Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Life Lived Rough

She was a cat who lived, island-like, at the fair. She would not come anywhere near the human side of life. Over the years, she cranked out litter after litter. I stole and kept some of her kids, deceiving her away from them with daily food.


In 2008, I baited a live trap and caught her. I got her spayed and ear-tipped, knowing she would always be wild. In fact, she broke out of my office the night I locked her there to recover from the spay. But she came to expect the food. We worked out an understanding, of sorts. I wouldn't try to tame her, she wouldn't run from me.


Each autumn, I left the fair to move back to the city, knowing that I would worry about her making it through the winter. I left an automatic feeder, outdoor heating pad and a heated water bowl. It was never enough, though: I had to drive down and check. I think the moment I got her spayed, I had to assume responsibility for her.


So in 2010 I trapped her one more time - it took days because she was wise to me by then - and moved her to the farm where I kept my horses. Up in the hayloft, I released her from the trap. She darted to the wall opposite of where I crouched. "This is where you live now, Harlotta," I told her. "I can feed you every day and you can be master of all you survey. Please stay here."

And she did stay. Even when that farm blew apart and I had to leave, she stayed. It was impossible for me to catch her and take her with me. Instead, someone very kind there took over for me. I brought food out from time to time, and I knew she was all right, but it haunted me that I'd left her. It didn't matter to her, though, and why should it have? Her needs were met, and they continued to be met after I was gone.


She listened to me. She never left that farm, and that's where she died, in her sleep, on Sunday morning. Now I can let go of her in the only way I ever wanted to, with peace of mind and relief. Hers was a life lived so roughly, but still, it ended in a better place.

9 comments:

Wolfie said...

She did have a rough life, but a much better life because of you. She went peacefully instead of in pain or starving. RIP Harlotta.

Fetlock said...

She was lucky to have known you and fortunate to have been under your protection.

Mary said...

Such a tender story. I am happy she lived a life on her terms. You did the best for her.

Laura Crum said...

That is a wonderful story. I have trapped and spayed many, many feral cats--and kept them until the end of their lives. Others I placed in good barn cat homes, as you did. The barn cat I will feed in a few minutes is one such trapped feral--he will let me touch him as he eats--no other time. Your story really made me smile. What a great thing you did. I think she had a happy life--because of you.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Sweet story.

The barn cat life is a pretty good life - lots better than if she hadn't crossed your path. I'm glad you don't have to wonder about her fate...

Grey Horse Matters said...

This was one independent lady. A feline princess who lived her life the way she wanted to. You did a wonderful thing to care, feed and worry about her. You will never forget her spirit and you have some of her children to keep her memory alive.

Muddy K said...

Thank you all for your comments. I think it's wonderful that so many people just get it about things like this.

And, Grey Mare, I do see her in her three sons, though none of them are quite as tough as she was. Harlotta would deride them for being lap snugglers, no doubt.

June said...

You did good.

I managed to catch and spay an adult stray cat once (apart from all the kittens which I caught and which ended up taking up permanent residence on the living room couch!), and of course she took off and I never saw her again, so I never did monitor her recovery. Oh well, maybe she made out ok.

Educational Encounters said...

RIP Harlotta