Mugsy – Got the Jimmy Legs


Mugsy from 2008

Last Sunday night/Monday morning, our feral cat Mugsy was hit by a car and killed. It's been pretty rough this week, coping with the news and trying to make sense of it. Those of you familiar with what we do and this cat in particular know this is no regular loss of cat. In the TNR world, you learn to get used to casualties. The cats we fix go back to the streets and the streets are dangerous, no matter what we do to minimize their struggles. It's an imperfect solution but is better than no solution. But none of this helps in this case. We miss our cat.

Mugsy was one of the first street cats we noticed when we moved here in 2006. He was filthy and scroungy, sleeping on an old blanket on a pile of trash. He was a strange looking cat, with eyes deep-set and wide apart. We didn't really get to know him until after we started TNR in earnest, fixing him and several other cats on the block. Post-neuter, he started hanging around George a lot, and soon the two essentially became a couple. They did everything together and were rarely seen alone. George helped Mugsy clean himself up and soon he was a relatively well put-together orange tabby cat. He had a sweet disposition, and even though he was a true feral he clearly wanted to be friends with us humans. We never were able to touch him, but he let us get close without fleeing the way most ferals do.

Mugsy was the alpha cat of the yard, all the other ferals deferred to him. He wasn't bossy and he didn't keep the cats in line with aggressive behavior, he had a charisma that made the other cats want to be in his graces. When he came onto the patio, he would often have trouble getting to the food bowl for all the cats trying to bump heads with him. He was already old for a street cat, and as I have reported here, a few months ago we trapped him and took him to the vet to get some of his issues sorted out. He spent almost two weeks recovering in a room in our house, probably his only significant time in a house in his whole life. He didn't like being confined (or being wrapped in a sheet to have ear medicine administered), but he liked the comfort of a bed to sleep in and unlimited food available. When he returned to the yard, he was healthier than he had been in years, and he was seen frolicking like a kitten on a number of occasions.

Last Monday we didn't see him and suspected something was up. By Wednesday we still hadn't seen him and very getting spooked. On Thursday, Jeannie walked around the neighborhood and asked a guy if he had seen him. He knew exactly who she was talking about. Turns out Mugsy is known among a lot of the old-timers in the neighborhood, and this one, Cliff, had seen him since he was a kitten (he was 8 or 9 according to him). A friend of Cliff's had found "that gold cat" on the far corner a block from our house, struck by a car Monday morning. Cliff explained that all the feral cats roam over a several-block range, crossing the streets at will and hitting several homes that put out food. We had no idea Mugsy was in the practice of going much of anywhere, we thought he spent 90% of his time in our yard. But apparently they still get around, as far away as two block over. I'm not even sure how they get over there, aside from taking the sidewalks all the way.

We have been pretty devastated by the news about Mugsy, we had expected several more years with him, and coming so soon after losing Edmund, it seems like a pretty lousy summer so far. Despite being full of cats, the yard has a palpable void, we keep feeling like he's going to show up, that Cliff's friend was mistaken and had found a different gold cat on the corner. But it's been a full week and the yard remains monochromatic (all the remaining cats are shades of gray for some reason). George is doing okay but I'm sure he misses his friend. Luckily he has recently gotten close with Jumbee, one of youngest ferals, so that may take some of the sting out. For us humans, however, there is no cushion.

We keep talking about him and how this could have happened. A nine year old cat who spent his entire life here should know better than to cross the street with cars speeding at him. But he was getting older and I already suspected his hearing wasn't so hot, so maybe that had something to do with it. No amount of speculation or theorizing makes it easier of course. Eventually we'll feel better about it, but for now it just sucks.

I hope to write a better eulogy for Mugsy than this, I don't think I'm able to properly describe him. But suffice it to say he started off as just another alley cat and quickly became the heart of this whole cat operation. He was just a cat but he had personality; he seemed to appreciate what we did for him at a deeper level than most of the others. We hope we gave him a better life than he would have had otherwise, but we got something out of it too. That's what will be the hardest to accept.

Mugsy's full photo album.

the yard just isn't the same without you buddy


  1. Stephanie
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    So sorry.

  2. sheena
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Oh No! I had just read far back into your blog yesterday & was so drawn to Mugsy, falling straight in love with him. His charisma reaches right out at you through the screen. It is no surprise that the neighbors took notice of him. I love that he had trouble getting to the food bowls because all of the cats had to greet him with head butts. King Mugs must have been such a kind King & a great diplomat in the yard.

