Written by Patricia Gordon of Calgary, Alberta
The end of the month always brought about a flurry of activity in my residential complex as the moving vans pulled into and out of the parking lot. These departures also resulted in the discarding of unwanted items besides the dumpsters. On this occasion I noticed a mother, while holding her baby, placing an empty cat carrier by the bin, but I thought nothing of it. Eventually I became bored with the people-watching so I decided to head to the store. Upon my return the moving van was gone, and the collection of discarded items had grown. One thing struck me as odd as I looked at the cat carrier; a small blanket had been placed inside. Why did the mother put a blanket in the carrier, I asked myself? Then a horrible feeling came over me, and I suspected it wouldn’t be too long before I would see an abandoned cat.
Two days later, as I headed to work I noticed a young grey cat all alone. I had a hunch the appearance of this cat was connected to the departure of the family. The cat looked perplexed and unsure of his surroundings and I knew I couldn’t leave him there. I called to him softly and he bounded towards me; however, in my attempt to squat down to his level so I wasn’t towering him, my backpack slipped clumsily to the ground and scared him, and to my horror he fled. It was not until another two months later that our paths would cross again.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I had decided to go for a walk but opted to cut through the park; however, before I got to the park I glanced over a fence and noticed the grey cat curled up in the grass. My heart sank; he looked dead still. I called to him, but there was no response. I made a louder sound and finally he lifted his head but did not flee. I sensed he was exhausted from hunger. I was afraid if I made an attempt to catch him, though, he might run, so I opted to back away and walk the 300 yards or so to my house and grab some wet cat food and a container of water.
Upon my return the cat was lying in the same spot. I pushed the food and water under the fence and backed away. Not wanting to take his eyes off me he slowly made his way to the food; I had never seen a cat devour food so quickly. I could see he was quite thin. I knew he was famished so I returned with another can. I decided I would allow him to eat before attempting to pick him up and carry him home; however, he had other plans and quickly headed under the parked cars and down into the sewer.
Over the next little while I put out cat food and water around the areas I spotted him and learned a little more about his routine. In an attempt to avoid the afternoon heat, he often sought cooler spots under parked cars, down the sewer or under the port-o-potty in the park, not exactly sanitary places but then such is the life of an abandoned cat. I often observed him snoozing near a ground apartment window which was empty. It puzzled me about the timing between our first meeting and his reappearance, and then I began to make the connection. He must have been taken in and fed by someone, perhaps by the tenants who previously resided in the vacant apartment.
One evening I was watching television downstairs when the face of a cat appeared through the window; it was the stray kitty! A peeping Tom I laughed! But as quickly as he appeared he was gone. Although it was summer I knew once winter arrived Tom couldn’t continue living outside, yet he still wasn’t willing to let me get close to him. I put up found cat flyers and checked for lost cat reports on the various online websites, but nothing. I contacted the MEOW Foundation, a local no-kill cat rescue group, and was offered a trap, some cat food (which I was assured no cat could resist), along with instruction on trap setting.
That evening I put the rescue plan into action. The trap was secure and the bait inside; however, when I went to check on the trap 30 minutes later it was not Tom inside, but rather a healthy looking cat. Neither one of us was bemused by this unexpected seizure. I lifted the hatch and away he ran faster than Usain Bolt! I looked for Tom but he was nowhere to be found. Sensing I was being followed, I looked over my shoulder and was astonished by the sight of several cats following me! I felt like the pied piper, but one that smelled of fish!
I collected the trap and decided to make another attempt at 4:30 am hoping the neighborhood cats would be sleeping safely in their homes. I went through the routine of setting up the trap, which I would check every 30 minutes. On my return to the trap I noticed the door was shut. I beamed the torchlight into the cage and was relieved to see a familiar face staring back at me! I removed the chain securing the trap and headed into the house and placed Tom in a room. I felt sorry for the little guy. I checked on Tom periodically, and then sensing he was calm I sat beside him, talking to him softly. For some unknown reason I began to hum the tune You are my Sunshine; Tom allowed me to gently stroke him. He was safe now.
Once the shelter was open I contacted them with the good news. I was in tears after saying goodbye to Tom but found comfort in knowing the Meow Foundation would find him a good home. As much as I wanted to adopt him, I knew the Condo Board at that time would not allow me to have yet another cat. The rescue group gave Tom the name Machado, which I later learned was the name of a New York fireman who rescued a cat. Machado settled in at the shelter and it wasn’t long before he was adopted. Still, he has never strayed far away from my thoughts or heart – my little sunshine. See a photo of Machado when he arrived at Meow Foundation