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Hershey and Gimpy

 

We’ve had two feral cats on the property of our co-op, until recently. Gimpy, the brown and grey cat with the wounded paw, died. Gimpy was here when we first moved in, running down from the woods to get his lunch, and then running back up. His benefactor on the other side of the building put his food out under a piece of slanted glass, to protect it as much as possible from the rain, and give him a semi-private place to eat his meal in peace. In the winter, Gimpy left tracks in the snow, complicated designs that showed how extensively he explored the grounds, and how lightly his paws indented the surface. He was a very self-sufficient creature, and was able to survive a serious, bloody wound to one of his forelegs, a few years back, that left him with only three working legs and his nickname.

Gimpy was often hiding under bushes, or spying from the corner of the building. He probably had a lot of stories to tell, but he wasn’t willing to share them with me. Towards the end, though, when he was getting run down with whatever illness eventually did him in, he was more sociable He was willing to stand longer on the walkway when I came by, and even rested out in the open sometimes, where anyone could see or smell him.

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“I smell something. I definitely smell something.”

Not long before he died, my mother noticed Gimpy sitting in front of our building. He didn’t budge as she and the dogs walked within inches of him. She came to get me, but when I went outside to see him, he was able to gather enough energy to run away. But he only ran about ten feet, to the other side of our doorway, where he had to rest again. We left a message for the neighbor who had looked after him, to let him know that Gimpy seemed unwell.

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“Is he okay, Mommy?”

The news of Gimpy’s death came third hand, without any details about time, or day, or cause of death. But we had already noticed that he wasn’t around.

The other feral cat is Hershey, a white cat with brown and black markings, who was “adopted” by another neighbor who places food for Hershey right by her apartment window, in a protected alcove, shredding chicken for her by hand. Hershey likes to rest on the retaining wall, or in a flower pot in her alcove, or by the maintenance shed. Her answer to approaching dogs is to remain absolutely still, in the hopes that they won’t notice her, and it usually works.

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“What are you looking at, human?”

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“You can leave now.”

A couple of weeks ago, when I was out on a walk with the dogs, Hershey was sick right in front of us. Usually she hides her poop, but she had diarrhea out in the open, and it was a pale, greyish white. There were various older puddles nearby as well. She sat in front of the window of the neighbor who feeds her, mewing, ignoring the bowls of food and water that had been left for her on the nearby steps.

We let her benefactress know, not only what I’d seen for myself, but what I’d found when I googled Hershey’s symptoms; that mostly likely, she had liver disease. Her symptoms could have been caused by any number of things, and could even be a passing illness of no lasting consequence, but with Gimpy’s death so fresh in my mind, and Hershey looking thinner than usual, I was concerned. She’s feral in name only. She may even have other homes she visits for TLC and extra meals on a regular basis.

The next day, there were puddles of pink, filled with all manner of indigestible things. I think our neighbor had given her Pepto Bismal, thinking it was just light indigestion. I hoped she was right.

Hershey is not my cat. She does not come to my door to ask for food, and would not tolerate or accept my attentions. And she is still alive, weeks later, so maybe my anxiety was outsized, and she’ll be fine. Each time I see her moseying up the walkway or hiding in the flower pot, I breathe a sigh of relief. But it doesn’t last long, because I’m still afraid that she’s dying. She sat in her flower pot, unmoving, for hours the other day. I really want her to be okay, because I’ve lost enough lately, and she has squirmed her way into my heart, whether she meant to or not.

 

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Hershey, resting in her flower pot.

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

83 responses »

  1. The life of a feral cat is brutal. We have them here, too. One has been around for at least 10 years, which is amazing since the average feral life span is around 2 years. For years, he would take food from us as long as we stayed away. Now, he will come to the porch and is screaming to eat when we go to work in the morning! He will allow a brief pet. His fur feels terrible and he has so many scars it isn’t even funny. This summer, he looks a bit thin. I have no idea how old this cat really is as he was fully grown when he started hanging around. We just call him Tom Cat.

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  2. They ask so little of us yet give so much, even when they are not “ours”.

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  3. Love how you captured this story!!

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  4. Thank you Rachel, for sharing this story. I feel for Herschy. We moved from South Australia recently where the locals would throw cats out of their cars. My dog Priscilla even found a litter of kittens hiding down a rabbit hole one day. Unfortunately we only managed to capture one who is with us today. The rest died off or were knocked off by poisonous snakes. We rescued cats but the problem is insurmountable here in Australia with millions of feral and dumped cats roaming and eking out a miserable existence of starvation by degree and gradually working their way through our native birds and wildlife. I just wish that people who do not care for animals not consider keeping them in the first place. My second wish in this life is for people to desex their animals to stop this problem from spreading.

