So You Feed Feral Cats: What Do You Do When One Dies?
Feral cat caretakers have some of the biggest and strongest hearts of any people I know. And not because they spend their own money and time to make sure these kitties are fed, but because they treat all of the cats they feed as their cats, just like their pets that live at home.
I know this firsthand. A friend of mine and I have fed a group of community cats for years. They are adorable, and they all have names, and they know us and the sound of our cars when we pull up.
Here’s what I mean when I say feral cat feeders have the biggest, strongest hearts: We love all of these cats and give them the best care we possibly can. So when we lose one, we feel it just as hard as if the cat were one of our own.
What used to be 14 cats in my old office parking lot is down to four. Until last week, we had lost only one to a bad circumstance; the rest we’d helped to the Rainbow Bridge when their time came. If they get sick or lose weight, we take them to the vet, and if it’s the right thing to do, we do it.
But last week we dealt with one of our hardest losses. I got a call from my friend early one morning around 8:30. She never calls at this time, so I was immediately worried about the kitties. She feeds them on weekdays.
She told me Stitch, one of our parking lot panthers, had been hit by a car … and she’d been the one to find her. The poor girl’s head was completely smashed, she said. It was a horrible sight, but we took a little bit of solace in the fact that she’d been the one to find her, not the maintenance crew or someone who didn’t care about her. At least we knew what happened to her and could get her cremated, like we do with all of our parking lot babies.
We also tried to find a little peace in the fact that she probably had no idea what happened to her. It must have been all too fast and all too much of an impact. That’s nice to say out loud, but it really brings no peace.
Stitch was a gorgeous cat who was full of spunk. She’d just been starting to let me pet her a little bit, but just a little bit and not all the time. Her best friend out there, Crybaby, misses her; I’m sure of it.
These are the things we deal with as feral cat caretakers. We also get dirty looks from people who don’t like that we’re feeding them. We get threatened by property managers and the local government. We panic every time one goes missing for a day and frantically check animal control websites and shelters. We spend thousands of dollars a year on food for our kitties, some of whom we’ve never even been able to touch.
But we do it because we love it, and we know they need us. We love so much that we are willing to endure the sadness and drama that sometimes goes with it. Someone has to.
With all the press lately about feral cats and some joker at the Audubon Society suggesting ways to kill them, I’m even more protective of our kitties than I ever was. I look at everyone twice. I wait until suspicious cars or people pass before calling them all out of their safe bushes to be fed. I worry when one doesn’t come right away.
I wish they all had homes, but the reality is that the parking lot is their home. And so we make the most of it.
To all the feral cat feeders out there: Stay strong! Don’t let these crazy people who have been coming out of the woodwork lately deter you from feeding your kitties or scare you off. These cats depend on us, and you are awesome people for taking care of them!
And when you have to say goodbye to one, know that you’ve given him the best love he or she could get. Food and water and a mom or dad, whom they don’t live with at home, but whom they still know is a parent.
Are you a proud feral cat mom or dad? Let us know about your kitties in the comments!