A long time ago a scrappy street cat showed up on the back deck. He looked suspiciously like another street cat called Troubles. Troubles was trapped by Mum, taken to the RSPCA, cleaned up, socialised and adopted by a family down south. This new cat would squeak and yelp in a very odd way. He liked food and after a few months became a regular at our back door. He then became a regular sleeping in the shed and in the winter months, would sleep in a cat box I built from insulation foam and blankets. He always looked very sad and concerned, but liked to socialise when his fear didn’t get the better of him.

He became Angst. I upgraded Angst’s apartment with an electric blanket and a roof, and he took to living on the deck. At first Sooty and Whitey weren’t sold on the arrangement, and there were a few occasions where Soot and Angst had some misunderstandings and disagreements. Whitey gave up being bothered (it was too much effort), and eventually everyone became used to each other.

Three cats, Angst, Sooty and Whitey, sitting together on a timber deck.

And then there were three.

Eventually Angst began inviting himself inside. He liked to spray a lot, which was unfortunate. But the rest of the time he’d come in and look around, sit in a box, and help himself to any leftover food in the cat bowls. If he came over late, he would sometimes come up the hall and shout to announce himself and that he would like some breakfast, please. Sometimes he’d sit in the kitchen and watch me make dinner and we’d listen to classical music together. Sometimes he’d help with whatever craft project I was working on.

Angst sitting on a model railway track.

Angst inspects the proposed train line

Yet after all this, I still had yet to touch him, let alone pat him.

But wasn’t all smooth sailing. One morning he showed up with a terrible wound on his forehead, bleeding profusely and in a state of confusion. He had food and then high-tailed it, despite needing medical attention. I was able to follow the trail of blood all the way down the street and saw him disappear over a back fence.

These were concerning times, and I got the RSPCA on the case. The problem was, Angst’s street cat smarts overrode any potential recognition that he needed help. Days and days of attempting to trap him resulted in failure every time. The wound would begin to heal and then open again to the point where a mortal infection appeared certain. It was intensely frustrating and distressing being so close yet unable to help.

Angst with a wounded forehead eating cat food

He used his head for something, but it wasn’t smarts.

Fortunately, over many months, it healed. Food on demand and dry spaces to rest allowed him to recoup and recover.

Angst The Cat next to two empty food bowls

Is there more?

Things went very well for months afterwards, and even Sooty had decided that there was no use worrying about the situation any more.

Then, last month, Angst disappeared. Being AWOL for days at a time wasn’t necessarily uncommon. But after a week without him showing up either in the garage or at the back door, we had begun to think that he’d moved on in one way or another. It was impossible to know, but we kept a lookout anyway. Then, one morning, we heard his unmistakable announcement, albeit in a more scratchy and faint way. There he was, at the back door as usual. It was cause for celebration but as I brought him some food, he backed away and fell over. When he got up, we could see there was something terribly wrong with his leg. Limping towards the food bowl, it looked like his leg was broken.

I’ve seen Angst eat a lot, but never like this. He was obviously in a lot of pain, and obviously hadn’t had any food for many days. Desperation is the only way I can describe how he went for every little remaining scrap. Afterwards he managed to drag himself across the back deck, into the garden, and under a shrub. I managed to slide a bowl of water next to him and he drank most of it. I’d never seen him drink water before. There was no doubt there was serious trouble ahead. We needed backup, and we weren’t able to get any from the RSPCA, and all the vets we’d called. Casting the next wider, we ended up in touch with the Canberra Street Cat Alliance. Their response was the opposite of all the other organisations.

Injured Angst heads towards a trap.

Despite his instincts, he fell for it.

Within hours, two of their volunteers were at our house to assess the situation. They set up a trap and remained on call while we waited and hoped for the best. Where before Angst wouldn’t have looked twice at the entrance of a trap, his desperation sent him right in, within about 30 minutes of it being laid. And within 30 minutes of that, the Canberra Street Cat Alliance volunteers were back on the scene. It’s worth pointing out that this was late on a Friday night.

Angst inside the cat trap

Injured, emaciated, scared.

He was contained, fed again, bundled up, and moved to safety. The volunteers took him to a vet and he was reviewed and medicated, and a full assessment followed the next day. It turns out his leg wasn’t broken, but there was major swelling as a result of an abscess, but what caused it was unknown. He was treated, and also desexed and microchipped, and remained under observation for a number of days. Then another late-night trip made by the Cat Alliance volunteers brought Angst home.

He’d been through a lot, but he was back and he knew it. His leg was still entirely lame, but he was sick of his situation and he wasn’t going to let a stupid cage hold him back. We hadn’t noticed the bottom latch wasn’t secure and as soon as our backs were turned he forced his way out. Chaos ensued. Eventually a number of sheets, my padded bee-keeping suit and a lot of upturned furniture brought him back under control. It wasn’t pleasant. But we got him back in his crate unharmed and since then it’s been secured at multiple points with cable ties and rope.

To complicate matters further, we were booked to fly to Tasmania for a few nights, but thankfully Mum and Hasjazz committed a huge amount of time and made multiple visits every day. 24/7 cameras provided another layer of security for emergency response.

Since then Angst has settled down to life in confinement. Unfortunately, his leg remains, as far as I can tell, unchanged. He will have to return to the vet soon, and there is a good chance that his leg will be amputated. Which will complicate things further. But for now we keep him as entertained as possible. He’d prefer to not be in this situation but all things considered he’s lucky to be alive.

We’d like to thank the fine people at the Canberra Street Cat Alliance who have made all of this possible. They are compassionate and committed to life, despite the immense challenges and costs. It’s about fairness for our fluffy friends who aren’t responsible for the situations they find themselves in. Death shouldn’t be a function of our own convenience. Those who stand against it are noble in spirit and should be celebrated.

Angst in his bed, in his cage

Looking as good as he ever has.

There will be another chapter to follow. In the meantime, you should donate to the Canberra Street Cat Alliance. It’s tax deductible and will make a huge difference.