Back in the spring, this mister started to appear on our front porch. Being the tenderhearted folks we are, we began putting out regular bowls of food and water. Since he would eat pretty much anything we put out, we named him after the monster-eater in the Monster Hunter games, Deviljho, or Jho, for short. Jho came around pretty much every day. He actually got to the point of knowing us that we could pet him – gently – as he ate or lounged on the concrete. Then, one day in the summer, this entourage showed up:
From left to right, that’s Cal, Gogo, Mama, Stripey, and Bro (in the bushes). Mama and the babies took Jho’s place for a while as the primary users of our front porch…and eaters of the food we put out. Needless to say, we quickly went through a couple of bags of kibble with so many mouths to feed! We thought that maybe Jho had been displaced by this sometimes-rowdy crew of kittens, when we looked outside one early evening and saw this:
If Jho wasn’t part of the family (either the papa or a big brother), the entourage definitely welcomed him.
We’ve never been sure to where these cats go when they leave our porch. Sometimes, they just run to the neighbor’s yard, lounging on their porch or under the wheel wells of their truck. Other times, they race across both our yards into some other place, too fast for us to follow. We just knew that they’d come back as long as we put out food for them.
One day when the gang came by, they were short by one. Stripey never showed up again. Maybe s/he was picked up by someone; maybe s/he got hurt or sick. Oh, well, we thought. That’s life in the outdoors.
Fast forward several weeks. The gang was still coming around regularly…but we noticed something amiss. One of the white twins, the girl, who we’d called Gogo, was limping very badly. She’d lie on her side in the grass to poop, her little sides heaving. This broke our hearts, and while we’d known before that we should try and trap these cats for neutering, that little girl’s trauma made us quadruple our efforts.
We purchased a couple of humane traps, covered them with towels as camouflage and to keep the cat calm while it was inside, put in some food as bait, and set them out early one morning. Even in the dark before sunup, we saw Jho walk out from the bushes and straight into one of the traps. (We’d picked up Jho previously, in an effort to take him to a shelter. The shelter was full, though, so we ended up bringing him back to our neighborhood and letting him go.) The white brother, who we started calling Bro, followed soon after into the second trap. We were disappointed we didn’t catch Gogo, but two of the boys were better than nothing. Leaving the traps draped, we put them in the back of the car and took them to the clinic for fixing. While I was filling out the necessary paperwork, my husband peered under the towels, to make sure the boys were all right. Jho was fine if somewhat sullen, but he was surprised to see this in the second trap:
Gogo had gotten into the trap, too! She must have limped in first, and then Bro followed her in, springing the trap with his heavier weight. We were so relieved to have Gogo in custody, since now a vet could take a look at her legs in addition to getting her fixed.
When we picked them up the next day, Bro was antsy and Jho was still grumpy.
Little Miss Gogo’s diagnosis was not good, though. She had severely limited mobility in her left leg, and almost no mobility at all in her right. We brought them back home, where we set the boys free. We brought Gogo into the house, putting her in our back room where she’d be safe, with food and water and a tiny litter box. We called our local vet, who offered to see her the next afternoon after we gave them the explanation of her condition.
Here’s Gogo at the vet:
She was very small – only 3 1/2 pounds – and had tapeworm and a heart murmur in addition to the issue with her hips. The vet recommended X-rays to see the true extent of the damage, and we agreed. For the next few hours, we walked around town and worried and discussed what we’d do if the vet came back with a too-serious diagnosis. When the X-rays were finally done, they brought us into the exam room and gave us the facts: Gogo’s pelvis wasn’t shattered, but it had been broken, likely because of a car injury. Her hips were severely out of joint, preventing range of movement. That is not good for a cat who lives outdoors.
There was a small chance that kenneled recuperation would help little Gogo. But there was no guarantee. She was also very afraid of us and did not enjoy being inside, even for the single night that we’d kept her. It might seem cruel, but we decided to do what we thought was best for her, and so asked the vet to put her to sleep. It’s very hard even now for me not to cry when I think about Gogo. She was so small and so sweet when she’d romp around our yard with her brother and sister and Jho. But she was a feral, not an indoor cat, and we didn’t want to prolong her pain.
The staff at the vet office was very compassionate. I often think that vets are kinder and more empathetic than human doctors because their patients have no articulate voice to tell them what’s wrong; vets have to feel their way. Gogo was already sedated for the X-rays, but they held her and stroked her and said soft things to her when they gave her the injection. And off she went over the rainbow bridge.
I like to think that Gogo is in a place open and free, with no roads or scary predators, where she can run and jump and play like she could when she was a kitten.
About a week later, we received a sympathy card from the vet, and this:
It’s a little watercolor painting made with Gogo’s paw prints. It’s going to go into a frame as soon as we find the right one, and stay with us forever, just like Gogo will stay in my heart.
If you were moved by Gogo’s story, please consider donating to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Veterinary Care Charitable Fund, which provides veterinarians with a simple and effective way to offer charitable veterinary services to clients facing personal hardships as well as a means to support animals who are injured or rescued from abuse and neglect, or to your local no-kill shelter or veterinary clinic. We were able to fund Gogo’s medical needs, but not everyone is so lucky.