Just 4 weeks after the disappearance of Mr. Max, again the 10th but this time February, there was a bit of a situation here. Janis turned up in a shocking state :
I’ve got no idea what had happened, where it happened, nor why she came to me. Fact is she did.
The last time I had seen her before the accident was about 2 weeks ago. We had an argument. I had asked her if she was in any way involved in the disappearance of Mr. Max (they did have some disagreements in the past)? Her eyes turned instantly completely black and she looked as if she wanted to hit me. Well, I guess this was a clear “No! What the hack are you thinking of me?” She didn’t hit me, but turned around and left. I called after her “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to offend you!” but she simply ignored me and stomped off. Gone.
For the first week of her absence I wasn’t concerned. Janis is Janis, she’s a free spirit. At one point she had decided that her kids were more or less ready enough to live their own life and whatever might be amiss could be easily sorted out by Coral, probably counting me in as well. She went off to enjoy her freedom and Tonga and Dody were not part of her life any more. Occasionally she would come over for a chat or a nibble but that was it.
When nearing the second week of her absence I got a bit concerned and went over to her patron to find out if he has seen her, but he hadn’t. Strange, that’s a long time now! So, whenever out and about somewhere looking for Mr. Max I also called her name, just in case something wasn’t right. Not that I was expecting a reply after her stomping off, but, who knows?
However, there was no other option, I took her straight to the vet for x-rays. Turns out the left hind-leg is broken and the bone had managed to slide below the other broken part. Who ever knows what our bones normally look like is able to imagine what kind of terrible pain she must be in:
They couldn’t operate her straight away and had first to discuss if it might be possible to save the leg or if it would have to be amputated. We were sent back home provided with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, painkillers and a huge cage.
On my way back from the vet I stopped at her patron’s place and got told that she’s only a cat, that this will heal on it’s own and anyway he wouldn’t have any money he could spare on a cat as his cats would already cost him 5 € in food per day (consisting mainly of fish he caught himself and some leftovers from the last meal). I showed him the x-rays anyway, explaining that she is in terrible pain and that this can’t heal on it’s own. Some people came over and wanted to have a look at the x-rays – while her patron simply shrugged and said “oh well, you know, she likes animals!”
Of course he also didn’t want the cage in his place nor take care of her and provide her with the medicine.
Where could I put this cage? At the state my boat is in there is no floorboards and no even, level surfaces – apart from the cockpit-floor, but this is outside and not suitable.
Maybe … the little caravan my dad had sent me over some while ago? I took the cushions away from one side, measured and yes, not only long and wide enough but also level!
Sally and Richard helped me getting this cage through the door without damaging anything. I equipped it with a place for her to lay down, misused the small tray of an oven as litterbox, bowls for water and food and it was ready for her to get in. Very careful and gentle of course to prevent her from having even more pain.
The vet called me the next day. It can be fixed, there is no guarantee of course, but it will be 795 Euros. Ouch!!! The other option would be to amputate, and this would cut costs down to 200 Euros.
Bloody hell, she’s got her whole life in front, she’s only 2 years old, I can’t have them cut off her leg!!
We made an appointment for the operation although I didn’t have a clue how I could possibly pay for it. Never mind, there must be a way!!!
Things were pretty difficult if not impossible with her in this state. I called the vet and we agreed for her to stay with them till the operation is done.
It was scheduled for Monday the 15th and she would have to stay with them at least till Thursday or Friday.
Now that Mr. Max was missing for weeks, the situation with the Tomcats of the harbor-area got pretty much out of hand. There was suddenly a huge interest in our food, our girls (all of them are sterilized) and our place. Each of them was more than keen of having Tonga as his territory although they all got their proper homes and patrons. There were fights going on and of course they started marking all over the place, inside and out. It began smelling like a tiger-cage in a zoo, it was unbearable!!
Liza and Mimi had started to play the police but it wasn’t paying out. Something had to be done and on the double!!!
