Death and Beauty, Love and Trust

One of the cats at my Friday “feral” feed station died yesterday. But this isn’t a sad post. It doesn’t have to be just because it’s about death. Because it’s also about love and trust.

Willy (a big brown tabby) and Emily (a petite little tortie) were besties. Actually, I think Emily was more devoted to Willy than vice versa, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, no one at the B24 station had seen either of them for weeks. It’s not unusual for a cat to be absent one day, and, since the site rotates among people, it might not be noticed for a while. Having not seen either of them for several weeks, I sent a message to the group last week asking if anyone else had seen either of them recently. No one had seen either for about 4 weeks. We fretted a bit and hoped for the best. Not much else could be done.

Then Hallelujah, on Monday they both reappeared like magic. They both seemed okay and had good appetites. Willy meowed at the feeders a bit, which was a bit unusual since he’d never been much of a talker. Much rejoicing!

But Wednesday morning told a different story. Willy was lethargic, walking stiffly, his belly was distended, and he stopped to rest a lot. He came right up to the morning feeder and allowed her to pet him for a while. Very unusual given that Willy is semi-feral and not prone to allow much petting.

The other male cats at the site, who usually try to assert their authority, just sniffed him and licked his head before walking away.

We fretted and planned, and Thursday morning saw him easily placed into a carrier and taken to the vet without fuss. Clearly Willy was sick to allow all of this, and the vet confirmed everyone’s fears. He passed away on his own before the directive could even be given to euthanize him.

So effectively, Willy and Emily took a final vacation away (maybe to Tahiti, maybe they para-sailed) before returning to the feed site, where Willy actively allowed, some might say requested, the humans that had always fed him to help him at the end.

He didn’t just disappear, going off to die on his own. He came back 3 mornings until we humans got the clue, and then a 4th morning when he was already very sick so we could “catch” him and get him to the vet. As one of the other volunteers said “the ultimate gesture of love from an unfettered, unconstrained cat is to come back to you in his hour of need”.

You may be tearing up a bit now (I’m not crying, you’re crying!); I didn’t say it wasn’t emotional. But on balance, are the tears more for the beauty or for the sadness? (It can be a mix… 😉 )

We all die. Willy had a good life and a peaceful death and, in spite of not being someone’s pet cat, he trusted us enough to make both of those things possible. And I think that’s beautiful.

Willy and Emily in better days

Willy and Emily hanging out together in better days.

Willy and Tiffany

Willy and Tiffany hanging out during the time when he strayed a bit from Emily. He was quite the ladies man!

Willy and the old gang

Willy hanging out with others at the feeding site several years ago.

Emily and Willy last days

Emily and Willy together the day they returned from their travels. In retrospect, I think it’s telling the way Emily didn’t want to leave his side.