Today marked a day that I knew would come, but, every pet owner dreads. I euthanized Spirit, my feral house cat. Yes, for over 6 years, I have had a feral cat living in my house. It became a joke with my friends that if I died, she’d have to go with the house sale. I saw her regularly, scampering to stay away from me. Her comfort zone was 10-12 feet from me. Catching her was impossible without a live trap and, even then, I figured I would just catch one of the other cats. The handful of times I did catch her early on was by trapping her in a small room, but she learned NEVER to go in a small room without an escape route.
One of the only times I caught her was to spay and vaccinate her. I did keep her kenneled for several weeks and tried to make friends with her. I realized after some time, I was terrorizing her and let her free to run the house. She had friends in the cat population. For whatever reason, she adored Jigsaw, a sweet tortoise shell cat that was 4 years younger than Spirit. She would devotedly follow Jigsaw around the house with an expression of sheer joy. But, when Jigsaw would start to come to me for a pet or scratch, sheer horror would take the place of the joy, her expression changing as if her BFF was going to the hangman’s noose.
I just don’t know why she never relaxed, even a bit. I do know kittens’ socialization period is very young and that time is critical in the making of a good pet. She was only about 6-7 months when she came to live with me (I didn’t know she was feral when I adopted her ….long story). That age is well past the socialization period, but still young enough, I thought, to become somewhat friendly. WRONG. Shortly after I took her in, it was Christmas day and I woke up with her laying on the foot of my bed. I had high hopes she would accept me, but that was as close as she ever came.
I enjoyed watching her from a comfortable distance. She loved to lay in the sun. She would sit in the middle of the sunroom floor for her bathing ritual, which I found humorous and fascinating. Her body position would be Buddha style, where she would meticulously run her tongue down her belly through her long hair and roll over backwards in a somersault and then struggle up to start again. I really wanted to videotape this unusual grooming ritual, but, of course, could not get close enough.
For the last two to three weeks, I knew she was not doing well, seeming weaker and not scurrying around as much. I finally caught her last night ( a true sign that she was ill) and found a thin, sick cat that was terrified. Knowing I could not treat her illness without causing her severe mental stress, I made the decision to put her to sleep. I am sad. I am sad for the relationship we never had, and for the relationship we did have that is now over. Rest in peace, Spirit. Please know that I did love you.