Today we found the carcass of our feral cat, Fluffy. We had suspected that Fluffy had passed on about a month and a half ago, when she stopped showing up for her regular early AM meal. At that point, Fluffy was in pretty rough shape to begin with, so we kind of expected the worst when she stopped coming by. Fluffy, however, led a considerably different life than any of the transient animals my mom has fed throughout the years.
Fluffy was found in the wreckage of 9/11 by rescue workers. She had just recently given birth to a litter of kittens, and instead of fleeing for her own safety, she stayed behind to protect her young ones. When she was found, her tail had been ripped completely off and she was covered by a layer of 9/11 dust so thick that the colors of her coat were impossible to discern by her rescuers. Shortly after being rescued, Fluffy was immediately separated from her kittens forever and brought to a veterinarian to be spayed.
She was brought to my family's farm by an animal lover who hoped that a change of scenery would help change Fluffy's unpleasant demeanor. But because Fluffy behaved violently towards her fellow cats (especially females), she was, at first, kept in a cage much of the time. Also, unlike most of the barn cats, Fluffy never seemed to crave the touch of a human; I personally only "petted" Fluffy twice in twelve years; both instances were very brief and ended because Fluffy was clearly not enjoying it in the least. Her traumatic 9/11 experiences had obviously scarred her deeply, and her mistrust of (and contempt for) humans was a defining characteristic up until the end.
When we sold the farm, Fluffy eventually migrated towards my mother's house, which is located on the plot of land adjacent to the farm. My mother would feed Fluffy daily, often multiple times, but this never softened Fluffy's disposition. Fluffy was joined by a rotating cast consisting of a few other local ferals, all of them drawn to my mother's generosity and kindness.
Fluffy never got along with other female cats, and she could often be seen chasing and intimdating them while she defended her turf. I once saw Fluffy chase one such female, poor downtrodden Stinko, all the way down the side of the long front lawn. However, Fluffy wasn't cruel towards males, and her relationship with and (hospitality towards) one particular crippled, one-eyed, broken-tailed male, named Stupid, displayed possibly the only tenderness I ever saw her exude. My family would jokingly refer to them as a married couple, which Fluffy didn't seem to mind at all.
Stupid would eventually die of feline AIDS, and many of the other stray ferals perished during the harsh Winter of '11, but Fluffy soldiered on, often taking refuge in an abandoned utility barn on the farm, or waiting under a bush outside the back door to be fed. Still, she rebuffed my mother's kind domestic advances, assuming defensive poses and hissing even as she was being fed.
As such, it's somewhat ironic that Fluffy's carcass was found on the front porch in an old cabinet my mother had equipped with towels -- a "Kitty Hotel" of sorts -- mom had put together expressly to keep Fluffy warm during the bitterly cold winter nights. To our knowledge, Fluffy had never actually used this sanctuary during her life, but finally gave in to its inevitable comfort in her darkest hour.
Fare thee well, Fluffy, and if cats are reincarnated may the next life treat you less harshly.