She was our cat. We loved her.
These are the words that keep running through my head, like I need to qualify her existence to the world. Like I need to keep repeating it, over and over, so that people will understand, so that they will believe me. She was our cat. We loved her. She didn’t deserve to die.
I met Frankie three or four years ago. I was trying to trap a few feral kittens in our yard and I ended up trapping an adult black and white cat. I had seen this cat around — it seemed like the dominant cat, the cat that was in control of the female cat that watched over the kittens in our neighbor’s backyard. I assumed that it was a male.
I took this cat into the shelter to be fixed and vaccinated and found, with great surprise, that it was a female. She was eight pounds of feisty. She was spitty and angry about being kept in a cage for a few days while she prepared for and recovered from her spay surgery. Then, just two days after I had first trapped her, I opened the side of the cage and watched her dart off as far away and as fast as she could.
I thought I’d never see her again, and I cried for her. I cried because I couldn’t give her the life she deserved; she would never take it. I could never show her what it was like to be a pampered house cat because she would never relax enough to enjoy it. I thought that I’d never see her again. That I’d never even know if she recovered from her surgery. She was my first ever trap-neuter-vaccinate-return and she was one of the hardest.
But she did come back. She came back for the food, and maybe for the company. She was christened Francesca, or Frankie. And for the past three years, we’ve fed her every single day. She has become braver and braver with us. It has come to the point that she will sit at our back door, like she’s begging for food, even if her food dish is completely full, just because she enjoys our company. She wanted us to talk to her, to sit with her at a distance. To be her friends, maybe. If she was in the mood for it.
She was the ruler of our back porch. The queen of all the other feral cats in our neighborhood. A constant fixture in our backyard — she very rarely left. No cat was allowed to eat the food we provide our ferals unless Frankie approved of their presence.
She was our cat, and we loved her.
I don’t know what happened to her. All I know is that on July 4th, she disappeared, and she came back Friday July 6th, more exhausted than I’ve ever seen a cat. Pancaked on the back porch and breathing heavily, eyes droopy. I gave her water and food and then she was gone again, off to one of her hiding places, and I thought she just needed to rest so that she could get back to being her Frankie self. So I left her alone.
Instead, the truth was, she had come back to die where she was comfortable. To die at home on her own terms.
She was our cat, and we loved her.
All I hope is that no one wished harm on her, that no one poisoned her, that she did not die a terrible and painful death. That afternoon I stroked her tail and her forehead, and she let me, but I could see that it brought her no comfort. So I sat with her, instead, five feet away. I told her that she was our cat, just like the other two that live inside. That we loved her. That we would do what we could to protect her, to keep her safe. That she mattered to us.
I hope that she knew she was loved. That we cared about her. She deserved a better life than the one she had. She shouldn’t have died at only 5 or 6, she should’ve lived a long, happy, comfortable life. She shouldn’t have been poisoned, or attacked, or hit by a car, or sick. But these are the realities of a life outside. I won’t ever know what happened to her. All I will know is that if circumstances were different, it could have been prevented.
There was not room for our Frankie on this earth. There was not a home for her to be taken into when she was a kitten so that she would’ve known that people can do more than feed you and talk to you. That people can be a comfort. That people can be companions.
If this story touches any part of your heart, please do this. For Frankie, for every other cat or dog that lives a harsh, difficult life like she did, get your animal spayed or neutered. Vaccinate.
And adopt. Always, always adopt.
She was our cat, and she was loved. And I will never forget her.