What was this new animal doing in my yard?

He was just an old, scraggly longhaired cat who seemed lost and afraid.  He resembled a Maine coon cat but had yellow fur.  And his ears were held flat--at right angles--increasing the coon cat look.

He held his ears in a flattened-out mode because he was timid, and approached slowly, and then retreated.  He spent several days in a row working up his nerve to come to my front door to sample the snacks I put out for wayward or lost cats.  I'm sure the word got around among the feline contingent (just as it used to among the hoboes who went from door to door) that this house not only harboured goodies but also welcomed strays.

 "Vincent" was the name my daughter bestowed on my new guest.  His wild, beastly look reminded her of the hero of the series "Beauty and the Beast."  The character had a dignified, lion-like demeanour, a symbol of inner substance over outer veneer.  But poor Vincent had his problems.  He seemed to incubate all sorts of germs -- his eyes were inflamed and infected and he was suffering from a respiratory disorder.  At a friend's advice, I started putting a little Teramycin in his food.  It helped for a short time, but Vincent couldn't seem to stay well.  I was later to learn why.

In addition, his fur was matted with burrs and "sticktights" because of his penchant for wanderlust -- he travelled through several fields to visit his girlfriends from time to time.  A brush would not work, and I dared not use scissors to cut through the thick mats.  Vincent was not a cat that allowed close encounters of the "barber-ous" kind.

After partaking of meals at my house for a month or so, he began to allow me to come near and even to touch his fur briefly.  He visited me every day for about eight months; then the day came when he didn't stop by.  I wasn't too worried until the fourth and then the fifth day of his absence, but by that time I had concluded something had happened to him.  When I went to the local animal shelter to search, there was Vincent, outside in one of the cages reserved for the aggressive and ill animals.  His back was against the wall of the metal cage, and his ears were flattened.  He had a depressed and subdued look on his face.

"I want to adopt that cat," I said. The attendant looked at me in disbelief.  "THAT cat?" she asked.  "Are you sure?  He may be ill."  "Fine," I said.  "I'll have to take him to the vet anyway."  Shelter rules for adoption decreed that an animal must be neutered or spayed by a certain deadline and that he or she must be kept inside or confined in some manner.  I wondered how I'd introduce Vincent to Squeachex, my black-and-white feisty female feline who had definite ideas about anyone sharing her indoor space. I thought about how perhaps the vet could trim the cockleburs from Vincent's long hair while he was under anaesthetic.

The veterinarian's policy was to check all new animals for feline immune deficiency disease and leukaemia.  As I got these tests done, I kept pondering the things I'd heard about introducing a new cat to an old one.  Then the vet opened the door of our exam room with a frown on his face.

"I'm afraid I have bad news," he said. "The tests confirm that Vincent has feline AIDS."  He explained that the kindest thing to do would be to put Vincent down.

I gulped and wondered whether there was audible evidence of the shock I felt. No -- it couldn't be. . . . So that was why Vincent's eyes and respiratory troubles weren't helped by medication.

Holding Vincent for a last goodbye, I stroked his long and still-matted fur.  I told him how much I loved him and that I was so sorry he had to go.  Tears welled up in my eyes and I regretted that his brief freedom from the shelter had been taken away again when the veterinarian took him from my arms.  I couldn't even spend his last few minutes with him because of the clinic's busy schedule.  I'm not sure whether he was put back into a cage until the deed could be done. Did he feel I was abandoning him? I hoped not.

  I only pray that if he is looking down at me from the Rainbow Bridge, he is thinking kindly of me.

© Myla Smith


Myla Smith lives in Franklin, Indiana with her black-and-white Persian cat, Squeachex. She has been an artist and writer for many years.

*It is with great sadness that I learned of Myla's death on 16th January 2006. She was 70 years old and had battled for 20 years with breast cancer. I hope and pray that she is now reunited with Vincent and all the other cats and dogs that she has loved in her life time.

To read about Myla's life, please click this link:


I will miss her wonderful encouragement and humorous emails. God bless you, Myla - and thank you.


One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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