You know John and I foster cats for an amazing rescue in Wisconsin. Over the past four years, we’ve had more than 300 cats stop here on their way to loving homes. They each are special in their own way. But every now and again, one comes along and steals your heart.
He’s a Chinchilla Persian. Now, that alone makes him special, for Chinchillas indeed are rare. But being special somehow didn’t protect Biff from abuse and neglect. He arrived at our house in mid March. He was starved, flea infested and had open sores over his entire body — he really didn’t even look like a cat. Seven or eight pounds would be a healthy weight for Biff, and he was barely four pounds. His tail was a giant scab. And he was intact.
Biff came to us from a shelter in Indiana where he had been surrendered as a stray. It’s just a guess, but I suspect he may have been used in a backyard breeding program. Wow. I took one look at this sad little cat, and gave Biff a 50/50 chance of surviving. The shelter had given him a really horrible hair cut, and with so little body fat, he was freezing.
We immediately offered Biff every kind of food we had in the house, got him a heated fleece-lined bed and started him on antibiotics. I also forced him into a sweater, which he didn’t mind wearing, but he certainly complained loudly enough when putting it on. He grumbled and growled as I pulled his paws through the openings, and I even thought he might bite me. But he didn’t.
John took Biff to the vet the following day for a check up and blood work. The vet said Biff needed a dental, but his blood test came back surprisingly good. And so Biff settled into a comfortable routine at the Wolf Crossing Cattie B&B. We offered him bowls of food multiple times and day, and in between feedings, Biff stayed in his heated bed. His sores, which we cleaned and treated daily, started healing.
Boy, could that cattie eat! It was actually his saving grace — Biff loved food. Every kind of food. Canned gravy lover’s, chicken baby food, broths in pouches, tuna. Everything. John noticed that Biff would eat more if we stayed and petted him while he ate. And so we did.
He was a confident little man, too. It’s one of the things I especially love about Biff. No matter how dire his current situation may look, he’ll still step up to call the shots. No shy shrinking violet here. Biff is resilient and cocky — and that’s probably saved his life more than once.
Soon, Biff was strong enough to have his dental work done and he passed with flying colors. He didn’t even need extractions. Heading the vet’s advice, we decided to wait awhile on Biff’s shots and neutering.
We had a European trip planned for June, and I worried about leaving Biff with our pet sitter, who is wonderful, but comes only twice a day. I mentioned this concern on the rescue Facebook page and an amazing thing happened. A couple whom I’d never met offered to drive 8 hours to pick up Biff, host him and feed him multiple times a day while we were gone! And so it happened. Mike and Stephanie came to pick up Biff and took him to their home in his heated bed.
Biff flourished under Mike and Stephanie’s care, and even gained weight. He looked so good upon his return that we scheduled his neuter. But Biff didn’t fly though that surgery. I would go up to sit with Biff during his meals, but he wouldn’t eat. And when I petted him, especially near his back end, he would hiss, indicating pain.
Once when I went to visit Biff, he was laying, not in his heated bed, but on a fleece blanket facing the wall. Not a good sign. John was even more observant, a few days after Biff’s surgery, John noticed that Biff had not pooped. So John ran him back to the vet where Biff spent the entire day getting an enema and IV antibiotics for an infection he contracted near his surgical site. We brought him home and continued with sub Q fluids and medications including pain meds. Over the past four years, we’ve lost some fosters in our care, so I know the signs. I have to say I was more than a little afraid that Biff was headed for the Rainbow Bridge. Happily, though, I was wrong, and a few days later, Biff was back to his old charmingly curmudgeon self.
Fast forward over the next few months and Biff continued to gain strength and body weight. I felt bad that he was alone in his room upstairs, and tried several times to bring him downstairs to get acquainted with our own clowder, (and possible adoption) but there was friction. My cats weren’t welcoming, and Biff would retreat upstairs to his room. Still, he seemed happy enough. But sometime in November, when Biff weighed more than 5-1/2 pounds and was settled into his routine, I looked deep into those emerald eyes. They told me that he was safe and healthy now, and he was ready to go to a family of his own where he could have run of the house and snuggle with his peeps anytime he wanted. Maybe he’d even sleep on their bed!
With a lump in my throat, I posted Biff’s bio to the rescue’s adoption website and waited. A very special couple answered. They live in a big house nestled in northern Wisconsin forestland, and it seems they’d been following Biff’s story on Facebook, loving him from afar for quite some time. After two long conversations, I was convinced these people were sent to care for and love my sweet boy. They have a history of saving special needs cats and feel that it’s their calling. Even more so, they felt called to care for Biff. How wonderful is that? They drove more than 12 hours to meet my boy.
So after more than nine months at Wolf Crossing (a foster record), my buddy went home a couple of days ago. I got an email from his new mom saying that Biff is eating, drinking, using the litter box and exploring his new house with confidence and gusto. Yep. That’s Biff. His new house has large windows that allow him to watch the bustle of woodland wildlife from the safety of his own heated bed, which he took with him. And if he needs a snack? Uh, yeah, it’s a stone’s throw away.
It’s really everything I dreamed of for that poor little cat who someone neglected and then threw away. I marvel at these amazing creatures who have been so down on their luck, but remain resilient in spirit and able to love in spite of the harshness and pain they’ve endured.
Frequently, people say to me, “Good for you for fostering. I just don’t have the heart for it. I couldn’t let go. I care too much.” I know they are well meaning, but honestly, I care too much NOT to do it. It’s not always easy, in fact it rarely is. And it takes a lot of discipline to not fall in love or to risk pain caused by loving and letting go. Some days I’m better at it than others. John is better at it every single day. Fostering certainly isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of other ways to give back. I get that.
For John and me, it’s a choice. We risk the pain of loving and having them leave, or worse yet, loving and losing them to death, which happens. But in the end, if we weren’t willing to suffer for these little ones, the little ones would suffer even more. So I try to learn whatever it lesson I’m supposed to from each of the small creatures we’re entrusted with for a short time. I love these words from the musical Wicked that pretty much sums it up:
“I’ve heard it said
That people [or cats] come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…” (For Good from Wicked)
Godspeed, my Biff. And God bless his new parents.