Elsie was a feral cat. She started coming to our back porch in the spring of 2005. We would feed her but she never came closer than five feet from us. She was not a pretty cat, a dark tortoiseshell with wild yellow eyes.

She was thin and when we noticed she was putting on a bit of weight around the middle we figured she was pregnant. She was. We started feeding her more and on Sept 10th she had a kitten under the back porch. Three weeks passed and we believe she was unable to feed her kitten because we could hear him crying under the porch and she didn’t seem to be interested any more. She was still thin and didn’t look like she had any milk. We also thought she might be going into heat again.

We went under the porch and found one small cream kitten, full of fleas and his eyes glued shut with crusty goo. We brought him in, washed him in a bowl of warm water till we got the majority of fleas off him. We also washed his eyes clean and wrapped him in a big fleece blanket and took him to the vets. The verdict: he needed to be bottle fed, antibiotic cream put in his eyes and given orally twice a day. He weighed 7 oz., which was small for a 3-week-old kitten.

He was a strong little fellow, so we named him Bogart, which means “strong as a bow”. He loved to be held and really loved his bottle. He was confined and spent a lot of time snuggled in his “nest” of a squished up fleece blanket with a stuffed teddy bear. He was finally warm, fed and loved. Every week he grew stronger, and now he is 9 weeks old, eating kitten food, playing with his toys, running around the house, upstairs and down. He hasn’t a care in the world.

Meanwhile, outside, his mother is still scared. The only thing that is constant in her life is the food we put on the back porch 3 times a day. I felt bad that we took in the kitten and left the older cat to pretty much fend for herself. This is usually what people do. Just because the kitten is cute and the older cat is, well, older and “just another cat”.

One morning I woke with a feeling so strong that I had to try to help Elsie (as we had named her). Every time I looked at Bogey I felt I was not doing right for his mother. After all she did give us this sweet little guy. I spoke with a rescue centre and they gave me a safe trap. Our plan was to trap her, have her spayed and see what we could do to make her life better. Maybe we could bring her into our family or release her and continue taking care of her outside.

I hated the idea of deceiving her. I hated the idea that we were going to trick her into feeling safe eating in a trap then one day actually setting it and trapping her. I hated the idea that I couldn’t explain to her that this was a good thing and her life would be better. I hated the idea that she grew up a feral cat that nobody wanted. I hated the fact that she would continue to have unwanted kittens that she was not equipped to take care of. But I thought it was the right thing to do, for her and for us.

Wednesday was the day. We waited till she showed up on the porch then took food out, placed it in the trap and set the latch. No sooner did I get in the door than I heard the slam of the trap door. It was awful; she was scared, trying her best to get out. I put a blanket over the trap and we rushed her to the vets. We had everything pre-planned so they were expecting us. I filled out the forms and asked that they test her for leukaemia. They had to tranquilize her, but finally they did the test and everything came back negative. “Good, we are half way there,” I thought. I told them to do everything: deflea and vaccinate her and board her till Monday so she could recuperate in a safe place.

This morning we called the hospital to see how Elsie did. Sad news, Elsie’s heart stopped when she was coming out of the anaesthesia. They did C.P.R. but couldn’t bring her back.

I’m mad; I want somebody to blame. Whose fault was this? Mine for trapping her, the vets for doing the operation, the rescue people for giving me the trap, or the person that threw her away at the start of her life, or just that her little heart wasn’t strong enough?

I want a reason that I feel so bad. I thought I was doing something good, but it ended up that I took Elsie’s life.

Then I go through the facts:
Her life was not good
and winter was coming
and she would be cold
and she would continue to have unwanted litters
and she had nobody to love and cuddle her
and she was always scared
and ...

But the fact is she deserved better. She deserved to be loved and taken care of. We tried the best we could but it was too little too late. She was already feral because in the beginning nobody wanted her. Nobody cared; she was just another stray out on the street.

Today I look at Bogart ... he is the lucky one. Because of Elsie he has a good home. Because of Elsie I’m writing this story with the hope that people will spay and neuter their animals so we won’t have any more “Elsies” out on the street. Because of Elsie I understand that doing the right thing is not always easy.

Although I couldn’t pet her or hold her and I only saw her from a distance, Elsie has a special place in my heart. I’ll miss seeing her every day on the back porch waiting for her bowl of food. But she will live on in our hearts through her sweet little son, Bogart.


© Laura Dumm 11 November 2005



 

 

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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