    I am SO sorry for your loss. His boyfriend George is sure to miss him greatly along with all of the others. You took such great care of him & definitely made his life a better one & I am positive that you lengthened his life, too. He would have risked many more trips across busy roads for food if it were not for the home you provided, complete with health care.

    When I lived in Ireland I found that most cats were greatly unloved & viewed as vermin. My Vet there stated, "Irish cats live very rock & roll lifestyles. They live fast, die young." This is the same for any feral cat living here, especially in an area with so many cars & other risks. So if Mugsy was indeed around 8 years old, he lived far longer than most feral cats in NYC would.

    There must be a great hole left in your tribe & it most certainly will be felt deep inside of you. Mugsy was very lucky to have met you– as much as you were lucky to have met him. I am sorry to have never met such a great guy & wish him a great journey. RIP Mugsy.

  3. Posted August 9, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Aw, Chris, this sucks. I am so, so sorry.

  4. Posted August 9, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Oh, no. I'm so sorry. From the photos, it always seemed as if Mugsy knew and appreciated everything you guys did for him and the rest of the gang. He'll be missed.

  5. Posted August 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    It is so hard to believe. And so hard to accept. One of the guys who has been at the colony I help with for at least 8 or 9 years has moved about 6 or 7 blocks away from his somewhat protected place in the park – to the street. A friend is feeding him under cars. Jitterbug was a constant at the colony – and then he began to roam more and more. And I have no clue why. And of course, with this news, my worst fears are freshly fueled. We can't fence them in. The world is never completely safe- outside – or in, I guess. Just so hard. I hope his end was swift- it likely was. There is no good way to lose them, but I am glad he did not have to suffer a long decline. He was loved by people he never knew. And we won't ever forget that butterball.

  6. Sarah
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    That is truly sad and horrible news; I am so sorry for your loss. I know it is of little consolation, but I am sure the wonderful care you gave Mugsy provided him with much comfort during his life. Mugsy will be missed.

  7. Posted August 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    thanks everybody, it really helps to hear from you all. this has been a sobering reminder that we can't control everything and sometimes tragedy strikes despite our preparation. one thing i will follow up on is getting speed bumps installed on our street, the homeowners' association has been pushing for this for a while. Mugsy was hit a block over but it could help get other blocks to get with it.

  8. Sue
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I'm absolutely devastated to learn of Mugsy's passing. In all the time I've been a reader of your blog I've always known there was something special about him… and he reminded me very much of my cat Abba who passed away of cancer at the same age. A cat that is larger than life and seems too wise to be ordinary.
    I often read aloud your blog entries concerning Mugsy to my hubby and we would look through the pics of George and Mugsy in their backyard domain. He was such a tough old boy, like a well loved teddy bear.
    My condolences on the loss of this very special fellow, I know he had a special place in a lot of hearts, mine included.
    Your pro-activeness in getting the speed bumps installed is a good idea… making your neighbourhood safer for cats and kids too.
    The work you do with un-homed kitties in your neighbourhood is admirable, and I hope the fact that Mugsy was able to enjoy so many years under your care is some comfort.
    It's hard to go through the loss of a loved pet, I'll definitely be sending some positive thoughts your way.
    Again, so sorry for your loss…

  9. lesly
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I wish I were a cat living in your backyard, so I am sure Mugsy really enjoyed his life with you. Losing a feral is always hard on us because we feel so out of control as to their comings and goings. But you gave Mugsy and all the other lucky cats living in your yard an exceptionally cozy life. So sorry Mugsy had to go so abruptly.

  10. s
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry for your lost. It's so hard to lose a feral, because you invest so much love and care into them. From all your posts, Mugsy had a lot of personality.

    I lost a feral last year, he was run over by a car as well. I told myself that I would not name any of new ferals that joined the colony. But I did was only able to refrain for a few months. I worry when I don't see them for a day or two.

    I wish I could bring all of the ferals inside, but that is too tall of a task.

    Mugsy loved and appreciated all that you did for him. Keep up the great work, you are such a cat angel. I know this is a tough loss. Keep your memories of him in happier times, close to your heart.