During the course of a year, we would see maybe five or six dead cats along the side of the road. It was a busy road, where we used to live. Not the kind of road where you should let your cat wander. In my estimation, there was a 100% chance that, if you lived on that road and let your cat outside to wander, in short order, it would be a dead cat, a victim of the fast and frequent traffic.
“See that dead cat?” I would say to my husband as we passed yet another one. “That’s a cat nobody loved enough to keep safe.”
|A Haybine look-alike.|
After a while, when we saw one, I would just say, “Nobody loved it enough.” And eventually, I didn’t say it anymore, but I'm sure we both thought it when we saw the flat little bodies on the side of the road.
We have never kept cats, for several reasons. They are not my husband’s favorite pet, we have parrots, and I hate litter boxes, so keeping one inside was not in the cards. I don’t like them killing birds and rabbits, so I didn’t want one around the barn. And on top of that, there was the road. I didn’t want to keep a barn cat, just to have it come over to visit us at the house one day and get hit by a car. Which was 100% certain to happen.
When we moved away from the busy road, to a place where, when a car goes by, everybody turns around and looks at it for the novelty, a cat came with the barn. This cat had obviously lived here before we arrived. We would catch glimpses of her white body as she leapt away from us through the long grass. She was not friendly and I only saw her up-close once, at first, when I surprised her in the barn.
I told my husband we needed to get the live-capture trap from our old house, so I could catch her and, probably, have her euthanized, since she was feral and probably not tame-able.
Fast forward about six weeks. I was looking at the view from our porch, when I spotted the white cat coming up the dirt road by our pasture.
“Where’s your gun?” I joked to my husband. Then I noticed she was limping. “Oh, crap. She’s three-legged lame.”
I went down and cautiously approached her. She hunkered down in the way cats do, as if I couldn’t see her when she did that. I talked to her and moved slowly closer, telling her I wouldn’t hurt her, and I was just joking about the gun thing. She let me get close enough for me to see the few little black and tan spots she had in her predominantly white coat, then darted off across the pasture. That must have hurt like heck, with her sore leg.
Deciding again that I would set the live trap for her eventually, I went about my usual business.
Then one day I came home from work, got out of the car and heard a steady series of meowy growls and hisses. I located the source – the cat was lying under our truck, alternately meowing, growling and flat-out hissing at me. She never took a breath between all the racket. I told her to come out, I would try to help her, and she got up and limped away, still making a noisy fuss.
“That was weird,” I said to myself. “Why would she go to so much trouble to get my attention, only to run away again?”
The next time I saw her was when the horse dentist was working on the horses. This time, she limped out of somewhere, bold as could be, and started non-stop meowing at us both and acting very much like she was my pet.
“I don’t even know you, cat,” I said to the cat.
“Do you feed her?” asked the dentist.
The cat meowed around, flopping down here and there, accepting pets. Very weird. I could see that her leg was severely injured, maybe by another, larger animal’s teeth. Additionally, she was thin. I could see her hip bones sticking up through her coat.
“Oh, she needs help,” I said. “That’s why she came out. She’s starving. She can’t hunt with that leg.”
Then, Dee accidentally knocked her hoof against that very leg (the cat had cleverly decided to lie down under Dee), and the cat ran off, hissing.
Well, you can predict the next sequence of events. The cat food I had asked my husband to buy to bait the trap was put into a little dish, instead, and the cat hung around. She wasn’t always friendly, but she was getting more friendly, and she never stopped meowing when she was around us. She would come and hang out with us when we were working on the equipment, lie nearby and just meow and growl the whole time. I don’t know if it was personality or pain, but she was a talker.
I named her Haybine, because the day she decided to be friendly was the same day we got the baler to work. That was short lived success with the baler, but her name stuck. She vanished for about a week, then resurfaced again these last few days, becoming used to regular meals.
Her leg was improving, and I kept vowing that as soon as she was trusting enough, I would put the food in the live trap, get her to a vet for medicine, shots and spaying, and then maybe take her to the SPCA. I wasn’t actually set on what I would do with her. Maybe I would let her stay here. She was growing on me, and I was growing on her. We kind of liked each other.
Last night, I fed her, and gave her a real scritchy-scratch on the brown spot on her head. I hadn’t done that before on the scraggly thing, and it surprised her, but she didn’t mind at all. She meowed steadily as I went down the hill toward the house.
This morning, she wasn’t in the barn for breakfast. I wasn’t too surprised. I expected her to come meowing out of the grass at any moment (I could always hear her before I saw her). She didn’t show up though, and I eventually left for work.
At the top of the driveway, I saw her, or I should say, I saw her body, flat, damp, stiff. She was dead, right at the edge of the road. She was hit by a car on a road where there are almost no cars. All the time before we moved here, and before we started to know each other, she was running around in the fields, and she didn’t get hit by a car. And now, just as we were getting to know and even like each other, she was dead.
I wished I had done more for her, and sooner. In the end, she was another cat that nobody loved enough to keep safe.