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    • Throwing them out of their cars?!

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      • Appalling in reality. I saw this but did not manage to see the licence plate on the car as I did not have my glasses on. We lived on the edge of a rural town and had a laneway down the side of our property where people would dump things, including helpless animals. It breaks my heart but at least my husband managed to rescue four cats, three of whom now live with us back in our home state of Victoria. They are lovely and loving animals. It’s some humans I have a problem with at times.

    • I’ve heard too many stories like this as well. People driving up to farms and dumping cats. I can’t understand not getting a cat or rabbit desexed. Our dogs have been desexed and it just needs to be done. Your family’s compassion for these abqandoned cats is moving! xx Rowena

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  5. So that’s how you grow cats!

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  6. AW. Do you have a local shelter that helps with ferals and vetting? Our shelters are no kill & will take ferals to the vet for medical help. They then spay/neuter the animal & place it back in the area. I hope she is ok. I feel bad for some animals.

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    • One of my neighbors is involved in a program to help feral cats, getting them fixed, etc. But it still breaks my heart to see the feral cats who are all beat up. I just want to hug them, but they’d hate it.

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      • That’s the problem. Even though we would love to help them they are terrified of us. I have managed to trap and neuter several feral cats and am feeding one now, but he was too smart to go into the baited trap. I tamed two feral kittens and their mother and their uncle lives with us in the house but still won’t let me touch him. He does give me the high tail in the morning and does come to me to miaow when he wants something. The mother cat Zara, is as tame as any pampered puss even though she was about a year old when I managed to tame her. I wonder if her higher oxytocin levels from having the kittens helped. Several other of her kittens had died before I was even aware that she had kittens. She loves being a cat with a home.

  7. My boys, 2 coon cats, were abandoned near neighbor’s home. People throw puppies and kittens from cars. There are many good, kind people but so many others who don’t deserve to be considered part of humanity.

    It’s so unfair to the 4-footed companions who trust us.

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    • I just don’t understand it.

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      • Of course, I have an opinion as to why people are so cruel.

        We’ve been taught from an early age that humans are at the “top of the food chain,” “given dominion over the Earth” and worth more than our 4-footed companions. That sanctimonious C#@p colors our perceptions of our worth as a species and we can see the evidence of our error in the land, sea and air.

        We “need” the cars that pollute, and “need” the oil that spills into our oceans. We “need” the insecticides that are killing off the bees, so our grass will be weed-free, without thought to a bees purpose. We “need” seafood from the over fished oceans because today we feel like eating lobster. We don’t think about the balance of nature or that we’re only part of it and not the whole of it.

        Those of us who have the privilege of being part of a 4-footed family understand that we humans are sorely lacking in many areas. We don’t have the hearing, vision, or compassion of a 4-footed companion who loves us.

        We understand that we are not the only ones with thoughts and feelings. Once a person breaks through that barrier, the world never looks the same again.

      • I don’t know what the world would be without my dogs. I don’t even want to think about it.

  8. You’ve told a beautiful story. Hope Hershey survives. The feral life can be brutal and painful. How I wish that desexing of animals was mandatory. It would go some way to curbing the problem of unwanted pets.

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  9. Hershey seems like a sweet girl. I hope she will be ok. Maybe she just needs to enjoy a nourishing chicken dinner, from a very kind animal lover, and time to rest in her flower pot, to give her body what it needs. As I say to my hubby when I sleep in on Saturday morning “Rest is healing.” 🙂

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  10. Bless you for your kindness and compassion to these feral cats. I’m sorry that Gimpy died, but it sounds as though Hershey may be okay eventually. We see this all too often at the shelter where I volunteer: people acquire animals, and then don’t bother to care for the properly, or when they become too difficult to care for, they simply abandon them. Thank you for this post!

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  11. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    I’m glad you love them too.

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  12. I’m heart broken and anxious. Peace to all critters!!!

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  13. Sending my love to Hersey

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  14. It’s sad to see any sick animal. I hope that Hersey recovers.

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  15. Good luck, Hershey. Always sad when they’ve no family – and don’t want one! Pip

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  16. Such adorable pets. I have a cat that comes around for breakfast. Not sure if he is ferel or just a little moocher that lives down the street. A lovely post !

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  17. Not a cat lover really, but I hope Hershey is OK as I don’t like to think of any animal in pain or suffering.

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  18. This warms my heart, Rachel. I am so sorry about Gimpy. Cats hold a very special place in my heart. I so wish Hershey would let someone take care of her–healthwise, not just with food. Poor baby probably does have something wrong with her and cats hide it so very well. Please keep us updated on this little one.

