Milliken family cared for Bubbles for more than two years, but thought it was time for a more permanent plan
Bubbles was a feral cat, scavenging around a neighbourhood of South Surrey. About two-and-a-half years ago, Sean and Kelsey Milliken noticed Bubbles was spending a lot of time in their backyard – and he wasn’t looking any too healthy.
They began feeding (and naming) Bubbles, but while he welcomed the nourishment, he was too long in the wild to allow them to get close.
With their two daughters, aged 10 and 15, and with Sean’s parents, Liz and Bob, who live around the corner, Bubbles eventually had a village taking care of him.
“We tried to find out if he was owned by anybody and nobody came forward,” says Liz Milliken. “We — all of us collectively — started to feed him because he was so hungry and he looked pretty awful. But we couldn’t go near him because he was so frightened of people and other cats.”
Despite the Millikens’ own cats (Kelsey and Sean have two rescue cats; Liz and Bob have one – all of them from RAPS), Bubbles made their backyard his fairly permanent home. He refused to come inside, but when the first winter came, Bubbles wasn’t too proud to accept a comfy bed the Millikens put on top of the hot tub, which provided a little warmth through the cold season.
“He was a bit of the king of the castle up there,” says Liz, “but it also meant that he was up high and he could see any predators.”
Though Bubbles has kept his distance over the years, he has warmed up in the most incremental ways. For instance, he lets the family know he’s ready for his meal by putting his paw to the sliding door, though he backs away when the food is served. The family also know to drop the plate and back away themselves or Bubbles may very well swat the hand that feeds him.
Bubbles has also made friends, of a kind, with one of Kelsey and Sean’s cats, Edith. The two will stand nose-to-nose through the glass. Though that’s as close as they’ll get.
Last summer, Sean and the girls noticed that Bubbles seemed to be losing weight. They suspected he had worms.
“So we got worm medication, put it in his food and all of a sudden he seemed to blossom — his fur, his coat, he was fat and healthy. … He was doing really, really well over the summer,” says Liz. “But last winter he deteriorated again and he was getting into a lot of fights with other cats in the neighbourhood. He really didn’t have a lot of strength.”
On a visit to the RAPS Cat Sanctuary with one of her granddaughters, Liz had a thought: “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could get Bubbles in here,” she recalls thinking. “We know that he would be safe and cared for. But it was very hard for us to part with him.”
Finally, the family all sat down together and acknowledged that Bubbles may not be well and that finding a place for him where he would receive more attention and possibly assimilate into a colony might be the best thing for him. They were also very conscious that many animal organizations would euthanize a cat with Bubbles’ history and challenges.
That’s why they chose RAPS, which is a no-kill organization. The RAPS Cat Sanctuary is the forever home to hundreds of cats, many of them with histories not dissimilar to Bubbles’.
Of course, there was still the small matter of getting Bubbles – who had never been touched by a Milliken or, to their knowledge, any other human – to the Sanctuary.
Bob went to RAPS on the Canada Day weekend to borrow a humane trap and, quite remarkably, Bubbles followed the scent of food right into it. Julie Desgroseillers, the manager of the RAPS Shelter and Sanctuary, had warned the Millikens that Bubbles probably wasn’t going to like his temporary quarters but recommended a simple trick that tends to calm animals down in such situations.
“Julie had told us put a blanket right over top of the cage and he’ll settle right down – and he did,” says Liz. “There was not a peep out of him on the drive. He ate all his food.”
As soon as the Millikens dropped him off, Bubbles was taken to the RAPS Animal Hospital for his first-ever medical exam.
It turns out, Bubbles is in pretty good condition for all he’s been through.
“He was a little thin but they kept him nice and fed,” says Aleesha Sangara, head registered veterinary technician at RAPS Animal Hospital. “He looked pretty good.”
In fact, everyone who meets him comments on what a stunning dude Bubbles is, with his smoky grey coat and huge eyes.
“He did have fleas,” says Aleesha. “By and large, he is relatively healthy. He was very, very spooked when he got here but he seemed to warm up a bit. We neutered him, got his tattoo in his ear, we SNAP tested him so he’s negative for any feline infectious diseases, which is really good. We gave him a little nail trim or a ‘paw-dicure.’”
The Millikens will be by the Sanctuary regularly to visit Bubbles and have committed to financially supporting him throughout his life. Liz was especially heartened when she was introduced to a cat who arrived at the Sanctuary about as feral as Bubbles, but has settled in beautifully to life in what has been called Kitty Club Med.
“We wanted him to live out whatever is left of his life in that facility where he would be cared for, he would be warm and he would be fed,” she says. “It was just an overall feel-good story.”