I had been thinking about my next blog post and had many ideas, but this one seemed important to write today. An acquaintance of mine is mourning the passing of her precious feral cat. She is devastated and grieving. One thing I find very difficult is that most people do not understand the feelings of loss involved with losing a feral cat. Many would say that this cat was nothing but a feral cat. Yet, this sweet soul was a member of her animal family and she is feeling great loss and sadness. Compassion and understanding is needed during this painful time.
Since I have been working with feral cats the past 4 ½ years, I have lost three. My dear sweet Patches was the most difficult. I could not for the life of me understand why he left a home with food, love and shelter. I could only surmise that he wanted a place of his own. During an animal communication session I had with Danielle Tremblay, she told me that Patches did not want to be an owned cat. He wanted to be free to wander. Even though he had been neutered and the instinct to wander should have been reduced, he still had a very strong drive. It had become a part of him. He had disappeared numerous times, but when he left after the neuter and did not return, I knew he was gone for good. He did make a few appearances on my outdoor cameras, but never during the day for me to see him. I knew that he would live out his life wandering and exploring until his death. Last summer, I felt strongly that he was no longer living. I had a call with Danielle and she confirmed that he had passed. It was so hard to let go of him and no longer feel hope. When Patches left the first time in 2012, I had a plaque on my deck that read “HOPE”. Each day I would sit outside and look at that sign and “hope” he would return. He returned to me several times before the hope ran out. I buried one of his favorite catnip toys and put a remembrance plaque on top. My dear sweet Patches, you have left my life, but you will never leave my heart.
When Patches left and when I felt he was no longer living, not many people understood. To them, he was just a feral cat that lived with me from time to time. No one understood, the love, time, patience and caring I had for this cat as well as the love he returned to me. No one understood how we would look at me with his big green eyes and sullen face. He loved catnip and all of the catnip toys. He was a very somber cat, with very little emotion, but he would roll all over the deck with those toys showing his complete happiness. I had many comments that it was sad he was dead, but most people couldn’t grasp that I had no control over his whereabouts or actions. I felt that many people thought I had not done enough for him. People did not know what to say and most just pushed the thought of his death out of their mind instantly. For me, it was weeks of grieving. He had a special place in my heart that others did not realize. Just because he lived outside and was a feral/stray cat, he too deserved love and care. He was a part of my animal family and I loved him dearly.
I also lost Patches #2. His death was traumatic for me in many ways. It was during the time when I was still “hoping” Patches was still alive. The emotional roller coaster of trying to figure out if this cat was Patches or not was very troublesome. When I had to euthanize him, it was very painful. I not only had to mourn the loss of this cat that I could not save, but also mourn the realization that it was not Patches. During this debacle, I think many people thought I was crazy. No one could understand how I didn’t know if this cat was Patches. Once they realized it wasn’t Patches, it was as though the loss of Patches #2 didn’t matter. It was another difficult time.
Hampton is my other loss. He may still be alive, but I mourn the loss that he left and most likely will never return. He was traumatized by the trap and neuter process and possibly felt that he could no longer trust me. I know I did the right thing in neutering him, but losing him was another challenging time. I often worried that I had done something wrong with him. Maybe I could have done something differently to make him less afraid. I then realized that a feral cat has its limits. They can learn to trust, but only at their own pace. This was just too much for him. I do hope that he is still out there and someone wonderful is caring for him and he can once again learn to trust.
Loving a feral cat is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would not trade anything for the time I have spent with each and everyone of them. They have brought so much joy, compassion and patience to my life. They are a part of my animal family just like my inside pets. Yet, loving a feral cat is also very difficult. You have no control over their actions. When they get frightened and run away to hide or when they get sick, there is often very little you can do. When loss does happen, many people have very little compassion or understanding for the loss. Yet, the caregiver is mourning the loss of a beloved pet.
I dedicate this post today to a special lady who loved her feral cat, Blacky. May you Rest In Peace Blacky and know that you were loved and you will be missed on this earth. Run free without fear and watch over your Mom below. Blacky’s Mom, you are in my thoughts during this difficult time. May fond memories of Blacky’s life warm your heart.
A Bridge Called Love
It takes us back to brighter years,
to happier sunlit days
and to precious moments
that will be with us always.
And these fond recollections
are treasured in the heart
to bring us always close to those
from whom we had to part.
There is a bridge of memories
from earth to Heaven above…
It keeps our dear ones near us
It’s the bridge that we call love.