June 2, 2009

The saving of Josephine

By Maggie Skovera
For RacinePost

Late in the Fall of 2008 a family noticed a lonely figure eating the rotting gourds from their Halloween Display. It was a rugged, long-haired Tortoiseshell cat.

She was so starved the rotted gourds were her meal for the day. The family was unable to get near. In winter they saw her again, padding on her large, extra-toe, polydactyl feet. They felt helpless to help her as they could not get close enough.

The family decided they had no choice but to teach her to trust them with food. They began to set out bits of food for the cat in hopes of gaining her trust so they could get her the help she so desperately needed. It began to work.

In the Spring of 2009 they found the cat with a new batch of kittens in a window well. Time had run out to befriend the cat; now other lives were at stake. Countryside Humane Society was called to pick the litter up. The agents at CHS brought the cat with her tiny kittens to the shelter. They had been able to just pick the cat up with gloved hands, but once caged she hissed and growled at passersby.

That is the day I met Josephine. I looked in the cage and saw the beautiful kittens, and this girl who seemed to be protecting them. Something in her eyes told me she was not as aggressive as she pretended to be. I took her and her young family home with me into foster care. I placed them in a large cage on soft bedding with fresh water and food.

Josephine approached my hand as I set the water down and nudged it as if to say thank you. By day three I could pick up Josephine and she trusted me to clean her cage and move her babies onto fresh bedding. Soon she perched on my lap and I could feel how hard life had truly been for Josephine. Her long coat was tangled tightly to the skin, her odor was let's say not pleasant, her hip bones protruded from her skinny frame, and she wheezed when she breathed.

How the kittens found nipples to feed from, I had no idea -- until I saw Joesphine tearing out her hair to make more room for them to access her. I began the slow process of trimming the hair one small section at a time as the hair was so tight to the skin even my razor blade could not fit between the matts and the skin to cut it.

In the next week Josephine showed me what a lovely girl she truly was. She always used the litter box, always greeted me when entering the room, and always rubbed my hand when I put food down. She readily jumped in my lap.

Unfortunately, her newborn kittens developed the same telltale upper-respiratory wheeze Josephine had, and passed away. I had other motherless ill kittens in my home and Josephine stole them from their boxes and proceeded to care for them.

Now their story has a happy ending thanks to Josephine. Being larger kittens they were able to fight off the upper respiratory infection and become well. Josephine is gaining weight, getting stronger; she is naked now except for a small amount of hair I was able to save. Every day she sits on my lap and thanks me and all the others who have contributed to saving her, just by being a most pleasant cat. But I am just a foster home; extended family allergies make me a poor candidate to adopt Josephine.

Who will love her? Who will see through the exterior of this skinny, bald cat to her inner beauty? Who will adopt her and give her the indoor, last-a-lifetime home that she deserves? Until she is completely well and until I find this home for her, Josephine will be mine to sit on my lap after a long day, and purr out her gratitude, and I will care for her and thank her for coming into my life to leave those big polydactyl kitty tracks right across my heart.

The shaved Josephine waits for a permanent home

To meet Josephine, call or visit the Countryside Humane Society at 2706 Chicory Road, or call (262) 554-6699.

And as for our last dog, Hector, the frightfully groomed poodle with a pouf left atop his head, we have good news. He was adopted last week. Hopefully, his new owners will let his coat grow out...


  1. I wish I could take her - we're up to four and we can't go to Countryside or any other shelter or we'll end up with fifteen of them . . .

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.