He started eating at my house one weekend. I was across the street talking with a neighbor who noticed Rufus on my porch. I then learned from the neighbor that the cat's family left him behind when they moved, and I also learned the cat's name.
The family also had dogs, but they were moving to a community that did not allow outdoor cats, so unfortunately Rufus got left behind. (The irony of this situation is that the family had their dogs fixed to comply with the rules of their new home. I wonder if it even occurred to them that Rufus could also have been fixed and made to live indoors.)
The neighbor with whom I had been talking knew the family, and told me they had no intention of coming back for Rufus. The neighbor also told me she thought it would be fine if I had Rufus vetted, fixed and adopted out. That was my plan, and I was also hopeful that since Rufus was friendly, he might be able to go to the Stray Cat Adoptions of Texas.
Unfortunately, the plan changed in less than 24 hours. I usually feed my feral cats an evening meal after dark, and Rufus looked perfectly normal then. But daylight came, and so did Rufus. And then I saw the blood. Rufus had blood on his backside, around the anus and testicles.
He was eating, although the food seemed to pass right through him. And so did lots of bloody diarrhea. While I was taking in this unfortunate turn of events, Rufus slunk back to the place he knew as home, now vacant of the people he had trusted.
Rufus returned the next morning for more breakfast, which passed right through him, along with more bloody diarrhea. I rushed him to my vet right then, hoping that whatever was wrong with him could be treated, and that maybe he could also be neutered.
I received the call from the vet later than morning. Rufus was in very bad shape. He had tested positive for Feline Leukemia and Feline Aids. I had also noted earlier that Rufus smelled really bad, as if his insides were rotting. It was the smell of death.
I made the decision, following the vet's advice, that Rufus should be put out of his misery. I told the vet to please hold on to him a little longer before euthanasia, because I really wanted to say goodbye to Rufus.
Rufus looked very much at peace at the hospital. I left feeling very sad, but also at peace that he was at least being given a decent departure from a world that hadn't been very charitable.
Rufus had been someone's cat. He had a name, given to him by the same family who abandoned him. How could anyone name an animal and then leave the same animal behind so easily? Did they ever consider who would even feed the cat, after they left? There were also children in the family. What kind of lessons were taught to the kids, about love, loyalty, and responsibility?
What haunts me about Rufus is that my feral cats avoided him. Some people say cats can sense when another cat is dying in their midst, and they stay away from the sick one. Perhaps they recognize the smell of death. I cannot fathom the loneliness Rufus felt, with no friends, no companions, and the vacant home where he once heard laughter, and received a few meals. How did Rufus feel, when the family did not return, and there were no more meals?
If there had been any hope of recovery for Rufus, I would have done what it took to get him well and into a decent home. Unfortunately it was too late. A gentle, peaceful death was all I could offer him, although he deserved so much more. No-kill does not mean no euthanasia. Life is too precious to allow a cat to be ravaged to death by disease.
So rest in peace, Rufus, and until we meet again, I'm proud to have known you, even for a short time. May your Spirit soar, free of pain and loneliness.
True story, written for a newsletter of an
animal group Roxanne is in.
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