I was just out shoveling snow (yes, it is officially spring but here in Nova Scotia, we are shoveling out from one of the biggest storms of the year). Today, the shoveling made me remember that the last big storm when one of our feral cat friends surprised me on the back deck. I had been shoveling but gone in the back door to get dry mittens. When I returned, I surprised Star, who jumped back into the snow. I gave him extra food – and cried for hours about him being out in the miserable weather, somewhat to the amusement of my husband who reminds me that they are wild and we are helping all we can.
I thought of Star today when I was shoveling on that deck. Unfortunately, little Star won’t be be back on the deck. He died last month after a bad reaction to anesthetic when he was taking in for medical attention. It’s a good time to tell his story.
Star started showing up for food last spring. We thought he was a she, mainly because of the almost calico coloring. I called ‘her’ Star because of the inspirational story of the starfish.
Star showed up almost daily, sometimes twice a day for food but wouldn’t let us get too close. Sometimes I was concerned because he was so scrappy – he chased away other ferals we were feeding and I thought we’d seen the last of them. He hopped on an grabbed birds right off one of the feeding stations. (Intellectually, I know that feral cars will chase birds but didn’t like the idea that I was luring them in just to make them part of a buffet meal.). Star was also quite aggressive towards our indoor cats, lunging at the screen when they were enjoying warm weather – to the point where they gave up some of their territory. He often showed up with scratches or cuts. So, while I didn’t like some of the behaviour on the deck, I admired ‘her’ ability to protect her territory.
However, in early February, he arrived with several deep cuts and scratches, running eyes and dried blood. I posted this picture on Facebook to ask for help getting him in for some medical help and several cat rescue operations joined forces to help get him in for care and neutering.
That is when we confirmed that he was, in fact, male. He tested negative for any disease and got some gentle care for his wounds. Unfortunately, he had a strong reaction to the anesthetic and died a few days later. The vet estimated he was probably 5-7 years old, which is pretty old for a feral. He was a survivor and must have been strong. In the end, not strong enough to survive capture and medicine. Ironically, the effort to help resulted in a negative outcome. Is that the very definition of ‘killing with kindness? I wondered if I should have left him alone. I don’t know the answer to that one.
I do know that our efforts to help Star did help two other little fellows who we trapped while trying to get Star. One had the same reaction to the anesthetic, which suggested a familial relationship for cats in the colony in our rural area. This second cat made it through, perhaps because he was younger and not already suffering battle scars. As a result of those experiences, the vet made an adjustment for the anesthetic for third little guy. Those two were both tested, dewormed and neutered then released. It wasn’t the outcome I wanted as I was hoping that they would be placed in homes but they were determined to be too wild (I like to think of it as independent). Still, they probably have a better chance now and it will help prevent new additions to the growing colony. I guess that is part of Star’s story too.
Rest in Peace little Star. We won’t forget you.