He’s been gone for days at a time, many times before now; but this time it’s been longer and it feels different somehow. I am afraid that my last remaining outside feral cat, old Georgie, is gone for good.
He was not of the Old House or part of that history. Of the two remaining outdoorsy, feral cats that I somehow managed to successfully transplant here in town, only Tiger Whitestockings really took to it and settled in here at her new home. She even attracted a new boyfriend who hung around her most times: and that was George.
At first, George and I did not get on all that well. At least part of the reason that he hung around was for the good food I was giving to Tiger Whitestockings. I didn’t mind him eating it, but still and all I had to chase him away at mealtimes because I wanted Tiger Whitestockings to get her fill, and I knew that wouldn’t happen if he came up to the plate. George was a champion eater. He wouldn’t have left Tiger Whitestockings anything, which says something about males in their feral state.
So when Tiger Whitestockings disappeared after three years’ time, George and I were not exactly on chummy terms. I stopped putting out any kind of fresh food; still and all I had a lot of leftovers from my inside guys and I continued to put that stuff out. I knew George would Hoover it up, and he did.
And I harbored no ill will towards him: the only reason I chased him had been for Tiger Whitestockings’ sake. With her gone, there was no reason why George and I could not be friends.
It too some doing, some coaxing, and some patience, but in the end my superhero Mutant Power, which is the same thing as my Native American name, which is “Makes Friends With Animals,” won out. George and I became fast friends. It seemed to me that he started coming as much for the petting and the attention as for the food. Within reasonable limitations, he even let me pick him up and scratch his tummy.
I really got to like George. He’d come in the morning for breakfast, then hang out and sun himself on my deck for the day, and then after dinner he’s wander off to whatever sheltering place he called home. I never learned where that was, except that it wasn’t anywhere on my property.
He was an Old Warrior who had seen better days. But he was too stupid to give up fighting, and over time the fights took bigger tolls on his condition. No more would he get healed up from one bad fight but then he’d show up on my doorstep dazed and blinking and covered in fresh, deep scratches.
He stayed with me for two summers and at least two winters. During the summers he would lose a lot of weight, and then during the winter he’d bulk up to twice the size. Last year, before the snow began to fly, I tried to bring him inside. I used my entry hall / laundry room as a test stage. He would have had every comfort, but he couldn’t stand it — being indoors drove him buggy right away, and the truth is that he was such a grumbly, fighty guy that I worried how he would interact with my inside quats.
It often happens that feral cats disappear in the Spring. My theory is they have had to struggle to survive through winter, then Spring comes and they start to feel strong again, they start to feel their oats again, and they want to look around and do some things that they haven’t been able to do all winter… and so they wander off and they never come back.
The last I saw George was days and days ago. He was marching off in a direction that I had never seen him head before, down through the neighbor’s property towards the river. I thought this rather a bad idea for him at the time, as I am sure there are wild animals down there. But he was already too far away, and anyhow he was never the sort of quat to take advice from humans, he was his own Quat and there would be no stopping him from having his own way.
And I fear now that he picked one fight too many, and with the wrong sort of animal. It’s been more than a week, and that’s never happened before. George would definitely have wanted a good meal by now, and would have been back by now, if he could.
This marks the first time in something like thirty years that I have not had any outside quats that relied on me to think about them. At one point, out at the Old House, we had in excess of thirty of them. Now all done. Another milestone going by. There’ve been too many milestones lately.
I’m still putting the food out every day. Sometimes the neighbor quats come and clean it up, sometimes not. When they don’t, I just chuck the remains out into the middle of my driveway. It’s always gone by morning.