In 2007 I came across a group of hungry and sick feral street kitties while visiting a rough inner street here in Charleston. I rescued them and continue to go back every day to help the kitties in this section of town.Here are some of their stories:
I found Bobby, alerted by some kids on this rough inner neighborhood street where I do cat rescue. He was hunched and frightened on an old bookshelf on the side of a house. The kids said that the man of the house took him out one day and smashed him against the wall for scratching the grandmother. They said he had been on the bookshelf about 3 weeks not moving. When I found him he was starving and I could feel almost every bone in his body and he had lost a lot of hair. You can see the collar marks around his neck.
Here is Bobby after three weeks in my home, fattened and relaxed. I had taken him to the vet for a checkup and to get neutered and tested for Feline Leukemia. The Vet told me he was half Ragdoll and half Himalayan. Since he was so beautiful and sweet natured, I had no problem finding a great home for him!
Lilly showed up in one of my colonies dragging her hind legs. Obviously she had been hit by a car.She was starving and I guessed about 12 weeks old. She was feral and would scoot very fast from me, so I had to trap her. She went to the vet immediately for a checkup and they said she was paralyzed. They didn't know if she would get better and there was nothing more for them to do but to give her some pain medicine. I even had her treated by an animal acupuncturist hoping that would help. About four weeks later, this brave kitten couldn't handle the growing spinal pain anymore and would scream if trying to move, so in the end I had her put down.
One day I noticed about five kitties living under this house, so I made a big plate of wet and dry food to put it down for them. Zephyr was so so hungry that he jumped into mid-air trying to get at the food while I was putting the plate down. He did this for a few weeks until he started to get that there was going to be food for him every day. He then got much more trusting and would come to my car as I drove up on the street.
There was a day in 2010 when I stalled my car on the street trying to find a place to park. Zephyr got under my wheels and I didn't know it. I went to park and then looked back and there was Zephyr actually spinning in the air with blood coming from everywhere. I was freaked to say the least. He crawled under my car and I frantically waited for animal control. Zephyr was very very feral and I didn't want to scare him to run under a house to die. Animal Control was able to net him and I convinced them to let me take him to the Emergency Vet, as Animal Control wanted to take him to be put down.
This picture of Zephyr is a day after being in the Emergency Vet. His left eyeball had been hanging down on his face and they put it back in the socket and stitched it up. They told me that I had run over him twice because there were two sets of tire marks on his white fur. They also told me he was deaf and that's why he didn't hear my car still running. Here he is in the carrier to the second vet for more medical treatment.
Here I am telling him I am so so so sorry. The only reason I could touch him, as he is a very wild feral cat, is because he was so doped up on pain meds.
In the end, Zephyr's eye couldn't be saved and had to be removed. After he was out of the woods and getting much better, the vet sent him home with me. She told me I had to tame him because he could never go back to street living or the other streets cats would sense his wound and attack him. So I kept him for a month at my house spending long hours with him and giving him so much love! The pain meds calmed him down so much that I was able to tame him.
Here's the boy totally tamed and having a siesta on my bed. A few days later some very well off people drove in their LandRover from Savannah and took him home. I had advertised for him on Craig's List and they fell in love with him because of their own personal story: Their dear dog had been hit by a car and left on the side of the road to die. When they saw Zephyr on Craig's list, their hearts opened right up to him and his story. Zephyrs vet bills were over $3000.00 and worth every penny!
I came across a woman on this poor inner downtown street breeding her mother cat. Basically she would let the mother get pregnant, let he have her kittens, keep them in the house until they were about 10 weeks old and then she would turn them loose on the street! Luckily I was able to convince her to give me this litter, and spay the mother cat. All of these kittens went to great homes.
In the summer of 2011 there was a terrible outbreak of mites in one of my colonies. One kitty had them so badly she died from them, even though I had trapped her and brought her to the vet. They verified that it was mites and told me to give her four doses of Revolution a week apart, which I did, but it didn't work. Almost all her hair was missing by this time and her flesh was bloody from scratching at the mites. I was desperate and determined that none of the other kitties would suffer her fate, so after a lot of research I read that the amino acid Lysine would get rid of mites by building the kitties immune system.
This picture is of Susie when she started to get mites. See her next picture after about four months on Lysine everyday in her food.
Susie after four months of lysine in her food.
