The new cat you see in the banner is our feral boy, Blue. We've decided that his picture stays up there for as long as he's with us.
Blue was born to Frosty almost three years ago under our house. We had to bribe and beg Frosty to come home to give birth to this last litter. You see, we had taken Topaz from her (she was part of her first litter) because she was ill and wouldn't have survived. When Frosty had her second litter, one of them became ill, so we captured the whole litter. After they were treated, we found homes for all four kittens. I guess Frosty decided we were stealing her kittens from her so when we noticed she was pregnant the next time, she did not have them here at home. She had them them out and away from us. One day I tracked her to her litter and by the time I came back with the carrier, she had moved the entire litter.
Before one of you ask--Frosty is feral. We tried to trap her for spaying for two years like good colony managers. However, every time we were ready--meaning the appointment was made or the low-cost mobile clinic was in town, she would disappear. We wouldn't see her for days. Then after we canceled the appointment or the clinic moved to other areas, she would stroll casually back in the yard...pregnant!
When she showed up pregnant again, D and I both talked her into coming home. We promised we wouldn't take any of the kittens away from her. We explained that every one--including her would have to be speutered and vaccinated. We promised to help her raise her babies if she brought the other litter over and had this one here.
She kept her word. We kept ours.
She had the last 5 kittens here at home. We ended up calling them the Hooligan Five. Blue was part of the Hooligan Five, along with his brothers Swirly, Mokey, and Fiesty and his sister Tabby. By then D and I had learned how to keep feral mothers and their litters a bit healthier by offering them kitten replacement milk. This litter was one of the healthiest born here.
From the beginning, each one had striking and unique personalities. We figured out that Blue was pretty much the ringleader. So on New Year's Eve (2007) while we were snuggled deep in our bed, the Hooligan Five partied. The next morning I went into the back room to feed them and found a complete mess. Cat toys were dangling from the top of the venetian blinds and light fixtures. The rubber tree that had never been bothered by any of the ferals before was completely catted and torn out of its pot. My son's games and video tapes were open and strewn about. The water and food bowls were over turned. How they got the futon mattress half off the frame still remains a mystery to me. In the middle of all this was Blue...looking as innocent as the day was new.
Then Blue was off-color for a couple of days. We knew he was sick. It took us a day or two to catch him so we could take him to the vet clinic. By then he was really in a bad way. I think that was the only reason we could catch him. The verdict came back: He had pneumonia and it was severe. I knew then that we weren't going to have him long in our lives. But Dr. J rolled up his sleeves and used all his medical expertise and knowledge to save him. We took him every three days for two weeks for shots of steroids, antibiotics, vitamin boosters, and anything else we thought would help. D and I ran the vaporizer in the bathroom where we kept him to help him breathe. We fed him baby food, Pedialyte, choice chicken pieces and fresh-made chicken broth.
In the end, despite using up his fourth, fifth, and sixth lives, he lived through the illness. His lungs would be forever scarred and that would prevent us from getting him neutered. (He wouldn't have survived the surgery.) We didn't realize Blue had a time bomb ticking away slowly in his chest.
After gallivanting about town and charming the ladies, Blue started sticking closer and closer to home. At first we believed it was because of the changing weather. Then we noticed that he was breathing harder than normal even after D set up the vaporizer in the back room. A consultation with Dr. J and we try him on a diuretic. Getting him to take his medications has always been a challenge and we try him on everything from chicken to tuna. The diuretic works--he's breathing easier. Then he skipped one day because he's stubborn and we had run out of canned salmon. D tries him on various bits of sardines and mackerel and choice canned foods but Blue refused them all. In one day, he blows through a three day supply of the diuretic by refusing all the "special foods." We have to talk to the vet clinic to apply for more. He's a feral that's never been really handled and that means we can't simply pill him like we do the indoor cats. And we watch hopelessly as he struggles to breathe.
The next day, Blue concedes he needs the "special food." D feeds him. We watch anxiously all day. By night time, he's breathing easier, but coming up the stairs is hard for him.
The verdict came in last week. He's got congestive heart failure. Blue's death is imminent. It's only a matter of time. Each day becomes a day of watchfulness and hope. We hope he stays here and doesn't do the typical cat thing and run off to die. We hope we find him to bury him next to his brother Mokey. We hope we have one more day with him. We hope he dies peacefully in his sleep and not be full of pain. We hope there's more to do for him, to make him comfortable...and knowing it's not going to be enough.
For Blue, he's happy being home and getting special treats. He is with his family. He doesn't seem to be in any pain although there's discomfort right now. They know something is wrong with him. We see them surrounding him, being with him. Where Blue was the colony protector, the colony now protects him and watches over him. Blanco, MC and Fiesty have taken to protecting him from other ferals and other strays. Swirly, Tabby, and Gypsy take turns watching over him. Even 2-Toes, who's used to traveling as she wishes is staying home to be with Blue. Beamer and WaitAMinute are gentle with Blue, never imposing their maleness or trying to run him off in typical cat fashion. It's touching and sad at the same time.
I know this is part of being a feral cat manager. D and I can take it when cats get hit by cars. Their deaths are quick. I realize that we can't save every cat that crosses our paths. I understand that some of the cats will be with us for short periods of time before they pass or leave. I KNOW all this--but this waiting and watching is hard...terribly hard. At the same time, I'm learning that life is part of the journey we all travel and that death is just another road of that journey.