Cat Helps His Mom Save An Injured Raccoon's Life
A baby raccoon, made of just skin, bones and patches of fur, lay on the side of a road in Kansas during the summer of 2012.
That day in particular was unbearably hot.
He was dehydrated and his mother was nowhere to be found.
Haley Williams, a 20-year-old veterinary school student, was driving into town when she came across him.
"I kind of panicked knowing he needed help right away," Williams told The Dodo. "So I grabbed an extra pair of brand new shorts in the back of my car and wrapped him up in them so he couldn't bite me, and [then] drove him into town on my lap."
What Williams didn't expect was that she'd run into trouble while trying to do the right thing - that is, getting professional help for the injured animal.
"I called the veterinary clinic to see if I could take him in, but they said they do not take in raccoons," Williams said. "I called the police station to get the number for any kind of wildlife services, but there are none around here that would be willing to take in a raccoon."
Williams had no other choice but to take the raccoon in herself in order to save his life. She named him Winston.
"I already had animal bottles at home because I have raised many orphaned kittens over the years, so I took Winston home and gave him kitten formula," Williams said.
"He took to the bottle almost immediately. Even though he was scared of me when I first picked him up, as soon as I gave him his first bottle, he bonded to me right away and would not let me out of his sight."
Extremely weak, Winston became highly dependent on his surrogate mother, and purred whenever she was near. He made a high-pitched screech, similar to crying, whenever Williams would put him down in a bed to rest. As a result, Williams had to make a sling that allowed her to carry Winston around.
"It was like having a newborn in the house," Williams said. "I'd have to wake up every couple of hours to feed him. My sister was a huge help and he thought of her as just another mother to him. Soon, he was at a normal weight again and his hair was growing back nicely. His tail was actually starting to look fluffy instead of like a rat's tail."
As Winston got older and gained his strength back, Williams was faced with a new challenge - being a surrogate mother to a healthy, hyperactive wild raccoon.
Williams often took him down to the lake near her family's property to play around and said Winston had a penchant for collecting strangely shaped rocks to give her as gifts.
Despite raising Winston, she was never under the impression that he would ever be a household pet.
This only became more clear to her when Winston started to hang out with her cat Zizi, who made her home in Williams' barn. "The more I introduced him to the outside world, the more he wanted to be out exploring," Williams said.
Zizi became not only Winston's friend, but also his guide to exploring the world. Zizi gave Winston the courage to become comfortable with drifting farther and farther away from the home he grew up in.
"If Winston wasn't with me, he was always with Zizi," Williams said.
"Once Zizi passed away, Winston was a full-grown male ready to start doing male raccoon things," she said. Winston started leaving home for days, then weeks and then months, especially during mating season.
Today, Winston is 5 years old and no longer lives with Williams, though he knows Williams' home is a place to return to whenever he needs some extra help.
"I see him more during harsh weather months when food is scarce," Williams said. "He knows his mom will feed him. He also always comes home if he has suffered any kind of wound and will let me tend to it."
Winston is also pretty good at breaking in all on his own whenever no one is home.
A few years ago, Winston weaseled into Williams' home and managed to make a mess of a dozen cupcakes and an entire box of pancake mix.
One point about Winston that Williams can't stress enough is that raccoon aren't meant to be household pets. "I've had people saying they've been looking for raccoon pets after they learn about Winston and I can't stress enough that they're wild," she said.
She emphasized that Winston can still be skittish, even around her, and has bitten her on a few occasions when she failed to properly read his body language. "While I have greatly enjoyed the experience I've had raising him and learning about him, I still wish he would have had his real mother to teach him," she said.
But it seems Winston will never forget the "mom" who gave him the chance to live and grow up into a fully fledged wild animal.
"Sometimes he shows up late at night and we'll just cuddle and nap on the porch together until he decides he's had enough and will leave again," Williams said. "He will sometimes cuddle up close and groom my newest cat. Perhaps he remembers Zizi in those instances."
For more raccoons, see this video about Cody Rocket, a therapy raccoon who lives in the U.K.