Photo by Audrey Pavia
Everyone who has a barn cat knows the risks. Outdoor cats are susceptible to all kinds of dangers, and tend to have a shorter life span than their indoor counterparts.
I know this and believe it. Yet I took a chance by having an urban barn cat. I tried my best to keep her safe, but I knew the day might come when I would lose her to the dangers of the outdoors.
I previously wrote about how Foxy had spent her entire life in small New York City apartments until she came to live with my husband and me two-plus years ago. We tried to keep her confined to the garage, but she would have none of it. She wanted to be outside.
To minimize the risks to her wellbeing, we developed a routine. For more than two years, it worked. I would let her out in the morning after feeding the horses, when I knew the coyotes were going back to their dens. Foxy would hang around our backyard farm all day, lounging in the sun and chasing critters across the patio. Just before sunset, Randy would feed her dinner in the garage and latch the cat door so Foxy was in for the night.
Foxy didn’t like this routine. She wanted to be outside at night, probably because she could hear rodents scampering around, just asking to be caught. The world is different at night, and she wanted desperately to explore it. But the dangers of speeding cars and prowling coyotes compelled me to keep her confined at night. She would make attempts to dash out the door, but Randy and I got good at stopping her short.
But recently, Randy was away for the weekend. I fed Foxy her dinner, but forgot to latch the cat door. I had a lot on my mind that night and I made a mistake. Apparently, it was a fatal one.
The next morning when I went out to give Foxy her breakfast, she wasn’t in the garage. I realized my mistake and walked all around the property, calling her. She didn’t come. I spent the next three days looking for her all around the neighborhood. I left the cat door unlatched and her food in the garage, in case she came home. But she didn’t.
Foxy never strayed far beyond on our property. There’s no way she wandered off to someone else’s house and made herself at home there. She was happy here and loved her life. There is only thing that could have happened to her: a coyote.
I cry every day when I see her litter box and empty bed in the garage. I still leave them, holding onto the hope that one day she will come back. I leave the cat door unlatched just in case.
I have a lot of guilt and a tremendous sadness. It’s my fault she is gone. I should have remembered to latch that door.
My sister, Heidi, tried to console me by saying that the last two years of Foxy’s life were the most wonderful years she ever had. I know that is supposed to make me feel better, and it does in a small way. Yet I still miss seeing that fluffy fur ball whenever I go into the garage. I suspect I always will.