I spotted four kittens living in a bushy area behind a Check Cashing Store on a busy highway near my four colonies of cats. I was able to trap them all in one cage by disengaging the trigger and then pulling the trigger with a long string from about 50 feel away. Once they were all in the back of the trap eating away, I pulled the string and voila! There were three females and one male, and this is Alex the male kitty after I had tamed him for about 3 weeks. (The first week I could only handle them with big leather gloves as they were as mean as sharks!) He is so cute that I just had to include a picture of him. He and two of his sisters went to the same home!
I found Butters living with his two kitten sisters behind a dumpster at the nearby gas station in 2008. I trapped them all and his two sisters were so cute that they got a great home immediately. But it seemed that no one wanted Butters because of the spot near his nose. I was overwhelmed with kittens at my home, so I asked a Vet to hold him for me. Here he is so lonely in his cage at the Vet's. After about a week I was able to take Butters home, and a couple of days later two of the greatest guys showed up and fell in love with him.
Jules showed up in one of my colonies in 2009, starving like they all are. He is the grey and white one in the center. I found that I could pet him, so I think someone turned him loose on the street. I was able to take him in a pet carrier to get him neutered and shots.
I felt I could find a home for him, so took him to my house to see if he had a good personality. I also brought him to another vet because he had a terrible ear infection, with green puss coming out of his ears, that smelled horrible. The Vet said he had a terrible case of ear mites and would have eventually died. Of course they cleaned his ears and gave me medication to take home to keep them cleaned.
Jules turned out to be just the coolest kitty. I advertised for him on Craig's List with the above photo and had about four people literally fighting over him. I am a great screener and chose just the right person. She sent me emails for about a year giving me updates on him, with photos and long letters of how much she loved him.
One stormy day while feeding one of my colonies at the gas station, I heard a kitten mewing frantically. In searching the woodsy area behind the dumpster I saw I kitten high up in a large tree. The rain was pouring down and hard as I tried to reach the kitten, I couldn't. When I tried to climb the tree, the kitten would climb higher. For three days it rained torrentially and each day I would try to catch it, putting some food on a lower limb. It must have been terrified during the storm. On the third day it was so hungry that it went for the food and I was able to grab it. Here is what she looked like when I first got her home. Yes, she was adopted to a great home!
The beautiful kitty showed up in one of my colonies in 2011. She seemed sweet but a bit feral. She was extremely thin, and my guess is that she had been living on mice and whatever else she could catch. I felt I could tame her enough to re-home her, so trapped her and brought her home. She didn't know how to use a litter box at first and when I tried to play with her, she stood still as a stone. She also had a bad case of mites on the top of her head which I needed to cure before I could re-home her. I worked with domesticating her and curing her mites for two months. By that time I had fallen in love with her. Check out the next photo to see what a beauty she turned into being.
Of the 150 or so cats that I have rescued, Amelie is the only one I have kept for myself. She is so loving and grateful. Before she will eat she has to butt my head softly (that's the way they kiss) showing her appreciation for her food. I still have her today!
This is a scene on the rough inner city street when I first showed up here in 2009. I had been rescuing on an adjacent street for two years before getting to this street. I am not exactly sure how many cats there were - hungry, sick and feral, but it seemed they were coming out of the woodwork from every house. It's been eight years so far in rescue, but on this particular street, all of them have been rescued and re-homed, except for 22 in four different colonies, (too feral to tame), and all are spayed or neutered. They get a big fat meal from me everyday.
One day the local mailman alerted me to a half grown kitty who was living behind one of these homes that was adjacent to the street I was working my cat rescue. He was trying to keep her alive by giving her a handful of dry food when he was on his route. He said she was very sweet and he could pick her up. I immediately went to find her, put her in a carrier and brought her home. I named her Cali. See the next picture the first night I brought her home.
Check out how happy she is to be finally safe and in the arms of someone that cares for her. Cali got adopted to a great home.
One day someone approached me while I was feeding my colonies. He said he knew about some kittens living under the interstate near his home about five miles away. It took me about two weeks to trap them and their mom. They had terrible eye infections from upper respiratory infection and I took them to the vet for a checkup. I got them spayed, feline leukemia tests and shots. These kittens must have been the hardest ones I have ever had to tame. It took spending three hours a day for three weeks just to get one to purr! They scurried around like rats going to be killed. But I was determined to tame them. Check out the next photo of two of them. I named them Jada, Blue and Hafiz.
Jada and Blue got adopted to a great home. The couple that adopted them were real estate agents and the kitties got royal treatment! The owners updated me on their progress for about six months. Hafiz got adopted to a Pastor and his wife. They changed his name to Elijah - perfect!
