Our National Feral Cat Day / Halloween 2010 Feature Story

The Anatomy
of a Heart Attack

(The Funniest Thing That Ever Happened To Me Involving a Feral Cat)

Readers may remember that it was after Jack was born and abandoned by his mother on my Mom's back step (making us instant Mommy and Grammy) that I decided my mother's feral cat situation had to come under control (I hear you sniggling, "yea, good luck with that").  The local feral cat colony had expanded to her yard, and, well.... you know the rest.

It was two days after Jack's birth (in fact all 2" of him were in my winter hat inside my shirt) when I called upon the services of the wonderful, the tireless, the devoted, Mary Tschinkel of Friendly Ferals to help me trap, neuter and spay as many of these multiplying ferals as could be got.  Because I was not going to let these cats turn me into an orphanage for their unwanted young.  Because, as you will also recall, I am NOT that crazy cat woman!  Even if every cat in Queens tells you I am.

Mary came on a Tuesday with 15 humane traps -  the long, rectangular, raccoon-type cages with a sloping door on one end, and sliding release hatch on the other.  The type where you put a plate of food in one end and when the cat goes in to eat, he steps on a trigger that shuts the door behind him.  To release him, you pull up the slider at the other end and out he goes.  For camouflage and the cat's comfort Mary wrapped all the traps in black plastic bags.  This was so the cats don't get wet if it rains, and they're not exposed so they won't get too upset while they're waiting to be retrieved.

Our job was simple: watch the traps, and as cats are caught, bring them on the porch so they're not out there for other cats to see (lest the onlookers get wise to our cunning plan and we don't catch any more).  When all the  traps were full, or it got dark, whichever came first, Mary would come collect the cats.  Easy!   

Well, all 15 traps were full within an hour.  Horrah!  I had taken about 6 cats onto the porch and was thinking, "tssh!  Piece o'cake," when Black Shuck walked into a trap.  Black Shuck is a very large, jet black, snarly, matted, terrible looking, miserably mean tom cat.  I named him after the spectral black ghost dog of British legend whose appearance presages certain death to anyone who sees him.  He's Charlie's sworn enemy and whenever they meet, it's a black cat death match.  Black Shuck has his own turf across the street and is not one of our regulars, so I was really surprised to see him over here in a trap.  But hey, one less baby daddy works for me, werever he comes from.

I think it would be fair to say that none of the trapped cats were pleased.  They all hissed and spat, they all clawed the bars, but all pretty quickly realized that there was no getting out, and resigned themselves to whatever came next. 

Except Black Shuck.  When I approached his cage, he went absolutely ballistic.  He howled, he spat, he made every manner of savage noises and twisted round and round like a crocodile in a death roll.  He slammed against the trap door so hard at one point I wondered if he could actually break it.  

I was scared to death to touch the cage.  Every time I got a grip on the handle and began to lift him up, a hundred claws would slash like whips between the bars.  The trap rocked and bucked like a mechanical bull and the air filled with screams like I've never heard (except from Johnny).  I would have left him in the yard, but the wind had blown the black bag off him and it had started to rain.  I couldn't leave him like that, neither for his own welfare, nor the spectacle he was creating for any more cats we hoped to catch.

I went inside and put on my mother's floor-length quilted coat (it was May), ski gloves, a thick hat, and scuba goggles.  I had to get this cat on the porch, but I wasn't going to be dismembered.

My mother laughed so hard at the sight of me going out the door in this costume, I thought she'd choke.  (My mother was asthmatic like me.  It's dangerous to make an asthmatic laugh too hard.).  I thought, 'When this is over I'm gonna have to call EMS for both of us.  The paramedics will see two towers of cats in traps, my mother turning blue, and me cut to ribbons in a scuba mask.  They won't know if I have cat scratches or shark bites.'

"Stop that laughing!"  I said.  "This cat is the devil!"  She laughed even harder.  Jack was in my striped hat in her lap, a week old.  Only one of his eyes was open.  He wouldn't know Black Shuck from Sylvia.  I stomped back outside.

Even in my riot gear, and him in a steel trap, Black Shuck was terrifying.  I managed to get the bag back over him, recoiling in terror several times.  In a rare instant when he wasn't thrashing, I caught the cage handle between two fingers and ran with him a few steps.  However, in a millisecond the cage was again bucking and tipping and exploding with claws and shrieks.  When he went upside down and a whole black arm appeared through the top bars, I screamed and dropped him. 

Does anybody remember the movie "Orca" from, like, a hundred years ago?  It was a really upsetting film about an orca whale that sees it's mate captured and killed by a whaling ship and goes on a rampage of murder and revenge.  There's a scene where the whale's eye locks on the ship's captain and OMG, that eye is malignant.  There is no doubt that whale is going to get him and rip him to shreds.

Halfway down the alley, black bag half off and flapping in the wind, Black Shuck on his back, his twenty claws reaching for me through the grill, time stood still and I saw that eye.  And I knew if this cat could get me, he would kill me.

When the capture of Black Shuck was all over, and he was successfully on the porch, I fell on the sofa exhausted.  My mother was still wiping tears off her eyes and giggling.  Har har.  She didn't just battle Satan in the yard. 

When I had my breath back, I said, "You want some tea?" 

"Yea," she said. 

So I get up, I go to the kitchen and put the kettle on.  After a minute, I hear Mom calling something from the background, but it's like Charlie Brown's mother.  All I hear is, "Wnah wnah wnah w'wnahhh."  ME:  What are you saying?  Mom: Wnah wnah wnah w'wnahhh!  Me: What?!  I can't hear you!  Mom: WNAH WNAH WNAH W'wNAHHH! SANDRA!!  

What about Sandra?  I go to the cupboard to get the tea cups, doo d'doooo, open the cabinet door - BLAAAAAOOOOWWW--WOOOOSH!  A huge black thing, half blob, half gale force wind, explodes out of the cabinet, smashing the cabinet doors back against the wall, throwing me backwards with all the teacups, and tore past me in a black blast.  I threw my arms up and screamed like I was on fire.  I almost fell out the pantry window.  How the #$%& did Black Shuck get loose from a steel trap, into the house and into the china cabinet?!

I ran screaming back to the living room.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  We were not equipped to deal with a crazed killer tom cat orca bent on revenge and running amok in the house. "Run!"  I cried, "He's loose!  He's going to kill us all!  We have to get out!  Where's my phone?!"

My mother was now doubled over, holding her chest, and absolutely gagging with laughter.   She was reaching for her puffer.  Between gasps, she wheezed out the words, "Sandra!" <gasp> "china cabinet!" <choke> "trying to tell you!" <gag> "in there!" <wheeze> "so you don't get scared!" My mother was almost in cardiac arrest from laughing.  Apparently, Sandra, her own jet black cat, a dead ringer for Black Shuck (without the mange) whom you never see because she's always in the box spring or the sewing machine, had started sleeping in the cupboard to avoid human contact.  If a human being, God forbid, did perchance to lay eyes on Sandra, she would do anything, including fly and explode, to get away.  Foreseeing that I might encounter Sandra in the cupboard, and mistake her for the monster feral tom cat from hell that I had just deposited on the porch, Mom had been trying to warn me.  But alas, it was too late.  My coronary artery had already left the building.

For the rest of her life, all I had to say to my mother was, "remember when Sandra...." to send her into an epileptic seizure.  I didn't even have to finish the sentence, just give her a tissue and she could laugh for thirty minutes. 

That was the 1st funniest thing that ever happened to me involving a feral cat.  If you want to know the second funniest, click to read "That D--n Cow". 




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