In my desperate search for Mr. Max I had come across a cat in Nadadouro, which is about 30 km to the south of here. He had popped up at a Quintal there (a house with a garden), looked very similar to him from the photos but turned out to be much bigger and of course wasn’t Mr. Max. We had taken him to the vet but there was no chip to identify his patrons. Fernanda, the lady who owns the place, told me he would be at her bedroom-window every night asking to be let in. There is 4 other cats plus 2 dogs inside the house and she can’t let him. There is more cats in her garden and they are attacking him and stealing his food and if that isn’t enough already the dogs love to go on top of the bench where his sleeping-box is and don’t give him a minute of rest.
A week had gone by, so I called Fernanda to ask if he’s found more happiness in the meantime, but in her opinion it didn’t happen. I explained our situation to her, made it clear that we only have a boat under re-construction as a home, that we’re lacking anything resembling typical comfort, so nothing really to offer. But, we’ve got 5 cheerful girls (Liza, Malley, Coral, Minka and Mimi) who are younger than him and wouldn’t give him any grief. Fernanda thought it would be a good idea and a lovely start into a new life for him.
I was excited but also a tad scared. He had turned up at Fernanda’s place out of his own free will (like all the rest of my gang). Have I got the right to take him away from there? What if he doesn’t like it and runs away? What if the original patron can finally be found and he had disappeared from us? There is absolutely no way I could lock him in to prevent him from going walkabout if he feels like it.
We decided to give it a go. The owner hasn’t turned up no matter what Fernanda tried, he’s not happy where he is, Fernanda can’t take him into the house and maybe it all works out, hopefully, fingers crossed!!!
The first thing I did after our phone call was to get all the girls together, tell them about my decision, our newcomer, the situation he is in, the situation we are in and that it’s very important for me to make this work out and make him happy. I asked them to be very nice to him and try to help me where they can to make him feel welcome and at home so he doesn’t want to run away.
When this was agreed upon I had to think about a name for him. It was important for me that it would come natural off the tongue when calling Max and him that Max would automatically be first. I did have some ideas.
Sally and Richard wanted to join me collecting him at Nadadouro and they too had been thinking about names. They came up with Fynn or Finn, a name with lots of ancient-times stuff going on about in Scandinavia and also in Ireland and Scotland. I really liked it and, after some research made up my mind for Finn McCool (also Fionn Mac Cumail, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionn_mac_Cumhaill), a famous hunter-warrior in Irish mythology – so, together with Grace O’Malley our Pirate-Queen and head of a dynasty in the middle ages (short: Malley) we would have 2 Irish in the family :-D!!! Yes, sorry, I really loved my time in Ireland :-D!
We arrived in Nadadouro. After a chat with Fernanda I went to where he was, sat down cross legged on the concrete and told him about my girls, our way of living, and asked him if he would like to come with me? The answer wasn’t clear, but it didn’t sound as if he would be against it.
Then I asked him about his name, but he didn’t seem to know. So I asked him if he would like Finn, told him about the myths and the great ancient warrior with this name and he seemed to like it.
Okay, what do you think, should we do it?
Well, it doesn’t seem to me that cats are quick decision-makers when it comes to changes of lifestyle or moving house. Finn was pondering about and especially the fact that he would have to go into a transport-box didn’t really appeal to him.
We tried to sweeten this up, Fernanda gave him lunch and a bit of tuna fish to get a consent of sorts and somehow we managed to get him in the box.
In my fear of this not working out and later having to answer angry questions of his proper patron I really wanted to have him chipped hoping this would help a little bit if someone finds him. And I wanted to have him vaccinated too. I had already contacted the vet we went to the first day, the one in Foz de Arelho which was not only close by but also on our way back home.
When we turned up there Finn was not disposed to let this happen. Deep growls made sure the vet leaves him in peace. This very friendly vet took me to the side and told me it is only possible to chip and vaccinate him if we sedate Finn. But, as he’s just been eating there is no way for this to be done without risking his life. So we left things as they were and continued on our way home.
When we arrived my girls were all super-excited and cheerful, they couldn’t wait to meet him, play with him, have fun and get to know him. Liza and Minka had even got their most precious toys out of their secret hiding-places to make him welcome and understand that they would like him to be part of our family from now on.
I came up the ladder with his box in my hand, everyone was assembled and more than curious to meet our new crew member inside and give him a welcoming kiss, but Finn was not up to it. Some very dangerous sounding growls made their way out of his body. I was possibly asking a bit too much for one day I guess!
