Rubicon – Loving Cat with a Tale
Since this story was written, Rubi has passed over the Rainbow Bridge. He will be missed terribly! We love you Rubi!
Spring 2002 – Rubicon waited restlessly as I prepared to sit in the easy chair we moved into my office for our “special times” together. Before I could even settle in, he pawed at my leg to ask permission to jump onto my lap. I motioned to him to jump up, and when he did he immediately began to purr. He showered me with little kitty “head butts” to show his love; I returned by giving him small kisses and lots of petting.
This scenario was the culmination of many long months of work. Not always were his eyes full of trust and love. Not always was his fur soft and silky. Not always would he let me touch him. It all began on a cold, rainy March night in 2002, when I trapped Rubicon after seeing him outdoors around our house for about 10 months. The only way to get him into the house was to drag him along in the trap, with the smelly fish parts from the food I had used spilling out of the trap’s wire bottom. I took him into my office where I had prepared his “living quarters” in a 2 story cage. He bolted right into the cage much to my relief.
I should have expected it, but I hadn’t prepared myself for the possibility that he might not be tame. From our encounters outside I knew he was afraid of me, but many stray cats who are not “wild” are fearful of humans because of the abuse they often suffer at the hands of ignorant and unkind people. But Rubi (our name for him now) was petrified. He was what I surmised to be about 75 percent feral. (Feral cats are not socialized to people. They are usually cats who have never had any positive human contact but can also be former pets who revert to a wild status.)
Rubicon was extremely gaunt, his eyes were dull with lots of scabs over them, and he was voraciously hungry. I continued to feed him as much food as he wanted by shoving it into the cage as best I could, ignoring the hisses and “spits” he gave out, and poured water into his dish using a spout. After a few days we took the plunge and decided to get him into a carrier to take him to the vet for and exam and medical care. Of course as soon as he got out of the cage he ran around the room with no direction and tried to climb the walls as if this would give him safety. We used the knowledge we had about ferals and got him into the carrier with only minor injuries!!
I was saddened when Rubi turned out to be positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). FIV is a virus that suppresses a cat’s immune system, comprising the cat’s ability to fight off infection. FIV positive (+) cats are vulnerable to a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that normally are harmless to a healthy cat. Evidence suggests that the primary mode of transmission is through bite wounds, which may explain why free-roaming, un-neutered male cats, prone to territorial fighting, are most liable to get FIV. It is believed to only be spread through contact with the blood stream and is not believed to be spread through casual contact between cats. In fact, many people have both FIV positive and negative cats living in the same household. It is not transmittable to other species. A diagnosis of FIV is not necessarily cause for alarm. The virus has a relatively long incubation period and many FIV+ cats live happily and healthily for many years. The fact that Rubi was FIV + meant he couldn’t be adopted out through our adoption program, nor could he ethically be returned outdoors. So he was granted “sanctuary” status and is one of the dozens of sanctuary cats A.C.A.T. takes care of.
It took me several weeks but I realized Rubi wasn’t feral; he was just a stray who had reverted to wild. I worked diligently to gain his trust and within 2 months his socialization seemed to be complete: he was purring and wanting lots of human attention. At that point, he seemed to miraculously become “a pet” and has been one of the sweetest and most loving cats I have ever known.
As you may have noticed, Rubicon has only one eye. One day in May 2005 his eye ruptured, which the vet told me does happen to some FIV+ cats. He gets along just fine without it and also has arthritis in his hip and is losing his hearing a bit. But, what do you expect for a cat who is estimated to be 15 years old!!
A few months ago we almost lost Rubi because somehow he caught an upper respiratory infection that we unknowingly brought into the house. (We are exceedingly careful to not bring in any type of illness that our 3 FIV+ cats could catch.) He was in the hospital for 8 days but fortunately survived the virus and is back to his old self!!
Whatever happened to Rubi before he was rescued by A.C.A.T. is in the past. Now we just live in the present. And, one thing is certain: he is a loving and loved cat who will never again be harmed by people or by living outdoors.