After evading capture and losing his vision, the feral cat named Ham transforms into a fully domesticated housecat
A four-month-old kitten, Ham, or Ham Sandwich, earned his name because he refused to be caught by TNR (trap, neuter, release) rescuers. Instead, he hung out near the trap, rolling around and showing off like…a ham. Unfortunately, Ham didn’t know that being caught would have been the best thing possible for him at the time.
Brooklyn rescuer Dana wanted so badly to catch Ham when he was a wily kitten. But at the time, they had to prioritize catching numerous younger struggling kittens who could be spared from a tough life on the streets. It was kitten season in the Big City, and thousands of kittens may need round-the-clock care. Rescuers have to triage because there are just too many cats that need help.
“As rescuers, we need to acknowledge our limits and prioritize how to utilize our capacity,” she explained.
But Dana never forgot about Ham, the elusive one that got away.
“We had to made the tough call to add Ham to the TNR list and come back for him at a later date,” Dana explained.
In the meantime, a colony caretaker kept her eye out for Ham, an occasional visitor.
Ham Returns with Swollen Eyes
Ham managed to get by as a feral kitty for two years, but things suddenly took a turn for the worse. His eyes became cloudy, swollen, and bulging, and he would likely not have made it much longer.
It happened in just two weeks, but they didn’t know how. He required immediate medical attention, and they tried to catch him once more.
“Thankfully, this time, he was ready,” Dana said as a weakened Ham entered the TNR trap for a meal.
It was heartbreaking since she had always hoped to bring him in earlier. The “what ifs” can be overwhelming for all rescuers who go to extreme lengths to help each cat. Things often go wrong anyway, and there are limits to what one can do.
“When he turned up with bulging and swollen eyes, bumping into things, I couldn’t help but feel like if I’d just been able to get him 2 years ago, I could have saved him from this fate. I am trying to focus on the fact that Ham is safe now, he’s with me, and we’re getting him the help he needs.
A New Life and Girlfriend
Now in safe hands, Ham received the expensive veterinary care he desperately needed. He was neutered, vaccinated, and went to an ophthalmologist, only possible thanks to the kind people who donated for his care.
As a feral cat, Ham was fearful and skittish, but then, he made a new friend. In foster care, Ham met Dana’s cat Scarlet, and it was as if they were “star-crossed lovers.” She gave him constant entertainment, and he experienced a soft cat bed and toys for the first time.
Ham got eye surgery to remove his painful bulging eye beyond saving (enucleation) and wore a hamburger collar while he recovered. A biopsy revealed his eyes were likely somehow damaged by a traumatic injury, not a virus or tumor. The latter cases tend to cause gradual vision loss, not rapid change.
Socializing a Ham
Considering all this cat went through, it’s shocking how quickly he adjusted to indoor life. Many feral cats will never adapt to housecat life. But as a blind cat, he couldn’t safely return.
With Scarlet’s help, Ham rapidly adjusted and let his foster mom pet him with a spatula. After desensitizing him with the spatula, she slowly moved to the back of her hand while praising and offering yummy treats.
It was a slow process, but with lots of play sessions and toys, he surprised everyone with his progress. After eluding capture for years, he’s become a “fully-fledged housecat” at last!
The “big hunk of ham” has even begun sleeping in the bed his foster mom. From now on, he’ll always be safe and loved.
For more, you can follow and support Dana on Instagram and Brooklyn Animal Action on Instagram and Facebook.