We were desperate for new cats. In November of 2002 our two cats died of cancer within weeks of each other. For a while we were just in shock and in our grief couldn’t think of any other cats. Then there was the holiday season. Finally we went on a search. At the end we found ourselves at the Orange County shelter looking at row after row of caged kitties. There was a black fluffy one pressed up against the wires reaching out as far as he could toward us. His big pleading eyes added to his beckoning paw, “Take me!”
We could not resist and maybe we overdid it. A few days later we were introducing the black fluffy one, Maestro, along with two others, a blond named Bonita and a calico named Gretchen, to their new home in Laguna.
The search had been traumatic. At first I thought the Internet might reveal the perfect pets. After scrolling through page after page of photos and write-ups I settled on a pair of brothers, one orange and one black. There was an application to be filled out. We had to explain in detail how we would treat the cats. Where would they sleep? Would they be let outside? As I carefully described our household “cat policies,” I became more and more invested in adopting these two.
In a few days the representative of Kitten Rescue called and we had a telephone interview. In the end we were politely rejected. How could this be? I was told we were unacceptable cat parents because we revealed we would let the cats outside. We were hurt and disappointed. Here I thought I was a good and loving cat caretaker!
Then I reflected on our cat history. There was Natasha who had been hit by a car and died traumatically several days later of a punctured lung. Flash and Bisbee had both died instantly after run-ins with cars. We had found the remains of our neighbor’s cat Felix near our gate. He had been partially eaten. With Margarita and Whisper living out their life spans, added to Mr. B and Shadow who had died of cancer, we brought the cat survival quotient up to 50 percent. Did we really want to continue to lose half of our cats to a violent death that was preventable?
We would reform our ways with Maestro, Bonita and Gretchen. A leash system allows them to go outdoors, but not outside the yard. When it’s time to come in we can easily retrieve them. For 10 years we have used this method. Up until last week, we still had three cats. In recent months Maestro’s weight loss was pronounced and we had him checked by the vet. Again the diagnosis was cancer. Finally last Friday Alfredo, Willa and I took the emaciated Maestro for his final visit to the vet. Willa stroked his head and I held his paw. I looked into his eyes as the light went out. He was gone.
Last night, for the second time in a week I heard the short squeal and cry of a cat, then silence. A coyote had found its prey again. Someone’s cat would not come home the next morning.
Tears come when I look at the love seat where Maestro used to sleep, or when I think of how he would beckon with his paw, asking to be petted.
But I am a little consoled to think that Maestro had 10 years of not being hit by cars or eaten by a coyote. From wherever he is now I am imagining he is reaching out again telling us Lagunans, “Don’t let your cats out into the danger.”
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.