The world can be a big, scary place.
Dangers may be lurking around every corner.
Beasts prowl the night shadows unseen.
For small animals who wander onto one gated property, this place is more dangerous than most.
It is the exact opposite for the larger predators who reside here for THEIR protection.
Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, is home to over 80 abused and abandoned big cats.
And in this case, one feral kitten.
Staff and volunteers had begun hearing tiny meows coming from the shrubbery on November 20th, 2018.
They finally spotted a diluted tortie hanging around the sanctuary.
Fortunately, it was seen by the break room and food prep area, NOT near one of the larger cat habitats!
Volunteers, including Cat Man Chris Poole, human servant to “celebricats” Cole and Marmalade, joined in the trapping efforts. He had just donated 300 pounds of Weruva cat food for a feral colony next to Big Cat Rescue. Staff approached him, told him of the kitten and he immediately ran home to get a kitten trap.
The goal was to trap the feral beauty, have it vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Depending on the demeanor of the feline, they’d find it a home or release it in a safer feral colony.
But the kitten was apparently very street smart, and kept avoiding them.
Only frustrating INCHES separated their fingertips and bringing the kitten to safety.
Chris, media producer Afton Tasler, and many other volunteers spent a week setting live traps.
Propping the door open, they attempted to get it used to the cage WITHOUT being trapped inside.
They tried to lure the kitten in with the Weruva food since the high quality morsels usually can’t be resisted!
Using a recording, they played the sound of a mother cat calling to her kittens to draw it in.
The little girl was named Marshelle, a mix of the ladies’ middle names.
Other than having a few fleas, she was in good condition.
She was given flea treatment and de-wormer medication, as is protocol with many trapped strays/ferals.
Marshelle must have known she was surrounded by cat lovers.
Her first time being held by Afton, she didn’t try to fight it much like some ferals do.
She’d be fostered by Afton, who had high hopes the girl would soon turn into a love bug.
Socializing feral cats can be a long, slow process, but is absolutely possible!
In this case, Marshelle treated her foster mom to dinner-time purrs the very next evening!
On November 26th, Marshelle was happily cleared of fleas and passed her fecal, ear and SNAP testing!
A couple of months old, she weighed in at 2 pounds, so she’ll be spayed soon.
This is the minimum weight in the U.S to have kittens fixed.
This clean bill of health meant she’d be able to visit with the other kittens in the Kitten Cabana at BCR too.
Here they help the Humane Society of Tampa Bay foster and bring awareness of kittens needing homes.
The next day, socializing with other kittens was a success!
Marshelle was becoming braver with her humans as well.
…Or she may have been tuckered out from all the fun play time. (wink wink)
But that night when Afton checked on her, she was adorably curled up in a comforter.
She was so comfy and relaxed, she didn’t even flee when the light went on, disturbing her slumber.
Thank you Afton for snapping these sweet pics of Marshelle!
“It was such a big day for her, and we are making good progress!!”
Five days after her capture, and Marshelle was about to find herself the recipient of a beautiful gift.
Afton had been given permission to bring the baby girl to the Big Cat Rescue staff meeting that day.
Being exposed to numerous people during socialization is an important experience for the process.
The more people they can learn to trust, the easier it is for them to accept a new home and human attention.
So as Marshelle was lavished on by the many cat lovers in the room, one man stood out from the rest.
Howard Baskin, husband to Carole Baskin and the owners of the sanctuary, was debating against an internal struggle.
It had only been a short while since the openhearted and utterly catified couple…had lost their own beloved feline.
As many of us have sadly known, this is heartbreaking experience, fraught with emotions.
**They’ve understandably asked to remain private about their loss until they are ready to talk about it.
Please do not reach out to offer your condolences; they know we’re all here for them.**
All of a sudden, Howard stood up, walked over to the tiny kitten and took a chance at beginning to heal his broken heart.
Fatefully, baby Marshelle took to Howard immediately, as if it was meant to be.
Seeing what was happening, Carole snuck some pictures of her beloved during the special moment.
There may not be a more tear-worthy, heartwarming and adorable photo in the world, than their instant bond.
The meeting ended and Howard turned to Carole.
“Is it too soon?”
Carole blinked back tears, (just as we are now), and replied simply and honestly.
“It’s up to you.”
Knowing the decision had been already made for them, the staff burst into cheers.
Afton returned to her office with Marshelle to wait for her new mom and dad.
The once feral girl must have known she’d just hit the “kitty-jackpot” with her new family.
She was ready to accept love.
“Marshelle’s first treats, and she took them from my hand! She’s going to make a great pet when she realizes she is safe.”
A short while later Howard and Carole arrived to pick up their newest family member.
They renamed the little girl Pearlie, and she is delightfully settling into her new life.
Her days are spent snuggling with her new favorite humans.
She can safely enjoy the outdoors watching her version of “kitty TV”.
Kids these days and their technology! HAHA
Nothing will ever replace the cats, large or small, that have touched our hearts.
But for little Pearlie and her new family, they can spend the rest of their lives mending their hearts…together.
REMEMBER: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP; FOSTERING SAVES LIVES & SPAY AND NEUTER!
Can’t get enough of the a”meow”zing people of Big Cat Rescue? We can’t either and are blessed to call them friends. <3