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A Special Painting for a Special Person

In February of this year, my husband and I noticed a black cat hopping about on three legs, unable to put any weight on the fourth. We have a feral cat colony living in our neighborhood, the residents of which multiply yearly. There are around seven 'permanent' residents, and another five or so wanderers, all of which are dutifully fed by our neighbors.

'Buddy,' as we call him, is one of the colony's permanent residents, and has always appeared to be a picture of health. To watch him limp around the yard day after day was heartbreaking. As these are feral cats, they are not trusting of people, and will not allow someone to approach them, much less take them to a vet to receive medical care. When Buddy didn't get better, my husband and I started calling cat rescues and vets offices, hoping for someone to help us.

Black cat outside
Buddy, the cat who started it all

This proved quite a challenge; no one was willing to help. Every organization we called either referred us elsewhere, or simply said they'd euthanize him, which felt wrong and angered us. We were determined not to let that happen. However, we called around for two days, and it became frustrating to hear the same responses of, "No, we don't treat ferals," or "You could try calling 'x,y,z' clinic." All of these leads led to dead ends... until we found Jessica.

Feeling defeated, I called my mom, remembering vaguely that there was a woman who worked in cat rescue who lived near them when I was a kid. My mom sent me her phone number and I dialed it. A woman answered and I gave her the story I had already repeated several times over the past two days. When I asked, "Will you help us," I expected to hear another 'no,' but without missing a beat, the woman on the other end of the phone said, "Yes, I'll help you." I couldn't believe it. Of all the people and places we called, she was the only one to say, 'yes.' This was Jessica of National Foundation for Animal Rescue (NFFAR).

Jessica set us up with a trap, which was a large wired cage with a wooden floor. It had an open door, which was held up by a nail tied to a string. She explained how when we put food in the back of the trap, we would pull the string, and the door would quickly shut, trapping the cat. Then I would drive the cat to her house, where she operates the rescue. After arriving with the cat, I would assist her with safely transferring the cat to another cage where we would administer flea medication, and then finally set up the cat in a large suite to await veterinary care.

After speaking with her at length, she advised us it would be best if we trapped all of the cats. She explained each cat would be spayed or neutered, given a rabies vaccine, and treated for any illnesses or injuries sustained, and after recovery, released back to the same area. This is imperative for the health and wellbeing of the colony, as these cats likely couldn't be adopted out since they have lived outdoors for years and wouldn't make good pets.

A feral cat being released back outside
This is Chickpea, a sweet cat about to be released back outside

The first cat we trapped was indeed Buddy, however by the time I was able to trap him, his leg was all healed and he appeared back to his old self. At the vet, he was given a clean bill of health and released back outside a few days later, where I am happy to report he is enjoying the spring air. He was the first of six cats we caught.

A feral cat
This is Mama. She's the mother of Avocado and Chickpea

I won't go into depth about every cat we helped, but I do want to talk about 'Norman.' He was the second cat we caught, and he had been walking around the days leading up to his capture with a large bulge on the side of his neck. From pictures, Jessica believed this to be an abscess. Our suspicions were confirmed when the abscess burst a few days later and poor Norman was in great need of medical care. By some stroke of luck, the day his abscess burst he also wandered into the trap and I rushed him to Jessica's. At Jessica's, we discovered the abscess was caused by a bite wound to his neck, and after sedating him, like a pro, she cleaned it out and provided him with some pain relief. After his neuter appointment, I picked him up and drove him to our neighbors' house, where he spent a week recovering in a large cage lent by Jessica. He made a full recovery and was able to be released back outside. He is back to eating all the food and is so much happier! Without Jessica's help, Norman may not have survived. I won't share images of his neck wounds, but please know it was bad.

Injured feral cat
Norman with abscess before it ruptured
Resting cat recovering from bite wound
Norman during his week-long recovery

With all of this, I wanted to do something to express our gratitude for all the help Jessica and her husband, Jeff, provided over the last few months. I decided to paint one of her permanent residents, Luna, a bright, happy, and often vocal white kitty. Luna's portrait, a 6"x6" oil painting, took about five hours from start to finish, and was placed into a custom wood floating frame. When Jessica unwrapped it, she was thrilled, as Luna is a special cat. It was so rewarding to see her face light up upon seeing it.

White cat looking up
Luna, the inspiration pic

We met Jessica and Jeff roughly three months ago, and since then I have learned a great deal about cat rescue, what it entails, and it is no small task. From trapping, to arranging transport to waiting and arranging for vet appointments, to post-op recovery and care, Jessica is truly a treasure among humans. Her and her husband's dedication to caring for all cats is something to be admired. She is an angel on earth.

National Foundation for Animal Rescue is a non-profit and runs entirely on donations. If you can, I know they would appreciate any contributions to their rescue. You can donate directly from their website:

Cat rescue organizer with custom oil painting of cat
Jessica, founder of NFFAR, with her portrait of Luna

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