Cat rescue story: Max the stray cat

All cats have a story. This is the rescue story of Max.

The new brown tabby cat my friend had been feeding for a while had developed sores by its ears. She feeds the neighborhood cats, most of them feral. In 2017, after I learned how to do TNR, we fixed the cats coming to her yard fixed too.

The new cat was also friendly as it could be petted from the start, and her husband could pet him too. This meant the cat was not feral. He is most likely an abandoned cat.

scabs from severe ear mites on back of cat's ear

Max’s ear (both ears looked like this)

​Capturing the cat

We needed a plan. Usually, we trap new cats and get them fixed a Humane Ohio and release them. But this new cat was friendly, so we didn’t want to release him back to the neighborhood.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Humane Oho was closed. We didn’t want to use a trap, in case a new feral cat went in since we could not get them fixed and ear-tipped (trapping a cat for the second time can be difficult).

He turned out to be easy to capture using a cat carrier. My friend put some food in and in he went!

​The garage and playpen

Once captured, the cat was placed in a playpen in my garage.

He hid from me the first day and a half. By the second evening, he let me pet him!

His ears were in bad shape too. And I was pretty sure I felt some “nuggets” even though he would not let me lift his tail.

So I named him Max!

I was able to get Max checked out at the vet, and he was confirmed to be an unaltered male and treated for severe ear mites.

The Lenawee Humane Society agree to take him in if I could get him neutered as their clinic wasn’t able to do to COVID-19 restrictions. I lined up a surgery appointment, but he would have to wait in my garage in the playpen for about 2 weeks.

​The playpen escape

​Max was in a large ​Jespet ​pet playpen​ (affiliate link). I’ve used playpens in the past to hold feral and friendly cats.

With the friendly cats, I reach my hand into pet them or open the door if it seems like they will stay nearby for petting.

Max does not like to be contained, but I felt that it was safest to have stay in the playpen as I wasn’t sure if I could get him back in if I let him stretch his legs.

Well, Max pushed his head through the zipper! I’ve never had that happen before.​ He was crying under a work table in the garage. This was six days before his neuter appointment.

I panicked as he didn’t immediately come to me when I called out for him. Trapping him was an option, but I didn’t really want to do that.

My day job uses Slack, and we have a channel just for cat people. Here were some of my ideas that I ran by them while Max was still free in the garage:

  • Get a large dog crate (no zipper to worry about)
  • ​Return him to the same playpen
  • Let him roam free in the garage (but that seemed dangerous)
  • Make my husband agree to let me put him in our one small bathroom
  • Ask the vet to board him until surgery day

My cat friends at work reminded me that the bathroom wasn’t a good option since he had not been tested for anything (the Humane Society said they would do that). Also, and could be a risk to spread something to my indoor cats.

Letting him roam free also did not seem like a good idea, and would still have to catch him somehow.

I decided to get the dog crate, just in case and ordered one at Pet Supplies Plus for pick up. One of my friends suggested using the playpen, but blocking the door so he couldn’t push through again.

After a couple of hours, I went to check on him, and he came right up to me! He was super friendly and wanted to be petted and let me place him back in the playpen.

My husband helped me set up the dog crate, but I wanted to give Max another chance in the playpen since it was bigger, and it already smelled like him.

live trap blocking the playpen door

The playpen has two doors. I placed the litter box as close as possible to the backdoor, to prevent him from being able to push on that zipper.

For the front door, after he was in, I placed a live trap in front of it.

Thankfully, with this setup, Max did not escape again.

​​​The night of his escape, he wasn’t able to get back in the playpen. It looked he had tried to jump on it, which smashed it in a little bit.

So he peed under a table, and then the next night, he peed not in the litter box while wandering the garage.

I set up three litter boxes in the garage, and he used them going forward. (see my review of the Paw Happy Life litter here).

But I did start letting him out, supervised, for awhile each day in the morning and evening.

Max turned out to be quite the lap cat. He jumped up on my lap as if he had been doing it his whole life. Some evenings, he sat on my lap for over an hour.

I didn’t want my indoor cats to react to Max’s smell, so I changed my pants in the garage before holding him. Then once he was back in the playpen, I put my original pants on.

On the morning of his neuter appointment, I was able to get him into the carrier by tossing in a catnip toy into the carrier.

rescue cat sitting on my lap

Max on my lap

No contact surrender to Humane Society

When I picked him up from the vet, I took him directly to the Humane Society. They have a set of double doors, where I was able to place him. Then an employee retrieved him after I stepped out.

After they put Max in a cage, they brought my cat carrier outside to me. I waited in my car (I was crying by this point) and picked up the cat carrier after they went back inside.

I paid the surrender fee over the phone. All communication about Max as done through email and on the phone.

hey also have a plan for no-contact adoptions and fostering, so I hope Max gets adopted soon! He’s such a nice lap cat, once he warms up.

​Max was adopted on May 14th!

I didn’t keep him, as with my current indoor cats, one more cat would be one cat too many.

Violet, is one of my indoor cats that we took in from the yard. You can read her story here.

Cat rescue story summary

All cats have a story. This was Max’s story. His ear issue was concerning enough that he was rescued! After about two and half weeks in my garage, he was surrendered to the Humane Society. They will help him find a forever home soon!

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

2 thoughts on “Cat rescue story: Max the stray cat”

  1. What a sweet-faced, handsome mancat Max is! I pray the HS is no-kill and that sweet Max will be fostered very quickly or better still, find his loving permanent person/family and home! Thank you so much for helping him.

    • The Humane Society here is no-kill, and they have a good rate of adoption too. I think they will find Max a home much faster than I could have myself.


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