Right, looks like he urgently needs peace first of all.
I carried his box to the forepeak of my boat where my own bunk is, set it down on the foot-edge where it is darker and even more protected, moved the rag over the one-day-hatch-to-be for even less light to enter, talked to him in a calm and nice voice and opened the door of the box.
Finn didn’t look scared or stressed but more like he’s got it all perfectly under control. He came directly out of his box the moment I opened the door and slowly, very methodically started inspecting everything around beginning his tour in the fore cabin.
There were a lot of different noises he never ever heard before in his life, his ears were constantly going all over the place. That was the moment it dawned on me there is a big difference between a boatyard and nearly all other places. One wouldn’t hear the beep beep of the travel lift in operation, people moving great big blocks of timber under a fishing boat for support before it’s getting propped up. Talking and sometimes loud shouting going on outside. Somewhere else a boat getting pressure-washed, someone sanding the hull of a boat, engine-testing on a jetski, a compressor running somewhere in a corner, ladders or scaffolding being moved, someone cutting steel with an angle-grinder and on top of all that the wind making noises in the rigging of the sailing-boats.
My boat is a flush-decker which means it doesn’t have a little house with windows, and it doesn’t have any of these tiny windows on the upper side of the hull. Light only comes in through hatches on deck (which in my case are still only openings going through the deck but without something to close it). If one wants to find out the source of an unknown noise, one needs to get up the companion-way ladder and, depending on the size of this person, stand on the toe-rail or at least on deck and look over the side.
Finn was curious to find out more about what’s going on, and I think he shortened his inspection-tour through the former galley (that’s the kitchen in a boat) and the former saloon a little bit for the moment, although he noticed the litter-box and instantly made use of it. The companion-way ladder was apparently a new thing for him. He tried but didn’t trust it yet, went past the engine-room and – alas!!! – there was still quite some of the deck missing making it easy for him to get out.
He continued his tour on the deck, had some peeks over the side to get a bit of an impression and went back to the fore-cabin for a little nap. He stretched out looking like he owns the place, but his tail kept moving.
Meanwhile Janis had been operated. I called in the afternoon to find out how she’s doing and they were very pleased and happy about how it went. If I could come over around 6 and pick her up? A bit surprised as they had mentioned before that she would have to stay till Thursday or Friday, but sure, I’ll be there!
Janis was out of the anesthesia, awake and seemingly quite mobile. We got provided with antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and instructions. First of all and most important: for no reason other than a visit to the vet she has to stay in the cage they gave me for the next 4 weeks. Next Monday we were meant to come back to inspect the stitches.
I managed to get her back into the cage without her escaping.
Providing her with food, water and medicine plus cleaning her tiny litterbox was another story. Janis has never been in close contact with 2-legged people and was drawn back and forth with the question if it was appropriate to ask for a cuddle and some warmth, or if this would interfere with her ideas about freedom.
The consequence was that she behaved as if she would like a little stroke or a cuddle, but within seconds she started to attack my hand and bite me. There was only one solution I could think of: my welding-gloves! Made from leather and going nearly up to my elbow. I only could wear one of the gloves as there was not enough space around and things like the syringe with the anti-inflammatory just wouldn’t work with the gloves.
It didn’t take her long to realize that she can’t really hurt me through the glove and bit by bit she got more relaxed. Although there were still a few attempts to bite me more effectively where I’m not protected by the glove, but with time they got less and less. Of course she kept trying to escape the cage.
As her patron comes past the boatyard several times a day to get to his workshop or his fishing boat I encouraged him to go into the Caravan and say hello to Janis. It took me three attempts but in the end he actually went in there. I stayed outside, a bit away. When he came back out again he said “I think she even recognized me!” which left me speechless for the moment. Of course she recognizes you! She was born in your workshop, grew up there, she went for walks with you and even came with you on your fishing boat!
And I was more than lucky: friends of mine, Fernanda (the lady where Finn came from) and even my ex-husband were happy to help and gave me donations to lower the impact of the veterinary bill on my shoulders. Thank you all, that was wonderful and help big time!!!
