A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 6, 2007

An Invalid of A Different Kind

Snuggler Enjoying the Sunshine  On any farm you usually find an assortment of various animals, some are production animals, some are companions, and others have a different function around the farm.  Here at Windrush Alpacas in addition to our alpaca herd we have two horses (usually described as our lawn ornament horses as they have an easy life and have little to worry about all day), four dogs, one fish, one inside cat and our herd of barn cats.

I say our “herd” of barn cats as when we first purchased our property that is indeed what they were.  The previous owner of the property had asked us if we wanted a few barn cats left behind and we, in our naivety, thought he meant two or three.  He actually meant 20 and the balance of the cat “herd” he moved with him, but only to a house across the road.  So in our initial years here there was a steady traffic of cats between our house and the property across the road.

Over the years our barn cat population has dwindled, some of the older cats passed away, some became ill and died and others were lost to an attack by our neighbor’s dog.   Our barn cat population was thereby reduced to six regulars and one visiting tomcat.

It is really interesting to watch a cat group and see the dynamics and interaction between them.  A couple of the cats would actually seek out our attention, but for the most parts the cats have no interest in us except for when the cat food is put out twice a day.

One of the friendlier cats is Snuggler.  We have had Snuggler from a kitten and he always has been content to hang out with the humans.  He is a great mouser and snake hunter, but also a very gentle cat who loves some attention and has a ready purr to share with anyone who strokes him.

Yesterday morning when Ric went down to feed the barn cats he found Snuggle in bad shape.  Poor Snuggler was covered in blood and had some pretty deep puncture wounds; he had lost some claws and also could not put any weight on his left front leg that was completely floppy.   There has been a large black and white tomcat hanging around our property for a while now and we know that he fights with Snuggler on a pretty regular basis.  On finding Snuggler in such poor shape we assumed that he had been fighting with the tomcat.

We brought Snuggler into the house and allowed him to curl up in the bed of our house cat Six Toes (who really does have six toes on every paw).  We put a nice soft piece of plush fabric in the bed for Snuggler to lie on and then set to washing off some of the blood.  You would think as sore as he was feeling Snuggler would have not been thrilled at our attention, but instead he started purring as I washed away the blood.

Fortunately we were able to get Snuggler in to see our small animal vet, she kept him for a few hours, cleaned him up some more, x-rayed him and started him on antibiotics.  Amazingly there are no breaks in any of Snugglers bones, but because of the swelling our vet cannot tell if there is any nerve damage to Snugglers front left leg.  His right rear leg has some loosening of the patella, and while he cannot put his full weight on that leg either our vet is hopeful that he will regain full use of that leg over time.  The front leg too may recover, but it is going to take longer to heal and it will be a time before we will be able to tell if it will ever return to a normal condition.

Our vet feels that because of the depth of the puncture wounds and the way that Snuggler lost some claws during the fight that the attacker was most likely a dog.  Snuggler must have put up a tremendous fight for his survival.

Cats can be incredibly resilient and hopefully Snuggler will make a full recovery, however there is one thing that may affect his progress and that is Snuggler has tested positive for Feline Leukemia.  It is a little bit puzzling to us how Snuggler can be positive for Feline Leukemia, as we are sure he tested negative as a kitten when we had his initial vaccinations done and we have kept his vaccinations current.  The Feline Leukemia will affect his immune system and that may hinder his recovery.  Over time he will most likely succumb to the leukemia or rather to some form of infection that his weakened immune system cannot battle, but our vet has seen cats with Feline Leukemia live good lives for several years and so we will hope that he has several happy years ahead of him.

For now Snuggler is content to sleep as cats often do when they are healing.  He only wakes every couple of hours or so, sometimes choosing to eat or drink a little, other times just checking his surroundings and then curling back up again.  He still purrs as we stroke him and we are hopeful that our gentle loving touch will help keep his spirits up and help him battle his pain.

We cannot be sure of what happened to Snuggler, we have reinforced our perimeter fences and gates since the previous set of dogs attacked our cats, but it is always possible that one crafty dog is still making it’s way onto the property.  Our outside dogs and the guard llamas have however been silent at night and they usually will alert us to dogs on our property.  Maybe Snuggler was injured on a neighbor’s property and managed to somehow drag himself home, or maybe the big tomcat is the culprit, I suspect we will never know the full details of how Snuggler received his injuries.

All we can do is take the best care that we can of this tiny black and white cat who has a big heart and a heap of courage, and hope that he will make a full recovery with time.


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