Among all the many projects we have going at the moment (including fostering a mom with her litter of kittens), we have a troubling situation afoot. Our long-standing feral Blue has been missing for several days.
Blue is the last of the very first group of cats we ever TNR'd. That first group looms large in our history, each member represents the range of experience we've now come to expect working with feral cats. There were six cats we initially trapped in January of 2008:
Tuxedo: The only female, she disappeared after release only to return again a year later, decidedly friendly. She was adopted out after moving in with us for a while.
Augie (formerly Grumpus): This silver tabby appeared to be feral but after release he hung around and got tamer, until we finally invited him into the house. Originally a foster, we think of him as a family member now.
George: This stoic fellow was a constant presence in the back yard dating all the way back to our first months here. Post-TNR he bonded with Mugsy (below), and later acted as a mentor to the newer ferals we took in. He died in 2011.
Mugsy: The real heart of our original group, this dusty fellow slowly warmed to us, without ever becoming truly tame. His inseparable friendship with George was an inspiration. He was the first feral we every re-trapped to get extra vet care, he was treated for an ear polyp and had several teeth removed. He was looking better than ever that summer but he was tragically hit by a car and killed in 2010.
Baxter: This beautiful Siamese used to hang around the yard but was never part of the 'gang.' We stopped seeing him and assumed the worst. But last summer (2012) a husky Siamese briefly made an appearance on top of our fence …
And then of course there is Blue. He was very distant at first, the slowest of the group to trust us. By the time he moved into the yard full time, we also had Edmond, a senior refugee from Staten Island. The two of them became friends until Edmund's death a couple years later. After Mugsy's death, Blue and George became close. After George's death, Blue was close with a few of the newer ferals, primarily White Fang (I wonder if it's meaningful that White Fang is also a big fat cat).
Blue went from sleek to rather fat over the years but who could blame him, he probably spent his first years really scrounging. He'd become one of those ferals who gets so excited by food that he'd knocked the serving scoop out of my hand when I was trying to feed him!
We're not even sure how old he is. But we've known him for almost 7 years, so it's worrisome for him to miss several meals like this. We've asked at the apartment building going up behind our house, they say they haven't seen any big gray cats, and he was always skittish with people so I doubt that had anything to do with it. And of course there's still a chance he will turn up again, but there's not much we can do except wait.
Mugsy once disappeared for over a week, and when he showed up he looked terrible. He had a bad URI which had gummed up his eyes and nose, and he had clearly lost weight. But he finally made his way back and got back in shape quickly. I'm hoping for the same outcome from Blue, though it makes me wish the damn cats wouldn't wander off in the first place. The younger group of ferals doesn't stray beyond the next yard or two, but these old-timers seem to insist on making the rounds, even though they get all their food from us. I'm hoping he just decided to tour the circuit once more and will be back soon.