9.4.2016 | 12:36
We had to say good-bye to one of our cats this week – our gorgeous big gray tabby, Finn.
Ironically, I had just recently “immortalized” her in an article I wrote for a new online magazine.
It was an extremely difficult decision, as it always is – we’ve done this several times before, and no doubt will several times again – but it was the right one.
She’d been deteriorating for a while, and our vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finn had a major bladder infection, which finally cleared after two rounds of antibiotics, but she still had pain.
Even when she didn’t want any more pain medication, her gait was still off and she’d developed a slight tremor on occasion.
Her blood work was normal, and an ultrasound test showed nothing.
We suspect there was something neurological going on, which moved from pain to … something else.
It presented like a feline version of Parkinson’s disease – which is actually not unheard of.
Finn left our presence the same way she entered it – growling.
Let me explain….
Nearly fifteen years ago, Debra and I took care of a colony of feral cats in Wilmington, NC.
One of the things we learned – having no experience with this before we started, and innocently setting out to feed a “stray” cat that kept coming around – was the TNR approach.
TNR stands for “Trap, Neuter, Return.”
You see, capturing and destroying feral cats doesn’t remedy the situation: If there is a colony, when it is removed, another will move in to take its place.
So we worked diligently to capture them all, get them spayed or neutered at a participating veterinary hospital, and bring them back home.
We caught almost all of them before the “end of season” deadline at the vet’s. One male, one female remained unaltered. Uh-oh….
Yep, you guessed it. Sure enough, the female showed up pregnant the following spring.
There were three kittens: an orange tabby, a gray tabby and a tortoiseshell.
They were so tiny.
We hoped to catch all three of them, because feral kittens are easily socialized if caught young enough, making them quite adoptable.
And these three little charmers were priceless….
Well, it turned out that a neighbor wanted one of them.
I was actually a bit upset by this news: I had really fallen hard for the little gray darling, and kind of wanted him or her for myself.
She (as we found out eventually) would sometimes allow me to approach close enough to just barely touch her.
So I figured she’d be the easiest to catch, and would end up going to a new home up the street.
On the day I decided to “kitnap” one of them, she disappeared.
There was no trace of her anywhere.
So I shrugged, praying she was okay, and managed to nab the little orange one.
The neighbor was happy, I was happy … and the future Finn returned, right on schedule, the very next day.
I guess she wanted us too.
Sure enough, we caught her for ourselves soon enough, and she became part of our household.
Well, not so fast….
She let me catch her, but beyond that, she wanted none of domestication….
Until we could get her checked, and up to date with shots, we kept her quarantined in a small bathroom.
When I went to feed her or clean her litter box, she would hide behind the toilet and hiss at me.
It was a very tiny hiss….
One day, I let one of my other cats – who was curious about the mystery in the closed-off bathroom – into the room, since I could keep an eye on them and keep them apart.
Scott, a beautiful black and white longhair, jumped up on the toilet.
Finn came out from behind it, stared up at him with hero worship in her eyes, and started purring.
From then on, we had no trouble bringing her into the family.
But that “feral gene” asserted itself every time she had to go to the vet.
Her last trip was no exception.
Completely sedated, unaware of what was going on, she was still growling in her unconsciousness.
It was hard saying farewell to our formerly feral sweetheart. But we wanted to save her any more suffering. The stress of our upcoming move would have been traumatic enough, but with her health challenges, we felt it was just too much. The vet agreed, and felt we’d done as much as we could diagnostically.
I wanted to share her story for several reasons.
So many of us love our pets, and feel as though they’re part of our families. So I know others go through this same experience, over and over again.
I also wanted to honor her.
And I wanted to share her beginnings, so that maybe people will look at and think about feral cats in a new way.
I grew as attached to those “wild” guys as I did to my “domesticated” house cats. (Although one wonders if any cat is ever truly “domesticated.”)
When we left Wilmington, we captured the lot and took them to a sanctuary that was willing to take them.
(Shelters won’t, because they’re not considered “adoptable.” They will only be euthanized.)
We’ve financially supported the sanctuary to one degree or another ever since, to help defray the cost of their care.
And yes, I cried when I had to take some of them, knowing I wouldn’t see them again. Because I couldn’t “relocate” the entire colony to my new address, 2 ½ hours away….
It was hard to say good-bye to them too, even though I knew they were in good hands.
If you’re interested in learning more about feral cats, the care of their colonies, and TNR, please contact Alley Cat Allies. They are a fantastic resource.
In honor of Finn, 2003-2016