It's time for another adventure with Weisie & The RappCats!
Sit back, relax, and join us - today you'll hear the story of Randy, the first cat I worked with (and fell in love with!) when I began volunteering at the shelter in the spring of 2019.
Hi, sweet Weisie!
I hope you're enjoying a great summer. I like to imagine you have consistently purrfect weather where you are - lovely sunrises, gentle breezes, and gorgeous sunsets. We're lucky in beautiful Rappahannock County - our sunrises and sunsets must be among the world's best. But it's also been really hot and humid the past few weeks! So we have some nice fans going at the shelter, and we've been giving everybody extra brushings so their coats aren't too heavy. They LOVE being brushed, just like you did.
Remember what Amber used to do on really hot days? You thought she will just plain silly. You preferred air conditioning on those days, but she sprawled out in the grass. I think she was pretending to be on a beach somewhere in Greece!
Weisie, today I’m going to share the story of
“The Amazing Randy”!
So…once upon a time, in a village named Flint Hill, a cat no one had ever seen before showed up. Nobody knew where the cat came from or belonged to. Some days the cat was suddenly there, and other days it seemed to disappear. When the weather was cold and rainy, people sometimes saw the cat huddled in a shed. The cat was afraid of people, and he ran away if approached. Nobody knew what to do.
The cat was skinny, and his hair was horribly matted. The side of his face was bleeding. His eye was swollen. He looked miserable and scared.
A very kind lady called us at RappCats and wanted to help. She had been leaving food out for him, but couldn’t catch him.
So RappCats took a trap over and put it near the lady’s house. We put lots of good food in it and waited…but NOTHING! The cat didn’t go near the trap!
But she did manage to get a picture of him and we posted it on our Facebook page hoping to find its owner. But at first, no luck...
And then, finally, another kind lady sent us a message:
“The peach and white cat that you posted a picture of has been at my house this morning. I’ve been seeing it off and on for about 4 weeks.
I am at work now but if the cat is there this evening I will bring it to you.”
She and lots of neighbors were trying to catch him. And then on April 22nd, this message:
“I have the white cat!”.
She got him to come inside her house! She fed him, and he ate a whole can of cat food right away! That must have tasted SO good to him!
We picked him up and took him to the vet right away. (We do that with all the cats, and this one really needed medical attention fast.) We were scared for him.
So…you won’t like this part Weisie, but it’s not really bad…the vet SHAVED HIM! His fur was so matted that we just had to, and the poor baby was too worn out to have his dignity hurt anyway. He was just glad someone had rescued him!
Then the vet made sure he got all his vaccinations, and she also fixed him. (No, he wasn’t broken, it means something else, but let’s not go into details here).
She said he had an abscess near his eye, but that his eye - thank goodness - was going to be fine. He’s so lucky that lady caught him. Did you know that indoor cats who get lost only survive 18 months to 2 years on average? He would definitely had died of that awful abscess.
Oh Weiser cat, I hope this isn’t bringing back too many bad memories. When I rescued you from the shelter and took you to the vet, they said you were SO sick. But you turned out healthy as a horse (why do they say that?) after they fixed (yeah, that too) you all up.
Anyway, we decided to call this cat Randy.
Weasie, I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. He was in a cage in our intake room. That’s where all the new cats stay for a bit before so they can just rest and so we can make sure they don’t have any contagious conditions.
Well Randy looked so sad and so pathetic. The other volunteers had seen him looking even much worse - he’d already been there for over a month, but I was brand new to RappCats. They had been really afraid he might not make it.
When I met Randy he wasn’t eating or standing up. He was so skinny he looked like a kitten, even though he wasn’t. He was really weak and the wounds on his face were still red and raw.
So my first challenge was to get him to eat. He didn’t move when I put his wet food in front of him, and he didn’t look at me. I mushed up the food, and touched just a tiny bit to his mouth. He licked it! We did that over and over.
Finally, he struggled to his feet, and started to eat out of his bowl! He was wobbly, but as long as I stood right there and talked to him, he kept eating. When I stopped talking, he stopped eating. It took ½ hour for him to get that food down but he did it. A good start.
Randy and I got into a routine, and I didn’t have to feed him by hand anymore. He was having regular poops now! (Yes, we celebrate these things.) He was able to stand longer and longer. Randy never seemed afraid really, just exhausted and dazed from his trauma.
After awhile, we moved Randy to a regular room. At first he just sat there and made no attempt to explore. He definitely didn’t seem to care about meeting the other cats and he never played. If you tried to play with him (like by moving a toy in front of him) it seemed like he didn’t even notice. He was definitely not out of the woods. But his fur was growing back!
I also noticed Randy didn’t move his head from side to side. When I waved my hand in front of his face, he didn’t “track” it. I wondered if he had lost some vision, but noticed other times when he could obviously see. It occurred to me that scar tissue from his wounds might be making it uncomfortable to swivel his head.
