Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Butterscotch's bug-trap odyssey finally over

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BUTTERSCOTCH, the orange-and-white tabby cat who roamed the streets of Brandon with a bug trap on his head, has been caught. His saga had the makings of a made-for-TV movie, which ended happily early Saturday morning.

On July 23, Butterscotch was first spotted in Brandon with his head stuck in a contraption that was initially believed to be a bird feeder.

For about 21/2 weeks, the cat frequented the south end of the city, avoiding traps set for him by the Brandon and Area Lost Animals (BALA) rescue crew and Brandon animal control.

On Friday night, Toni Gramiak, the co-ordinator of BALA, said she came encountered Butterscotch sitting on the wall of a sealed walkway. With Gramiak in front of the wall and animal control authorities behind, Butterscotch still managed to escape.

"Little did we know that our biggest challenge wasn't just going to be that he had his face covered, affecting his sense of smell and sight," she said.

'It's got to be the perfect family, because a lot of people might want him just because he's Butterscotch'

Allegedly, a man in the neighbourhood was trying to sabotage the cat's capture, making the search for an evasive Butterscotch all the more difficult. The man would shine bright lights near the traps intended for the cat, sometimes damaging and knocking them over if he could, said Gramiak. The man's intentions remain unknown; he's declined requests for interviews.

BALA told area residents not to approach Butterscotch if they spotted him, but to call animal control authorities instead.

Volunteers worked around the clock, monitoring two to three traps that were set for Butterscotch during the cat's 21/2-week escapade. Gramiak, who also works during the day, said she got an average of two hours of sleep per night while trying to find the tabby.

The traps were camouflaged in trees, leaves and grass, and contained food volunteers hoped would entice Butterscotch. The winning combination proved to be tuna, two kinds of cat food with catnip sprinkled inside and an accompanying trail of tuna juice leading to the trap.

Dr. Jennifer Beckwith, one of the veterinarians who tended to Butterscotch when he was taken to the Grand Valley Animal Clinic on Saturday morning, said the cat was in good spirits considering what he has been through. The bug trap on his head was about 30 centimetres long and 10 to 15 centimetres wide, she said.

"He's recovering well from the ordeal. He's of course a little bit lighter now that he doesn't have a bug trap on his head," Beckwith said.

"The problem was the plastic ring. He'd stuck his head through the top of it and had managed to basically break it apart, but the ring was still hanging off his neck... our big concern was he could have been hung up on something and strangled himself."

The bug trap wasn't blocking Butterscotch's mouth, so he was able to eat and drink. He wasn't emaciated or dehydrated when he was taken to the clinic, said Beckwith. Gramiak said BALA and animal control knew Butterscotch was able to eat and drink, but didn't want that information to leak to the public in case someone was to find out and attempt to harm the cat.

After he was caught at around 7 a.m. Saturday, Butterscotch was taken to the clinic, where he was put under anesthetic to surgically remove the bug trap from his head. While he was put under, the vets also neutered Butterscotch. Beckwith said the cat didn't have a microchip or tattoo identifying him, meaning he is likely a stray.

Butterscotch will stay in the clinic until he's fully recovered from the anesthetic and then will be taken to the pound, as is common procedure with all animals brought in by animal control, said Beckwith. "Any time we have an animal that's caught by animal control, they go to the pound for 72 hours."

After three days, arrangements have been made so Butterscotch can be taken in by the Funds for Furry Friends program, which fosters and adopts animals into loving homes. Gramiak said Butterscotch seemed to be coming around to socializing Saturday afternoon after his surgery, though he was still technically sedated.

"He's getting used to my voice, but he's just getting over his sedation," she said. "I'm going to give him a couple of days to reveal his true self, and then he will go into a foster home, if necessary."

While Butterscotch is feral, Gramiak and Beckwith both said they've dealt with worse-behaved cats before. Gramiak said she can see Butterscotch getting scooped up and adopted soon.

"It's got to be the perfect family, because a lot of people might want him just because he's Butterscotch. He's been through enough."

In the meantime, the quasi-celebrity cat will learn to live with humans.

"When I close my eyes with him, he closes his eyes too, so it seems like he's learning to relax," said Gramiak. "I'll be really happy when I have him purring."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2014 A3

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