My dad has described his parents as folks who “always brought home strays.” I think in their case it was of the human variety, but I tend to find the furred variety on my doorstep and invite it in.
About a year and a half, nearly two years ago – my husband noticed a gray tabby. He had a hurt leg and was limping. He was also scared to death of humans and bolted (as quick as you can on three legs) whenever one of us came near.
At the time we had one inside/outside cat – Einstein – who is now in his twelfth year – and they seemed to tolerate each other pretty well. Einstein did his best to ignore Porch Cat and Porch Cat was pretty laid back (except for running like the devil himself was in pursuit anytime we showed our faces).
We began to set the food bowl outside for Einstein and Porch Cat – something the local neighborhood possum appreciated as well [sigh].
And after over a year, even longer, Porch Cat began to be less and less nervous, and even allowed us to pet him occasionally. Just a touch of fingers, then a light rub, and finally, finally, a good scratch behind the ears.
He grew to be a fixture on our front porch, lolling on a chair cushion or the carpet – and finally even came to like visitors and their attention.
About a month ago, my husband walked out of the house early in the morning to find the most incongruous scene before him – a possum and Porch Cat – spooning on a chair on the front porch! The possum ran away, but Porch Cat didn’t, he knew he was safe.
On Monday, shortly after my daughter Em returned home from school. I let out the dogs into the backyard and as Em and I were talking we heard a strange sound. Em walked over to a window to look to see what the sound was and began screaming incoherently and running for the back door.
Our three dogs, unfamiliar with Porch Cat, were attacking him in the dog yard. Em stopped the attack and Porch Cat limped away to a windowsill. It was chaos – our neighbors came running after hearing the screaming, Em was crying and hysterical, my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would burst, and the cat was terrified and growling at my attempts to coax him into a kennel and take him to the animal hospital.
There he was treated for shock, including IV fluids and pain meds, and he was also tested for FLV (Feline Leukemia Virus a.k.a. Feline AIDS). We learned today that he tested positive. This was heartbreaking.
As an outdoor cat – he represented an infectious danger to every cat in the neighborhood. Most were, I am sure, without FLV vaccine protection. As an indoor cat, if he even COULD be an indoor cat, he represented an infectious danger to our indoor cat.
And so we made the hard decision to put him down. I will be having our indoor/outdoor cat checked tomorrow, and put down if he has it, because he has already shown a proclivity for outdoor living (i.e. he craps on the floor if he’s kept inside).
The indoor-only cat will be tested as well, but we will keep her regardless of results. She will always be an indoor cat and there will simply be no other cats in the house while she is here.
The kiddo has cried buckets on every day this week. She sobbed as we got into the car at the vet’s office without Porch Cat and said, “I know we are doing the right thing, but it sure doesn’t FEEL right.”
It’s a punch in the gut, to be sure.
Animals come into our lives, and we do the best that we can for them. We love them, care for them, feed them – and all I can think is that we did the best we could for Porch Cat. His last nine months on earth were good ones. He will be remembered with fondness.
Rest in peace, Porch Cat.