Remembering Theo on National Feral Cat Day

Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Animal Welfare, Loss & Memorial

I recently had to say goodbye to one of my beloved cats, Theo. If you’ve been following Moderncat over the years, you’ve seen him here and there with his silvery gray stripes and his tipped left ear. I haven’t known what to write about losing him, but today being National Feral Cat Day, I want to remember Theo by telling you why it is that I am an advocate for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), a humane method of feral cat management, from a very personal perspective.

Before he came to live with me, Theo was living in the feral colony that I help feed. Theo, his brother Sherman, and my fluffy little McKinley actually all came from the same colony. They are three of the best cats anyone could ever ask for. Actually, most of my cats came straight off the street — Ando, Andy, Little Bear, and Sylvia, as well.

Theo and Sherman were not actually “feral” since it was apparent from the outset that they had both been socialized. McKinley, on the other hand, was pretty darn scared, but came around quickly. Ando was socialized at an early age but still living on the street. Andy, Little Bear, and Sylvia were all very young when I took them in, so I got to see how easy it is for kittens to learn to trust people.

What these experiences — and these cats — have taught me is that all cats have the potential to be loving companions. That is what I believe. There is absolutely no difference between the cats sleeping under a dumpster and the cats sleeping on your bed. Yes, some are tougher cases than others, and some cats will never be snugglers, but house cats — and that’s what we’re talking about here — are incredible, intelligent, loving creatures that do not deserve to be abandoned, left to fend for themselves — or exterminated.

There are TNR opponents out there who consider free-roaming cats to be vermin and they want to deal with them accordingly. I could not disagree more. I cannot stand the thought of Theo, Sherman, Ando, or any of the others being exterminated. Sadly, this is the fate of so, so many cats.

Free-roaming cats can include unsocialized feral cats that were born outdoors, indoor-outdoor pet cats, cats that were previously owned but then lost or put outside for bad behavior, or cats that were simply abandoned or left behind when their owners moved. It can be difficult to tell if an outdoor cat is social since they are often on alert, or just plain frightened out of their minds. Unfortunately, they typically display the same behavior if they’re brought to a shelter, which dramatically reduces their chances of being adopted.

The cat overpopulation problem is a massive and extremely complicated issue. We have to tackle it one step at a time. TNR is the first step in helping to prevent more and more cats from being born. Adopting rescued cats is another part of the equation. Also, volunteering at shelters — working specifically with the scared cats to get them to be more social, or fostering them in your home to teach them that they can relax and enjoy being loved. These are all things that we can do to help.

So, National Feral Cat Day is not just about the truly feral cats — “feral” is just shorthand for unowned/community/unsocialized cats. Theo and my other street cats have made me look at all cats differently. I hope that you will, too.

Here is Theo on the first night I brought him home. I planned to adopt him out, but he was just so darn sweet, he had to stay.

Theo was a good candidate when I needed a model for a photo shoot, because of his easy-going personality.

Theo LOVED to snuggle with the other cats, and they all loved him. I always joked that they called him “Uncle Theo.”

Theo really knew how to get comfortable. He had a thing for donut beds.

Theo was only five or six years old, but he had a tumor above his soft palate that took over very quickly. He was FIV+ so his immune system was no match for the cancer. I lost him over the course of several months, but he was such a trooper, hanging on until the very end. He had the sweetest soul and is truly missed.

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76 Responses to “Remembering Theo on National Feral Cat Day”

  1. 51
    Karen R

    Theo was a beautiful cat. I’m sorry for your loss.

  2. 52

    thank you for sharing your Theo story. i was touched by it. I agree with you 100% in regards to TNR. we should all work towards helping local cat groups and any feral cats around. I do myself little work for cats behind my apt building and provided them with winter shelters but do need to do more. so sorry to hear about your loss. Theo was very handsome :)

  3. 53

    I am so sorry for your loss! This was a wonderful post about Theo. He was a beautiful boy. Great info on TNR as well!

  4. 54

    I am so sorry about Theo :(
    I lost my patriarch two months ago .
    What happened next though,was very interesting.
    A bunch of feral,motherless kittens, have been roaming the backyards for weeks. One ,the same color of my poor lost boy,decided he liked my backyard,and sat on my boys grave,crying .
    Quite feral .He hissed ,and mistook my finger for food initially .Starving .
    He’s the sweetest little thing.
    So I’ve ended up saving a feral ,without even trying .
    Theo will be back .

  5. 55

    Rest in peace sweet Theo…

  6. 56

    Thank you for a wonderful story about your Theo. I also learned a good bit about ferals. And, I am so sorry about your loss.

  7. 57
    Stephanie D.

    Theo looks like a truly special kitty. So sorry for your loss, and thanks for spreading the word about feral cats.

  8. 58

    Thank you for this beautifully written post :)

  9. 59
    Christina H

    Such a handsome boy! I just wanted to say that I think your tribute to Theow was truly lovely, and I really enjoyed reading your words… Thoughtful, intelligent and well said. Thank you for being such a positive advocate for all cats!

  10. 60

    RIP little Theo.

  11. 61

    Thank you for sharing Theo & your other adopted kitties story with us. I have been feeding some ferals/strays/community cats at a nearby laundromat. It breaks my heart that they live where they do but at least I can provide some good food and fresh water for them every day. I started feeding due to one cat that I saw sleeping under a bush. I went home and got some of my cat’s food and after eating the cat jumped into my car. I convinced a friend to foster him and now he is on a trial stay with a nice couple who fell in love with him. His name is Spot. It was originally Polka Dot but she became a he when we tried to get “it” fixed. It was clear Spot was at one time a pet to someone. He is so easy going and calm in just about any situation. I am keeping in touch with the new adopted family and told them that if any reason comes up they can not keep Spot, they can call me to pick him up, no questions asked. I never want him on the street again.

