Monday, May 18, 2020

In Memoriam: Raleigh

There was much about my boy Raleigh that was unique in comparison with my other beasts. He was that kind of cat.

Firstly, he came to me in a unique manner. He was my rescue from the beginning. My other cats came to me through the Lethbridge PAW Society or its affiliated rescue-group, The Last Chance Cat Ranch. Raleigh was part of a project I had started to trap and sterilize cats in a feral colony behind my work-place. Operation Slim Pickens, as I called it, eventually succeeded in trapping a large number of adults and kittens and, with the invaluable assistance of local animal-welfare groups and two veterinary hospitals, neutering and spaying them.

I named him Raleigh even before I caught him. A polydactyl whom I thought quite old, he inhabited the fringe of the colony, but didn’t seem quite to be a part of it, coming at odd hours to where food was disbursed, perhaps hoping to get a hand-out when other cats weren’t present to compete with him. When he appeared with the other, more assured felines of the colony, he still seemed an outsider, and didn’t press in to receive his share of food. He was extremely timid. The first photograph I took of him showed him waiting one evening for food; he looked sad and desperate. I was very lucky during Operation Slim Pickens, capturing numerous cats with less effort than I had expected. Raleigh was trapped two days after the picture below was taken.

Taken to the veterinary the next day, he was neutered, brushed – and discovered to be no more than two; his bedraggled appearance was deceptive. He was also found to have FIV. This disease, which greatly inhibits immunity to other illnesses, is unfortunately almost common among unneutered feral males and, though it is nearly impossible to spread among non-combative cats, it is frightening to many people, and reduces the chances of a cat’s adoption. A foster-home opened up and I, with several cats already, reluctantly took Raleigh there.

I visited him a few days later. I found him scared and very unhappy. Of course he would be, and I, who counsel patience of people who want quick results from their cats, should have given him more time. But I felt that he was my responsibility. He was wedged at the back of his cage, against the bars. Whatever chronic condition he had with his eyes had flared up under the stress, and his nose was dry and crusty. Fortunately, the foster-guardian fully understood my feelings, and a day later, I brought Raleigh to stay with me – for the rest of his life, as it turned out.

Raleigh was very timid, and he never really got over it, though he became used to me, and even came to trust me. I wonder if he was physically or emotionally abused in his previous home – for a previous home he must have had. He was in no way feral, just lost or abandoned, and doing a poor job of surviving. But he wanted a home, he wanted a human, he wanted love. This was proved when I spent time with him one evening soon after he came back to me. I sat on the floor of the bathroom, where he was segregated, and, in the words of my blog-entry of the time – “I urged him to come onto my lap. At first, he just leaned against me. Then, of his own volition, he climbed onto me. He curled up like an expert, and purred. We snuggled for about twenty minutes this way.”

This was my feral cat.

His mouth was crusty, as though he were a sloppy eater. This was due to stomatitis, an acute allergic reaction to plaque on the teeth. This is usually solved by the removal of most or all of the teeth. Though this was done with Raleigh, it did not cure his stomatitis, which was then checked only by liberal amounts of the steroid Prednisolone. This was in pill-form. Crushed, it was added to his food, which he ate lustily, if not neatly. His stomatitis was kept at bay, and his mouth began to look clean.

His fur, especially in the hind-quarters, was matted. Constant brushing and combing, patiently endured by Raleigh, removed this condition. Thereafter, with continued brushing and a healthy menu, his fur was smooth and soft. It was a peach hue, so I nicknamed him Peachy.

Raleigh had other problems, such as his oozy eye, usually his left. It was chronic, but was bettered by eye-drops. He would receive anti-biotic at times, too, and I would periodically have to clean his feet or bum after a visit to the litter-box.

But Peachy’s life improved, I think. He played: he enjoyed chasing the red dot, and string-toys. He would try to scoop up the latter with those big spatula-like feet of his, and I wondered if his toes could bend like those of cats with the usual number.

I noticed early on that he wanted to make friends with one of the other cats. It was at one time Parker, then Renn and, finally, Cammie. The princess didn’t want Raleigh too near but, as time went on, she gave less evidence of indignation and annoyance at Peachy’s proximity. If the two had had more time, they may have become the chums that Raleigh very much wanted.

In any case, it wasn’t long before the other cats were accepting of Raleigh, and saw in him his harmlessness.

Indeed, if there was ever a cat without any mischief in him, it was Raleigh. He seemed truly not to have any idea that other cats wouldn’t like him. It wasn’t vanity, it was innocence. Why would anyone take offence at anything he did? He never hissed or growled, he never fought, so far as I can recall. He now and then hurried over a tail or jumped an outstretched body, but that wasn’t malicious action. It was Raleigh just trying to get somewhere. Such a sweet-tempered cat I had not met before.

(There was that time when Raleigh, in his innocence, sat on the dining table chair that Tucker prefers. Tucker’s world was sent spinning off its axis, and he literally didn’t know what to do. Raleigh was not bothered at all.)

