I started this post days ago, but life has handed me an abundance of pet clients (woo-hoo!) and the usual farm upkeep, and then my own dogs ….
I usually post daily on Instagram (click here for IG!) if you ever want to know what’s going on and it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted here… I usually post a story or pics daily over there…
Anywho, today I want to tell the whole story of Mr. Marbles. Marbles is a feral cat that has been hanging around for about a year on the farm. I’ve never named any cat that has shown up, primarily because they don’t last long due to the coyote population.
His name came from a long-running joke in our house for visitors who sleep upstairs in the loft. There are two little doors that serve as attic access points and it started when my little sister was sleeping over and asked what those doors were for. Christian quickly answered, “Oh, that’s just where Mr. Marbles lives!” Mr. Marbles originally comes from an episode of Seinfeld, so if you are a fan of the show, then it may sound somewhat familiar. The look of terror on her face, was everything and so from that point on anyone who slept upstairs and heard a noise or asked about the doors, we’d just say, “oh! That’s just Mr. Marbles!” - So that’s where the name comes from…
If you’ve been following a while, Spirulina (our house cat) was supposed to be a barn cat and after only 3 weeks of being an indoor/outdoor cat where she was out during the day and in at night, she didn’t come back one evening and I found her the next morning after having been attacked by a coyote. Miraculously she got away close enough to the house that she drug herself to the back porch and hid until I found her. Almost $3000 later and multiple surgeries for necrotic tissue, drains, and months of recovery, she was fully healed. The vet thought it was likely she’d be permanently incontinent, but she is a fully functional and strictly indoor-only very moody cat who has thought for the last ten years that we are holding her captive just for fun…..
Back to Marbles… so because he’d managed to stick around for so long, I decided to name him after almost 9 months of seeing him regularly. He also started following me around from a distance instead of darting from the sight of me. I had feeding stations out for the wildlife that had been living under the house (another long story), but now the skunks and opossums were unable to return to their home because we had the foundation critter-proofed, and he had started coming around and taking advantage of the buffet. Eventually he realized I was the one replenishing the buffet every evening when I fed the horses and goats and started coming around and following me all over the farm as I fed everyone else. Soon he’d let me pet him while he ate, but only if he didn’t see my hand. I realized this after his eyes caught my hand doing the petting and he attacked me, getting me pretty good - hissing and growling at my presence that day. I was careful not to reach for him ever again after that day and just let him come to me and get used to the fact that even though I had hands, I was nice :)
He started doing the typical cat thing, weaving in between and through my feet and ankles if I just stood there, and would roll over and show me his belly…. I thought maybe I could attempt to reach for him without him fearing me, now that he seemed so content, but sure enough when he saw my hand reaching, he got up and ran from me. Nonetheless, it was like clockwork. Day after day, he would come around at feeding time, roll around showing me his little fat belly, weave in and out of my feet, to where I had to be very aware where he was because he’d almost trip me up.
On January 6, he didn’t come around at feeding time. This concerned me, but I also was very aware of what could be keeping him…. The coyotes are really active right now….but he managed to get through last winter when they were active AND the temps didn’t get above freezing for an entire week. Then late that same night while walking Reece, I saw him. Just sitting in the middle of the dirt road. It was an odd encounter and I had planned on putting Reece up and then checking on Marbles right after.
Moments later, and just as I was walking out the door to go see him, a dirt bike and a four-wheeler came racing down the dirt road and Mr. Marbles was gone. I was a little concerned, looked in the ditches and he was nowhere to be seen. I checked the front property camera footage to see if he’d been caught coming or going over night, and nothing. He usually would make an appearance on those cameras daily. No sign of Mr. Marbles on January 7, 8, or 9th. On the evening of the 10th, I set up a camera at the skunk & opossum feeding station and guess who showed up?? Yes! Mr. Marbles!! My phone notified me and I ran outside to see him and make sure he was ok. He was sitting there eating and appeared normal and I pet him as much as I could safely do to feel around for anything and noticed nothing alarming, so I left him to eat and watched the camera from inside. As he was leaving, I noticed he was limping pretty significantly. I ran back outside but he was already gone. I checked the camera footage from overnight, he didn’t come back. I looked all around the property on the 11th, still nothing. I was also dog-sitting late-night at a client’s home, so had been watching the camera from another location, and he popped up the night of the 11th to eat. Still limping.
The next morning I searched the woods, the fields, under the low-lying tree canopies, nothing. Then just as I was finishing up morning chores, I walked past an outbuilding and there he was. I grabbed a bowl and filled it with food, placed it on the back porch and he followed me. As I was trying to come up with a plan quickly on how to contain him, he let me know he was feeling better (and very social) but the limp was still very prevalent. He started following me so I decided to put together a large dog crate that was in the barn - emergency holding for injured wildlife (David Crowie and an entire opossum family have spent a few nights in there), threw some rye straw in, and miraculously was able to swiftly pick him up and toss him in….
The next step was to find a vet who would see a feral that absolutely will not be able to be handled. I had zero plan here because I really didn’t think I’d be able to catch him. My normal vet would have seen Marbles, but he was unavailable for the next week due to recovering from surgery. I contacted an active cat advocate for the shelter I volunteer with because there are quite a few feral cats that come through and she directed me to the vet that handles all the feral shelter kitties. She also let me borrow a feral cat cage for transport to the vet. You see, feral cats have to be in a certain type of cage so that they can be sedated without anyone getting hurt.
I dropped by the vet, explained my situation, and how I’d need to transfer Marbles from the dog crate to the small cat cage and they gave me some sedatives to mix in with his food. I was to give him some that evening and then again the next morning before putting him in the smaller cage. I watched as he devoured the meds….. I waited for them to kick in….. they seemed to have no effect. Yikes. Ironically I had just ordered some raptor gloves (I know, right?) and they had just arrived the day before. The next morning, I gave the second dose of meds, waited for him to get sedated, which did not happen (of course - bahahahaha!), and then I put on my new gloves and went for it. Again, surprisingly easy but still traumatic for Marbles. We headed to the vet, they were able to tip the cage just right, poke him in the rear with anesthesia, and he was out like a light.
After a thorough exam and several X-rays, it was determined nothing was broken, no abscesses were found, and it was quite possible he just sprained his leg. I was given pain meds and we went home.
He has been a completely different cat since we got home. I was so worried that this experience would be a setback in all the work I’d put in over the last 5 months of trying to win his trust. He’s been affectionate, so loving, and sweet. My original plan was to let him heal up and allow him to go back to the life he’s known, but now I’m considering the alternative of finding him a suitable home. Ya see, I’m keeping him enclosed in the chicken coop (it’s basically like an open site catio) while he heals and I thought that might drive him crazy, but in viewing the camera footage, he seems so content knowing he’s safe…. The last two nights, he’s had a routine…. He eats a late night meal around 11pm, then goes to his little straw bed inside the kennel, and sleeps all night until about 5am and eats again. He sleeps so soundly.
I will see how the next several days go, and obviously I won’t be turning him loose with that limp, so I’ve got some time to observe. If he continues to seem enjoying being safe and confined, I will try my best to find him a home where he can just be a cat…. And never have to worry about survival ever again..
I made a little video mashup of his journey up to yesterday…
And if you are local to Winterville/ Athens, and would like to consider giving Mr. Marbles a safe home, use the contact form to the left and let me know! He will be fully vetted, neutered and up to date on all vaccines.
I love him so much and appreciate you taking the time to read his story and watch his video!