Senior Cat Was So Grumpy — Until He Became ‘Grandpa’ To Kittens
“I was expecting him to hiss or growl or slink away. But then one of the ginger kittens started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason sort of leaned into it and closed his eyes like it was the most amazing thing ever.”
Shelly Roche never planned on keeping Mason. The 10-year-old male cat was feral and somewhat ferocious toward people, and Roche thought he’d be miserable living inside a domestic home.
Last October, Roche, founder of TinyKittens, learned about a feral cat colony on a private property in British Columbia, Canada. So Roche and a few volunteers started trapping the animals so they could be spayed, neutered and given medical treatment. And if any of them were friendly, they’d try and find them homes.
“We ended up bringing in about 26 cats one weekend, including Mason,” Roche told The Dodo. “He was one of our special ones because he had a massive growth on the bottom of his right paw. His tail had been broken multiple times. He had a bunch of infections. He needed extensive dental surgery. He was a senior cat who had no vet care basically his whole life.”
But treating Mason was going to be tricky.
“He’s been feral his whole life, so he’s never had any positive interactions with humans,” Roche said. “He sees us as predators, essentially.”
After giving Mason the medical treatment he needed, Roche planned to return Mason to his colony, and just leave food out for him each day. But then Roche noticed something that changed everything — Mason was urinating a lot more than he should be.
“We ran some blood work, and found out that he had advanced kidney disease,” Roche said. “We thought, ‘We can’t return him because he’s not going to survive the winter like this.’ We had gotten all his other stuff fixed up, but his kidney disease means that he needs a special diet and meds.”
The other TinyKittens volunteers were afraid of Mason, so Roche brought him home to live with her.
“I didn’t want him to be under any more stress than he needed to be,” Roche said. “We kind of developed a rapport where he knows when I’m going to give him meds, and he swats and hits a couple times, but he recovers pretty quickly.”
After a little while, Mason did become more comfortable in Roche’s house.
“I started coming out my bedroom in the morning, and I would notice toys all over the place and pillows off the couch,” Roche said. “That’s a sign of a fairly happy cat who’s up all night playing and acting like a normal cat.”
Then Roche brought home five foster kittens — Scrammy, Moo Shu, Florentine, Hatch and Fabergé. Since Mason continued to not be friendly with her, Roche wasn’t sure how he’d react to the kittens — but she decided to carefully introduce them to see how he’d react.
“He has a little spot under a chair that he likes, and I put the kittens down and they started climbing all over him and invading his personal space,” Roche said. “I was right there in case he got upset — I was expecting him to hiss or growl or slink away. But then one of the ginger kittens started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason sort of leaned into it and closed his eyes like it was the most amazing thing ever.”
Roche couldn’t believe it — Mason had never relaxed that way around her.
“There was pure bliss on his face, which was really amazing,” Roche said. “It seemed like the one thing that was missing for him was contact with another living being. And while he definitely didn’t want that with me, he must have been missing it from his own kind.”
Since Mason and the kittens had different medical and dietary requirements, she decided not to house them together — but she started bringing the kittens to visit Mason every day.
“He’s like Grandpa,” Roche said. “The kids come over and they play and they get away with all sorts of shenanigans. If they got really, really obnoxious, he would put his paw on them and just hold them for a minute.”
“He really just came alive when they were around,” she added. “He would play and snuggle with them. If they were all sleeping on one of the beds, he’d come over to them and climb on top of them, and push his way down to make room.”
Mason is still wary of Roche, but she’s managed to pet him as long as the kittens are around.
“I called it the Trojan kitten method,” Roche said. “If the kittens were snuggling with him, I could go up and sneak my hand under a kitten and pet him that way. And we’d all just pretend it was the kitten. He [Mason] would kind of know what was going on, and the kittens were like, ‘Oh, we’re doing this again? OK.’”
“The cute thing is that he loves being pet,” Roche added. “He loves ear rubs and his head being petted. He just has it so ingrained that humans are predators.”
Scrammy, Moo Shu, Florentine, Hatch and Fabergé have now been adopted into forever families, but Roche plans on getting more foster kittens.
“We will have more kittens for him,” Roche said. “In the meantime, he gets along really well with two of my adult cats, and so I made sure that the adult cats and him all played together.”
Yet Scrammy, Moo Shu, Florentine, Hatch and Fabergé played a very important role in Mason’s life — they helped him adjust to a new life inside a home.
“He was kind of lonely and in a place where he had to relearn everything he thought he knew, so to have these kittens kind of pile on him and give him love, and to also just play with him, it was the most carefree I’d seen him since he got here,” Roche said.