Thinking of adopting a cat? This column is both an invitation to do so and a warning not to.
The cat goes by the pseudonym “KittyCat”. KittyCat is wanted. Not wanted by a loving family – wanted by the law. This is an outlaw cat, in desperate trouble.
Considered armed and dangerous, KittyCat is to be taken into custody on sight, if possible, and delivered to Cat Jail (aka the Animal Shelter). It is possible that KittyCat faces the death penalty, if not adopted.
KittyCat’s crime: KittyCat delivered a skin-breaking bite, leaving two clear fang punctures and a third tooth puncture. The victim is expected to survive the wound although KittyCat is sought to be observed for signs of rabies.
KittyCat is at large in Southwest Berkeley. Officials are hopeful KittyCat will soon be taken into custody. If KittyCat shows no signs of rabies, adoption is a possibility – otherwise the death penalty follows.
A Troubled Youth
I have been tracking the story of KittyCat for some time. I have pieced together the tale of a difficult youth based on interviews conducted over more than two years.
As an adolescent, KittyCat came to live in a in a Southwest Berkeley apartment we shall call “the HipsterPad.”
KittyCat lived in the HipsterPad with a caretaker we shall call “Original Daddy”. Original Daddy and KittyCat moved into the HipsterPad with a paramour whom we shall call “Kind Lady”. To this domestic situation, Kind Lady brought her puppy, whom we’ll dub “Happy Puppy”.
For reasons unclear , Original Daddy and Kind Lady parted ways. Original Daddy left HipsterPad but declined to take KittyCat with him. Kind Lady did not quite adopt but neither quite kicked out KittyCat.
This is the beginning of an apparently common pattern: KittyCat began to belong more to the apartment than to any particular person.
After Original Daddy left, Kind Lady and Happy Dog found a new (human) beau. A swell guy whom we’ll call “Swell Guy”.
Swell Guy and Kind Lady and Happy Puppy eventually decided to move on to a sweeter pad. A deal was worked . Some acquaintances of theirs, folks whom I’ll call the “Fancy Group,” took over the HipsterPad and retained a portion of the rent control benefit. They (sorta) took over care for KittyCat.
KittyCat had new caretakers – but with a catch. A three-day warning eviction notice was tacked to the door for non-payment of rent. One of the Fancy Group members moved out. Another moved in. The group persisted but the cast changed. In the midst of all this, one new resident was a new dog.
The new dog, whom I shall dub “Dangerous Fool,” is a pure Pit Bull. He’s a Pure Pit Bull with a very sweet temperament for the most part for a non-neutered adolescent male dog. Alas, he was very badly trained. Left off his leash, Dangerous Fool charged any stranger in sight, baring teeth, nipping, and once (allegedly) catching a child by the ankle.
In spite of the bad training, Dangerous Fool was left off leash much of the time. Some tense words occurred between me and the Fancy Group as a result.
KittyCat survived among all this chaos. I could see he wasn’t bathed as often and dropped some weight – but KittyCat is tough and he got by.
Abruptly, the Fancy Group announced their departure. The HipsterPad would be empty.
“Are you guys taking KittyCat?”
“Well, we’re going to leave him here for a couple of weeks while the upstairs neighbors take care of him, then come back and pick him up once we’ve settled. We talked to them. We’ll leave them with a bunch of food.”
“Ahh,” I managed.
“We should leave some food with you, too, just in case.”
“Uh... OK,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
The Fancy Group had never actually arranged for the upstairs neighbors to care for the cat. Had never given them food. Had told them simply that, “KittyCat? Oh, that’s not our cat.” KittyCat was abandoned. I was left holding the bag, so to speak.
I wiped the dirt of deception off of my glasses and tried to make the best of things.
Here’s the deal:
KittyCat is a middle-aged or perhaps slightly senior male. He’s sweet. He’s tough. He enjoys the outdoors. He likes coming inside. He likes being rubbed. He likes catching mice and gulping them down in a couple of bites.
He does have some issues. Don’t scratch his belly. He likes that just fine because, to him, that means you want to fight. He’ll present his belly. He’ll play along. Then he’ll attack. I learned that many, many months back before all the chaos. He likes head rubs quite a bit. I never had any trouble with head rubs until the other day, when I was putting out food and water for him. He asked for head rubs and he got head rubs. It went on quite well for quite a while.
Then he bit me. Hard.
So You Think This Is Unusual?
I called the very kind folks at the very reluctant to kill Berkeley Animal Shelter.
“Hi. My name is Tom. I have this awkward problem with a cat. My neighbors had this cat....”
Well, I had said about that much, more or less, when she interrupted:
“And they moved away and left it behind?”
“How did you guess,” I said without actually asking.
We chatted a bit. One gist is that I could bring the cat in myself and have it go up for adoption. But then our chat took a darker twist.
Something I said – I forget exactly what – caused my friend on the phone to ask:
“Wait... stop … did he bite you?”
“Did it break the skin?”
“Yes.” I did not say it to her, but actually it broke the skin a bit more than I am used to in cat incidents. Don’t get me wrong: thorough cleaning and direct pressure did the trick – but if the bite had been a quarter inch to the side I’d have been in the Emergency Room with a major vein or artery puncture.
“Hold on. Let me grab a form. I need to do a bite report. We want to quarantine that cat for rabies.”
Save This Cat (Maybe)
Let us assume, as I do, that the shelter will (as is their policy) observe KittyCat for a few days and make sure there are no signs of rabies. I rather doubt KittyCat has rabies.
Then KittyCat goes into the usual program that happens when any cat is dropped off:
KittyCat is abandoned and so adoption is the main path to life.
Are you a really qualified cat person who wants to adopt a slightly troubled, older, abandoned, non-rabid neuter male KittyCat?
Until next week, do be in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org