me company. I was working as the videographer and worked from the same trailer so we had plenty of time to hang out with each other and we quickly became friends. She was the first cat I had cared for since I was a kid, she slept on my bed at night, watched me edit big cat videos on the computer and was ALWAYS ready to snuggle at the end of the day!
My fondest memories of Cali were my lazy Sundays, I used to work 6 days a week at BCR, so on Sundays after cleaning, doing laundry and all that other boring stuff, I’d crash on the couch to watch a movie and drink some tea and Cali was always there to chill with me. She would lay on my chest with her face literally 3 inches from mine and then she’d begin to purr and drool all over my shirt, good times 🙂
While Cali was living with me another cat was in need of home and her name was…
Luna was also a feral cat who had been trapped/fixed and then she went to live in intern/staff housing so she was safe, well fed and they could socialize her. Situations were changing with new cats being rescued and it was just me and Cali living in a pretty big two bedroom trailer, so we decided it would be best if she could come and live with us in the spare room.
Luna was a pretty little girl, but she was very shy and skittish, it was my first experience caring for a semi feral cat and it took a lot of time for her to feel comfortable with me. I set her up in the largest bedroom/bathroom and used a section from a pet crate in the doorway so she could look out at the rest of the trailer and hopefully become friendly with Cali…
Things went pretty well considering, I created a bed area under a round table and draped cloth over the front so it was nice and dark for her so she’d feel safe and whenever I fed her or cleaned out her water bowl I’d talk in a low voice so she’d get more used to my presence. With time she began to warm up to me and eventually she allowed me to pet her… Luna LOVED butt scratches and this was the key to our friendship, it got to the point where I’d go in her room and say “Lu Lu” and she’d run out to say hello and then present me with her butt 🙂
Unfortunately one night the usually extremely sweet Cali cat managed to climb over the partition and started fighting with Luna, I was awoken by the kerfuffle and sprinted to the other side of the trailer and broke it up immediately, but the damage had been done. Although Luna was fine she was very shaken up by the experience and I knew from that day on, that it was unlikely they’d ever be friends 🙁
So Luna was living by herself for a long time, I’d go in there a few times a day to make a fuss and spend time with her but I still felt bad for her not being able to explore more and really enjoy life indoors with us… Then Jess moved in, so I moved my office into the smallest bedroom/bathroom at the other end of the trailer, this made room for all of her belongings… Plus it meant that I could work all day and Luna would be there with me rubbing on my legs and getting much more attention 🙂
But it still seemed wrong for her to be cooped up in a bedroom all the time so I decided to bring it up in a staff meeting at Big Cat Rescue. Since Cali was such a sweet girl and loved attention all the time too we figured she’d do great in the staff offices with multiple people fussing on her all day, this way we could let Luna roam our entire apartment!
So Cali went to live in the offices, although I missed her snuggles, I really wanted Luna to have a better life and I know Cali was loving all the attention from the other staff members and volunteers, I also got to see her whenever I wanted as well 🙂
So for several weeks Luna was the queen of the apartment and we both took the time to help let her know that it was safe and she could finally explore everywhere. She took an immediate liking to Jess and she would sit on the kitchen floor and call her name and Luna would trot out of her room and check out her new territory… Then demand lots of butt scratches before darting back in to her safe zone.
But then another cat needed a place to live and his name was…
Jack Jack had been a resident at Big Cat Rescue his entire life, he had grown up at the sanctuary and greeted tour guests everyday as they were guided around learning about the work we did to help BIG cats… Everyone loved Jack Jack, I definitely had a soft spot for him and it was so funny to see him walk the tour path with guests only 5 feet from 500lb tigers and lions!
There were several cats that wandered the property, they were all fed twice a day, treated for internal/external parasites every month and all of them had nice warm beds in our volunteer sign-in cabin. Jack was born in 1995 and he was getting up there in the age department, we had a main gate that automatically opened and closed from the inside as volunteers were leaving… One day Jack didn’t see or HEAR the gate closing and if it wasn’t for an eagle eyed volunteer swooping in to save the day Jack would have been in serious trouble!
That was when we discovered that Jack was pretty deaf and with automatic gates, golf carts, trucks and heavy machinery in use every day we decided that his time living outside was coming to an abrupt end… It was definitely the best decision for this senior kitty and with winter approaching we started putting the word out within our volunteer force to try and find him a home. We were all sad that we wouldn’t get to see Jack Jack everyday and worried that after spending almost 20 years at the sanctuary, life in an entirely new home and area would effect him badly… So I suggested that Jack could come live with us and everybody agreed emphatically!
BCR’s founder also arranged for a huge screened in porch area to be added to the outside of our trailer so Jack could wander in and out via the cat door as he pleased… The volunteers also loved that they could still stop by and say hello to Jack too 🙂
Of course this meant that Luna was relegated back to her space again and although Jack was one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever known, I put the partition back up. Don’t worry Luna got more than enough attention both during and after work and we were all just pleased that we were making the situation work for both cats.
