As a warning, there is dead wildlife at the end of this post. If that’s a trigger for you, please stop reading here.
On Tuesday nights, I come home late with one of the Kiddos while my Patient Husband runs the household and gets dinner on the table. Last Tuesday, as I pulled into the driveway, two Kiddos stood at the curb, waving me in. That’s good. They’re playing outside. Usually there are too many mosquitos outside at dusk.
As I pulled into the garage, though, I noticed my Patient Husband standing at the back of the house, waving at something, and my first thought was to look for smoke. The Kiddos were clearly waiting for the Fire Department. Except there was no smoke, and he hadn’t urged me not to pull into the garage, so I quipped, “I wonder if he set fire to the cast iron pan” (something I nearly did last week.)
And, yeah. No. I wish there had been a fire.
Last week, I’d looked out the back window to see a brown and black spotted tabby sunning himself in front of our shed. I’m used to specific Swamp Cats, but I’d never seen this one, so I called over the Kiddos. I opened the window and talked to him, but when the Kiddos went out on the porch, he slunk off into the Swamp.
Later he went back out there, sunning himself again, and I again opened the window and chatted him up. Again he slunk away. But this time, I remembered we had a very old box of unused cat food in a closet. Back from before Hazel needed prescription food — so for all I knew, the box was full of bugs and no food. I brought it out onto the deck, and to my surprise, it looked fine, so I went down to the shed with a handful.
I don’t feed outdoor cats. I just don’t. Hunting cats survive just fine in the Swamp, and we can’t take in another cat right now. I don’t know why I fed this one.
The food disappeared within an hour, so I went down with more. That also went away. I didn’t see if the cat ate it or if any of the million other Swamp creatures.
I didn’t see him again. The box on the deck was pushed around overnight, but I didn’t see him again until Tuesday night.
My Patient Husband had sent the kids onto the deck to shuck the CSA corn, and Kiddo2 looked down to see the cat. For the next half hour, my Patient Husband was on the phone trying to find someone who would come out and euthanize the cat. The vet said animal control; animal control needed to be called through the police. The police paged her, and she left her dinner to come, getting to our house just after I arrived home to find my husband doing whatever he could to keep the poor thing comfortable. But the cat died sometime after I arrived and before she did.
The Animal Control woman called it coyote-work. She said she’d never seen an animal that badly damaged make it that far.
And I realized: he came to us. He struggled all the way back to us because people are comfort. People talk nicely to you, and people give you food. He needed help. So he came back to the deck where he knew we’d talked to him and where he knew we’d left a box of food, only then he couldn’t get up the steps.
My Patient Husband said, “I guess that’s what happens when you feed a stray cat.”
I don’t know why I fed him. Maybe because God knew the cat needed a little kindness. A fully-grown cat suddenly appearing in a place where people dump unwanted cats. A cat who didn’t know how to survive in the wild. A cat with only a handful of days to live. There was no way I could have caught him, nothing else I could have done for him. Someone told me, “You showed him a little kindness, at least,” but it’s still so awful.