Moving with heavy luggage

I spent the last three months of 2021 living in a ground-floor studio apartment with a little garden in a gated community. It was a gloomy apartment with little natural light getting in at any time of the day, and the entire community was depressing - there was barely anything going on. With the exception of the occasional gardener or serviceman, it was mostly silence and birds chirping. I was in a relationship at the time, but I knew I’d be spending most of my time at the apartment on my own, and I knew I’d need company. Fortunately - or not so fortunately in hindsight - there was a cat giving birth in the garden outside by the time I was moving in.

A big dirty-black cat with one bad eye. She gave birth to four kittens, and they all seemed to have taken residence in the spot where they were born. Over the next few days, my then-girlfriend and I developed a routine of feeding the cats in the morning and at night, and I started buying bags of dry food and wet canned food and happily embraced this new chapter of my life. I fed the mother cat and she breastfed the kittens and everyone was happy. Except that the mother would not let me anywhere near her or the kitties.

Yup. Not even three-meters away. I had to put the food and leave at once, otherwise they wouldn’t come. No matter at which angle I stood and with which vigor of gait I walked as I came and went, they made for the hills when I got closer. No matter which day of the year it was and no matter what time, they consistently started running away if I thought of taking one step closer. I am not the most delicate guy out there, but I can move softly when I want to., and I tried, but it didn’t work. And this went on for a while: oh look the big cat cometh with dinner, oh fuck RUN, and then dinner.

And I was getting weary of it. I am not selfless, and I needed something in return for the time and effort and emotional investment I was making. I needed company and softness and affection in those long hours I spent working at home. Upon consulting with cat specialists and people who know this stuff, I was told that I needed to get toys and start playing with the cats a little bit. I admit that I can be a little rigid and joyless sometimes, so I went for it.

So I got said toys and proceeded to prompt said cats, but they were unmoved. I was then told to carry the toys the entire time I played with the cats, and I did, and it also didn’t work. Then I was told to move an inch closer every time I appeared with the toys, and to do so while being generally non-threatening and pure of heart, and I did, and it didn’t work, and it all seemed like it was becoming too much work.

I mean, why did this have to be so fucking complicated anyway? Why couldn’t I have run into the kind of cat that will, you know, stick around and lick my fingers? Make no mistake, the cats knew exactly the kind of power I wielded in this dynamic, and it was literally my turf that they lay sun-lounging on, and it was my door they scratched and the night outside my door that they pierced with meows whenever I was late bringing dinner.

And what did I really want out of this any way? What is my big dirty sinister purpose? All I really wanted is some purring and licking and the occasional thing cats do when they rub their face on your leg, and that’s it, not a thing more. And come to think of it, that’s all I want from human beings too, and this isn’t too much to ask, I’m very sorry.

When I completely despaired of things getting better, I started behaving erratically and unpredictably. Sometimes I sprayed them with water from the garden hose, and sometimes I started running in their direction without warning. I know this isn’t mature behavior, and I regret some of it, but it didn’t make them any more scared of me than they already were, and you could say that I was earning the fear I’d been assigned. Not the best attitude for a man in his late thirties, but I did not hurt the cats. Hell, I never even managed to surprise them. Things went on like that for a while, until one day.

I was working at home in the late afternoon when I heard unusual barking and meowing outside. I rushed to find that two stray and apparently rabid dogs had attacked the mother cat. They got into the compound somehow, and were terrorizing the area’s pets, arriving outside my garden door to catch the big ol’ cat unawares. And what do they do? They put her in their mouths and run. I ran after them for a block, and they drop the mother cat on the grass a short distance ahead and run away.

She was motionless, and even before getting right there, I could tell she’s now in the heavens. Her good eye, which I saw glisten in the dark of the garden at night so many times, was now silent. I wasn’t greatly touched because I had zero rapport with her in her life, but I was obviously shaken by the violent manner in which she had to go, and I saw no point of bringing her back to the garden. The kittens are now orphans, and they would have to make it on their own through life, as we all do. This may be tragic, but it is also liberating in some perverse way. I looked at the cat one final time and walked away after letting the landscaping guy on site know that a cat was dead on the grass, and I went back.

Over the next few days, the four kittens were lethargic. They hadn’t seen the event, but they must have known. They couldn’t have merely thought their mother was missing, otherwise they would have been looking around and sniffing every stone for her. Instead, they remained seated, all four of them, in an empty plant pot right outside my door, keeping each other warm. Winter was just getting stronger in this part of town. All my attempts to lure them in, cheer them up, or feed them have failed. They ate less, and started disappearing one after the other.

Within a week of mama kitty’s transitioning to the other side, one of the kittens was gone. I don’t know where she went, and I looked around the building and surrounding green area, but she was nowhere to be found. She may have gone off somewhere to start a new life, or she may have died - there was no way of knowing. There were three cats left, and the sadness was beginning to wear off, but they still insisted to sleep together in the same pot that contained them. Two nights later, another cat was gone, leaving two. Same routine. Looked around, found nothing, came back and dropped some treats around the floor that no one bothered to touch.

The weather was very cold on the last two nights. There was an abandoned swing in the garden where I had left a jumbled up blanket, and the two remaining cats started sleeping in one of its folds, one on top of the other, as if to keep each other warm in whatever sense of the word you want to consider. This was late December 2021 and I was about to move to another place. It was raining frequently, the compound was even more desolate than it usually is, and it all felt like the last day of school after the exams, when you could see the books tossed in the corridors and exam papers flying in the wind outside.

A few days after the last two cats mysteriously disappeared, I left the apartment. It was a rainy Friday morning in a very dramatic setting. If this was a movie, I’d get into the Uber and the car would start to move, and then I’d look outside to see the last cat making for the car, slipping on the grass and meowing loudly as it tried to catch up. I’d stop the car then and open the door to receive the wet kitten in my lap, and take her to the new apartment where we both start a journey to redeem ourselves.

But this was the other kind of movie; one in which memory is the only thing you owned and kept. Somehow, I miss the cats, and in my mind there is a clear image of four cats and their mother in the garden one sunny morning licking away at gelatinous blobs of chicken meat. They may run away every now and then when I appeared in the background and seemed to break into their safety radius, but they were always ready to come back to it every time I left - no memory of it, no trauma.

That is all. Sorry for the long post.

Oh my.

I am so sorry for the grief you’ve been through. You are a wonderful person to have taken care of the kitties the way that you did, and in their own way they did love and appreciate you.

My heart has been broken many times by the strays I’ve tried to help, but there have been victories as well - loving homes found for some, even a few making their way into mine.

Please take care. The kitty on my lap is sending head bumps and licks your way.
You’re also a very talented writer.

Reading that post made me feel like I was watching a Vittorio De Sica movie from the 1940s set in the bombed-out ruins of some nameless Italian village. I swear at the end of the post someone was playing a sorrowful tone on an organetto accompanied by wavering viola as the camera focuses on the pavement in the foreground while the car carrying the man drives out of focus down an empty street.


As I read this, a rescue cat who has never known anything but a full belly is lazing on my computer desk. Feralmama had a better life towards the end, and at least imagine that the kittens found loving homes too.

Feral adult cats are exactly that - wild animals - and cannot be socialized. They can be trapped, and “fixed”, and in this case her blind eye would probably have been removed along with her girly parts, and then they are released back into their territories.