July 6th, Sage got loose when a pet transport company was picking up the family pets for a move to Chicago. Sage got frightened and ran from her owners arms.
Sage is an indoor only cat and had never been outside. Indoor only cats don’t usually travel far and will typically stay within close proximity to the point of escape. This neighborhood had countless barns and sheds and lots of hiding spots, along with colonies of countless feral cats that roamed the neighborhood and people feeding them.
Feeding stations were set at Sage’s house from day one but construction work was being done on the property which kept her from returning. Not only that, the workers kept throwing away our bowls and plates of food and water. This work went on for close to a month. Cameras and feeding stations were set on neighboring properties but she never showed. For almost a month there were no sightings, a few look-alikes, but no Sage.
Approximately five days after the construction work at her old home stopped, we finally got our first sighting, she came back to her home and was spotted by a neighbor. A trap was set that night but she wouldn’t go in, she circled for hours until other feral cats in the area showed up, scaring her away.
For days I worked to condition Sage to the trap with little progress. Unfortunately, the new tenants were moving in and did not want us on the property any longer. The landlord who is also the ACO for the town told the new tenant to throw away our equipment, even though he knew we were working to trap her.
I had to start all over again and get her coming to another location. Once I had her showing up, traps were set but she just would not go in. I even went so far as to set up a large enclosure, but no dice. Anything new would cause her to disappear for days. Most of the time she wouldn’t even touch food or water that was placed on the ground outside of a trap or at a feeding station. At night the cavalry of raccoon and feral cats would descend on the food, which would keep Sage away.
She was getting very thin and weak and now it appeared that her collar was caught around her neck and under her arm, which I could see was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and painful for her.
Her owners were coming back to NJ and I had them go to the area where I was getting her on camera to see if she would come to her daddy, who she was deeply bonded with, it was our only hope at that point. He showed and softly called to her she began to meow from a hiding spot. To our amazement she slowly but surely came to him. He was able to get her in his arms but the moment he tried to get her in a carrier, she bit him hard and ran off and darted into a barn through a hole. Our hopes were dashed…. but we now had her inside the barn and had to seal off and blockade any holes she could use to escape.
You would think ok, we got her trapped inside, easy peasy right? WRONG!!!!!
This barn was filled from front to back, floor to ceiling with tubes and tunnels used to make playgrounds for McDonalds, Burger King, etc. She had endless hiding spots and worse, I couldn’t get to her if I tried. Dan and I climbed up the mountain of plastic playground equipment to see if we could get to the back to see if we could spot her. It was just too dangerous and I feared things falling and crushing her. Cameras were set up in the only spots I could fit them along with bowls of water and food. Everything and I mean everything frightened her. The bowl of water or the plate of food, it was all terrifying to her and she wouldn’t touch it. She went for ten days without drinking and almost two weeks without eating. She barely ate even when she was outside of the barn. When I finally had her on camera drinking water, I started crying, it was so incredibly emotional and heart wrenching to know she was in there and I couldn’t get to her to help her. I spent countless nights in tears from frustration and worry for her. I watched my cameras every night all night in the hopes that she would make the slightest progression into my traps, she was just so damn stubborn and so tragically terrified.
I knew I had no choice but to get everything out of that barn and net her, otherwise she wasn’t going to survive much longer. I enlisted the help of of my friends Cindy Rinehart, Kellea Langan and my love, Dan. Together, we moved mountains, literally, of huge, heavy tunnels and tubes out of the barn, all while barricading the doors in case she tried to dart out. As we progressed to the back, enclosure panels were set up. We finally had eyes on her in the last portion all the way to the back wall. She was diving and darting and tunneling and she disappeared again.
More was moved out of the barn and we would stop and be silent and listen to see if we could hear movement. We heard her and had eyes on her again…“She’s over here, she’s headed to you, now she’s headed back in your direction.” We had our nets and we worked feverishly to contain her and prevent her from making her way to the next section of tunnels.
She finally popped out, exhausted and looking for a new hiding spot to dive into… when we were able to finally net her, pin her and get a good hold of her scruff. There was no way I was letting her go. Together we got her safely loaded in the vari-kennel and got the door securely shut. I burst simultaneously in to tears and screams of joy!!!!
Sage was finally safe but then the smell of the infection from her wounds hit us like a brick. We rushed her to Newton Veterinary Hospital where they were waiting for us. She lost more than half her body weight and has very deep infected wounds from the embedded collar under her arm. They will be keeping her at the hospital this week and Sage’s family is driving back to reunite with her and bring her HOME!
Thank you to Mark Rappaport for your kindness in allowing us access to your barn stall. My two bad ass friends who weren’t afraid to get dirty and dove right in and helped me today and to my one and only, Dan, who is forever supportive of my rescue, words fail me with how thankful I am for your help today…we did it and I love you guys!!!!