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The Stranger Cat, R.I.P.

Longtime readers of this blog are well aware that I feed feral cats in my backyard. There have been a lot of them over the years and though I feed them often, there are times when they're crowding my feet and howling because I can't get the cans open fast enough, and I practically turn into the Soup Nazi yelling, "No Mixed Grill for you!"

The last few years, there have been four around — Lydia, Sylvia, Max and The Stranger Cat. And if I haven't posted anything about them in a while, it's because they've pretty much stuck to their usual routines of eating and sleeping, or sometimes sleeping and eating. The eldest of these (and the father, I suspect, of Sylvia) was The Stranger Cat and as you've seen in my headline, he has left us.

I don't know how old he was but I've been feeding him for at least ten years and he was not a kitten when we met. I told the vet I took him to on Monday that I thought he might be 15. "At least that," she said, adding that he might be as old as 20. Feral cats don't live that long in urban environs. In rural, yes. But for a cat to make 20 in the city with cars is like you or me hitting 105.

I took him to the vet because he got very old in the last week or so, the way a human who's 90 but looks 70 might have a little stroke and suddenly, overnight, look 90. Two weeks ago, I watched him chase a squirrel not for food but for the sport. But this past weekend, he was limping and sleeping all day and not eating…and the vet basically charged me $80 to tell me he was very old. She could run tests, she said, but all that would do is tell us what was wrong…and what was wrong would not be treatable.

I took this about a year ago. When we let him in the house, he liked to sleep on an old towel by the stove. I tried it and it's rather comfy.

I wasn't there for his departure. I'm in Muncie, Indiana tending to the needs of another cat. But Carolyn is at my house and she stayed up with him most of the night, making sure he had water and trying to get him to eat. When he refused freshly-prepared chicken livers, she knew the end was near, and when she finally went to bed, she knew he wouldn't be alive in the morning. When I left for the airport yesterday morning, I said goodbye to him feeling much the same way.

He was an enormously good cat who never caused me any trouble. He didn't even cause much by dying since he did it the day my gardener comes. I phoned Francisco and he said he'd be over shortly and he'd take the body away in a dignified manner. The last time one of these cats died, I had to stuff it in a Banker's Box and leave it out at the curb for several days before the sanitation people came by to pick it up.

Carolyn tells me the other cats look sad. So does she. So do I. Odd how these strays show up at your back porch one day and become part of your life.