It was a stunningly clear night on the coast. During the summer after the sun sets, the fog races in and blankets us in much cooler temperatures. But on some nights, such was this, not only were the skies crystal clear, but we also had a full moon. The kind that is so big and bright you can make giant moon shadows. It was a peaceful, gorgeous night. But I had a sudden chill. I immediately thought of Zoe. My little feral kitty who had considered me her main food source for over five years. From the beginning we had a deal: she would have a safe meal at my home every night, but I would never try to trap or even touch her. Reluctantly I agreed.
She was dumped here during some very cold weather in 2009. A neighbor saw Zoe dragging herself towards her bird bath. The water was frozen so my friend had put out birdseed for the birds. Zoe wasn’t going for the birds, she was trying to share their meal since she was starving. It’s not the first time we’ve had to deal with animals being dumped here on the coast, left to fend for themselves. Many city folk bring their animals back to nature. Mainly because they aren’t cute and little anymore, but I digress….
We chose a vacant house that was several houses away where we had found her. I sat and told her one afternoon (from a safe distance) that her food would be placed somewhere new the following day. The original set-up wasn’t working. So in my mind, I sent her a mental picture of where in the neighborhood her food would be. The next day she showed up at the house I had showed her and enjoyed a quiet meal. This worked out great until the house sold and we were notified that we’d have to move Zoe again. But again, after a talk from a safe distance away, she showed up the next day on my front porch where she’d enjoy her meals once a day for the next 5 years. Some days I would forget and realize suddenly that she had waited sometimes for hours for me to feed her. She rarely announced herself, just patiently waited until I noticed her. But we stuck to our deal. She would trust me to feed her, but I never touched her, or cuddled with her. She had some really serious trust issues that I chose to respect those rather than trap her and terrify her in some well-meaning human’s home. And why is that a bad idea?
She had some really serious trust issues that I chose to respect, rather than trap her and terrify her in some well-meaning human’s home.
We have many coyotes that roam the back neighborhoods and even the downtown area in the early evenings and early mornings, searching for a “quick meal”. The kitties who live with me may go out during the day but never at night because it’s not “if”, it’s “when”. And if you live almost anywhere including the city anymore, you too are at risk for this trauma.
On that moonlit night in the summer of 2014, her bright white beacon coat shining in the night, after years of fighting the elements, escaping from the animals wishing to do her harm, my sweet aloof Zoe chose to give her body for nourishment to the coyote. It’s the predator/prey agreement. I know this in my head and let’s be real. It also totally broke my heart. And it was the cause of the sudden chill on a beautiful summer’s night.
We discovered after losing Zoe, many other neighbor cats also went missing. Since no one heard a sound, we believe it was a lone coyote. But I also think Zoe was tired of her daily fight. Her life was filled with anxiety, feeling only comfortable when sleeping in our back yard in the sun.
She had some really serious trust issues that I chose to respect rather than trap her and terrify her in some well-meaning human’s home. I chose instead to let her live her life the way she chose. I worried about her out in the stormy weather and in the snow. And of course I worried about the predators. It’s a scary world for many animals whether they’re cared for very well, or if we have to make some adjustments for the way we love them. For Zoe I believe I made the choices for her (the few that I could) in a way that made her happy. I know I am blessed to have had her in my life. It gave me yet another angle for working with animal clients and their humans. There are those we love without a home. Yes. But for some, these are better lives. We need only listen to their choices and follow their leads.
I’ve rarely advocated for all an outdoor cat. It’s simply too dangerous, where ever you live. But if an animal comes to you young enough, there is really no problem with having an indoor/outdoor cat. But for some cats that are filled with too much fear – well we just work around that problem as humans.