The Little Tabby
The setting is a small business on the outskirts of town. Although it could have been anywhere in America. Feral cats have the lowest priority. If you don't see them, they don't exist!
"Touch me" she said. "It's so easy to leave me all alone with the memory of my days in the sun. If you touch me you'll understand . . . I touched her. I understood. And it broke my heart!
Today she let me touch her. Her little body was trembling with fear but I could not miss the very soft purring underneath the thick coat of fur. The encounter was very quick and in no time she ran back, keeping a safe distance once again, watching me pour the fresh food and water into the bowls.
Step, step, step . . . her little feet kneading at the ground as if it was a wool blanket under her feet instead of the sandy dirt. My task done, I stopped to talk to her for a moment. She looked at me and meowed, her feet still kneading at the ground. She was closed enough that I could hear her, still purring very softly.
A little tabby . . . kind of cute but so tiny, probably just out of kitten-hood.
I was very ignorant of the problem of feral cats when I arrived at the premises several months earlier. I am a city woman. I was shocked to find about three dozens cats roaming around, looking for food after the place was quiet and all the customers were gone. I started to feed the cats, not really knowing how to deal with this overwhelming situation.
These animals, obviously homeless, had no one to look after them. They were no one's responsibility. A nuisance according to humans around. Some looked healthy enough, others were in need of treatment. Different stage of growth, different colors! I began feeding them and leaving water for them at night before I left the premises. Some cats were friendly enough, most likely had been someone's pet at one time. I began the task of taming them, well enough to get them into a carrier and take them to be fixed.
The little tabby was special to me somehow. She had been quietly studying me at a distance for a long time, wanting to come closer but afraid to. I needed lots of patience with her before I could get her into a carrier.
We were almost there. . . when all of a sudden the cats disappeared. I came in one Monday morning and all the cats were gone. The place totally deserted! No feline in sight! The food dish hardly touched! I filled the bowl again that night and the food was still there when I came in Tuesday morning.
It was eerie! Even the old black and white cat that everybody talked to and petted was gone. He had been someone's pet, abandoned to fend for himself.
I asked around and someone said the cats had been shot over the weekend. "Population Control," he added.
I felt sick!
Wednesday morning, blood on the side of the water bowl! Someone was still alive and wounded.
The place was tense. I did my work, tears rolling down my face and anger in my heart. I wanted some answers! I wanted the truth! What happened? The thought of the little tabby kept coming to my mind. Where was she? Where were they all? Was she alive and too afraid to come out? Did they think that I betrayed them?
A few tense hours passed . . . Everyone was quiet and anxious at the office . . .
And then I heard it. I heard a very faint meow outside the door. I rushed out and there she was. The little tabby. She had her face in the bowl of food, as if trying to eat. When she heard me, she looked up and let out a very weak meow again.
I then saw her face. Part of her mouth had been blown away. She was barely alive. Her body had the smell of decaying flesh. It was a miracle that she made it to the bowl of food where she knew I would find her. It is as if she heard my prayers and wanted to give me the evidence I needed: Her little body riddled with bullets.
Rolled in a towel, I carried her to the nearest veterinarian and held her in my arms while she was gently put to sleep. I heard her last words . . . A very soft purr . . . No doubt she said: "Help us, please." Her heart stopped beating. She was gone. And I alone cried for the little tabby. The little tabby without a name, without a home. The little tabby deserted by society.
At my request, the veterinarian took x-rays, clearly showing the evidence. Bullet fragments from a .22 rifle! With this evidence, still in my closet today, the little tabby's prayers were answered. Feral cats arriving at the premises were never shot again as a way to control the population. A promise was made and kept.