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  19. We had a whire feral cat David named The General who stole food from my cats. He attacked my cats, and finally, I had to call the animal shelter who sent someone over to collect him. I felt badly and told the shelter gal I was sorry to do this. She said, its not your fault, its the fault of whomever abandoned him.

    Our girl cat was killed, so we ceased letting our cats outside after that incident. Cats don’t belong outside. They kill birds and catch horrible diseases, including feline leukemia. Also, the odd cat is killed by a car.

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  20. Such kindness in your story. There is a group of ferile cats in my condo. The group us getting smaller as they age and pass on. All if them are “fixed” so they can’t reproduce but new ones show up. Now there is a little solid black one who walks every morning with one if my elderly neighbors. He won’t let anyone touch him yet. Maybe some day. I hope your little friend survives.

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  21. Animals in the wild have dealt with a lot by themselves and without a vet. It is hard to see them suffering and do nothing. If you try to help them, they run away if they can. It’s tough to see for someone with a sense of empathy.

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  22. We saw some feral cats in a parking lot for a gas station just last night – your stories of Gimpy and Hershey are very timely! There is a sense of powerlessness when it comes to feral cats but that is only on our “human” part – the cats for better or worse, are living as nature intended and they are to some degree “free” and allow us in on their terms (which isn’t much different than the two indoor cats I’ve had for 17 years now lol…our sharing a dimension is definitely on their terms lol). Thank you for sharing these stories. The only problem I have with feral cats is when they are not spade or neutered and that they kill wild birds. If there were more birds and less feral cats….it would be a more fair fight I guess. Love to you! I hope Hershey is ok too.

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  23. Living as a feral cat is not really a life. To do them justice someone should get the cat to a shelter so it can be adopted and live a healthy life in a loving home. Sorry, but I lost many ‘outdoor’ cats myself to believing that cats ‘needed’ to be outdoors. I understand it’s hard to take the step to find some agency that will get them, but some will…. I have two cats that have never go outside and are perfectly happy. They know no different and hopefully will live a long life with me. 🙂

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  24. Once again your compassionate heart shows through. It will serve you well in your new profession. Don’t let it get jaded.

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  25. You are such a sweet, endearing woman – agree with Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  26. Thanks for a great post which will help raise a lot of awareness about the sad lives of feral cats. While adult ferals can’t be taken in as pets, feral cat advocates can trap them, spay/neuter them, and even give them a dose of medication, before releasing them again. This will help reduce the feral cat population in an area.

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  27. According to the all knowing web: “One tablespoon of the extra-strength formula would probably cause toxicosis in a 5-pound cat.” So pepto bismol is not safe for cats. So it could be that whatever is wrong with her, giving her “medication” meant for people is not going to help.

    She looks very sweet. A pretty kitty. You got some really cute shots of her!

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  28. Three Pups and a Couple of Kitties

    I hope Hershey keeps on feeling better. Thank you for keeping an eye on her.

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  29. Earlier I read about the mistreatment of ducks that are slaughtered..to be food for humans. So very very sad and disturbing. I want all animals to be well and for people to. I hope that Hershey will be without pain and sickness…

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  30. I really do hope that Hershey recovers and will soon be well again. Although we don’t have feral cats here I do have several domestic cats that use my place as a shortcut, sometimes in the wee small hours of – setting the dogs off and at 3am and that’s not much fun. Still that’s the nature of cats….

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  31. I hope Hershey is doing OK. I’m glad she has so much support from you and your neighbors. When I get down about my own challenges, I think how hard it must be to be a tiny cat or even a bird … making their way in this big old world. Sounds like Gimpy and Hershey have had a lot of nice support and I bet they both appreciate/ appreciated all that caring.

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  32. sorry about all such animals. You have good heart, Rachel!

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  33. I love animals, although I’m more of a dog person than cat, but feral/wild cats altogether are so destructive to native wildlife in the US and around the world — there are more responsible ways humans can have cats in their lives.

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  34. Awww, now I am worried for Hershey too. I hope she will be okay.

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  35. Rachel, we need more compassionate souls in the world like you!
    xx Rowena

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  36. As the mommy of two senior, once feral cats, you have my rapt attention. I spend quite a bit on their senior illnesses, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who on earth is giving her pepto bismal? What in the world? That’s the last thing a cat can handle. Sensitive digestive systems. Anyway, I can’t save all of them, as much as I’d like to. I hate it when they suffer. I love that you love her. So sweet. P.S. Your work is really getting very good!

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  37. There aren’t many ferals in my community, but I believe the first floor residents put food near their back doors for any wandering feline. I hope there’s someplace for Hershey to hide where he can be blocked from the coming winter.

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