On Sunday, 8/21, we are embarking on a mission to get resident shelter feline, Boss Hogg, to his forever home which awaits him in Toronto.
Hogg came to us in December of 2010. A good samartian found him abandoned outside at her apartment complex. She took him in and tried to care for him but he was virtually impossible to handle and was having health issues due to his extensively matted fur. A cat this aggressive would immediately be euthanized at most shelters, but we felt we could give him a chance and if he really wanted to be a feral cat, Hogg could fall back onto our Barn Cat Program. So Hogg came in just before Christmas last year.
We quickly realized he was NOT a feral cat but he was definitely lacking in normal cat social skills. He would desperately crave attention, meow, and rub up against his cage bars but as soon as we would offer a hand to pet him, he attacked. Not just a little attack, Hogg broke skin, scratched with malice, went absolutely ballistic. Two seconds later he would be making muffins, purring, and soliciting more attention. It took us over a week to get him vaccinated, dewormed, and checked for microchip.
Knowing being caged never helps any cat relax, we carefully moved Hogg into the bathroom where he could be out of a cage, but still confined. It was a tense beginning as everyone danced around him trying to use the bathroom without being attacked at the ankles. Slowly though, we started to make progress and could pet his head and scratch his ears. Never were we allowed to touch his hind end or tail though – he made it abundantly clear those were off limits. And without warning, sometimes his head was off limits too.
Figuring the bathroom was an improvement, perhaps Hogg would grow even more in a foster home, a foster home who has reformed biting cats before! So off Hogg went to foster. He lasted three days before he was asked to depart. We picked Hogg up and brought him home. When we arrived back at the shelter though, Hogg was a new cat. It was as if we had sent him to Boot Camp and he had seen the light and was now on his best behavior!
Hogg learned that snuggles were kind of nice, and that laps were made of warm! We still weren’t allowed to touch his fluffy orange tail and about once per day he’d let us know he could still bite and scratch for no apparent reason at all – but at last, progress was being made! Boss Hogg slowly made progress each and every day and learned that inappropriate behavior is unacceptable, whereas nice behavior yields pets and treats. It took months of patience and understanding, but Hogg now knows the word “no” and when we say “now, you apologize!” he bows his head and rubs on your hand affectionately, as if he knows whats he’s done is not very nice but he just can’t control himself. He approaches strangers now and will even let most of them touch his head for a few seconds. Inside his tough exterior is a big marshmallow of a cat who loves to sit in laps and suck on fleece sweaters like he is a 15lb kitten.
As far as he has come though, Boss Hogg is not a cat who is easy to adopt. He really shouldn’t be around children; he may bite and scratch at any time if he’s feeling sassy. Not many homes would tolerate him, much less enjoy his quirkiness and spunk, or cherish the phenomenal cat he really is. Little did we know that his perfect adopter had been watching his saga unfold on Facebook for many months, and she was absolutely smitten with him. One day she made the mistake of posting that she was in love with this cat and would adopt him in a heartbeat, should he ever come to Toronto, Canada. Thus began several weeks of email exchanges, videos of Hogg’s behavior, and our commitment to get Boss Hogg to his forever home that in every way, is perfectly suited to him. As we got to know his new mom, Ande, who is a highly experienced and devoted cat lover, and as she learned more about Hogg – we both knew that Hogg belonged with her.
So tomorrow morning, long before the sun rises – Boss Hogg begins his journey home. My husband and I are driving him all the way there, just over 600 miles. We should be to Ande’s house in Toronto early Sunday evening. We have a giant carrier set up for Hogg in the SUV complete with a litter pan and comfy bed. We have all of his documents ready for border control. (We do hope they won’t want to do a physical inspection of him though, as he most certainly would not play very nice with them.) We are staying a couple nights in Toronto to make sure the new addition suits Ande’s household, though we’re both very confident it will work splendidly.
Boss has had a stream of visitors come to say goodbye. He has become something of a local celebrity, known for always being in his basket on the windowsill facing the main road in town. School kids stop on their way home and talk to him through the window. When he isn’t in the window, we get phone calls from people concerned about why they didn’t see him on their way to work today. As it turns out, a whole lot of people are in love with this big orange, naughty cat. It’s a little bittersweet at the shelter today. Hogg is such a huge presence, it will be hard for us not to see him in the window, or on his favorite tower in the bathroom. We will delight in him being adopted, of course, as that is always our goal – but it’s hard not to get attached to the ones who spend a long time with us waiting for their perfect person.
His long journey home also reinforces our commitment to all the pets in our care. Every animal is an individual and needs special considerations. There IS an adopter out there for every animal. They have a safe place with us for as long as it takes. These are the principles we believe in, and these are the principles that will get Hogg home tomorrow.
If you would like to follow his journey home, watch our Facebook page. We’ll be sure to let everyone know how it goes. Thank you to everyone who has helped Hogg’s rehabilitation, who has donated to his care, who believes in the work we do and makes these moments possible.