A stray cat showed up awhile ago. He was pretty shy and one of the neighborhood ferals, a middle-aged fellow our neighbor calls "Skittles," just hated him on sight. The two cats were of similar coloring and build, compact gray shorthairs; maybe Skittle was just freked out by a mirror-image that didn't move when he moved?
By a slow process known only to tomcats, the new guy ended up spending most of his time in our front yard. He tended to talk, and if I was at the backyard fence talking to Jack, the third feral -- he's gray-and-white, long-haired, fourteen years old and a great pal of Skittles -- the new cat would meow and meow. Eventually, the new cat started spending time on our front porch and made it clear he'd be happy to come on in. He wasn't afraid of me or Tam, and if the inner door was open, he and Huck would talk through and smooth on the glass storm door.
It was natural, as cold weather started, to think about adopting him. I'd fed him on the front porch a couple of times. Our neighbor, who's very good with cats, caught him and kept him caged overnight. Yesterday morning, she delivered him to us in a large carrier and I kept him in it, isolated in the basement. I'd made an appointment with the vet for 11:30 a.m. It was during my work hours, so Tam took him there and he was a real charmer, as sweet and friendly a cat as could be. One ear was "tipped," which usually means Indy Feral has caught and neutered a cat, and he was looking good....
Until they checked for Feline Leukemia. He had it and it was starting to affect his health. The clock was ticking -- and since it's infectious, Tam couldn't even bring him home to be an outside cat. The vet was visibly upset when she shared the bad news.
Tam stayed with the gray cat -- we were calling him "Buddy" -- 'til the end. She's called me and we were both very broken-hearted over the news.
I've been with cats in their last moments a lot of times -- a couple of brave ferals at my old place that were mortally injured in fights, my ex's nice little cat, my family of three black cats -- and it never gets any easier. Being there, comforting the cat, is the one decent thing you can do for them. But it hurts. Gosh, it hurts.
Huck was puzzled last night, looking around, checking the windows. Where was his friend? I told him and he listened as solemnly as only a sixteen-pound tomcat can, then leaped off my lap to go play. Life's a bit simpler for a cat.
Last evening, I kept thinking I'd heard a meow from outside, faint and distant. Go in peace, little gray cat. We tried.
6 months ago