The Cat at our Back Door
It was a typical hot summer for us. Busy as always, with lots to do - and then an unexpected meow at our back door. Did I imagine it. No, said our cat as he slithered and crept noiselessly to the screen door. Then he jumped up into the air like a Halloween cat and I could see two eyes glowing outside in the dusky evening and then a fast movement outside the door. I called out to the kids to come and see. Somehow I knew it wasn't a raccoon this time. We three went outside, quietly walked over the deck and onto the lawn and we all turned at a sound we couldn't identify. There she was darting under the deck.
"Wait here" I instructed my kids - mindful to warn them to watch but not touch. I grabbed a handful of my cat's food and came back out and dropped some out on the grass just outside of the deck. We watched and she crept out. She crunched on the kibbles and ate hungrily. I went in 2 more times and again she ate. She was thin and scraggly just as every other stray is.
My kids worried about her and so did I. We wondered if she would come back. I decided the cat was a girl as she appeared diminutive, but I had no evidence of this, perhaps wishful thinking as my female cat who had died about 2 years ago resembled this one just beyond our grasp.
I told my kids that this cat would come back, as all strays do, as we had given her food. I left water for her and a bit of food just in case. I spent the night worrying a little and hopeful that she would return.
In the morning, she was there and the food was gone. She was purring by the hydrangea and bathing. She meowed expectantly and rubbed a pillar outside. My heart broke a little. Our cat watched from inside as I fed her and she ate and drank comfortably. She had no fear that her food would be taken away. Then she bathed and went under our deck.
The next day, my son was there early with his flipcam and shot some video of her purring, rolling around in the morning sun, stretching and mewing. Then some more footage of her eating while I poured the food into her bowl. But we were leaving for a few days - soccer camp for my son and visiting friends for my daughter. Thankfully, a friend took care of the cat and came by every day with fresh water and food. I called to check on her and she hadn't eaten much - on top of everything it was a heat wave at the time. So I kept that to myself and worried alone.
We all agreed, there was something special about this cat. She didn't seem wild (feral) but she seemed frightened instead. My friend who had fed her thought she was waiting for us to return. The cat was there everyday we were away. The food seemed to be just a part of her visit. We wanted to keep her. We decided we would try to catch her and bring her to the vet. We named her "Cookie".
My friend takes care of my older dog and is an avid animal rights person. She volunteers her efforts toward "Catch and Release" programs in her town which means that they trap feral cats humanely, neuter them and then release them. Not every cat can be adopted or will be.
She loaned me a trap and I left the food in the trap with a thin towel and then we heard the door close. It was awful for us to think of her there. Then our hopes turned into a nightmare.
In the morning, we brought her to the veterinarian and explained our situation. They were expecting us. They said she appeared quite feral. They agreed to do the surgery and we would release her or keep her, depending on what kind of temperament she was to have after/if she calmed down.
My kids were so excited but our hopes were dashed later that morning when the vet called to tell me that she had already been spayed. Sadly, for all of us, she had Feline Leukemia (F.I.V.). I sat in my parked car and cried. My summer home is in an area where there are many stray cats and many people who care and feed for them. I know because after she came to our door I walked around and asked my neighbors if anyone was missing a cat or my description sounded familiar. The veterinary offices also "tag" cats they have neutered already and they know from which "colonies" they were found. Having a stray with FIV is a danger to all the strays and the outdoor house cats. The vet could not release the cat and given our situation with children and a cat, I could not take the cat either. The heart-wrenching decision of euthanasia was our only choice.
As we came to discuss this, we realized that this cat was probably an abandoned cat. She most likely contracted it after she was discarded by her previous owner. She had already been spayed, after all. Had another cat been infected in a fight? We hope not.
I know as you read this some agree and others do not. I can't write a happy ending but I can have many happy memories of many wonderful animals, including the ones I have now.