Savannah's Paw Tracks

Autobiography of a Former Shelter Cat

Compassion for a Senior Feral Cat


I asked Savannah to allow me to tell a story about a senior feral cat I recently met. There is a community cat colony within walking distance of our home. Fortunately, a friend who is a skilled cat trapper has already trapped almost all the cats for spay, neuter. I will tell you more about this colony in another post.

My time with you today is to share the story of a senior feral cat from this colony as I know it. I have only known him for about two months. There are about thirty five cats in this colony which has been in this location for over fifteen years. I walked around one day by myself and I saw a cat on one of the hillsides. I got closer because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

The black cat on the hill appeared to have no ears! I moved slowly forward to try for a better look and photo. Unfortunately my photos are blurred but you can see that indeed he appeared to have no ears.

And yet what I discovered was that they were collapsed forward and inward. Once the feeder arrived I asked about this black cat, with no name. She said he was about three to four years old in 2006 when they took him to a vet about his ears being damaged. That would make him about fifteen to sixteen years old now. They were told he had cancer, but was otherwise fine. They determined to bring him back to his colony and watch his health. His ears grew worse and worse and yet here he was twelve years later, alive. But was he truly “well”.

I asked if I could trap him to get him to see a Vet at the Community Concern 4 Cats feline clinic for community cats. You see, I was finally able to view his ears up close while he was eating.

The earless black cat is behind the bench so I used the bench to lean over him, and his ears were very raw, torn, infected and yes, bleeding. The tree above the bench is the one I would often find this kitty sleeping in when I arrived to help feed or just visit. I believe that some of the other cats were beginning to sense his weakness and perhaps took advantage of it. He would always greet me with a soft “meow” then come down from his tree bed.

He loved roasted chicken so the feeder brought some on the day I would try to trap him. For some reason that day, none of the other cats arrived for feeding time—except this one. I put the cooked chicken in the set trap and placed it near him. He did not even run. He did love his chicken! He followed that chicken trail right onto the trap trigger plate and I had him!

We kept him in our garage over night for his early morning appointment next day. We knew he was at least twelve to fifteen years old. We gave him food and water but removed the food dish—which was empty—as we knew he needed to fast over night. Interestingly, he meowed to us softly a few times when we would check on him. He never hissed and only growled once when he was trapped—who wouldn’t growl at that!!

I doubt he was ever a totally feral cat as they do not typically “meow  talk” to humans.

I had already talked with the feeders to get their permission to have this senior fellow euthanized if his ears and general health could not be effectively treated. We all agreed on this.

However, talking about euthanizing a senior feral who has never bothered anyone, simply lived his life in his colony with a view, is easier than doing it.

Strider’s view from his hilltop feeding station

I knew he had lived a good long life with feeders and park visitors and maintenance crew who all treat the cats with respect and caring. His view of the Northern California Delta was pretty amazing and free!

Fog coming up the delta from San Francisco bay

Nonetheless, I was wishing I had found him when he was younger—perhaps I could have helped socialize him or at least find what his food allergies were. On and on went my self questioning.

Dad P and I could not take him to the clinic without giving him a name. Because he was wise and had not had a true home, we named him Strider. That is a character in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. We believe his name suited him very well with his coat of dark shiny black fur that allowed him to blend in with shadows just like the “Strider” in the books.

I was allowed in the exam room, after they sedated him, to join the Vet in her exam. Before the Vet began to go over what she observed about his condition and health, she asked me to keep in mind his “quality of life”.

His ears were the apparently the result of year upon year of likely food allergies, not cancer. This could be temporarily treated but he would be right back in a month —needing to be trapped again and sedated to give him more antibiotics and treatment for his ears, and this would go on month after  month. For those of you who feed large feral colonies, you know it is next to impossible to manage a cat with such a severe food allergy.

And then the Vet informed me that her even greater concern for his quality of life was his mouth. She opened it wide so I could see all the infected gums and teeth that were the worst I have ever seen. And not many left either. The clinic did not have dental cleaning equipment and even if they did, she said he would have to go through multiple sedation procedures and then not likely that all his dental infections would resolve.

She left the decision to me, which I truly appreciated. I was alone with Strider and I stroked his pretty shiny black fur—even having lived outdoors for at least fifteen to sixteen years, his fur was in lovely condition. His feeders fed him well!

And so I stroked Strider, told him I loved him as the Vet and I helped him on his painless way to The Bridge. The loving feeders of this colony miss seeing Strider as do I. But Strider needed us to show compassion for him and his declining lack of quality of life.

I can’t say enough positive thanks to the Vet and staff at the Community Concern 4 Cats clinic. They were kind to me and ever so gentle with Strider. His body will be cremated and his ashes spread at a local kitty cemetery. That seemed a loving place for Strider, don’t you think?


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36 thoughts on “Compassion for a Senior Feral Cat

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  4. Such a heartfelt story, Savvy, we had to come back a few times to be able to read about Strider. I think your momL did a good thing by giving him a name and making the decision for him, it must have been his time. When we saw the name you gave him, Strider, we thought of the dutch appellation strijder, that means warrior, I think that was him too. Fly free beautiful Soul ❤ ❤ ❤
    Extra soft Pawkisses to all of you 🙂 ❤

  5. What a powerful post!! We were right in there with Strider and hoping against hope that he would live but you did what was best for him. I have a 15 year old female siamese with food allergies so I know the destruction and horrible effects on my girl.
    You are very brave and a hero to Strider.


