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.