The Scarlet Ghost

As promised, Scarlet’s story

Scarlet is another rescue. In case you haven’t noticed, I am not wildly prudent about catching possibly feral animals. This was one such case.

I met her on July 6th when I was working at a local dude ranch. She was living alone out in the woods where we did trail rides, and the boss’ dog kept trying to catch her. This was not a dog who liked to play with a kitten, but a dog who killed any small animal she could catch.

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Usually, Scarlet knows how to handle dogs…

One day, the dog (Libby) was chasing this kitten, who ran out in front of the horses, and started to trot down the trail with them, looking around as though trying to find someone who would help her.

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She normally tells dogs all her secrets. When they’re not trying to kill her.

I jumped off my horse, Star, and started to follow along so I could grab this kitten. But she wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of being picked up, and stayed just out of reach.

Then Libby circled around in front of us, and I knew I had to grab the kitten before she was eaten.

So I did.

And then she grabbed me.

With her teeth.

And her claws.

And then her teeth again.

The whole thing probably took less than a minute, but at the end of it, all of my fingertips had holes in them, and her tooth had gone through my thumb nail. She finally froze, dangling by her scruff from my hand, with her teeth embedded in my wrist.

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This is how my thumb looked about a week after this ordeal.

Still holding her by the scruff, I got back on my horse, and we continued on the ride.

The kids on the ride with us decided to name her Scarlet. Probably because her neck was covered with blood from my hands.

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But instead of fighting, as we went down the path she started to enjoy herself. I think she finally realized that she was safe. She began to purr and knead her paws into my leg happily.

I borrowed a cat crate to keep the little one in for the rest of the work day, then took her home with me in the evening.

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That’s when I saw the real damage.

I knew she had something wrong with her tail, and thought maybe Libby had managed to grab her tail at some point.

But when I looked closer, the tail was completely full of maggots.

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I sat for two or three hours, using tweezers to pick the maggots out of her tail. There was a section a couple of inches long on the tail, where the skin wasn’t attached to the tail, and the space in between the two was jam packed with maggots. I didn’t count as I was going, but I would estimate I pulled at least a couple hundred maggots out of her.

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Scarlet was put under a mild quarantine, where we kept a close watch on her for any signs of disease. With the number of bite wounds I had on my hands, this was important.

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I also watched her closely for possible infection, or anything that would signify that the maggots had spread into vital organs, which is a concern especially with young animals.

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But she seemed to be ok. She took to life with her new siblings and me with hardly any hesitation. Marius hated her, but he eventually got over it.

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I struggled with the decision of having her tail amputated. To start with, she wasn’t healthy enough for major surgery like that. And according to everything that I read, it is better to leave as much of a cat’s tail as possible, because it aids in their balance. The shorter the tail, the more difficult life will be.

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She got healthier and healthier, and slowly, her tail healed. She loved being outside, exploring in safety and knowing that she would always have enough to eat.

She was a little less fond of having her tail bandaged, but she would rip the scab off as it healed, and I’d wake up to a room that looked like a murder scene, with blood spattered all over. Gauze and duck tape were my friends at those moments.

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Scarlet had an obsessive grooming issue when I first got her. It is often a coping mechanism for stressed cats, as the act of grooming releases endorphins. Scarlet would groom herself to the point of causing hairless and raw spots on her body. I made sure to notice when she was grooming more than she needed to, and I stopped her, petting her, or playing with her to distract her and teach her that she could get the endorphins from other things.

It took her a few months, but she finally got over her stressed out early life, and stopped her self-soothing. Grooming was a normal thing for her, and she could handle life.

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Scarlet did fall in the pool once…she wasn’t thrilled about that, but she handled it pretty well.

Scarlet is a great little cat. After nearly two years, her tail is almost healed. There’s still a little scabby bit on the end, but it doesn’t bleed anymore, and she doesn’t seem to hurt her at all.

She has been a Mom twice, and the second time the birth happened on my bed.

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Before anyone gets up in arms about me being irresponsible for not having Scarlet spayed, let me say this…Scarlet’s babies stay at my house, and are well cared for. Because we don’t want to have a hundred kittens running around here, all of the kittens are spayed. And Scarlet probably will be soon. But she is happy when she has babies. She cares for them, and gets extra food since she is such a little thing.

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Scarlet seldom looks like she’s happy. She has a pronounced forehead and an overbite, which make her look like she’s always scowling. But she loves to sit on my shoulder and purr as loud as she can in my ear.

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Showing off her scowly face with her brother

I don’t have any scars left from my initial meeting with Scarlet.

Would I do it again?

Yeah.

Would I try to grab her in such a way that she can’t get teeth and claws into me?

Heck yes.

But I am glad that I have the little goof. If I’d not picked her up, I doubt she’d have lived much longer with the state her tail was in. Infection or maggot infestation would have killed her if the dog didn’t. A few holes in my hands were fair payment for saving her.

And without her, I’d not have the kittens who follow me around all the time. Win-win.

If you want to see more photos of Scarlet, check out #thescarletghost on instagram. Ghost was the second choice given for a name for her, so it went into her hashtag to set it apart.

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