The following article is a guest post by Carl Zerweck – the Executive Director of Rippling Hope and volunteer for the Ferndale Cat Shelter.
March 12, 2018 was a typical cold and blustery Detroit winter morning when Tulip and Daffodil first came into my life. Since the previous fall there had been 3-4 cats hanging out around my backyard and garage and I had been feeding them. When winter approached, I thought that it would be good to build them a couple of shelters on my back porch not knowing whether they would use them or not. As the snow fell and kept piling up, I saw one of the cats who I had named Snickers coming and going out of the shelter. In fact, most of the time Snickers would wait in the shelter until I had put the food out and made sure the water was not frozen and then see her come out to eat. She was clearly feral though because she would not let me approach her at all.
At that time, I had no idea whether Snickers was a male or female. Until the morning of March 12 when I opened the door to let my dog out and take care of feeding and watering our growing colony of cats. I heard a faint mewing sound coming from the shelter and thought “oh my gosh, Snickers must be a girl and now a mama!” I tried quietly and carefully to peak into the shelter and sure enough, Snickers was laying in the back of the shelter with little precious bundles of fluff snuggled up next to her. I was mesmerized but also now really concerned because it was so cold out and I had no idea what to do next.
So, I did what we all do these days…search Google. What I found was that you should not disrupt mama and babies but try to get them inside because their chance of survival was not very good in the extreme cold. I had recently been certified to do TNR but had no idea if I should try and do that with Snickers and babies. In the meantime, I had to race off to a meeting. When I got home, everyone was pretty much in the same positions as when I left so I decided I would just wait and watch. I began searching for Cat Rescues in the Detroit Metro area to ask for advice. Several places I called didn’t return my call or told me there wasn’t much they could do because it was “kitten season.” So, I continued to wait and watch.
Nothing much changed except for the temperature and I was becoming more and more concerned about what I was reading about the cold and these babies. Every time that I searched for answers about what to do, the Ferndale Cat Shelter came up. So, on Friday, March 16 I decided that I was going to go to the Cat Shelter and personally ask for help and advice. I told the story of Snickers and her babies and the Executive Director offered to come later in the day and look at the situation and see what we could do. They sent me home with a trap and said to set it and see if we could get Snickers.
Several hours of trying and no Snickers. Until finally, she went in, and we brought her into a room we had set up in our house where we’d already put her babies in a box. We released her in the house and she immediately went in to be with the babies. Day after day passed of watching them grow and seeing their little personalities develop. Because it was spring, it seemed that good names for the babies might be Tulip and Daffodil. It was so awesome to see these little kitten bundles of joy grow up day by day!
But then we noticed something as they began to come out of the box and wander around the room. Their tiny faces seemed to have some crustiness, weeping and redness around their eyes. We called the Ferndale Cat Shelter and they scheduled an appointment for us at their vet. We took Tulip and Daffodil in and found out that they had the herpes virus. The vet gave us several medical treatments to try over the next few months. The rest of their development was going fine. After about 3-4 months the vet told us that it looked like Tulip would be totally blind and that Daffodil would have sight in one eye.
Back to Google and other resources that the Ferndale Cat Shelter provided to me about living with a blind or sight impaired cat. I found that there is a lot of information out there which is very helpful! Perhaps the most important thing that appeared in everything that I read was to not change anything around the house in terms of furniture, etc. so that the cat can learn a routine. Today everything in my house is in the same place as it was when Tulip and Daffodil were first brought out of their room and into the rest of the house.
At first, I was worried about how they, especially Tulip would know where the food, litter box, and water were. They never missed a beat and figured out where to go almost immediately! I live in a two-story house with a basement. I sleep upstairs and my cats (7 total including Tulip and Daffodil) eat, drink and have their litter boxes in the basement. Most nights Tulip sleeps curled up next to my feet and Daffodil sleeps next to my side. At feeding time, morning and evening, Tulip finds her way downstairs and is waiting by her bowl (the same place every time) until I feed everyone else.
So, I know that the purpose of this essay is the impact of this story on the individual’s life. I’ve given the backstory because the story of their beginning is important to what follows.
Even though Tulip and Daffodil are sisters from the same litter, their personalities are very different. Daffodil is a bit of a loner and Tulip is very social. I have a dog, RH who is a pit mix, and a rescue from the streets of Detroit and he and Tulip are best buds! They snuggle up with each other and at various times Tulip seeks RH out and licks his face, and other times, RH finds Tulip and licks her face.
I had no idea when I peaked into that shelter on March 12, or even when I built it, the effect that it would have on my life! Having Tulip and Daffodil as a part of my family, and the resources provided by the Ferndale Cat Shelter is a bit overwhelming.
At first, I also wondered and worried about whether Tulip being totally blind would influence her personality or if she would just be sedentary and lay around all day. That couldn’t be further from the reality that she lives each day. She is just as active as my other cats. In fact, sometimes when I hear chasing through the house I look up and its Tulip chasing one of the other cats. And she is as good at tracking down and trying to catch flies as the rest too.
As I watch Tulip move through the house, finding her way, I am reminded that too often we let the “barriers” in our life define us rather than just getting on with our life as it is! At night, when I am laying bed, Tulip often comes up and takes her paw and feels my face for a few minutes and then she begins to gently lick my face and I wonder what is going on in her mind at that moment. And no matter what, Daffodil comes and finds me, sits in my lap, or snuggles up next to me almost as if to say, “all’s okay Dad!” Tulip and Daffodil are truly a blessing to me and my life. Every day they help me maintain perspective on life and I am sure help me keep my blood pressure down. Tulip and Daffodil are truly a blessing to me and my life. I am thankful that I chose to keep and raise them, and once again am abundantly thankful for the help and support of the Ferndale Cat Shelter!