My original Patches never returned after TNR. That was in March of 2013. I grieved every day for him. I so hoped that eventually he would return. Since I have surveillance cameras on my deck, I could check to see the comings and goings at night. In November of 2013 a cat resembling Patches appeared during the night. I was overjoyed. Shadow even went to greet this cat so I felt strongly it was my Patches. The night time camera pictures are black and white and often hard to get detailed images. This cat continued to come off and on for a few weeks before finally appearing in the evening when I was home. I rushed out to give him food, but he was quite startled by me, but eventually he did come up on the deck to eat. Each time he saw me though he ran and hid. Then on New Years Eve after he had been coming for almost a week, I went out and called for him. I could hear him meowing under the deck. He came up and sat on the edge for a bit before finally coming over to me. He allowed me to pet him and purred so loudly. When he lifted his face so I could see him, I felt a jolt of pain. This was not my Patches. He looked so different. Yet he was purring and meowing just like before and he loved the brush. I came inside and cried. Either my Patches had changed so much while he had been gone for 9 months or this was a different cat. Either way, the cat was very hungry and needed food. Shadow was curious, but this cat was not overly friendly to Shadow. Stellar kept his distance.
In January 2014 during the very bitter cold, this cat came and went. He used a shelter on the deck a few times, but nothing consistent. I began to notice that when he was eating he drooled all of the place. I would find bits of food and drool all over the place. I wondered if he had a bad tooth. I also noticed his eyes looked very strange. They were very watery and large. Another strange things was, this cat had no ear tip and I thought I could see fuzzy male parts. I never got a look at Patches after his neuter. He was so agitated in the trap and each time I tried to uncover the trap and look he began to thrash. So I never saw the ear tip to know for sure he had been ear tipped. I also knew that when a mature tom cat is neutered his male parts shrink, but do not disappear. I had no way of knowing for sure.
As January continued this cat was friendly to me and always wanting pets. I made sure he had plenty of food and water and shelter when he needed it. I kept noticing the drooling and his eyes. They now almost appeared to be bulging. On January 27, 2014, it was a bitter cold windy day. He was around during the day and did not want to leave. He was in and out of the shelter and seemed a bit confused and disoriented. He would walk around in circles meowing and seemed very off kilter. By mid day I decided something was wrong and I needed to get him to a vet. I had no idea what to do. I decided to try and get him into the house and then throw a blanket over him to put him in a carrier. I had my husband to help. This cat came right inside the house and I was able to get the door shut too. He allowed me to pet him and my husband got the blanket over him and eased him into the carrier. He did not thrash or move or make a sound. We took him to an emergency vet clinic. I think they thought I was crazy when I told them he was a feral cat who might need to be sedated for an exam. I left him there to be examined since I lived close and they would call when they knew what was wrong. I received a call a few hours later and was told that the cat had tested negative for FIV and FeLV. But he had an abscessed tooth, high fever and also was not neutered. My heart sunk. Either the clinic had never neutered my Patches or this wasn’t Patches. They said they would treat the fever and if the fever subsided they could do the neuter the next day and I could pick him up later. They would touch base in the morning.
Later that night I got another call. This time from the vet. He was getting ready to start the neuter and went to review the tests. The vet tech had read the results of the FIV test incorrectly. He re did the test to be sure and this cat was positive for FIV. He believed that the cats symptoms of drooling, bulging eyes, disorientation and fever were all symptoms of the illness. He felt the cat was in pain from his bulging eyes. The vet wasn’t sure he would survive. He could try to treat the symptoms, but this cat would need to live inside away from other cats. I was crushed. I was in the middle of socializing Marvin and did not have a place for another cat especially one so sick. After discussing with my husband, we decided it was most humane to euthanize him. We went back over to the clinic to say goodbye.
Once there, it was obvious to me this cat was not my Patches even though he looked enough like him. My heart wanted so badly for this to be Patches. This cat was allowing others to hold him and loved all the attention. My Patches would never have allowed this. My heart was so broken. Not only did I still not know about my Patches, but I could not save this sweet soul. I decided to call him Patches #2. I cried my eyes out and told Patches #2 that I was so sorry. I was sorry his owners hadn’t taken better care of him and I was sorry that I could not save him. Yet I was glad he found me so that he did not have to die a painful death without any help.
I believe the Universe sent Patches #2 to me so that I could help him. I so wish I could have done more, but I know he is now at peace and no longer suffering or in pain. RIP Patches #2, January 27, 2014. I will always remember you. A few additional pictures of Patches #2 are available on my Flickr site.