This is one of the first pictures I ever took of our new cat, Maeby. When I took this, she wasn’t ours yet. At least we didn’t know she was.
We have lived in our current house for about 4 years. There have always been a lot of stray and feral cats running around this neighborhood. For a long time I was not aware that there were organizations who would help trap, spay or neuter, and release the cats. So unfortunately the population got pretty out of control before I realized there was something I could do to help. I contacted a local cat rescue and they offered to help me trap and fix as many cats as possible.
But I guess we weren’t the only ones getting alarmed at the number of cats running around. As soon as I started trying to regulate the cats’ feeding times to make it easier to catch them, another neighbor caught them all and dropped them off at a barn somewhere. Only a couple of cats got left behind, including our Maeby. She was a petite black and white cat who appeared to be missing an eye.
We thought Maeby was completely feral. She wouldn’t come within a foot of us, and she seemed to be fending for herself pretty well outdoors. Until January of this year. We had several weeks of below freezing temperatures with a snow storm mixed in. Maeby began getting closer and closer to us and our house – closer than she had ever gotten before. It seemed like she was asking for help. So I decided to start feeding her. And I put out a blanket and box to keep her warm.
Before long, Maeby and I became pretty good friends. She still wasn’t letting me pet her, but she would let me get pretty close while she ate her food. I would just sit on the front porch and talk to her every day. I reached out to some cat rescue friends for advice, unsure how I could help or how committed I was, and they referred me to the Rutherford County Cat Rescue. One of their volunteers offered to help me trap Maeby right away and take her to the vet to get spayed. Shortly before she was supposed to be trapped, Maeby began letting me pet her and even laid in my lap! I couldn’t believe it. When the cat rescue volunteers showed up they thought I was crazy for thinking she was feral. She was literally laying in my lap purring when they pulled up to my house. When only just a week before she wouldn’t let us near her. The volunteer shouted, “She’s tame!” I had to try to explain this was a new development.
I was under the ignorant assumption that once Maeby had been spayed she could be let back out into the neighborhood. I planned to continue feeding her, of course, and provide her with warm shelters in the winter. But I had no intention of bringing her in our house. Of course once she came back from her first vet visit, I was informed she would need to stay inside while she recovered. And then she would need to return to the vet to have surgery on her injured eye….which happened to be scheduled for an entire month out. She stayed in a crate the first few days, but it didn’t take long before she was roaming around our bedroom, sleeping on our bed, and cuddling up to me.
Still not entirely convinced she would live with us permanently, we began to call her our “maybe cat.” We were also watching a lot of Arrested Development at the time, so the spelling changed to ‘Maeby’ and became her name.
We became attached to each other very quickly. She was so excited to finally take her e-collar off and rub her head on all of the things.
We have struggled getting her adjusted to our toddler and other pets. But by the time her eye surgery came I knew she had adopted us for good. The vet informed us that once she was healed up from her surgery she would probably do best as an indoor cat. And there was no way I could imagine sending her to another home.
So now she lives in our bedroom until she and our other pets learn to get along. And can be trusted unsupervised.
What blew me away even more than her quick transformation and the strong bond we formed, was how much the Rutherford County Cat Rescue was willing to help me. They went above and beyond every step of the way from giving me advice, helping me get her to and from the vet, to gathering donations to cover all of the vet costs, and calling to check in on her progress along the way. They even provided me with supplies she needed for her care and recovery. I had no clue what I was getting myself into by trying to help this cat, and there was just no way I could have done it without them. Considering how attached Maeby and I have gotten to one another and how much joy she brings to our lives, that assistance and guidance was a priceless gift. I tear up sometimes just thinking about what her life was like before compared to what it is now. I know I can’t save all of the stray and feral cats in the world, but we saved this one. And that matters. And I learned so much in the process.
So since I am an artist and writer I have decided to start a project to raise awareness about helping feral cats. Maeby certainly would have been better off had we known about organizations like the Rutherford County Cat Rescue sooner. I want to help other people learn how they can help cats like her and control cat populations in their own neighborhoods. I also want to help the Rutherford County Cat Rescue raise a little bit of money so they can continue helping and saving other cats like Maeby. And of course, I want to tell Maeby’s story and share how she has touched my heart.
So I’ve decided to write a children’s book telling our story. It will be self-published, and a portion of the sales will be donated to the Rutherford County Cat Rescue.
I hope it will educate others on how to control feral cat populations and provide them the care they need.
And of course I hope it inspires other families to adopt cats in need of loving homes. Not all feral cats can be adopted and brought inside. Maeby must have had contact with some of our other neighbors from a young age, which made her easier to tame. That was why she became affectionate towards us so quickly. But just because they can’t be brought inside and snuggled up with doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t help them.
I am using a mixed media collage technique for creating the illustrations of the book. I think I am about half way done with them. But there is still a lot of work to do.
Stay tuned to this blog and to my Instagram @neophyte_mai for progress updates on this book. I hope when it’s available for sale one day you’ll all consider helping me spread the word about it and maybe purchasing a copy if you’re able.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for the support!