I showed up one day on the colony street and someone ran up to me to tell me that a cat had been hit by a car. He had moved her body off the street into a grassy field. Sure enough, when I saw the dead kitty, it was one of my sweet feral kitties that I fed daily. I brought her home in a box and gave her a spiritual burial. I laid her in the ground in my backyard with pictures of saints and masters and flowers and said prayers for her. Sweet Oreo - her hard life as a street feral kitty is over and she went on to the kitty heaven realms.
Rinpoche was an older kitty living behind the local gas station when I first arrived on the scene in 2007. He was very very feral and would only let me get within about five feet of him. One day I noticed his face had horrible blackness on it and I thought he had been in a fight. This picture is when the dark spots first showed up. But over time they grew and covered his whole face! I asked a Vet what it could be and he said that white cats are prone to skin cancer because they don't have any protection from UV light. I did a lot of research on what might cure him and found an herbal supplement called Protector 2000, which is a concentrated mushroom extract specifically for fighting cancer. I gave it to him in his food everyday and over time his face completely cleared up. But then he stopped eating his food if I put it in. Sadly, I had no choice but to let nature take it's course. One day I showed up to feed him and he was lying dead right on his feeding spot. I was heartbroken. I buried him behind the gas station and planted flowers over his gravesite.
In 2010 someone on the street alerted me to a mother cat nursing two kittens living under an abandoned house. I didn't know if the mother was feral, so I trapped her and her kittens. The mother was totally sweet, so I assumed that someone dropped her off of the street, as so many people knew that I was feeding cats on the street. She seemed to have something wrong with her eye, so I brought her to the vet. They thought she had been hit in her eye and was almost blind in it. Here is a picture of her the first night in my home - you can see where she had been nursing. Check out the next photo of her!
I adopted her to the most wonderful person whom I am still in touch with. She calls her Sammy Cat. She regularly sends me pictures of Sammy Cat - she loves her so much. And Sammy Cat is still alive and doing well now four years later even though she can hardly see. See her left eye - you can see she is almost blind in it. And yes, her kittens went to great homes, too.
I was always on the lookout for feral kittens on this rough street. One day I decided to knock door to door and ask the residents if they had seen any kittens living under their houses. One lady told me she didn't know of any, but had a dog she didn't want anymore. I went to the backyard with her and was horrified at what I saw. There was Duke, her dog. She told me she had gotten him as a puppy two years prior and had chained him up that very day to be a guard dog. Since being a puppy he had never been off his chain! The overturned tupperware box was his doghouse, and when it rained all he could do was get on top of it because her backyard was a muddy mess. I was determined to find Duke, who I called Brother Dog, a new life.
Here is Brother Dog finally free from being chained in his backyard for two years since being a puppy. The first person who stepped up to take him, well, after a week, didn't want him anymore because he had tried to bite his grandson. I was told by a Vet that if a dog bites, it can't be adopted out as he would become a liability and should be put down. But a plea to help this dog went out on Craig's List all over the state. Two wonderful women stepped up to give him a new chance in life. One of them owned a boarding kennel and the other was an excellent dog trainer. Check out the next photo of him on his first day of being trained.
These two wonderful women worked with him for a little over a month. They immediately got him on heart worm medication, but unknowingly, it was too late for the medication. He started to have severe symptoms and was rushed to a local no kill Animal Rescue Shelter. He hemorrhaged on the table while the vet was trying to save him. Everyone loved this dog so much because his story was so well known across our state. So many people were greatly saddened by his death. But at least he did not die alone one day chained in his backyard. When he died he was surrounded by caring loving people. God rest Brother Dog and all the other chained up dogs in the world.
One day I noticed a new cat in one of my colonies. The kitty had a collar mark around it's neck and was very emaciated so I felt someone had dropped him off knowing that I feed the kitties there every day. He was totally sweet! Even though he was starving he wanted to be petted almost more than he wanted to eat. I immediately advertised on Craig's List for him.
A great person responded to my Craig's List ad for Lover Boy. Here is a picture of their first meeting. Marie was living here temporarily in a hotel doing contract work for a large company. She totally fell in love with him and took him to her hotel that very day!
