Gypsy is an ex-feral cat who came into our lives exactly ten years ago. My husband spotted what he believed to be a wild black cat in our garden, but when I was later able to get closer, I discovered a beautiful tortoiseshell with a “tipped” ear. That also confirmed her gender and neutering status, as the removal of the tip of the left ear indicates a female who has been trapped, neutered and returned to a feral colony. Having done some work for the local Cat’s Protection group, I rang them to be told they hadn’t done any trapping, but they gave me the number for the only person in the area who had. They could only find a record for one dark tortie and to our amazement they informed me she had been living on a farm several miles away. We had no idea what had made her leave, or why she decided to make our garden and fields her home, but she was with us now and we had to make a quick decision. We opted to trap and keep her as a pet, but it was much easier said than done.
The trapping was a great success. We started feeding her in the open cage for a few days and once she seemed comfortable, we set it to trigger the following day. I stayed at home and watched from the safety of our old Land Rover. Time passed slowly, it was a warm afternoon and within a short time I must have nodded off. Then I was woken by the sound of all hell breaking loose. She was in the trap and doing a fair impersonation of a wall of death rider. I rushed out and covered the cage with a blanket to calm her down. It wasn’t easy carrying everything indoors on my own, but cat, cage and blanket were eventually sitting on the study floor with both doors firmly shut.
I removed the blanket and opened the cage and she shot under the furniture. And that is where she stayed for the next two and a half days. As far as we could tell, she didn’t come out to use the litter tray and the food wasn’t being touched either. I had been warned about the risks with a feral cat and in spite of the fact that I still believed I could tame her, I very nearly weakened at this point. We decided that if she was still in hiding by the third morning, that somehow we had to winkle her out from under the cabinet and set her free.
Imagine our surprise on opening the door the next day to find her sitting on top of the furniture, hissing it must be said, but the plate was empty and the litter tray had been used. From that moment she never looked back. I spent many hours with her after work, just talking and playing and eventually she came round. She is now the most loving and happy cat you could ever wish to meet. She adores lap and at bed time I feel a gentle paw on my knee telling me to stop working on the computer. She follows me upstairs where she will lay on top of me, purring at full volume.
Unfortunately she is still feral in some other respects, so we were worried when we had to leave her with the vet last month for a dental. All seemed to go well, but a few weeks later it became clear that the area wasn’t healing. The sample that they took at the time “just in case” was sent off to the laboratory and the grim news was relayed just two days ago. She has a very aggressive form of oral cancer and although she is still happy, she isn’t eating well and the prognosis is bleak.
It goes without saying that we are both heartbroken, but I can only be grateful that she has reached the grand old age of fifteen, even though she doesn’t look it in the photo shoot we did the other day. We also spent a lot of time in the garden and I took a lot of videos to turn into a short movie. I can’t imagine life without her gentle ways and beautiful face. We have been truly honoured to have the love of a once-wild cat.
13th NOVEMBER 2015 – Exactly three years and one day after we had to say goodbye to Purdy, we had to make the sad decision to call out our wonderful vet for Gypsy. She had been doing so well and he was amazed at her weight and condition. He also admitted that he didn’t expect her to last more than a few weeks at best and yet we had the most incredible summer and autumn together. She had been eating much less in the past couple of days though and it was obvious she would go downhill rapidly. My husband took the day off work and we fussed her on our bed as the vet arrived. She was purring as he came upstairs and that is how she left this world. Happy and trusting. I miss you my beautiful girl…