About 10 years ago, we started noticing a really cute orange and white kitty wandering around the parking lot of our apartment complex. At first, we assumed it was a boy (since 80% of orange cats are male), and every now and then, if we saw the cat, we’d stop and put some kibble out.
As time went on, we noticed one time the kitty looked increasingly pregnant. Ah, it was a definitely a girl then. And, still, we’d try to leave her some kibble when we saw her, but it wasn’t on a regular schedule and she might be anywhere around the complex. Sometimes, she’d disappear for awhile, likely to have her kittens, though sadly, we never saw any.
Years went by and she repeated the pattern of being semi-regular around, then being gone awhile, then being back. But slowly, she started to drift towards my building more and more. And as we saw her more, we made a specific point to try and call her and feed her more regularly. Eventually, over the past couple years, she really started staying closer to my building all the time and was often seen sleeping under the cars in the parking lot.
Over this time, I grew to care about her. She wasn’t fully feral; she was skittish but not afraid of people in general. I believe she was likely someone’s kitten and was exposed to people, but they moved and dumped her, having never gotten her spayed. So she had enough familiarity with people that she wasn’t wild, but she had been out a long time and didn’t want anyone to touch her.
We established a regular schedule with her and she came to expect her daily meal from me, even going so far as to wait behind our car if I was late coming downstairs!
I really came to enjoy our interactions. She was a very nice cat; never mean or aggressive. She never hissed or growled. If you moved to close towards her, she just scooted away. But, she started to come when I called, “kitty, kitty” and she waited for me most nights.
Other people in my building really loved her too. Several people also put food out (mainly in the mornings) and I would feed her in the evenings. She became the unofficial cat for the building and it was sweet to see how many people looked out for her. (At one point, the valet trash guy told me he called her, “Heathcliff” assuming she was a he.) This was a kitty who was a fixture around for so many years! Where other feral cats would come and go, she just went about her simple life and survived year after year.
I felt bad though seeing her living on the streets for so long. I wished I could do more for her but for a long time, just resigned myself to the fact it would be too hard to try and find her a family given her semi-feral nature.
Unfortunately, one of the maintenance men for the apt complex started to give those of us who were feeding her and looking out for her a hard time. He started threatening people with fines if they fed the “wild animals” and was either chasing her off, or acting like he was going to trap her and “remove” her. I was honestly worried about her safety and didn’t want this asshole to do anything to this sweet cat who never did anything wrong. So I hatched a plan to trap her myself.
I got her used to eating food in a cat carrier with an open door for about a week. And then one night, I switched it for a live trap. And sure enough, she went right in!
Up until this point, I honestly had never come up with a name for her. She was the “orange cat” or I’d just call her “kitty” when I called her for food. But, now she needed a name. And I decided on Summer. We actually caught her the day before the Summer Solstice and she had a warm and sunny personality and it just suited her.
Thankfully, my sister has a spare bedroom with en suite and was able to get her setup in the bathroom initially to decompress. She settled in pretty quickly and was eating almost right away, even with one of us in the small room with her.
The initial plan was to get her checked out by the vet and then try and find her a long-term home. Unfortunately, though she didn’t have ANY parasites, or infections, and was amazingly FIV and Feline Leukemia negative after all her years on the streets, she was in renal failure. Likely, she suffered many years without access to enough water and it took a toll on her kidneys. There was no way to know how long she would have and my sister decided to keep her for the remainder of her time.
She opened up the bedroom to her and even remodeled the furniture to give Summer access to the window. Summer spent a lot of time looking up and out, and she also had a little “bed” she liked to sleep on under the bed. (Given how many years she spent sleeping under cars, I’m sure it was familiar and comfortable for her.)
Summer settled into her new indoor life pretty well. She established a new routine and came to trust my sister as she had trusted me. She still was never going to be a lap cat and you couldn’t pet her, but that’s ok because we knew she was now safe.
Unfortunately, her time was shorter than we had hoped. And after only a few months, she went very quickly downhill. She stopped eating, rapidly lost weight, and became very weak and wobbly when she was walking – all over the course of about a week. So my sister and I made the decision to let her go peacefully yesterday, August 24th.
While I am so sad she didn’t get to spend longer living the good life indoors, I am comforted to know that she did know some peace in her last months. That she was able to have a home and regular food and her own space at least for a short while. I also try to take heart in knowing that she was not left alone to suffer and die a slow, agonizing death outside in the heat.
I am so glad to have had Summer in my life. I never pet her or held her like a normal cat. She was never “mine” the way my “pet” cats are. But she was my friend and I cared deeply for her and I was honored to be a part of her journey. Right before her euthanasia, I finally did get to stroke her fur and give her that kind, human touch of comfort I had wished I could for so many years. She was calm and I think she knew she was safe.
Thank you for your company, Summer. You touched a lot of lives and hearts and you will be missed.