I have no position on reincarnation. But if I ever have to be reincarnated, please don’t let me be reincarnated as a feral cat.
These sketches are an attempt to hold onto something of a little grey and white tabby that I first saw in our neighborhood several months ago. I never took her picture, so I tried to find a cat photo on the internet that looked something like her and sketch from that. I viewed her as an interloper at first. She started showing up at Mary’s dinner time. Mary is a feral cat that we have cared for during the last twelve years. Yes, you read that right – twelve years! She and her friend Rhoda both chose our yard as birthplaces for their litters in the Spring of 2000. I’ll never forget spying that first batch of little black kittens under a spa we had in our yard at the time and calling out, “We have a problem!” Little did I know the extent of it then. But I digress – back to the kitty who is the subject of this post.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that this cat seemed to be limping, but she was still getting around and I stopped seeing her at our house so much. But on Good Friday (as I left the house to deliver Mr. Bones’ bunny tail), I saw her lying on our front door step. I knew this was not a good sign. I fed the poor thing – she was so hungry and she seemed smaller than I remembered. As I got closer, I saw her wounded paw and understood why she was limping. A nasty, festering wound is the nicest way I can describe it. She ate and rested in the sun the rest of the day. I prepared to have to trap or somehow cajole her into a carrier to find some help for her the next morning. But when morning came, she was gone. I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to leave as she seemed unable to use her wounded paw any more. Eventually she came back, but then she’d leave again. Then on Tuesday morning it started to rain and as my husband’s car (her favorite shelter during the last few days) rolled off the driveway, I knew my chance to get her some real help had arrived. I understand from talking with a woman at the Humane Society that many vets will not accept homeless cats as patients, but thankfully, the vet at our local cat hospital (VCA Hemingway), Dr. Yee, would. This was a big relief for me, as I really like Dr. Yee and I didn’t want to have to make the trip to Animal Control because it seemed scary and far away.
With her car shelter gone and the rain starting to fall, the kitty moved into the garage where I plugged in an electric pet bed for her and fed her some canned food and some turkey from a sandwich. She rested while I got myself ready and called the vet’s office. During the time we spent together in the garage, I really think she was beginning to trust me and I was certainly falling for her even though I knew a happy ending to this story was unlikely. Eventually I got out the carrier and lined it with an old towel. Then I tried to lure her in with some leftover Easter chicken. She looked at me and the chicken, but opted not to go in. Mild panic set in. I did not want to have to bring the trap out (the lined carrier seemed so much more gentle for an already suffering animal) and I noticed that her wound had started to bleed. All bets were off if I could not get her confined in some way; this is a tremendous challenge in trying to help feral cats. I went back in the house to regroup and when I came back to the garage, she was in the carrier eating the chicken. I still can’t believe it, but I was able to sneak around one side and close the door. I’m not sure if I heard a weak hiss at this point or not. She seemed pretty calm or at least resigned to being in the carrier.
I drove my poor girl to the cat hospital, told her I loved her, wished her good luck, and took Samantha to Target. Dr. Yee called me a little while later and said the kitty was so terrified of them that even if the wound was treatable, this cat – who was so afraid of humans – would in no way let us give her all the care required (bandaging, medication, etc.). We agreed that the most humane thing to do was to euthanize her. Last night as the rain poured down in buckets, I was thankful that this kitty was not still out on her own, suffering with both her paw and the weather. I’ve been surprised how sad this has made me. It’s not that she died, but how she lived that is so distressing.
I’d like to tell you that caring for feral cats is a rewarding thing to do, but in my experience the rewards are few and far between. Still, it’s got to be done. I remember when we first started to help out Mary and Rhoda I would worry – how would we care for them when they got old or injured? Well, Rhoda died in my lap about four years ago while we were riding to the vet after she’d been hit by a car speeding down our street. I still miss that cat, but I was grateful to be with her when she died and for the circumstances that allowed me to do so. Though I wasn’t with this poor little cat who didn’t have a name when she was put to sleep, I find comfort in the fact that she was with a caring vet in a warm and dry place and that she’d been so well fed over the weekend and during her last meal. Unfortunately, that’s all there is.
Feral Cat Book Recommendations
Living In Shadows: How To Help The Stray Cat In Your Life by Ann K. Fisher
The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside: Based On A True Story by Cynthia von Buhler