We’d been watching Huskie’s ears for a couple of years, as you do. Well, one in particular had started to develop some nasty dry-looking sores. I showed photos to a couple of vets who both said pretty much the same thing - ‘looks like squamous cell carcinoma. In a feral cat, that’s going to very hard to treat’. It turned out it wasn’t exactly the treatment (outer ear removal) that would be difficult, it was the recovery element which would mean wearing an e-collar for two weeks before returning to the vet to have stitches removed.
Obviously in a pet cat, no problem. In a feral, how on earth do you (a) manage it for two weeks and (b) then get the animal back into the special small cage used for anaesthetising it …? And what if it escaped with the collar on … it’s tied on with tape so that doesn’t bear thinking about.
Both vets expressed serious doubts about the whole process and thought it may be better to euthanase him when the ulcers got very bad.
When the worst ulcers started bleeding and we saw him rubbing his head against walls, it was time to take the plunge, albeit with some trepidation.
Here he is before the surgery.
I kept it wired up for a couple of weeks so it wouldn’t spring, and I kept putting yummy things in it. After a while, he was going right in. Once this was happening, I booked the surgery, and set the trap properly - the biggest challenge being stopping others thinking this was a brilliantly elaborate way of getting some serious treats!
The day of the surgery came and having trapped him the night before, and transferred him to the special anaesthetic cage, off we went to the clinic. Javier our lovely vet, had a quick look and said yes I can do it, the cancer is not too advanced.
Back home, we’d set up a large cage in the bathroom. And here is Huskie that evening. Easy to manage so far!!
Step 2: managing him in the cage
Now, Huskie is very feral (there are degrees of feral!). He will not let me touch him. If he accidentally allows me to brush past him, he bolts.
The thing about feral cats is that they really don’t want to be inside a building. When we’ve had one escape a trap inside, or get shut in for some reason, it’s a scary thing. They jump vertically looking for a gap. They see windows as holes that if they can get up to, they can escape out of. The last time it happened I was worried the cat would break his legs with the ferocious and desperate jumping. You just have to quickly open all the doors and hope the cat will run out before it’s hurts itself.
So managing a feral cat wearing an e-collar in a cage indoors means absolutely not allowing any possibility of escape from the cage - even into the house.
So how were we going to open the cage to put his water and food in?, we pondered. Lightbulb moment - Adam found some wooden slats in the garden and we found a way of holding Huskie in one part of the cage securely while we opened the door at the front. We would slide slats in from the top of the cage to the bottom and leaving them there while the door was open. This seemed to work well, and even better, the whole floor slid out of the cage to allow for cleaning.
We knew keeping the cage covered with a blanket, providing darkness, would help to keep Huskie feeling as relaxed and hidden as possible during his confinement.
You can see the whole set up below, and the wounds early on in the healing process.
Another challenge was actually getting him to eat. The collar meant he found it very awkward and put food all over the place and little actually being eaten. We found various ways of propping bowls up so they were higher, and eventually found these special elevated and angled versions. Another challenge met!
Here he is eating (Huskie likes eating, a lot!).
Finally, the challenge was how to get him out of the larger cage and into the much smaller wire cage to go to the vet.
The trick with transferring feral cats from one thing to another thing is to use (a) blankets and (b) their fear of you as a human being. The place you are wanting a feral to move to needs to promise darkness and safety, as you remove that very feeling from the original location. So we basically removed the slats, lifted the blanket and stood over the large cage to get him to move into what appeared to be a dark tunnel.
And it worked like a charm. Suddenly he was securely in the anaesthetic cage! Here are the three steps below.
The vet was very pleased with the way the wounds had healed and removed the stitches and the collar under anaesthetic.
And then Huskie came home. The next day we let him out. It was brilliant to see him free again, and the two boys back together.
And just look at him now. He’s still very handsome, and cancer free.
Now, I'm just waiting for someone to ask me what on earth type of animal is that large black and white creature!!