George's Fund — Start Date: December 2017 — End Date: Ongoing
We recently received a generous bequest from the estate of an Ann Arbor, Michigan, couple who spent over 10 years caring for a feral porch-cat named George. In 2002, when we were setting up a cage-free sanctuary for cats in Michigan, they were moving to a retirement community and needed successor care for George. We blended him into the small show-and-tell feral cat colony at our sanctuary, where he lived for several years and then — when we closed the sanctuary and moved the remaining cats to our home — George came too, where he lived until 2008, eventually dying of kidney failure.
In honor of him and his caregivers who loved him so dearly, we’re using their bequest to set up “George’s Fund”, which we'll use to cover the occasional request for our help that falls outside of our formal programs, yet is still in keeping with our basic mission (keeping loved cats in loving homes). Through this fund we’ll be able to say “yes” to some of the more compelling cases we’ve had to turn away in the past — something we know that George — a cat who lived between the lines himself — and his caregivers would approve.The story of George that Mrs. Brudon wrote back in 2002 for the Daily Mews web site illustrates the attachment people can form for feral cats and that they can live happily, indoor or out, under caring human care. Besides the story below, we've attached a page of pictures showing his adaptation to his time with us.
The Saga of George, The Needham Porch Cat
by Margaret C. Brudon, Chelsea MI
This is the story of George, the feral cat easily identified by the battle notches in his left ear, who was fed and housed on our front porch for 10 years. A rough, tough glorious yellow and white male whose fur defied penetration of the coldest Michigan winter. After realizing he intended to accept our hospitality on a permanent basis, my husband constructed a small basic box for his shelter lined with old carpet, heated with a 60‐watt electric light bulb and holding a pet basket softly padded with towels or blanket as the season demanded. He conned us into lining his bed with an electric heating pad, an accommodation of which few feral cats could boast in Ann Arbor.
Having 2 loving indoor cats we could not permit George entry into our home although he expressed interest in them through our glass storm door, as did they with him. Not being able to approach or handle him we could not have him examined by a veterinarian and were thus reluctant to take the risk of his passing on any cat disease to our indoor dwellers. But he spent summers and winters in this abode, roaming the neighborhood and surrounding territory at will. After about 7 years he disappeared. We mourned his absence and subsequently decided to dismantle the unused shelter cleaning up our porch so that it now resembled all the neat and respectable looking ones on our Needham Road.
One morning in late fall after 4 months absence George appeared looking scruffy but healthy and gave us that meek appealing look begging for his breakfast. He was accepted as a boarder again. We had to rebuild his shelter, this time with insulation as well as new carpet plus his plush basket. One would think that George would at least appreciate our efforts and the banquets he enjoyed by permitting us to stroke or pet him, but he still shied away from our hands. His only response to our loving care was a quick rub on my ankle, surprising even himself. Time flew, and we found it necessary to sell our home to make arrangements for living in a retirement community 15 miles west of Ann Arbor. The purchasers of our home expressed their unwillingness to even think of feeding George or keeping his shelter available. That would be the first thing to go when they took possession. We were devastated because we knew that even though George was a survivor he might not last the next winter without protection and extra food from a caretaker of sorts.
Accidentally we heard of a feral cat organization, the Zimmer Foundation, located near Ann Arbor. We contacted the director, Kitty Zimmer, who agreed to take George providing we would live trap him and take him to the veterinarian of her choice. Now, live trapping is another adventure. Good thing it was summertime. We had from mid‐July to December to do this and proceeded to let him become familiar with the trap. His food dish was placed near it moving it gradually into the trap (with the door wired open) which he endured. But, he absolutely refused to go to his dish if it were placed in the proper spot for it to trap him. Being a very smart street wise cat, he knew what a trap was and knew what to avoid.
Time grew short and the last resort we were advised to try was to catch him in our foyer and let 2 individuals from the local Cat Clinic put him in a carrier. Trying to entice him into the three‐foot enclosed foyer with food proved equally nonproductive.
So it is now the last evening he will be fed by us with much noise and activity of the movers of our furniture and belongings expected the next day. I closed the 2 doors of the foyer to living room and den, opened the front door, placing his dinner on the threshold of the outside door. I opened the screen door and sweet‐talked George, trying to lure him to his dinner. He was interested only in sniffing it, making no attempt to enter for at least 5 minutes. Not wanting to distract him I waited as still as possible which finally resulted in his attempt to approach his dish and taste his dinner on the foyer floor. Bingo, I slowly and carefully closed the screen door behind him quietly, he was closed in. Such angry and disturbing howling and screaming, but it was done. Next item on the agenda was to call the Cat Clinic person whose telephone number was in a packed box already moved to our new location. However, with much telephoning her number became available and she responded to my request after an hour delay. She and her assistant squeezed into the 3‐foot foyer enclosure with a small cat carrier and after several minutes of caterwauling and hisses called out “we have him!”.
George was taken to the Cat Clinic, examined, found to be an altered male in good healthy condition and taken to the lush Zimmer Foundation quarters with house and barn available for housing the feral cats in their possession. He was put through their indoctrination program before being released with the other cats in the lovely barn equipped with all sorts of cat ladders, beams, beds and playthings cats favor.
My husband and I have been in contact with Kitty Zimmer throughout the trials and tribulations of his adjustment, but with good reports each time. Kitty sends us photos of George and we visited him this summer to see how he was getting along finding him looking healthy and contented.
This has been a most satisfying experience and one which took a huge weight off our shoulders to know this cat would at least have another chance. George is now enjoying his retirement years quite comfortably.