Jack Jack settled in to life indoors amazingly well and I think he really enjoyed the warmth and comfort, plus the never ending supply of food! Check out this video I made of the “old man” in action, I think these were the first cat toys he had ever played with and we also introduced him to catnip!
Life was good, we were living at a big cat sanctuary home to over 100 rescued exotic cats and we were also owned by two sweet “domestic” cats too… Then a tiny black kitten came into our lives!
When a friend of Jess’s found a kitten wandering around at a busy intersection one evening, she of course texted us because I was the “cat guy” to see if we could help… We saw the picture of Cole and knew he was coming home with us!
You can read more about Cole HERE
So we were now sharing our place with three cats, after baby Cole had spent many days in our bedroom/bathroom area and we were confident that he was flea free, he was let loose in the trailer! … Old man Jack was the most easy going dude around and really didn’t care much at all that this tiny little fluff ball had suddenly appeared in his territory…
If Cole did get too rowdy and Jack wanted some alone time, he could just pop out on the porch out of the way… Jack played with Cole a little but he was happy to spend most of the day on the porch sleeping and then come in at night for food and couch time… and Luna was cool being my office supurrvisor, OK the trailer was surely at capacity now, right!?
Two months after Cole came into our lives we were at Petsmart one Sunday and saw an adoption area in the store, obviously we had to go check out the cats and kittens and we were drawn towards a black kitten. We got chatting with the person from the rescue and discovered that his brother had just been adopted (tabby cat) and she was dissapointed that the two of them hadn’t been adopted together as a bonded pair which would have been ideal.
We both looked at each other…
We’d been saying how great it would be if Cole had another kitten to play with since he had soooooo much energy to spare and old man Jack would rather just watch this little black kitten do dumb stuff rather than participate! … So after thinking about it over coffee across the street we said let’s go back to the store and if the black kitten is still there we’ll adopt him, it was Father’s Day after all … he was still there 🙂
Dean was the runt of the litter and he had just recovered from an eye infection, this made us want to get him out of there and provide him with a good home even more. Back at the trailer we bathed him and discovered fleas yet again, nowhere near as bad as Cole, but bad enough.
We put him on quarantine in our bathroom until he had been checked out by our vet and then declared flea free again, talk about Déjà vu! … Then after several days we introduced him to his new brother, Cole was bigger than Dean, but as many of you know he’s a very sweet cat and the intro went smoothly…
They were running around like best buddies in no time at all and we both felt very lucky that we could provide Dean with a furever home and Cole with a new playmate with almost as much energy as he had! … Dean was a very cute and innocent cat and he soon learned that us humans were nice and warm to sleep on, my neck quickly became his favorite place to take a nap and before long, Jack, Cole and Dean were all sharing the same space with no problems at all 🙂
We now had one big, happy, kitty, family and we always had free entertainment with 4 cats in the trailer, my favorite time of the day was in the evenings when we’d all settle on the couch together 🙂
Unfortunately Dean’s eye infection returned within a week, we treated him and it cleared up pretty fast… Then 3-4 weeks later Dean lost the use of his back legs overnight, the vets tried everything over 2 days and 2 nights to try and help him, but nothing worked and neurological problems were deemed the culprit.
So after only 6 weeks with us we had to make the painful decision to say goodbye to Dean.
It’s always tough to say goodbye to animals that you’ve cared for, I was kind of used to it working at Big Cat Rescue… We had lots of senior cats living at the sanctuary and every year it was inevitable that we said our last goodbyes to some of the residents.
Losing Dean hit me hard, despite only being with us for a short amount of time we still bonded with him very closely and I couldn’t help but cry when they brought him into the room to see me one last time (Jess couldn’t bare to come with me). You could tell he recognized me and he perked up a little when he saw me, I sat there with him wrapped in a blanket trying to sooth him until the drugs took effect and he was gone…
I think knowing he only had such a short life made it worse, there’s so much more fun stuff that he could have experienced with us all, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be…
I recently made this memorial video to celebrate the short life he had with us…
Many months after Dean passed away we made the decision to move out of the trailer into an apartment around the corner from the sanctuary. We took Cole with us, but Jack and Luna remained at the sanctuary and I continued to work from the trailer everyday… I felt bad that Jack was only getting attention during the day now, so a longtime volunteer decided to adopt him and he went to live at her house with a few other cats and a GIANT screened in pool area, the purrfect retirement! – Unfortunately he passed away last month at almost 21 years of age, it was his time… RIP Jack Jack.
Luna remained my office cat for quite sometime until a Big Cat Rescue intern decided to adopt her and she’s now loving life as the only cat in the house with endless butt scratches!
Cali cat also passed away a senior kitty a couple of years ago all the staff and volunteers miss this super sweet kitty.
Sorry for the sad ending to this post, but I know many of you can relate and I think it’s important to remember the animals that have been part of your life… I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane about how I became a cat man 🙂
Thanks fur reading.