Cats/Wobble feral cat
QUESTION: We have just returned from 2 weeks in Alaska to SE Ohio & learn the feral cat we have been feeding dry Nine Lives food on the front porch is not well. 19 yr old daughter described him as shaky, but now seeing him, he looks like he's constantly over-correcting as he attempts to move at all. His coat is wet, but he does groom himself. He would not get out of the rain today, but eventually laid in the sun. He's not leaving our front yard, either from pain or wanting something from us. He is feral. We have never touched him, but over the last 7 years, he has come faster and more confidently to our steps AS WE FEED HIM, knowing we are shutting the door behind him. Watching him through the glass is breaking our hearts as he WOBBLES so. We have a live trap, but have never tried to catch him. He's smart, savvy, and has been VERY skittish of humans. But we don't want to starve him to get him into the trap. Any idea what the deal might be with this older Tom? We don't have any money invested in him and money is tight, but we are very concerned. What would you do? Trap him? Trip to a vet? Have him (gulp) put down? Please advise us. Orangy looks thinner and wasting away.
ANSWER: Hi Kirk,
I'm sorry to hear about the poor little guy. He certainly needs to be taken indoors right now. If he is in poor enough shape for you to catch up to him, you may be able to throw a large, thick towel over him and scoop him up. If he's still too fast and strong, it will be worth it to withhold food for 24-48 hours to trap him. A kitty in this condition won't survive long, especially outdoors.
A vet visit is in order. I can't say what's wrong with the little guy. Sometimes wobbling can be caused by a bad ear infection, and an antibiotic will cure it. But it may be due to a viral infection, growth or organ failure that's causing neurological signs. These are less treatable. Or, you might not be dealing with a neurological issue at all. The vet will need to discuss how easy his condition will be to diagnose and then how easy it will be to treat. Let the vet know the cat is a feral and you are interested in taking a conservative approach.
If you find it feasible to pay for the diagnosis and treatment, you will probably need to keep the kitty in a dog crate or very small room in order to administer the treatment. If suspected to be an infection, you can ask if an injectable antibiotic is appropriate, which will spare everyone the stress of administration at home. He will need to stay inside until he's no longer wobbling, for his safety.
If it's not practical to pay for the diagnosis or treatment, or the vet feels the condition is untreatable, I think the kindest choice is to put the kitty to sleep. A natural death outdoors is profoundly difficult, and it's a certainty for a cat who isn't in peak physical condition. You would be doing the kitty a wonderful kindness to spare him that experience.
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QUESTION: Thank you for a prompt, complete answer. A local vet has agreed to open up to exam him, IF we can safely live trap him...even on a holiday weekend and without inflating prices! Sounds like a vet we will give our business! Still working on trapping Orangy. I may have mis-stated: Orangy has never been inside our house. He will begin running up to our steps even before we have turned away and closed the door behind US. But if we don't clear out, he won't come near. He trusts only to that extent. So, we hope and try... Thanks again!
ANSWER: That's great news! I hope it all works out wonderfully.
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QUESTION: We've just returned from the vet. She opened up to examine the cat and determined that he had pneumonia. Upon sedating him so she could handle him and do a more complete exam, she found he had a hard mass near the bladder and determined he had cancer. We agreed to put him down. We will bury him by morning light tomorrow. He's at rest now, not in pain, and not afraid.
I'm sorry to hear his condition was untreatable. But what a wonderful thing you did for your little Orangy fellow. I'm so happy to hear that the choice was clear and that he was looked after kindly. The world could stand a few million more people like you!