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. 1

    That made me cry. I’m sorry for your loss, but grateful that Theo was so loved. This is a beautiful memorial to him.

  2. 2

    What a lovely tribute to Theo. You are so right, feral cats are such good cats. I have 21 of them here living with me and the reason why I have so many is because I will not put them in a shelter and they have no where else to go. Anyway, glad Ingrid told us about this post. It is great .

  3. 3

    Kate, I am so very sorry about Theo, may he rest in peace.

  4. 4
    Bobbi Hahn

    What a heartwarming, lovingly written post. Theo was a beautiful boy, and what great pictures you have; I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing all the info about “ferals” on this special day. I’ve been caring for a colony for nearly nine years, and it makes me crazy when they’re demonized as menaces to society, or worse. Really?!? I’m constantly amazed at what loving, affectionate creatures these cats become when they come to trust me and *totally* let down their guard.

    I hope your post makes some progress in getting more people to understand.

  5. 5
    Ava M

    Sorry for the loss of Theo. Wonderful that he can help others see the value of TNR. Sharing to spread the word.

  6. 6

    I am so sorry for your loss, your tribute brought tears to my eyes…because I also have an adopted 5-year-old and he is the sweetest thing ever. My husband and I had cats growing up, but none of us met one like him…a truly loving companion.

  7. 7

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Theo seems like a wonderful soul. Thank you for all you do.

  8. 8

    What a wonderful story! We have 3 adopted cats with 2 being brought in off the street. Zara was literally found in the middle of the street, bloody but alive, only a few weeks old. Sixto was living outside my work for a long time and eventually became accustomed to people. Today, she is an absolute joy to be around in our home. Penny was adopted through a program at Petco. She has now run our household for over 5 years. Love them all!

  9. 9

    Oh! Theo looks like SUCH a sweet soul. My MomKatt & I are so sorry for your loss. I know he brought so much joy to your life.

    And we think your write-up about ferals is purr-fect & says it all.

    Soft purrs,
    Selina & MomKatt Laura

  10. 10

    I’m really sorry about your loss. He seemed like the sweetest, cutest cat ever. I wish more people adopted your attitude about feral cats.

  11. 11

    What a beautiful remembrance of Theo. Thanks for sharing it, and condolences on his passing–he sounds like a wonderful cat.

  12. 12

    I lost a beloved cat to the same cancer that took Theo. It was too sudden and I still miss my Putty to this day, she comes to me in my dreams on occasion just to say Hi. I am sure that Theo is resting in his newest donut bed thanking you for being such a great friend.

  13. 13

    What a sweet remembrance. Godspeed Theo!

  14. 14
    lindsey v

    sorry for you loss. Theo lived a great life thanks to you, and I’m sure he is grateful for everything you have done for him. I know how hard it is to have a cat there all the time, and then one day he is gone. I lost my cat Simba a little less than a year ago, due to kidney failure, and though he’s physically been gone I still feel like he was here just yesterday following me around. Know that we are all here for you

  15. 15
    Cindy A

    So glad Theo found you for the time he had left. What a sweet baby.

  16. 16

    Beautiful tribute to Theo. He was so loved.

    I read recently that another important outcome of TNR, is that areas tend to support a certain number of cats. So if neutered cats are released, that helps keep the overall population down. I never had thought about that. It’s not just that one cat that won’t produce, but it’ll help diminish the population overall.

    Here’s where I read this:

  17. 17

    What a touching story. I’m so sorry for your loss. Both of my cats were left abandoned and I adopted them off the street. I agree with you that TNR is an excellent start to helping all cats, and that it is just the start. While I’d love to give every cat a happy and loving home I know I can’t so do what I can. Which is support TNR programs, educational programs on Spay & Neuter, and my local shelter and rescue organizations.

  18. 18

    May Theo always hold a place in your heart and fill your thoughts of happy memories.