  6. Oh my, such sadness reading this. I wish someone could have got to help Strider sooner. Thank goodness you were there along with the vets and group Community Concern 4 Cats. It does make me wonder though at what point more intervention should be made…….

    • I wanted to add, that was a wonderful and well crafted and informative post. Please keep up the great workforce the cats, and posting these reports which are so important so we can understand colonies and the work that goes on in their care.

  7. What a tough call to make! It is so hard when we know we need to do the right thing, even though it is painful. Strider seemed to have a good life with the colony and he and the others seemed to know it was his time. You did the right thing!
    Love and strength

  8. meowmeowmans on said:

    Thank you for being champions for Strider, and for making that difficult but loving decision on his behalf. Bless you, dear friends.

  9. We are in teaers. Thank you for caring for him at the end and showing him love. Thanks for caring about his quality of life.

  10. spittythekitty on said:

    Oh Bless you Linda–It was his time, and you were there to make it gentle for him He had some love and care for most of his life, and a friend at the end. Godspeed, furry black boy ❤

  11. 15andmeowing on said:

    This is so sad, I am sure he must have not had a good quality of life. You did the right thing despite how difficult it was. XO

  12. I’m so sorry. This must have been so hard for you. This is very sad. Thank you for caring for him.

  13. I am so sorry he hd to go. Poor guy. Strider had the best care though at the end didn’t he. I hate it when they go.

  14. The Island Cats on said:

    It’s amazing that Strider lived for this long given these health issues. Bless you for caring enough about him…and making that painful but probably necessary decision for him.

  15. Mary McNeil on said:

    He knew love – not just at the end with you, but also with his caretakers. He is free and well now. Purrs

  16. What a sweet story. Sad ending, but the ending that was necessary and compassionate. You did a good thing. …another good thing.

  17. knitting4kitty on said:

    leaky eyes… cracked heart! Bless you for your compassion…..there is a fur angel watching over you and yours now with gratitude.

  18. Godspeed your journey to heaven Strider; please know you were loved, you always will be, you are missed, you always will be ~~~~~~~ ♥♥♥♥♥

    dai$y, tuna, dude, sauce and boomer ~~~~~~

  19. The Swiss Cats on said:

    What a difficult but loving decision ! We’re glad you helped him to cross peacefully the Rainbow Bridge. Purrs

  20. Bless you for caring and for making the right decision for Strider, as sad and as difficult as it was. Love and hugs from all of us.

  21. As i write this im crying for Strider and so glad that you helped him to the Bridge. God Bless all the feeders of colonies and all others who help the animals everywhere.

  22. Mee-you Lady El you did a wunderfull an unselfish fing to help Strider to Pure Land. not onlee did you give him a name as NO kat should bee nameless you showed him compassion an carin. Mee not fink this was a co-inn-seedence! Oh no; Strider let you trap him so he could sum sort of help. It was kissymet fur sure.
    Run free deer Strider….
    ~~~head rubsss~~~ Dharth Henry~~~ an {{hugs}} LadyMum

    • I do believe that Strider wanted to be trapped. And the whole colony knew he needed to be helped. Not one single cat showed up for meal time until AFTER I had him in the trap. He went in almost without hesitation. I still weep for him.

      • Wee agree Lady El. An mee iss sorry you are still weepin…it iss hard to say “Goodbye” butt you did thee BEST fur Strider an hee iss lookin down on you with gratefull-ness an luv ❤

      • I am in tears and I am broken hearted. You did the loving thing and I know it hurt horribly. His life was so harsh. The vet who said he had cancer but was “otherwise fine” I hope is out of business. this is one of the most powerful posts I will ever read and the most heartbreaking. Strider, I wish it had been right for you all along darling boy. But your Mom Linda helped you and your Caretakers helped you get food. God bless. Much love.
        Katie Isabella

  23. That must have been a difficult decision for you, but you had this dear old boy’s best interests in mind. He was lucky to have you watching over him. He is now running free, young and healthy once again.

    P.S. I am a huge fan of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. The name Strider seems so perfect for this angel.

  24. Oh, that poor little boy. We do so wish he’s been seen sooner. Thank you so much for caring for him during your short time together. He must have been miserable for so long.

  25. Oh bless your hearts for helping Strider have a peaceful ride to the Bridge… sounds like even though he was a very brave boy, he was uncomfortable and in pain and the kindest thing was what you did – truly. How very sad…..I know it was difficult but I also know that because of your kindness, he will be a guardian angel for Savvy and TKS forever……….

    Hugs, Pam

  26. OMC, your post made my human get all weepy! I’m so glad you were looking out for this old guy, and did what I am positive was best for him. I agree, he was not really feral – who knows what happened in his life that he wound up in this colony? At least he was looked after, the best anyone could…

  27. It duz seem like a nice place for him. He musta been in pain wif his mouth and ears so bad – what a brave tuff guy.

  28. Clowie on said:

    That’s sad, but better than fading away in pain and distress.

    I think the name Strider suits him well.

  29. I’m so sorry … but I understand… and that was such a wonderful thing to give him a name… no one should go nameless… and now Strider is in my heart too and my tears are running … but we think that is ok, everybody deserved it to have someone who is sad when this time comes….

  30. So sad, poor Strider.Seems like so many animals are abandon or stray.

  31. Well, with his gums and teeth being so bad, he must have been in constant pain and for sure could not hunt well. Still, just reading this hurts.

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