On his second day on Tonga Finn thought it’s time for a peek around down below the boat. But how? The girls were all using the 4 m tall aluminum-ladder to get up and down. He examined the thing intensively and decided this is not for him. But, he had noticed a scaffolding standing behind the boat. This should do!
At the time the deck was still missing aft, it was balancing on deckbeams and trying not to slip on plastic-covers, then a jump onto the top plank of the scaffolding.
And now what?
He spotted my masts which were propped up on the port-side. Yes, that’s what I’m gonna do! Concentration, concentration ….
I was not only a little bit concerned about what would happen next. Sure, there was no way locking him up inside the boat and both Fernanda and me had agreed that we will give it a try anyway. It seemed more than logical to me that one wouldn’t want to run off immediately from a place where there is shelter, food and some kind of comfort when one doesn’t know the surroundings and clearly is in doubt where to run to. Doesn’t help, my heart was beating like mad!
Down on the ground Finn examined the area right under the boat. When he was satisfied he got up the same way he had come down: mast, scaffolding, stern.
After dinner he went for the next round, closely watched by the girls and me. He didn’t give the impression that he wanted to run away, it seemed more like finding his bearings, checking what is where, getting the smells of the area, looking for marks of other 4-legged people.
I think it was the second evening out when he made it understood that he can very well disappear into hiding if he doesn’t want us to know where he is. Luckily it wasn’t about running away, it was just teasing us!
Liza took it in her hands to introduce him to our area, show him hiding-places, explaining dangers and stuff not to do. It was really nice to see her doing this, I’m proud of her!
So far things were working out ok-ish. He didn’t want the others to come too close to him and made it clearly understood, especially not when he is eating. His food- and water-bowls were next to my bunk and he appreciated it very much when I stayed next to him when eating. That doesn’t mean I was allowed to touch him. As cuddly as he looks, sometimes he even gave me a little sweet touch with his head, but whenever the inner side of my hand came too close he bit me. It wasn’t a bite that would draw blood, but it was a clear message.
Of course he checked out the little Caravan as well, hissing at poor little Janis in the cage.
One night I heard fighting going on in the South-Eastern corner of the yard. I got over there as quick as possible, closely followed by the girls, to find him spreadeagled on the concrete and Pandora, the Siamese tomcat, on top of him. Pandora ran away as soon as he saw me, and Finn came over to give me a proper hug and a little kiss to the girls. Whow, I was impressed!!!
Janis’s wound was healing nicely and the stitches could be pulled which they wanted to do in the vet-office here in Nazaré. “Oh, I don’t want to do this here, you should have told me!” – and Janis escaped from the table, hiding between the wall and a desk. Luckily this didn’t cause any damage to her leg. To her and my annoyance the plastic hood had to stay on for a few more days, and she had to stay in the cage of course.
Finally a few days later the hood could go, but Janis still had to stay trapped. We went for x-rays 4 weeks after her operation and the bone was healing nicely. She was allowed out of the cage but not in any case to go out and about. A tricky one! I kept her locked up in the Caravan at night and gave her a little bit of freedom in daytime, explaining that we have to wait some more. Luckily she was very understanding and didn’t insist on going exploring but was nice enough to stay around and often even inside the Caravan, some kind of newly found freedom. The cage remained where it was for the moment, still getting some use from time to time.
And there was good news: I didn’t need the welding-gloves any more! Occasionally she would still give me a little bite, but usually without drawing blood.
Finn started to be very particular about his food. First it was the humid food he wouldn’t touch, no matter which brand. Maybe with a lot of luck a quarter of a sachet of this extremely expensive stuff I could only get from the vet, well, 1.75 Euros the sachet is very expensive in my opinion. Then he wouldn’t touch his dry food, but might nibble a bit on the dry food for kittens. Also, there was some vomiting going on with a yellowish color. I’m not gonna show you but I took some pics to show the vet. Slowly I got very concerned if and what he is eating at all, high time to consult the vet.
Trouble was brewing, I couldn’t get him in the transport-box. Not with getting the lid on last – a great opportunity to escape through the entrance – and certainly not by securing the box and trying to get him in through the opening. I tried the good old trick with tuna fish, but everyone of my girls loves this stuff and were in the box long before him. With each try he ran off making all kind of noises, but strange enough he didn’t go into hiding and even came back a tad later.