  19. 19
    Jill Keenley

    So sorry about Theo, he looks so sweet and loved. My 15 year old cat, Scooter, kept getting tumors in head & neck area each time removing them. Next time tumor showed up, the vet said they spread to her spleen and since she was already a senior cat so instead of putting surgery & chemo, I put her to sleep. It was the hardest thing to do.

  20. 20

    Awww I’m so sorry you lost Theo. He’ll always be with you in spirit & heart though. What a wonderful tribute to him. <3

  21. 21
    Deanne G

    Thank you for the wonderful post and for passing on the word. My heart goes out to you and Theo. Thanks so much for sharing.

  22. 22

    I’m so sorry to hear about Theo. What a great way to memorialize him, though!

  23. 23

    What a very special tribute on this National Feral Cat Day, to have Theo as apart of awareness of these special kitties. I am so very sorry for your loss. There is nothing better than the love and trust you receive from a feral kitty. Theo was so lucky he had you and I’m sure you were more than lucky to have him, too. Theo you sweet and handsome boy, will always be remembered.
    I took in a feral Mom and her 4 feral kittens almost 10 years ago and they all have been true blessings to my soul.

  24. 24

    What a wonderful tribute to Theo. He looks like a real sweetheart. We’re trying to establish a TN&R program here in NJ…

  25. 25

    Right on Kate. I’m a huge supporter of TNR myself, am the caretaker of one colony. My condolences on Theo….

  26. 26

    I’m so sorry about Theo, and that he left at such a young age. What a gorgeous model and friend he was. I love all the photos you chose- you can really get a feel for who he was as a man.

    I was actually just crying about the letter the 8 year old boy wrote to a newspaper about his awful neighbor trapping his indoor/outdoor cat & taking it to the shelter where he was then killed- because someone forgot to leave a note that they were coming to get him the next day. Now I’m crying even more after reading this tribute- it is so beautifully written!

  27. 27

    What a wonderful tribute to Theo and my deepest condolences.

    I know how difficult it is to lose your beloved friend. I’ve lost quite a few, the last being my dilute calico who was 22 in 2010.

    I now have Lily Belle, a Siamese who was found in the hood of a truck at 3 weeks old.

    I always say, they just seem to find us as Theo did you.

    My best to you.

  28. 28

    So sorry for your loss Kate. Theo was loved by so many. Thank you for sharing him and his “nephews & nieces”. You will always have warm memories to hold in your heart. You have done such a wonderful thing in his honor. Community cats are lucky to have you as an advocat(e).

  29. 29

    Sorry for the loss of your companion. All of my cats have been feral or cats that have been abandoned in the neighborhood. Theo and his house mates were very blessed that you came to their rescue. Their love and companionship is priceless. I had to stop TNR…it was breaking my heart. So I now give to other groups so they may continue to help the feral colonies in our community.

  30. 30

    What a lovely tribute to a beloved family member. Such a handsome boy he was. How wonderful that he spent the last years of his life being loved and appreciated.

  31. 31
    Amy B

    Hi Miss Moderncat,
    Thanks for being such a strong supporter of TNR. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of large dogs and since I don’t have a dog the local cats started having kittens in my back yard. Last year my husband and I fixed and rescued 24 cats. Ten of those cats found forever homes as kittens, four are still with us as fosters because they were shy and/or had special needs medically, and ten more were too feral and are now living happy, ear tipped lives in my backyard. They keep me company while I garden and they’re like little pieces of living art that perch in the green of the yard or slumber in a pool of sunshine. I can’t imagine these beautiful animals being put to death when it was some human who abandoned their mother in the first place.
    Thanks for all you do.

  32. 32

    Rest in peace, beautiful Theo…

  33. 33

    Firstly, my deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your sweet Theo. I know you know he’s up there watching over you all and that you will all be reunited in due time, never to be separated again. In the meantime, of course, it just hurts. In our family, our Theo was our sweet Samuda, who left us on 30 August after spending 18 wonderful years as “friend to all cats” and people, too. There is a hole in our hearts and our home. How many times we’ve been there, too — and like your family, most of our family came to us from “the streets” and have been varying degress of socialized (or not). This is a family tradition, on both sides, so for me, I’ve never met a cat I haven’t loved. It’s in my genes. And cats respond. I’ve done TNR for yonks, except that the “R” has been mostly absent ;)

    Wishing everyone a good 2012 Feral Cat Day — go forth and educate! EVERY cat is a treasure and EVERY cat deserves respect and kindness from human beings.

