Rescue Cat Rocko: From Parking Lot to Cozy Indoor Life to Shelter

My sister noticed a cat in a parking lot of an apartment complex for seniors. She sent me a picture.

Then she talked to a few ladies in the parking lot.

She learned that the cat had been abandoned several weeks prior by a couple living nearby. A boyfriend didn’t like the cat, so it was kicked out to fend for itself.

A few of the ladies were feeding the cat when they could but could not keep him.

He looked a little thin. His white paws were dirty.

I didn’t want to get involved.

But my sister was persistent! The local Humane Society was full and could not take him.

It was about to storm.

I caved and retrieved the cat.

On the way home, I had him scanned for a microchip at the local Humane Society. No Chip.

He was so scared that he pooped in the carrier during the short ride.

The Humane Society was great and gave him a quick bath. They confirmed that it would be several weeks before they would have space to take him.

How we foster failed

I set up Rocko in the cat playpen in the garage.

He did not like being confined. Each night he would spill the water and food bowls.

One night he managed to push the zipper of the playpen door open and have a free night roaming in the garage.

We decided to let him be free in the garage during the day if either Ted or I could be in the garage with him.

We set up lawn chairs. He sat in our laps. Ted became attached.

The Humane Society didn’t have space yet, and two other rescues said no, and another didn’t respond.

We took Rocko to the vet, and he tested negative for feline leukemia (and also FIV, but I was more concerned about the FeLV).

So we decided to try out keeping him.

His introduction to the other cats went as well as possible. We placed him in the cat room (the room with the shelves for the cats) and eventually let him see the other cats through baby gates. I even made a video about it!

Realizing that it was really working out

He was mixed in with our other cats for about two months.

And then Rocko was chasing Nacho more often, and she didn’t like it. Nacho cowered, hissed, screamed, and sprayed.

Sometimes attempts to distract Rocko by playing with him worked. But after spending 45 minutes distracting him, only to have him chase Nacho anyway, I knew it was time to separate him from the others.

They didn’t have an actual fight, just lots of terror for Nacho. From my online research, it seems that at least part of the problem is that Nacho is under socialized. She was born to a feral mom cat in my yard in 2017, and while I socialized Nacho, she is still a very timid cat. At the time, I didn’t know that I could have done a much better job at it (hindsight is 20/20).

As much as we wanted to adopt Rocko, it was not working out. I wanted it to work out to keep Rocko; however, we had overlooked signals and behavior changes from the other cats.

Some issues that were ignored

My desire to keep Rocko lead us to overlook other behavior changes that should have been warning signs.

  • Charlotte stopped looking out the kitchen windows, which had been one of her favorite activities.
  • As Rocko became more comfortable with the others, Buster would do this low growl when Rocko was too close.
  • Nacho came to me much less often to be petted.
  • More poops than usual outside the litter box (probably from Buster).
  • Nacho was hiding most of the time; we didn’t see her playing with toys as much.
  • And there are probably more issues. The above are things I noticed in the first three days that Rocko had been isolated.

The rehome plan

I will surrender Rocko to the local Humane Society. They are a no-kill shelter, which means they only take in cats when they have space, so I do not have a surrender date yet.

They took in Max (another stray cat) earlier this year and quickly found a home for him earlier this year. I am confident that they will be able to do the same for Rocko.

While Rocko is a nice cat, I can’t guarantee how he will do in another home (if the person has a cat or cats already). I am not in a position to be able to take him back (like a shelter can) if it doesn’t work out.

Also, I do not feel like I have the time or energy to search for a home for him myself.

Wait, isn’t he family now?

There are possible long-term solutions that could have made it possible to integrate Rocko again. For example, lots of Feliway (affiliate link) and a very, very slow reintroduction.

I have cried many tears over this decision. It’s best for my other cats and Rocko for him to have another home.

In general, I think the cat rehome shaming and guilt that can happen (no one has done this to me yet) needs to stop.

In many cases, the cat will be better off rehomed. Rocko didn’t fit with my other cats (mostly Nacho), but he may great with other cats or be fine as an only cat (both things I can’t offer to him).

As part of my rehoming series, the video below encourages people to stop shaming those who need to re-home a cat!

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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.

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