Sunday, August 06, 2006

Slinky

One day in the summer of 1997 my mum came in the house and told me "there's a black cat under the tree eating the birds suet." Being a softie, and loving cats, I got some cat food and went out, but the cat dashed off as soon as it saw us. I put the dry food under the tree anyway in case it came back.

He did, and it was obvious he was really really hungry but also really really afraid of people. Once he climbed up the tree and then when I continued into the yard he jumped out of the tree and fled. I felt so bad he was so afraid, cause all I wanted to do was give him food. Pretty soon I noticed he would hang out on the neighbor's porch (because the neighbor had no animals and wasn't home all day, so he could sleep in the sun and not be bothered), so I started to walk across the horses' paddock over to the edge of the property to leave food for the cat. He would watch me, but not come over until I walked back to the barn to continue to feed the horses. Then I would see him go trotting down the neighbor's driveway and over to eat the food. I'd give him a little pile of dry food and a whole can of wet cat foods twice a day.

Eventually he started to trot over to the feeding spot as soon as he saw me come out to feed the horses and would wait about 10-20 feet away as I put out the food. I would always talk to him as I approached and would continue as I backed away from the food. He would come up when I got far enough away and would eat, but would dash off if I make any move toward him. Fall and winter came and while we had a nice little routine, he still was no closer to letting me touch him, let along catch him. So I brought over an old plastic trash can, laid it down with the opening away from the way the wind generally blew, anchored it so it wouldn't blow away or roll, and put a nice bed of hay in there. The cat wouldn't get near it. He was SURE it was a trap. By that time he would often be over at the feeding spot waiting for me, and would be shivering like crazy, but would not go in that shelter for anything. And he wouldn't come over to the barn either. I was soooo discouraged.

By the time the next summer came we really had a routine down, but I'd give up hope that this cat would ever be anything more than a feral, so although I still fed him twice a day every single day, I gave up trying to pat him. I still talked to him though and began calling him Slinky because he would always slink along. Always low-slung and furtive. My mum and I made a little vegetable garden right beside where I would feed Slinky, and he would often come over and hang out while we were working in it. At first I thought he wanted more food so I would get more, but soon I realised he liked the company. Still he would only let me get so close -- never close enough to touch him.

The next winter he started to use the trash can shelter a bit more while he would wait for me to come over with his food, but would scurry out whenever he would see me approaching. Still, I was pleased to see he was able to get out of the weather and stay a bit warmer. And he wouldn't stay so far away when I would put out the food. But he still wouldn't let me get close enough to touch. But by this time he really depended on me, and I felt very responsible for him.

I was also really depressed at this time...probably the lowest I have ever been. I contemplated suicide every single day and often would sit late at night with the shotgun my brother bought me for Christmas (a tip -- a gun, of any kind, is NOT a good gift for a depressed person. I don't think he still gets that.) deciding whether I would pull the trigger that night or try another day. A few things kept me trying another day. One of those things was Slinky. I always thought "wh0 would feed and love my Slinky?"

Anyway, in the winter of 1999/2000 Slinky would stay in his barrel when I would come over to feed him -- and I occasionally got to very lightly touch the top of his head. Of course I usually got smacked hard with a paw with claws extended when I did that or if he thought I was too close, but he would generally not run away. After a while he would still hit, but didn't extend his claws. And pretty soon I would see him getting ready to hit me and I would say "Slinky!" in a "don't you dare" voice and he give me this look, but wouldn't hit. I was pretty pleased with that.

Because I had food out all the time, other stray cats learned to come over there. While I was feeding Slinky I managed to acquire Oscar, Alex, and Earl -- all who came to eat Slinky's food and ended up my cats within weeks (Earl decided he was gonna stay the second day. I fed him and he followed me across the paddock, introduced himself to the dog -- Bailey, an Great Pyrenees who loved cats and became Earl's best buddy -- and moved in). Slinky was afraid of all these cats and depended on me to guard him from them while he ate. Apparently he felt I was less of a threat than they were.