Marie sent me this picture of Lover Boy the first night in the hotel together. She told me she cleaned him, bought him toys and let him rest on her bed. She also told me she was worried because he had bloody stools. So she took him the to the Vet the next day. Later she called me to tell me that tests revealed he had FIV, which is like Kitty Aids Virus, and that the Vet suggested he be put down as his condition was so bad. (So my guess is that some poor person did abandon him in my colony because of his bloody stools.) Marie was deeply deeply saddened. She brought his body to my home and we buried him in my yard together.
I trapped these two kittens behind an abandoned house. Yes, they look terrified. The next few days I went back and trapped two more kittens and spayed the momma cat. I still feed the momma to this day.
Cody and Diego ready to get on with life in the human world. They were the happiest kitties I ever tamed.
Here is Diego after about a year from the time I rescued him. His owner sent me this photo of him. She said he was the coolest cat and deeply sweet and loving. What a very very beautiful cat!
Someone abandoned this gorgeous kitty in one of my colonies in 2010. I called her Raccoon Kitty. I got her spayed, tested for Feline Leukemia and shots. She was totally sweet and got adopted right away. Her new owner renamed her Princess - very fitting for such a beautiful cat!
There was a guy living on this street, putting out a bowl of dry food daily for the wild kitties, but not spaying any of them. By the time I could get to his house at the end of the street, there was a swarm of feral cats and four sick kittens roaming around. I trapped the kittens and brought them to the vet. All of them had eye infections. I eventually got all the other older cats spayed and neutered.
She still has a bit of an eye infection, but eventually it went away with some lysine in her food. Is she not the sweetest?
One day while feeding my colony at the Gas Station, someone alerted me to a momma cat and a kitten living across the street which was a busy four lane highway. When I went to check them out, sure enough there was a feral momma with her kitten living on the back steps of an apartment. The renter was a fourth year medical student and was feeding the momma but he hadn't spayed her. He was just letting the kitten grow up I guess to become a feral cat. The kitten had terrible upper respiratory disease and her eyes were so infected. I spayed the momma and took the kitten home. I had to keep her about six weeks to clear her eye infection. I named her Lavender.
Here she is all cured of her eye infection. Who would not want such a sweet looking face? She turned out to be either all or part Bengal. Lavender got adopted to the coolest lady who soon got another kitten to be pals with her.
What a sweet photo of Momma Cat with her two kittens. To roust the wild kitties out from under houses, all I have to do is to put a plate of yummy wet food out and wait. I was able to trap all three and found great homes for them. The Momma turned out to be very sweet, not feral at all.
I trapped her and her two siblings right in the nick of time! Most kittens born in the wild get terrible upper respiratory disease which affects their eyes, and if gets really bad, they can go blind. I am not sure this kitten would have made it on her own. As bad as she looks, she was healed and got adopted into a great home! So did her two siblings. I was able to trap their mother and get her spayed but she was too feral too tame. Her name is Souri and I still feed her everyday.
From left to right: Faith, Max, Daisy, Blanca, Tulka, Liam, Sweetness. There's another one, Marigold, but she is late arriving for dinner. They are just too feral to tame, but all are spayed and neutered. However, Max is really sweet - the big fat black one, so I am currently looking for a home for him. I think someone dropped him in this colony, not wanting him anymore. That's what they do in these kind of neighborhoods, unfortunately.
From left to right: Izzy, Souri, and Mirabai. There is another kitty, Lalla, but she didn't show up - must have found a big varmint for her dinner. Mirabai and Lalla have been there since 2007, every day getting a nice fat meal. Izzy and Souri showed up around 2011. They are all females and spayed. I feed them on the ground to leave no footprint, which is what the gas station owner wanted.
I've had more than a few people ask me what the smell is when they ride in my car. Well, I know what it is, but I stretch the truth a bit and tell them it's just the smell of a 16 year old car. It's cold here in the winter and I used to carry a big soup pot of boiled chicken in my trunk for the kitties. After it overturned a couple of times, and the ensuing long hours to scrub the chicken fat off the floor of the trunk, I told the kitties that those days are over. Sorry, kitties!
I had to pay someone to crawl about 20 feet under a house to get these kittens because I am afraid of low hanging spiders. I could hear the kittens mewing which is why I knew they were there.
I guess one could say that I don't have much of a life other than working and taking care of street kitties. But I love what I do, just wish I had a team of people helping me rescue more. There are so many street kitties out there - forgotten, abandoned, hungry and sick. Thank you for taking the time to view some of their stories!
If you'd like to send a check or money order to my street cat rescue project,
please make it out to Donna Ciaciarella and mail to:
106 Dunnemann Ave
Charleston, South Carolina 29403