Ceci: The Misjudged Rescue Cat
Elizabeth Cee knew little about cats when she started to help a group that was living rough in a college carpark. She was surprised to learn cats have different personalities, complex emotions and learning behaviours just as humans do. She was inspired by the resilience of the cats as they faced adversity and misfortune in their struggle to survive. This inspiration evolved into a desire to help them in whatever way she could, feeding them and trying to rehome them where possible. With a growing army of supporters, she is continuing in her work with the cat colony.
Elizabeth hopes Ceci’s story will inspire people to remain hopeful even amidst the challenges they face and that they will become agents of change in their lives and the world around them. Please visit Elizabeth’s Lonely College Cats Facebook page and her blog to find out more about the cats at the car park.
Hi Elizabeth, thank you for joining us today at Reader Views! Tell us about your book, Ceci:The Misjudged Rescue Cat.
It is about rescuing a black kitten named Ceci who was born on a college campus. Her life was filled with misfortune and rejection. As her family was rescued from the parking lot over time, Ceci was left with Dory, her mother, to struggle to survive. Fortunately, she eventually met Victoria, who gave her a chance at a new life.
The book also tells about the plight of Ceci’s other family members—Arleen, Dory, Simba, and Micky. They have different personalities and behavioral traits; the interesting interactions between them and their social structure are also described in the book.
How did you get involved in the cat colony? What called you to help these cats?
I met Luna, Ceci’s aunty, as I was walking around the college parking lot in July 2018. I felt pity for her and worried that she had no food to eat. I started to rescue them when I knew more about their plight.
What inspired you to write a book about your journey with these cats?
When I told a college student about the cats, he said I should write a book. I didn’t think of writing one until I was desperate to find someone who would give Arleen a home.
Also, I don’t know whether I can rehome all of them, as there is a total of 20 cats on the campus. I worry that some of them may die due to accident or illness while they are waiting for someone to take in them. But I know they will live in my memory forever when I look at the book.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges feral cats face daily?
Hunger, sickness, and lack of cover from bad weather. They can be attacked by other animals such as dogs and large birds. They fight amongst themselves for food and territory. Also, some people may want to harm them for fun or catch them to use them as bait in illegal dog fights.
You worked with different organizations throughout this journey– talk about those organizations and what they do for the feral cat community.
They mainly trap, neuter them and release them back to where they live. They tend to rehome kittens that are less than 16 weeks old and are friendly. Due to the severe lack of resources, they are not keen on rehoming unfriendly kittens and adult feral cats.
When others gave up on Ceci, you were determined to help her – what did you see in Ceci that others perhaps did not?
Since I fed Ceci daily, I could see the subtle changes in her behavior after she was weaned by Dory. She became less fearful of people and started to look at me from a distance instead of hiding in the shrubs. Unfortunately, those subtle changes were too small, and I couldn’t convince people that she could be socialized and become a good pet.
I always find the interactions between cats to be fascinating. Can you tell us about a couple of the dominant cats in the colony?
Arleen is Ceci’s aunt. She is friendly to the feeders, like me, and is loyal to people she can trust. She likes to get close to me, mooch around my legs, and meow at me. Ceci, and later her mother, Dory, imitated her and started to befriend the feeders as well.
Simba is Ceci’s grandpa. He is a misunderstood cat. He is thought to be aggressive and must be neutered to stop him from chasing away and attacking his sons. But he never hisses or displays any aggression towards people. He protects the kittens of the female cats, lets them and their kittens eat from his plate and prevents fighting among the female cats. He has the best table manners of all the cats in the colony.
What drives their behaviors?
For Arleen, I think it’s her temperament. She is a more confident and calm cat and this makes her less afraid of people. She became a positive model to both Ceci and Dory and facilitated their socialization.
For Simba, I think it’s due to the rules of Mother Nature. Tomcats will chase away their sons when they grow bigger to stop them from competing for females and territory.
What does it mean to socialize a rescue cat? Are there any restrictions or guidelines on what successful socialization looks like?
Cat socialization is the process of developing trust in cats and helping them adjust to people or animals in the home environment. We can tell whether a cat is socialized or not by looking at their behavior. Generally speaking, a cat who is not socialized can be timid, distrustful, scared, or aggressive while a well-socialized cat is more likely to be loving, trusting, affectionate, and well-behaved.
You’ve had several success stories working with these cats but I’m sure there have been some heartaches as well. What keeps you going and how do you determine if a cat cannot be rescued.
I help them because I feel pity for their harsh living conditions. I can’t think of what exactly keeps me going to help the cats. I believe all cats can be both socialized to some extents and rescued, but it will take a lot of time to find someone with the compassion, tolerance, and patience necessary to socialize them to gain their trust. Once the cats trust someone, they will become affectionate and loving, like other house cats.
If a cat cannot be rescued, what measures can be taken to help keep it safe, or is it out of people’s hands?
They need to be fed, monitored, neutered and given veterinary care when they become sick.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite rescues?
My favorite rescue is Ceci. I saw her remarkable transformation from a scared kitten into a cuddly cat. Her change surprised my cat rescue friends too.
What cautions should people take when approaching a feral cat?
Usually, healthy people will not get diseases from feral cats; people with the compromised immune system are exceptions. But to be on the safe side, please don’t approach any aggressive feral cats because they can carry rabies, which can be transmitted through a cat bite. It’s better to contact cat rescue groups or local humane societies to help sick feral cats.
We need to give them a lot of space. Don’t pet feral cats if you don’t know them or if they are not ready to be petted. A cat scratch or bite can cause serious infection.
Wash your hands and shoes after feeding them to avoid ingesting parasites living in cats’ feces, but it will not cause serious illness to people who don’t have compromised immune system and treatment is usually not necessary.
How can people get involved in helping the plight of homeless felines?
If no one can find them a home, feed them and neuter them to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Pregnancy causes street cats a lot of stress. Dory was pregnant with Ceci when she was around five months old; it was so stressful that Dory changed from a cute kitten to an unrecognizable mysterious fat cat with ugly, dry, and coarse fur.
If you can afford it, give them veterinary care when they become sick. Contact local humane societies or cat rescue groups to seek help if you can’t afford the veterinary care the cats need.
Where can readers buy your book?
It is sold at Amazon, Kobo, AbeBooks, and the Book Depository.
So, what’s next for you? Do you continue to care for the cats in the carpark?
Yes, I continue to feed and monitor their health and socialize them, as well as finding someone to foster or adopt them.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I hope the book about Ceci can help her family find forever homes and make more people aware of the plight of street cats.
Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views, it’s been a pleasure learning more about you and your work!