A few weeks ago, a handsome black-and-white cat started coming around the Post Office field in the morning for his morning meal. I named him Balthazar because he was very kingly in size and bearing, and was fearless and outgoing. I vowed to trap him and get him fixed, before spring fever really took hold.
And as has happened too often in this area, something got to Balthazar. He showed up one morning limping, with a deep wound on his leg. After several attempts I was finally able to trap Balthazar and take him to Adobe for help. He was an exceptionally good boy – with nary a hiss or complaint, as if he knew we were trying to help him.
Okay okay you got me.. now fix me!
I took him home with instructions to keep him as long as possible so his wound would heal. And of course after a week, and with him purring to my touch and rubbing up against my hand, I found it impossible to return him to the dangers of the Post Office ravine. At the same time, he clearly was NOT happy being confined; every morning when I went to the garage to greet him in his double-dog-crate condo, he had trashed the place like a frat boy on a bender. He’d look up at me innocently from the rubble of his towels, bowls, scratch posts and toys and just blink. (You know I’m a feral cat! There’s only so much you can expect!)
Grappling with my mandatory rule that I will NEVER place a cat in anything but an indoor home, I realized certain rules might need to be bent for certain cats. So I placed a “job wanted” post on NextDoor.com for a barn cat gig. And lo and behold, I got an excellent response! Off he went to his new indoor-outdoor farm home, with a woman who clearly liked him immediately. Case closed. (Though holding my breath that he works out there, and sticks around rather than disappearing.)
The VERY NEXT day, I discovered a cat, almost identical to Balthazar, begging for food behind the Post Office, dragging a useless hind leg behind him. I could not believe it. It was another black and white tuxedo, smaller than Balthazar and clearly older, scrawny and unhealthy looking. Another cat who has come face to face with the ravages of this area and come away damaged.
(I have not even written about the disappearance of my dear Gertie Stein, the cranky dowager of the Post Office colony. And I shall refuse to, until it becomes clear she is gone for good. But something wicked that way goes.)
I started calling him Buddy as he was such a sweet sad sack, and it took me more than a week to catch him – finally using the reliable drop trap. Again, perhaps because he’s related to Balthazar, he made barely a peep when at the vet for x-rays and neutering. The diagnosis was that he has no major breaks, but his leg is badly atrophied – probably from nerve damage to his spine when he was younger.
Let’s face it – I’m a mess.
And he is indeed older – they thought perhaps even 7 or 8. How a cat that age can limp around in a predator-filled area and stay alive is a mystery to me. Maybe I should change his name to Lucky.
Once again, my conscience will not allow me to put him back there; the prognosis for his leg to ever regain normal use is poor. I might as well be putting him on a plate for coyotes and bobcats. So once again I’ll be looking for a barn cat home so he can have at least a little safety surrounding him. I’ll do it with my heart in my throat and anxious for his future, but knowing this is the best option for him.
I seem to be breaking more rules these days than I’m living by, but I have a feeling St. Francis would be okay with that. After all, he earned the rebuke of the high church at the time by preaching to animals. When choosing between breaking rules and honoring animals I’ll choose the former every time.