I remembered the soft transport bag with wheels and slings to be used as a backpack I had bought short after he joined us, it was in my workshop. That’s how it looks like – Liza investigating:
The next time he came out of hiding I took him in my arms and managed to get part of him inside this bag. To be exact: the hind-part was inside, arms spread wide to both sides making it impossible to get him further in or close the thing. I grabbed the edges holding them together as tight as possible without getting injured by his claws. Some part of the zip was closed by now, but with every push of Finn the zip opened further. Grrrr@rrrr!!! When I got to the point where only one of his paws was still sticking out I held this area tightly shut with one hand, embracing the bag with the other hand and carefully climbing down the ladder to get to my car. Somehow and somewhere I managed to get the last bit shut as well and off we went, arriving a bit late for our appointment.
He was alright when driving and he was alright when we waited our turn at the vet. As there were still Covid-prevention-measures in place only the 4-legged people were allowed in for treatment. Dr. Alexandra came to take him with her. I could hear some nasty angry growls followed by Alexandra coming out again: I can’t treat him like this, he needs to be sedated. Well, if it has to be it has to be, but please, he’s still not vaccinated, he still hasn’t got his chip and my last attempt in tick- and flea-treatment went completely wrong, could you please do that as well when he’s sedatet?
After what felt like ages Alexandra came back with a plastic transport box in one hand, my bag in the other grinning “he’ll never let me do that again!!!”.
She had done the chip and the tick- and flea-treatment, but he’s ill so she can’t vaccinate him now. She cleaned his stomach and found his kidneys hugely inflated. She also took a blood-sample, but the machine they usually use for examinations can’t come up with a proper result, she’s got to send it to a laboratory. Together with a bag of special food (Royal Canin Renal Select) we went back home waiting for the results. Finn was meant to stay in the box for the next 3 hours and only then should I open the door to let him out.
When the time came he started to wolf down his new food, no vomiting, and I was quite relieved for the moment.
That is, till the next day when my phone rang: Alexandra.
Turns out his immune-system is completely destroyed and his kidneys are on the point of failing. He needs to stick with the special food and she’ll send some medicine to the office in Nazaré tomorrow for me to pick up.
The medicine were tablets. All my girls absolutely adore paté so I did the usual thing: stick it into a small amount of paté and present it to him. Up till now it was only singing out “Medicine for Liza (for example)” and everyone came running, hoping to get a tiny sliver of paté as well. This caused the one who had to take the medicine to wolf it down even faster without having the time to investigate if it is nice or not, before anyone might try to steal it. With Finn things were completely different, he was highly suspicious. Sniffed, sniffed again and walked away.
Right, maybe, if I squash it to powder and mix it with ham? He has been very interested when I happened to eat some ham on my bread. Let’s give it a try! Finn tried one corner, sniffed, sniffed, sniffed again and walked away. Just as if someone had tried to poison him before. And now what?
I called Alexandra and explained the problem.
She told me of a liquid medicine and suggested we try that and yes!!! It took me a lot of slices of ham to give him the amount he was meant to get but he was pretty fond of it and even came asking for it the next day around the same time, great!!! And bit by bit I was able to reduce the amount of ham needed to give him his medicine. It’s not that I didn’t want him to enjoy ham if he likes it, but ham is certainly not the right diet for someone with kidney-trouble and isn’t particularly healthy for cats in general.
He did like the food for a time but then was back on the kitten-stuff. About every 2 weeks I had to alternate between various brands to keep him interested in his special diet. Royal Canin and Hill’s have both 2 different tastes on offer for cats with kidney-problems and for him these worked best. I tried several other brands but for some reasons Monsieur couldn’t be convinced to do more than an initial test, leaving me with a whole bag of special food the others were not supposed to eat. They were stealing his food of course and there was nothing I could do about it. To be honest the smell is tempting and Alexandra explained to me that cats with kidney-problems are usually very particular about their food.
Janis had finally come to the end of her captivity, she was free to go wherever she pleases. I didn’t have to worry any more that she accidentally escapes and life was back to as normal as can be. One might think she would pick up her usual way of roaming around and enjoy her freedom, doing what she pleases and spend her time elsewhere. I did expect to get a glimpse of her from time to time though, the way she always did – and if it only was to check on her kids and give me a quick hello.
