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Posts Tagged ‘feral cat’

In Memory of Claude

July 1998 – August 17, 2013
Rescued from Hillside, NJ RR bridge – August 1998

Claude-OnChair2

Claude-Kitten2He had only 3 places to go. Over the fence and a 100′ drop to the railroad tracks below, into the traffic crossing the railroad bridge, or into my hands. He chose to climb the fence. Thanks to the help of a kind passerby, the tiny feral kitten ended up in my hands. In fact, he ended up squalling loudly while I held him against my left shoulder with one hand and drove the rest of the way to work. It was a day when I normally didn’t come in to work, on a route I never went but for the backed-up traffic that day. I even passed him by, thinking he was a crumpled piece of paper – that’s how tiny he was – before my brain went “KITTEN!” and I backed up for a closer look.

In our Medical Dept., he was assessed at 5 weeks old, too young to get shots and at risk of becoming very ill in the city shelter. So I decided to take care of him until he was old enough to be adopted. He stayed with me in my office during the day and I took him home at night. I’d set him up a huge dog crate with blankets, food, water, litter – everything he needed. He was so tiny I was afraid he’d get lost or trapped somewhere in the house. And he screamed. I shut the door to the room, let him Claude-KittenWithChloe2out, and Claude made a beeline for my pit bull terrier Chloe’s chin and curled up underneath. From that moment on they became inseparable … he found the mom he’d always needed.

My thoughts of putting him up for adoption in the shelter were abandoned in the face of their devotion to each other, and that’s how Claude’s life began – loved by his dog and human moms.

Claude was a healthy and very happy, easygoing guy.  He survived Chloe, who passed away at 15-1/2, as well as his two cat buddies Mewsette and Gypsy Rose who left us in the last year and a half. He was without a doubt the nudgiest animal I’ve ever known, but also beyond Claude-AndChloeaffectionate, cuddly, funny and extremely trusting. He stretched out anywhere on his back, totally vulnerable, knowing he was always safe and loved. And did I mention vocal? We won’t even go there.

Life was sweet for Claude until a little over a week ago when he experienced a mild, seizure-like event. Unfortunately, these progressed rapidly and in number and severity that it became clear there was only one thing to do. I told him where we were going Saturday morning and what would be happening. I bathed us in white light and asked who would meet Claude on the other side. In a heartbeat I saw Chloe … her bunny ears up, eyes bright, and she was dancing from side to side, so eager to see her “baby” once again.

Claude left peacefully in a second to join his mom and left me to reflect on how lucky I, as well as he, was that day when I was sent to work the “back way” and over a railroad bridge where someone needed desperately to be found.

Home will never be the same without you, Claudie.

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Falling in love is always the easy part. Then it gets complicated. Why? Because “the other” has their own ways, their own ideas, their own habits, their own fears.

It doesn’t matter if “the other” is human or animal; no matter how hard we try, we cannot help but bring our own hopes, expectations, ideas, habits and fears to the table. Case in point – an animal one – elsewhere on this blog, I have mentioned that I feed a small feral cat with tuxedo markings whom I’ve named Little Fee. He’s been coming around since he was 9 months old or so, and that was the summer of 2009. He comes like clockwork for breakfast and dinner, and snacks in between from the bowl on my back porch when not chased away by one of the cats next door.

If not waiting for me on the back porch, he comes to his name when called. Yet he is extremely fearful and will not be touched or approached. He has never been missing for more than 2 days, and that was only after severe snowstorms. But now he is missing 2-1/2 days. What has happened to him?

The scenarios for a feral cat are … 1) Hit by a car  2) attacked by another animal  3) injured and laying low somewhere while healing  4) accidentally trapped in a shed, garage, etc.  5) poisoned  6) trapped by a human and removed with any number of intentions – to be neutered and returned, taken to the local shelter and/or to be killed. None but one of them are good. And there is nothing I can really do about any of them.

One of the things about loving another – be it human or animal – is that it is always fraught with risk.  Perhaps the greatest risk is giving up control, for it is the one thing we cannot have when another being is involved, or at least not without potential harm to ourselves or them. And one of the things about loving and caring for a feral cat, I see, is that I have no control at all.

And still we, in all our yearning humanity, risk loving again and again, knowing that we cannot control much … only our own thoughts, really. We can offer the best of ourselves to another being, offer our love, and then it’s out of our hands.

As for me, I keep intermittent vigil at my back door … watching and hoping … hoping my voice, my love, can bring this small being back and help heal him, if needed; hoping he’s not gone forever.

UPDATE, MARCH 1 –

The Fee has returned! In one of my porch checks late last night there he was, looking none the worse for wear, a bit hungry, and happy to be fed. Breathing easier at last.

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It’s tough looking after a feral cat. And by that I mean beyond making sure he always has enough food and fresh water, and de-worming him at the end of summer,  there’s not much more you can do for a cat that has never been touched. He will run in terror if you approach him or even make too loud a noise. I call him Little Fee. (He appeared in Summer 2009, and I initially thought he was a female, and named him Fiona.)

I continue to be amazed at how this little guy – so small, he must have been the runt of his litter – tugs at my heartstrings. He will run at the drop of a hat, but lately he has been a little more brave. He seems to know that he has some small sense of entitlement on my back porch. If  he is already eating at the back door, he will continue eating his fill and ignore the cat from next door that normally threatens and chases him away. He even dares to look him in the eye, then continue eating.

“She loves me,” I imagine him saying. “I belong here, too.”

But once done, he slinks away submissively in slow motion so as not to challenge the next door cat who also spends time with me and on my porch.

Imagine my surprise when I went into the kitchen for coffee late this morning and saw none other than Little Fee sound asleep on one of the back porch chairs, (see photo above), looking for all the world like he lived here and was just napping. I say surprise because I have never once seen this cat sound asleep on a chair on my porch – he seemingly just discovered it as an actual possibility. I took the photo through the closed back door and storm screen. If I’d opened it, the moment would have been lost, and since my intention is not for a gallery shot so much as a moment, it’s as unfocused and grainy as it is.

Little Fee … who would think one could be so in love with a creature that cannot – will not – be touched?

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