So I became Randy’s PT and masseuse! He adored the neck rubs and having his scars massaged. It didn’t seem to hurt him at all, and he gradually started moving his head to meet my hand. More progress!
Now it was time to teach Randy to play again. After trauma, that’s an ability that is lost - both in animals and humans. When I worked with traumatized kids as a psychologist, they often just wanted to act out repetitions of the trauma scene. We used to think that was helpful, but we’re rethinking whether that just ingrains it even more. It’s important to gradually introduce pure play unrelated to bad memories.
This wasn’t easy with Randy. He startled easily around toys, and movement often scared him. His natural “prey pounce” reaction was suppressed by his fear and he would just stare while the other cats (like Spots) played.
There was one toy I started to use, and it finally worked. We had a sisal scratching pad which had partially unraveled at one end. It was big enough that it was easy to track, and the loose rope could be used as a “snake,” which most cats love trying to catch.
Very, very slowly, I started moving the sisal in front of Randy. At first, no reaction. Adding a soothing voice and occasional soft finger snap, he would sometimes look at it. Rewarding him with praise and periodic treats (never every time, or the behavior links only to the treat) he started to focus on the sisal and follow its movement.
Gradually I could move it a bit faster without scaring him. And then one day - he reached out for the dangling rope! Randy had relaxed enough that his natural instincts were returning!
After this we gradually increased play time as well as touch time. He was hungry for touch as long as he was in control. From neck massages I was able to move on to whole body petting, and then to putting my hand under his belly - a prerequisite for eventually picking him up. Adding upward pressure every day under his stomach, I was soon able to lift him for a few seconds, and then to simply pick him up.
Randy was always sweet. Even when nervous, he never scratched or bit. He seemed from the beginning to realize we had rescued him and were trying our best. I do believe the RappCats know this.
Randy and I worked together all summer but things changed in the late fall. At that time, I couldn’t work with Randy as often. My mom, who was 95, was in a nursing home. Her dementia was increasing, and her health was declining rapidly. In November, she fell yet again. I left to be with her, and while I was there I got a voice mail from another volunteer asking if we could talk about Randy.
I worried something had happened, but just didn’t think I could return the call (I was afraid I couldn’t talk without crying). I texted and said I’d be happy to communicate that way though.
I got a text back saying that - to everyone’s great surprise and delight - Randy was being adopted! The volunteers were thoughtful enough to worry that if I returned and found Randy gone - without a chance to say goodbye - I would be heartbroken, so they wanted me to know.
Well, what a mix of emotions…I was shocked someone had selected him already (because he still had some work to do, and I wasn’t sure of his capacity to bond quite yet). But I was so happy for him as well! And, Pat Snyder (who called me) was right - I really appreciated the heads-up.
Just hours later, I had to make the decision to enlist hospice (they are angels) as I knew Mom’s time was extremely limited. Less than 48 hours later she passed peacefully on a Friday.
And you know what? In the fullness of my grief, there was - perhaps this will sound strange - also a warm glow.
It dawned on me that both Randy and Mom had gone home.
This is Mom's "Joy Companion", a robotic cat who provided her much enjoyment and comfort. She named him "Sweetie Pie" and he purred, rolled over, moved his paw, and looked up at her! It doesn't escape me that there is a resemblance to Randy!
Afterword…Randy is doing great. He was adopted by a family with two teenage daughters. He has bonded and follows the mom everywhere. He acquired 2 cat siblings and a dog (!) sibling, and he gets along with everyone. I’m so happy for him and will forever think of him as “The AMAZING Randy”. Even though I have to tell you his new name - which I love! - is “guacamole” (and sometimes, affectionately, “guac-guac”). “It was the first word that popped into my head”, one of the teens told me. Purrfect!
Well Weiser, wasn't that a great story? That's all for now, but there's SO many more RappCats stories and adventures. Stay tuned to meet all our newbies - Mr. Carson, Hermione, Tommy, Fawkes, and more! You're going to love them all...
(and if you can't wait til next time, check us out on Twitter @rappcats, where we post daily)
Yours 'til butterflies! Meow for now...
RappCats relies on animal lovers like you to keep us afloat.
We're not affiliated with the County government. We depend on volunteers to run the RappCats Adoption Center, to provide foster care, and to help with many other needs.
Your financial contributions, of whatever size, will help us to continue to provide a safe haven for Rappahannock’s abandoned and homeless cats, and to help Rappahannock County families and senior citizens with spay/neuter, rabies and other vaccinations, veterinarian care, and food for sick, stray or needy cats.
Even small donations are important!
Check and money orders can be mailed to:
RappCats P.O. Box 307 Washington, VA 22747
We also accept monetary donation from all major credit cards on PayPal.