He was just a cat.
That’s what people keep telling me.
And they are right.
He was just a cat.
But he was also a sentient being – with a beating heart – capable of feeling, of being scared as people shoo-ed him away – aware, on some level, that he was ignored and disliked.
His head wound was deep and raw. It made the left hand side of his head swell to the size of a hockey ball.
His fur was matted and rough. I got close enough to him once to notice that the black fur on his chest was flecked with white hair. I figured he was going grey, like an old man.
I couldn’t bear it any longer, watching him just exist, cold and injured and hungry.
I called the RSPCA.
A brusque officer arrived with a trap; a metal cage with a door that dropped when a lever was activated.
She left it with me. Told me to lure him in with food. “When he gets far enough into the cage, he’ll step on a metal plate, and the door will drop down and he won’t be able to get out. Call me when you’ve caught him”.
I did as I was told. I lured him in. He was hungry. He was always hungry.
He’d earlier watched me put food in the cage from the safety of the bush he liked to hide under. I wondered at the moment if he recognized me – I’d fed him on and off for months – maybe he even trusted me a little. As far as I know, I was the only person who showed him a handful of compassion.
I stood at my kitchen window, my heart beating fast, observing as he stepped into the cage slowly and unsure.
The door dropped. He panicked.
I called the RSPCA officer with shaking hands and she told me she’d be there soon to collect him.
I left my house and walked over to the cage. He was scratching and clawing, trying to get out. I laid a towel over the cage and knelt down so that he could hear me. “Shhhhh, you’ll be ok”, I whispered.
30 minutes later, he was loaded, in his cage, into the back of a van.
“Let me know how he gets on”, I told the officer, “If there are any vet bills, or anything I can do, just call me”.
She assured me that she would.
And she did. 3 hours later.
They had put him to sleep.
“His wounds were so deep and we just couldn’t get close enough to treat him. He was pretty wild. It was all we could do. I’m sorry.”
I wept and wept all afternoon until my eyes were red and puffy.
I felt guilty, for ultimately sending him to his death. I thought they’d look after him, nurse him back to health. I thought I’d done the right thing.
I couldn’t stop thinking about his face, the way he looked at me as he watched me scatter cat biscuits in the cage.
He had seen me, and I had seen him.
(But you weren’t just-a-cat to me).