Summer of 2000 came and Slinky would come out a bit as I came over to feed him...sometimes he would even roll around on the ground in front of me. Then one day he bumped into my leg. I was shocked and looked down at him. He looked up at me like "oh shit!" but I didn't do anything except give him his food. The very next day he came out to meet me -- and rubbed up against my leg. And then did it again and again and again. He obviously was loving it so I just stood there and talked to him (I always talked to him -- for three years I always talked to Slinky when I saw him). From then on he would come running out to meet me and would rub on my legs -- it was as if he couldn't get enough. Pretty soon I could reach down and pat him, and he loved that too, but only if he couldn't see me doing it! Funny cat. He would keep me out there for 20-30 minutes at a time getting his attention and if I would try to walk off he'd almost trip me.

Eventually, perhaps a month or so he would let me pat him even if he did see my hand (that made it much easier!) and eventually would follow me back to the barn where he could jump up on to the barrels I kept the horses' feed in and get even more patting. He was just a major love sponge. I really feel he was making up for all those years of no attention. I made him a little bed in the barn as he was still shy around anyone else. During that winter I would bring out a snuggle safe (a microwaveable disc which kept him warm all night). And he LOVED to be carried! From "DON'T TOUCH ME!!!!" to "carry me carry me!!! pat me pat me!!!" It was amazing. He was sooo soft. Soft fur and just the softest body. I called him "Slinky the squid ink noodle" (I'd watched the Iron Chef one night and one guy made squid ink ice cream) because he was so malleable and was black with grey eyes. He would just drape himself over me and let me carry him all over the place. He got hours of attention every day and just soaked it up.

He was SO happy. I couldn't believe after three years that all of a sudden he was such a sweet and trusting cat, but he was. He'd follow me around whenever I wasn't carrying him. Pretty soon he ever let my mum pat him. Still I was his main love. I was pretty sure he was going to come into the house to live by that winter because he was really fitting in wonderfully and really trusted me.

But one day I noticed something was wrong so I looked at him closely and saw that the tip of his tongue was gone, as if it had been bitten off almost. We took him to the vet the next day -- his first trip to the vet. He was better than any cat I have ever had there. Rode in the carrier like a pro and when we got there and I took him out he just draped himself over me like he was at home. He was a bit nervous of course, but he was so very sweet. The vets and techs just loved him. They checked him over and took blood for tests and he was wonderful. The vet was telling us how to treat him what medicine to give him when one of the tech kocked at the door. I heard her say "it's not even finished yet, but it's...." as the vet stepped out, and I knew.

Slinky was positive for feline leukemia.

I couldn't believe it. Not my Slinky. My beautiful squid ink noodle Slinky. We must have had dozens of cats tested for it and none had tested positive even though it wasn't at all uncommon in the area. But it did make sense, especially given his current problem. I asked what I would have to do to take care of him and not risk the other cats, but it became very obvious it wouldn't work and wouldn't be fair to Slinky as he would be a virtual prisioner. And it was also apparent that he'd begun to suffer from the disease and would just continue on that slide. I couldn't do that to him, and I couldn't risk all the other cats either.

So I patted him and talked to him as the vet put my Slinky cat to sleep. Everyone cried. And then I took him home and buried him under the sugar maple in the side yard with Munchie and Mortimer. Earl is now buried there too.

August 6, 2001. Five years ago today.

Oh, Slinky I'm so sorry. I loved you so much.

4 Comments:

Blogger General Catz said...

i don't know what to say. i'm so sorry.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Queen Hatshepsut said...

Oh Holly.
I am so filled with sadness and yet so amazed by your patience and love with Slinky I don't even know what to say. I am so, so, sorry. I am so happy to know that Slinky was loved and cared for and KNEW love in the last years of his life because of YOU. YOU are a gift to everyone around you...cats, people...I can't see the screen because I AM CRYING now. I don't know how you do it with all these cats...you are so giving, loving and special. I wish I'd known Slinky...but the Universe gave him to YOU and how very, very, very lucky he was indeed.
love you.
d.

4:30 PM  
Blogger UnDead said...

what a story
my friend holly
you are a lovely person
i hardly know you
but i feel blessed

4:12 AM  
Blogger syrinx said...

I just discovered your blog here, eek. I really feel for your pain, losing your small darling. Especially when he kept you going at times. Slinky will find you again. One way or another. Or tell a friend where the nice lady can be found, because you are a good gig.

(hug)

11:46 PM  

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