To my utter surprise she stayed and even insisted in spending her nights in the Caravan! And not only this, she started to follow me around, happily sitting somewhere close to me for hours when I was working, always ready to get up instantly to follow me when I needed another tool or whatever and not let me out of her eyes. Does that mean we’ve turned into a family of 7? Looks like it!
Her patron often came past on his scooter and sometimes stopped when he saw her. Strange enough, whatever he tried to get near her she didn’t want to know about him and ran away.
Finn’s growls slowly changed to less deep and dangerous, although they were still there frequently. He got a little bit more relaxed about the girls, they could get away with things he didn’t let go through in the beginning. And he comes running like they do with him when something is up. He found some of their habits quite funny and copied them.
The only one who couldn’t be bothered at all from the beginning about his nasty growls was Liza – she simply ignored them. “What, you want ME to get out of your way and give you space to go past? Don’t be silly! I’m not gonna move an inch. If you want to go past do it, but I’m gonna stay where I am, forget about it!!!” Funny enough she always got away with it. And telling you this and telling Liza, she gave me a proper Bro-shake this evening, wrapping her paw and her claws in my hand coming out between thumb and forefinger and giving it a real push, she’s great :-D!
Minka charmed herself into his heart and sometimes was even allowed to curl up close to him for a nap. Well, both with blue eyes and blonde fur of sorts as if this would give them some special familiarity. And I noticed him copying the girls in the morning when coming down the ladder. Like them he started to stretch out and roll around on the concrete, showing his tummy. No, not for me to cuddle him like the others yet, but showing off and it looked as if he found this great. That was the moment I was convinced that Finn had found some kind of happiness with us and things will keep getting better.
But, we lost a member of our family: Coral. It was my own fault. Summer had come and quite some people foreign to the port turned up each day going for walks. It often happened that someone stopped and tried to attract one or the other of my cats to give them a cuddle, nothing to really worry about. Then, suddenly, in the evenings, always around the same time, I could hear someone calling psht-psht-psht as people here in Portugal do to attract a cat. It went on for 6 or 7 days and whenever I heard it I found the time it happened very strange. It was not the normal time visitors would go for a walk in the port, but silly me never went to the bow to have a look what’s going on and who is making this noise. Then, it was the morning of the 25th of July, at roll-call Coral was missing and I never heard the psht-psht-psht noise again.
I was wondering what to do about it. Coral didn’t have a chip to start with. And if someone really wanted to have her as a companion, there would be no point in putting up posters, asking for help on the Facebook-groups I had found when Max went missing or going for walks calling and trying to find her. She would probably be locked up in a new home starting a new life, and I and my 4-legged-family really hope it’ll be a happy one! You more than deserve it Coral!!!
At the time of writing this I’m happy to say that improvements with Finn continue slowly. I’ve got no idea where he came from, what his former life was like, what made things change for him and what he went through. There was clearly a time he spent with 2-legged people and there was some kind of love involved. But there was also a time he spent out there in the wild, roaming around in Nature.
First I thought that the person he was attached to has died, but there is a huge difference in behavior to Yoshi, the tomcat of a friend of mine who spent about a year with us for shelter, love and care. Finn clearly went through a different kind of trauma and he wasn’t as attached as Yoshi, who was really heartbroken.
His time in the wilds has given Finn a lot of independence and power, but the acquisition of food seems to have been a problem. And for some reason he got more and more distanced from 2-legged people, especially by not trusting them.
Bit by bit I can see that he’s actually starting to enjoy the company of his 4-legged family and there is lots of indications that he’s starting to like me. Touching noses when I come up the ladder, a tiny purr when I say good-night to him, here and there a monster-cuddle when I do something he appreciates, waiting for me to come back at a strategic place when I went off for dinner, even running towards me to say hello. And there were even two situations where he wanted me to take him up on my shoulder to give him a special hug.
He’s communicating with me and I’ve tickled his tummy already 4 times. I can sit somewhere and think about things I want to talk about with him, but there is no need to speak any words, no matter which language, he just knows and understands for reasons unknown to me. And: he’s using the ladder to get on and off the boat! Great stuff!!!