Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Funny Thing Is, I'm Really A Dog Person

Oscar getting a bit better, and a bit more comfortable in his new surroundings.

We have a wild animal living in our bathroom.

His name is Oscar.

Ever since we moved out here into the country outside Prague, we've been feeding a few stray cats in the neighborhood. One cat in particular would show up like clockwork for breakfast and dinner.

At the start, he would run away if we attempted to get near him or pet him. But gradually, over time, he let us scratch his ears, and pretty soon we could pet him for a few minutes before we gave him his food.

Emma named him Oscar.

We grew attached to Oscar over the months, and would worry when he'd disappear for a few days. But he'd always return. Dirtier, and with burrs in his fur, but he'd always return.

He's a tough cat.

Oscar, a few hours after his capture, and while he was still quite sick.

Once, he appeared for breakfast with a very bloody paw. It appeared as if something had sliced into his paw. We could see a bloody straight line in his fur. We discussed what to do. We tried to catch him and put him in a cat carrier, but as soon as he knew what we were trying to do, he'd run away.

We asked around about any city pet rescue service, but nothing like that exists here. We thought perhaps we could tranquilize Oscar with something in his food, but the vet we contacted said that would be dangerous, since Oscar would likely just fall asleep out in the woods somewhere.

So we did nothing, reluctantly.

Eventually, the wound healed, and Oscar seemed none the worse for wear. We were relieved.

A few months later, a large abscess appeared on the side of Oscar's face. It looked bad.

A few morning's later and Oscar appeared for breakfast. The abscess had burst. The whole side of his face was bloody and raw.

We tried to catch him, but as I grabbed him at the scruff of the neck, he'd freak out and run away.

Again, we felt helpless.

But once again, the wound eventually healed, and Oscar seemed fine.

Flakey, a real fighter, on Stewart's lap.

In the meantime, a cat we called Oscar Junior started showing up along with Oscar. They seemed very friendly with one another. We thought that Oscar might be the father, since Junior looked a lot like Oscar.

Sadly, Oscar Junior was hit by a car near our house, a sad story which I previously wrote about here.

We've had some happy cat experiences, too.

Last July, just an hour before we were scheduled to leave to catch a flight to Croatia, as we were chilling on the back porch, Daisy heard a strange noise. It sounded like a bird to me, but Daisy knew better. A little poking around uncovered a tiny white kitten, its eyes still shut, meowing and meowing under a tree in our neighbor's yard. It couldn't have been more than a day or two old. Its mother was nowhere to be found.

How it managed to get under that tree we'll never know.

Fortunately, our landlord, Jaroslav Kumbera, was doing some work on our house, and we convinced him to take the kitten to the vet. We couldn't miss our flight. We'd pay for everything, we just wanted him to see if there was any hope the kitten could survive.

From Croatia, we learned via text messaging that the kitten, whom Mr. Kumbera had named Flake, was hanging in there. They were feeding it special milk from an eye dropper, and it seemed to be responding.

To make a long story short, we returned two weeks later from Croatia, and took ownership of Flake. She was in pretty good shape, all thanks to Mr. Kumbera and his wife. They had saved his life.

Flake had a nasty eye infection (see pictures at left and just below) that was being treated with drops and ointment, but she had a good appetite, and was very active.

After a few weeks, Flake began to eat on her own, and her eyes cleared up.

We already have two cats of our own, and we didn't want a third. And it just so happened that my good friend Stewart was looking for a cat for his two boys.

And that's were Flakey, as she was rechristened, is living today, some eight months later.

Believe it or not, another cat started appearing along with Oscar for his feedings. This cat was so sweet, and had no trouble in letting us pet her. Since Stewart was looking for a second cat to add to his family, it seemed an obvious choice.

Flukey, as she is now known, is living with Flakey, and all is well.

All was well, that is.

Until we started noticing that Oscar had developed a very nasty cough and seemed to have trouble breathing. And it seemed to be getting worse.

I came home from work on March 12 to find Oscar underneath a pine tree in our front yard, coughing so hard he was almost convulsing. He was so sick he didn't even pay me any mind as I walked past. He was obviously a very sick cat.

I decided it was time to try to catch him and take him to the vet. If I could.

I found our cat carrier in the basement, took it outside and opened it up near his food bowls.

Sweet Flukey, in her new home.

Oscar did finally come over to see if there was any food, and I slowly grabbed him by the scuff of the neck.

He didn't resist, and even let me put him halfway into the carrier. But then he freaked out and I was forced to let go. He ran away.

I thought I had blown my one chance.

He eventually came back to his food bowls and I tried again. I grabbed him the scuff of the neck until he was hanging limply. And this time he didn't resist at all as I slid him into the cage and closed the door.

We are very lucky to have one of Prague's best veterinary clinics just a few kilometers from our house -- the Veterinary Klinika in Horoměřice. They have always been gracious, even when I've walked in without an appointment.

I was unsure how Oscar would react to being examined by the vet, but he was so sick that he didn't really resist. He was even docile enough to allow me -- clad in a gigantic lead apron -- to hold him down while his lungs were X-rayed.

Oscar Junior, with Oscar, chowing down one day last year.

I've been back to the vet three times now and spent about $110, and the verdict is that Oscar has pneumonia. He's been given a 14-day treatment of antibiotics, and has been living in our downstairs bathroom since March 12. He's taken to indoor life fairly well, but he's scared of strange noises or sudden movements.

I think he's just happy to be warm and and dry is enjoying the idea of sleeping without having to worry about getting eaten by a wild animal.

Unfortunately, some of the medicine has given him a bad case of diarrhea, so that's not been at all pleasant. Surprisingly, though, he's taken to using the litter box, so it could be a lot worse. A lot worse.

Oscar's due back at the vet on March 30, and the doctor said not to let him outside between now and then or his recovery would be jeopardized. He still has a very horrible-sounding cough, a cough that seems to wrack his whole body.

In the meantime, Oscar's sleeping and eating in his private hotel room, and he's even taken to rolling over so that we can scratch his stomach.

He's really a sweet cat. He loves to be petted, has a robust purr, and has never tried to bite or scratch us. I call him feral, but it seems like he has had a home life somewhere in his past. He is curious about our two cats, but not in an aggressive way. (We're keeping them separate, of course.)

The doctor said he's only about three years old, so it's hard to imagine what life has handed him so far. But he spent all of this brutally cold winter outside, even when we did everything we could to coax him in. The guy deserves a break.

Know anyone who wants to adopt a cat?


  1. We are looking to adopt a cat, but sadly live far away, in New Jersey.

    We once had an Oscar, too. He was hit by a car...thanks for all you're doing for this one.

  2. Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it. I'm certain we can find a good home for him.

  3. Men like us that care so deeply for the well being of cats are far and in between. I'm in Prague (Stodulky) myself and am waiting to get my 16 year old cat over here from the states. Bless you for what you are doing!
    There is a forum which I belong called It's one of the biggest cat forums on the net.

    I'd love to do rescue, but at the moment am not able to...

    Come join us and share your stories. The people are great there.