  12. 62

    PS- I am hoping to trap the young kittens that I have been feeding and watch grow. They were so frightened before but now come to eat with the others. Any suggestions for trapping them all or if I get one will the others be wise the next time I try?

  13. 63

    My condolences on the loss of your Theo. He sounds like he was quite a special and magical kitty. I’m sure it will take time for you and your kitties to heal your hearts. My thoughts are with you. Thank you for your lovely and informative post.

  14. 64

    Dear Kate,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have loved following Theo in your photos; he sounds like he was as wonderful as he was handsome. You’ve written a beautiful memorial to him, and I will be thinking of you and all of Theo’s family. May his memory be a blessing to many, many “feral” cats.

  15. 65
    Erik Knutzen

    Sorry for you loss. RIP Theo. You’re doing a lot of good work for the cats in this world.

  16. 66

    So sorry for your loss, Kate.

    Had goosebumps reading your beautiful tribute to Theo and looking at the wonderful photos of him and his pals….

    So hard to say goodbye to them – Lucky boy to have found his way to your home

  17. 67

    What a lovely post. And Theo, such a handsome kitty. I’m sorry for your loss.

  18. 68

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Your eulogy got me crying a little, so beautiful.

    Completely agree with you about the universal awesomeness of all cats; all the cats I’ve had were either strays that wandered into our house and so instantly adopted, angry ferals and rescue RSPCA cats; one wandered into our house and it soon became apparent she was pregnant so we kept her for several years until she passed [RIP]. One had wandered into my high school and was being terrorised by some boys, the headteacher confiscated the cat, some students told him I was the most notorious cat lover in the school so I was asked to look after him and ended up taking him home. Only one was violent from the beginning and never changed, but that didn’t mean we blamed her, she was abused. Abused or scared cats are just like people, they use a logic of how to behave based on previous experience of the world around them, they can’t help behaving anti-social if their lives were tough. So many people make unhelpful assumptions. Our current little darling Chibi was rescued, and considered a difficult cat when we visited the animal shelter. In fact the way she discredited the staff opinion of her was the precise reason we knew she had picked us to adopt her. We were getting shown around the cages, the staff trying to herd us in one direction or another when we got near her cage. Unsurprisingly all the cats were vying for attention. Except for her; she was sitting in the basket corner of her cage quiet and still. We asked about her and the volunteer told us she didn’t like people. We started talking to Chibi and the volunteer opened the cage while commenting again that she never likes anyone. As if to say ‘au contraire’ Chibi walked over to Ant. The woman said again that she’s really difficult; Chibi walked onto Ant’s shoulders and sniffed his face. The staffer was all astonishment claiming it was very strange for her, and instantly we knew she was meant for us.

    I don’t know what gave the volunteers the impression Chibi was difficult; she knows when she doesn’t like people and treats them suspiciously, she likes to be reassured several times a day that we love her but other than that she has the nicest disposition, I can’t imagine she was markedly different before we saw her. But even if she had been we still would have wanted her.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Your post is fascinating, bringing back a lot of memories as you can see, and reminded me we must make some fundraising cat films; your words inspire me :)

  19. 69
    Texas, a cat in New York

    What a truly beautiful post. Theo was a very beautiful kitty and was obviously very much loved.
    Thank you f sharing his story.

  20. 70

    What a handsome, sweet kitty. I’m so sorry for your loss. Such a lucky boy to have been given such a wonderful home! They all deserve it and I wish that I had room for all of them :) Thanks for sharing your story!

  21. 71

    So sorry for your lost. I know how difficult is to lose a loving pet that has brought us so much love. I lost a loving, caring cat name Draco. I thougt I was rescuing him but he rescue me.

  22. 72

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure Theo had a wonderful life with you. Theo reminds me of our Cliff who we lost to cancer in March. It still hurts so I know the pain you’re in. Just try to remember the good times with Theo like I do with Cliff.

  23. 73

    I finally got a chance to sit down and read your tribute to Theo from start to finish. It made me tear up-of course, your description of your dear friendship and love for each other is simply heartwarming. Having the opportunity to share time with someone as special as Theo is just the best, the best. And loosing him so early, is tough and sad. Please know, as I am sure you do, how much your and Theo’s story has inspired me and many others. I plan to forward the link to your tribute to my sister who has taken in a feral cat. Certainly this kitty is a challenge, but it is so clear that the emotional rewards outweigh any other considerations. She is so well taken care of, and she gives so much back. Your support and concern for the cause of spay/neuter-trap and release is a wonderful ongoing tribute to Theo and your other cat companions.
    Cats Rule.

  24. 74

    Kate, I’m so saddened to hear of Theo’s passing. Thank you for taking in this FIV+ feral; you gave him a wonderful life. I know you and your other kitties will deeply miss him, but I’m sure he’s doing just fine where he is now. It’s so nice that you have such beautiful pictures of him to remember him by – you can tell what a sweetheart he was.

  25. 75
    Don H

    So sorry for your loss. You remembered him well, and he was lucky to have you as a catmom!


  1. [...] it All” to Kate Benjamin’s moving tribute to her formerly feral cat Theo titled “Remembering Theo on National Feral Cat Day” (that’s Theo in the photo [...]

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