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‘Warrior’ feline seeks safe home Overcoming a life of trauma, rescue cat now helps socialize feral kittens

With his ravaged ears, battered eye and toothless mouth, Dale the orange cat looks like a warrior.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2019 (1364 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With his ravaged ears, battered eye and toothless mouth, Dale the orange cat looks like a warrior.

This kind, courageous cat definitely has a warrior spirit.

“He’s a survivor, with a heart of gold,” said Claudia Allen, the director of Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert, which has a 77.9 per cent success rate of locating and returning missing cats to their homes through its Facebook page.

'He’s a survivor, with a heart of gold,' Claudia Allen said. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Overcoming a life of trauma and serious injuries, Dale has “blossomed into an incredibly loving, easygoing, gentle and quirky boy” while in a loving foster home since last summer, Allen said. After he was rescued, it turned out that he loved kittens. In the past six months, his nurturing nature has played a key role in helping feral kittens become socialized and get adopted.

Now he’s ready for a cosy, quiet and safe home of his own.

Dale is believed to be about four years old. He survived the mean streets of the city for most of those years by scrounging for food scraps and constantly defending himself from vicious attacks by other male cats.

Alone, with no colony, Dale was hanging around the Riverview area of Winnipeg last summer when he was spotted by a woman who fosters cats. Each time she saw him, he looked increasingly beaten up and more unhealthy. She tried to coax him in by leaving food for him, but he’d take it and run. One day last summer, he showed up with his right eye mangled and his ears bleeding.

“She just couldn’t stomach seeing this poor, raggedy cat scrounging for his existence and decided to trap him,” Allen said, noting he was named Dale because he was found on Rosedale, and Rose didn’t really fit a male orange tabby. “He was in really bad shape. He was on the street for at least four years.”

His horrible condition was also a sign Dale was definitely a discarded pet.

Dale on the day he was rescued. (Supplied)

“Feral cats do really well for themselves. You look at them and they look so good you might think they are someone’s cat,” Allen said. “It’s the ones that are really beaten up that were tossed out of their home (by humans) and had to try to survive. They usually don’t do very well. They don’t know all the good hiding spots or where to find the food because they’re not wild animals.”

The rescuer contacted Allen and they took Dale to the humane society for the three-day hold period, but no one was looking for him. He was neutered, had extensive dental work, was vaccinated and treated for external parasites by the Winnipeg Humane Society. He lived briefly with his rescuer, but he wasn’t responding to rehabilitation efforts there so Allen came up with a new plan.

“I knew he wasn’t feral because he was angry. Feral cats are not angry,” Allen said. “If they’re truly feral, they ignore you, they try to hide, they try to avoid you as much as possible. Dale was communicating with people — swatting, growling, hissing; those are signs of socialization.”

Allen arranged for cat foster Brenda Meyer to bring Dale to her home in September 2018 and Meyer worked some magic. Using experience, patience and a special ­brush-on-a-stick that she created, Meyer began to reach Dale, one brush stroke at a time. Dale became comfortable in Meyer’s foster cat room, a peaceful space with cosy blankets, toys and some cubby-hole beds amid sounds of quiet instrumental music.

He became more relaxed and agreeable. The brush was calming and non-invasive, since no human hands were involved. Within a few days, he was allowing Meyer to hold him, to pat him with her hand and he was accepting her kisses on his raggedy face.

Using experience, patience and a special ­brush-on-a-stick that she created, Meyer began to reach Dale, one brush stroke at a time. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

‘If the humane society has some cats that are questionable — they’re not sure if they used to be pets and are just very afraid of where they are — we’ll take them and see if we can help them come out of their shells, like Dale did. He’s been a good test cat. And he’s helped all these other cats’

– Claudia Allen

“Day 13, that was when he had his first purr,” Meyer said.

It was soon after that Dale became a self-appointed support cat in the Lost Cat Alert’s Scaredy Cat Academy, a socialization program for young feral cats. In a partnership with the humane society, the program operates within a network of carefully selected foster homes.

The academy has had 85 graduates who have found their forever homes since it began in late 2017, with no cats returned.

So far with Meyer, also a Scaredy Cat foster mom, Dale has helped socialize at least 10 kittens, who have all found their forever homes. He hangs out with them, snuggles with them and shows them how to be a kind cat.

Dale snuggling with a rescue kitten. (Supplied)

“He totally brings them out of their shell and loves them,” Meyer said. “He has such a relaxed temperament that it’s very calming for them, and it’s good for him, too.”

Val Poulton, the director of the humane society’s animal behaviour department, said cats with backgrounds like Dale’s don’t fit into its regular adoption program.

“Without programs like the Scaredy Cat program or our regular foster socialization program, there’s just a lot of cats out there that would have no live options. We’re all about trying to save as many lives as possible, so we’re using our creativity and imagination to get them to where they’d be the happiest,” Poulton said.

Dale took his opportunity at a new life to another level by cuddling kittens.

“Our work is very difficult and so stories like Dale’s are what makes it worth it,” Poulton said, pausing to compose herself. “I get emotional about this because we see a lot of really bad things, so it means so much to be able to make a difference in the life of even one cat.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dale, a street cat who is now seeking a forever home, has ‘a relaxed temperament’ that helps with socializing feral kittens, his foster mom, Brenda Meyer, says.

Because of Dale, the Scaredy Cat program has been expanded to include older cats — as long as they’re not dangerous or aggressive — who are angry, afraid or shut down.

“We’re giving them a chance as well,” Allen said. “If the humane society has some cats that are questionable — they’re not sure if they used to be pets and are just very afraid of where they are — we’ll take them and see if we can help them come out of their shells, like Dale did. He’s been a good test cat. And he’s helped all these other cats.”

Dale will need a quiet home where his humans will dote on him. He has a lowered immune system condition (FIV, which is acquired from deep bite wounds in fighting, not through regular contact with other cats), so he needs an owner who would quickly recognize any health concerns.

His right-eye laceration has healed but the tear duct leaks because the eye is slightly misshapen, so he needs it gently wiped a few times per day.

If you think Dale would fit into your family, please contact winnipeglostcatalert@gmail.com to request an adoption application.

Dale has helped socialize at least 10 kittens, hanging out with them and snuggling with them. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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