  34. 34

    A truly eloquent and heartfelt post. I am also inexplicably drawn to protect and advocate for the feral kitties in my community, and your sentiments ring true in my soul. They are so much more than feral. They are glorious. And how wonderful Theo’s life was to truly know the love of a human. There is no greater gift (well except knowing the true love of a feline….)

  35. 35

    Well said, Kate. We are so sorry for your loss. What a lucky boy to have known such love after a rough start. Big Hug. Gilla

  36. 36

    What a wonderful tribute to Theo. I am so glad that you wrote this for others to know that the term “feral” doesn’t mean what most think it does ….it is all about socialization and patience …..and thank goodness for those cat lovers like you … all the best ….

  37. 37
    Kayleen Devlin

    Lovely article. I wish more people felt this way about feral cats. I have been a dedicated advocate for TNR since I was 14 years old. I could never have a cat because my mother was highly allergic. My first job was 24 years ago at a cat only vet hospital and I had to go to my grandmothers house and change and take a shower and then go home so my mom would not suffer an allergy attack. Once I moved out I was so happy to have my own rescue cats and have ever since!! Thanks again, I really enjoy your page and reading this.

  38. 38

    What a wonderful tribute to Theo, and to community cats all over. Thank you for taking all of them in, but especially sweet Theo with his FIV+ status. I too have a community,FIV+ cat that I have taken in. I was devastated to learn of his status, but couldn’t bear to part with him despite having 2 FIV- cats.

  39. 39

    Theo may your bright little soul rest in the loving arms of Bastet, say hi to my silver tabby Connor.

  40. 40
    Emily Park

    So very sorry for your loss… love & light to Theo.

  41. 41
    Kathy Groth

    You were so lucky to have Theo with you, even if it was just for a few too-short years. But Theo will be in your heart forever. He is such a handsome cat.

  42. 42
    Jen M.

    What a wonderful post!

    I’m so sorry you had to say “good-bye” to Theo, but thank you for all of the work you do for the kitties!

  43. 43

    So sorry for your loss. I am sure he was happy to be saved and loved even though it wasn’t long enough.

  44. 44
    Judith Montage

    Kate, a beautiful tribute to your Theo. All of us who love the creatures understand your loss. This was also very good information on ferals. Don’t pick me please, I’m one of your contributors. Just wanted to send my thoughts to you. Judith

  45. 45

    Wonderful tribute to Theo.. You were both blessed by the meeting. My deepest sympathies on your loss of him.

  46. 46
    crystal Martinez

    Such a touching story, I was weeping as read the story. I can’t imagine losing such a lovely fur-friend :) All ferals/community cats deserve a chance to live out their lives. I advocate for the TNR method which is the most humane all around. Just a side note, the organization ”Stray cat Alliance” is fundraising so we can continue TNR efforts in south Los Angeles, the highest kill-rate in shelters in the area. Please join us for this gala in Beverly Hills :)

  47. 47

    So sorry for your loss of the handsome Uncle Theo. It is so hard to lose our cat friends; I guess there’s some consolation in knowing that he had a fabulous life with you, especially as tester of soft donut shaped cat beds.

    Take care!

  48. 48
    Karen F

    My deepest condolences on your loss. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. Nothing could be more appropriate on National Feral Cat Day.

  49. 49
    The Island Cats

    What a wonderful tribute to a handsome cat. Theo is proof that feral cats can become loving members of the family. Purrs to you…

  50. 50

    So sorry to hear the bad news. Remember, all cats go to heaven. You’ll see him again one day. I’m sure.


  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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