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What should be done for ailing, abandoned and skittish cat?

DEAR JOAN:  Many years ago someone in the neighborhood moved and left their beautiful cat behind. Kitty has stayed put, living for years within a four-house range.
Good friends across the street took to feeding the cat twice a day and making a sheltered, warm bed in a corner of their front porch. The cat has never allowed anyone to come close and is beginning to look very ragged, has obvious hearing problems and this morning I noticed kitty seemed disoriented.
What do you recommend we do, if anything? If the cat is dying of old age, I worry about kidney failure or that the cat will be in pain. Should there be any intervention? Capturing the cat would be a traumatic experience.
Thank you for any advice you might have to offer.
You’ll notice I avoided writing “he” or “she” because some of us believe it’s a “she” and some a “he.”  The cat also has two names, but none of this has ever seemed to matter to the cat.
Janet Clark, Pleasant Hill
DEAR JANET: Wow, this is a tough one. Seeing a cat in obvious distress or in declining health certainly triggers a response to help it. But if the cat truly avoids contact with humans, forcing it to get close and personal with a rescuer and a vet could cause tremendous stress, which certainly won’t do the cat any favors.
If you’re correct and the cat was once someone’s pet, then perhaps approaching it carefully won’t be as stressful as we fear. I’m reserving some biting comments about the people who moved off and left the cat, but perhaps they were good pet parents until those moving boxes fell on their heads.
I think we should at least give it a try. Contact a cat rescue group for help in doing the trapping. They are very good at it and are your best bet for ensuring the least trauma and drama.
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If it appears you are just torturing the cat by trying to capture it, then give up on that idea. Instead, talk to a vet about the cat — take pictures and video — and see what she or he would recommend as far as medications that could be administered remotely by dosing the food.
If you are able to capture the cat and get it to the vet, you’ll still have a problem of what to do next. Will the cat accept living in one of the homes full time? An elderly, hard-of-hearing, frail cat really shouldn’t be out on the street.
Know what you’re getting in for and make sure you have someone who can take the next step, both financially and personally.
If none of this works and the cat spends its final days wandering between caring homes, at least you’ll know you tried. I think we need to echo a doctor’s mantra: First, do no harm.
Readers, what do you think. Do you have some good advice for how to help this cat?
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