Thanks to Icebox for meowing this story in! It comes from the Asbury Park Press!
Rescued stray becomes a show-winning feline
BY CHERYL MILLER
For the first five years of her life, Buttercup never felt the touch of a human hand.
Instead, she lived in a colony with other cats, living in groundhog holes, sleeping in abandoned buildings, and only eating when a kind stranger left some food out for her and a few, or a few hundred, of her friends.
Diane Bove was one of those kind strangers. A member of Spay, Neuter and Protect Strays Inc. for the past five years, she spent much of her limited free time locating strays like Buttercup throughout the Monmouth County shore area. After trapping them, the Howell resident would humanely neuter the cats, and then find homes for the adoptable ones.
Bove thought Buttercup would be one of the luckier ones. Guessing her to be 6 months old because of her small size, she knew the stray had a better shot at being domesticated. The older a feral cat is, the less amenable it is to being touched by humans and acclimating to a real home.
The turning point is roughly 2 years old, says Dr. Marilyn Weber, veterinarian of the Sea Girt Animal Hospital in Wall. After that, “if they’re not exposed to humans, it’s more difficult,” she said.
As she did with many of the cats she trapped, Bove took Buttercup in; besides needing a home, she had also broken one of her legs, and needed medical attention.
But bringing the cat into the first home she’d ever known was anything but a Hallmark card moment.
“She was really nasty,” recalls Bove, so nasty that her boyfriend, Dave Frischenmeyer, kept Buttercup wrapped in a towel. To make her feel swaddled like a baby? “To protect me from her claws,” he says. “She was climbing the walls,” Bove continues. “We had a vase with some roses in it, and she was actually climbing the roses,” broken leg and all.
And she wasn’t the prettiest cat either. Due to a genetic problem she had no front teeth, plus she had a bump on her elbow, she was skinny and her coat was “like straw,” Bove remembers. And she would scratch, hiss and spit at anyone who came near her.
And then Bove learned what would be the first of many surprises about the taupe-color tortie- point: She was actually a dwarf, and going on 5 years old. Which meant she’d lasted on the streets a good three years longer than most, says Bove. And while her toughness had enabled her to survive that long, it was that very toughness that would probably prevent her from ever fitting into a real home.
But there was yet another surprising thing about the feline: While wrapped in a towel and watching “endless movies” with Frischenmeyer, every once in a while, she’d let out a gentle purr.
There’s some hope, recalls Bove. And whether it was the endless movies, or the endless “love and kissesall of a sudden, she gave it all back,” Frischenmeyer, a Howell resident, says.
And that’s when they realized that Buttercup was no ordinary wild cat. Not only was she responding to their touches, but she was asking for more.
So they gave her more. Frischenmeyer, whose father showed prize-winning West Highland white terriers at prestigious shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 30 years, suggested they start entering her in cat shows.
“She tied for second place in her very first show,” recalls Bove. In her second show, she received two first place ribbons.
That was just more than a year ago. To date, she’s won 14 first-place ribbons, and two Best in Show ribbons. Attending shows sponsored by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), Buttercup competes against anywhere from four to 20 cats in the Household Pets category, which means some might be purebreds, but are prevented from competing as such because they have a slight flaw, says Bove.