Raleigh also loved having the top of his head rubbed. He would raise his head as I rubbed, the faster the better. His favourite was a chest-rub, however. Most evenings, usually after snack-time, I would come into the sitting room, hold out my fist and invite Raleigh over. He would come, in his usual trepidatious gait, slip his head under my hand and, after a minute or two of preparatory petting, topple over. I would then rub his chest, as vigorously as I could. He would close his eyes and purr.

Two characteristics of Raleigh’s stand out. Once he was used to living in the Cosy Apartment, he would greet me every morning by coming into the bedroom and talking. He was asking for his breakfast. He would come up to me, before I was even dressed, and receive a pet, a greeting, then trot away to await his meal. He knew the difference between my getting up in the night and getting up for good. When it was the latter, he was on me instantly, calling for breakfast.

The second trait that comes to mind is that when he was hungry, Peachy would scratch at the corner of a piece of wooden furniture. Only wood, and only at its corner. Usually, it was the micro-wave oven stand, though sometimes he would use a bookcase. I could have stopped him, but I thought it was too adorable to halt. Did he do this in a previous home? Was this what got him kicked out, if he was at all? Was it something spontaneously developed while he was with me? I’ll never know, but I loved to see it.

When he was healthy, he was evolving, growing more sure of himself. As the warm weather came, I would wake in the night; two or three cats might be on the bed with me, another in the saddle of a bedroom cat-tree and, next to that, on top of the shorter cat-tree, by the open window, a dim shape: Raleigh catching the nocturnal air. He would enter the bedroom while I was on the computer, jump up on the bed, be startled that I was already sitting the other side of it, but then decide to stay nonetheless. He trusted me, but when I was where he didn’t expect me, he became timid again. But each day, that diminished.

But then the retreat came. His health began to decrease. It was, I know now, the beginnings of FIP. His appetite lessened, and he stopped playing. Perhaps not strangely, he began lying on my lap again, something he had not done much of for a while. Indeed, the day before he died, I sat beside Raleigh on the library couch, and he eased over on to me, and lie on my lap, just as he had done a year and a half before. That was our last cuddle.

On Wednesday, May 13th, Raleigh went to the hospital again, and I was told that he had FIP. His remaining days would be few. He was eating almost nothing, which made giving him his Prednisolone, for his stomatitis, difficult. Without it, the stomatitis would reassert itself, and bring pain. There was no point in forcing either food or medicine into him; it would have delayed the inevitable only slightly, at the cost of great stress and anguish. I made an appointment the next day to let him go on Friday.

A good internet friend asked Saint Francis to watch over Raleigh. He must have done, for this time my little cat was not nearly so scared as he always was at the hospital. He seemed curious, not at all anxious. The last thing he heard, smelled and felt was the human who loved him.

Raleigh couldn’t have been more than four years old when he died, cheated by a dreaded disease of the vast majority of his life. But I hope to see him again some day, see him coming toward me, a little less hesitantly than previously, but still calling out to me. Until then, I will remember him, my Peachy, the least feral of all feral cats.


  1. Raleigh was such a darling. I guess I bonded with him in absentia. From the beginning, I always wanted to reach through the computer screen and give him a hug. He just had the air of someone who had suffered, but looked forward to better times. An optimist. It makes me very sad that he had such a short time of security and love, but on the other hand, I’m relieved that he passed on having reached that state.

    I’ve said before that you’re doing God’s work taking care of all these cats, but I think that was particularly true with Raleigh. I won’t forget him, and I won’t forget how you saved him from a terrible end on the streets.

    1. Thank you for everything you wrote. I agree completely that Raleigh was an optimist. He could never think how any cat could dislike him; he didn't seem to have anything remotely bad in his character. So he undoubtedly looked on the bright side of things. I think that's why he was willing to climb on my lap after knowing me for so little time. "Maybe, maybe this stranger will be nice to me..." I hope I didn't disappoint him.

    2. By the way, I hadn’t realized Raleigh was so young! I had just assumed he was an older cat. It makes me wonder all the more how the poor boy wound up a stray.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to Raleigh. He was so lucky to have you caring for him. Your post shows how much you loved him, and he loved you in return. He was a wonderful, sweet boy who will forever remain in our hearts.

  3. My eyes leaked with your tribute for Cammie, but this tribute for Raleigh had me bawling my eyes out. Poor boy, to be abandoned as he was is just awful, and he deserved so much better. Thankfully, he found that with you.

  4. I think that these last two years would have been the best years of Raleighs short life. We so enjoyed reading about him and how he took small steps to revealing himself to you and the roomies. Thank you for loving that boy.

  5. This tribute to Raleigh has also made me cry again. You write from the heart and your love for your cats shines out of every word.
    Raleigh's life was far too short, but you gave him what he craved, love and companionship.

  6. Phew! Made it to the end..!
    Took me a while, but l got there..
    Had tears running under my reading
    glasses, and into my coffee..! :(.
    A heartfelt read John..Bless you!

    I'm putting this into my pussy~cat
    folder right by Cammie's tribute..
    Hope that's o.k. I will read them
    from time to time..if l'm brave
    enough..! God Bless You John..!

  7. I cried when you first posted about him and I'm crying again. Raleigh, of all your cats, touched my heart so deeply. I'm forever grateful that you rescued him and gave him the home and love he so desperately wanted and deserved, even if only for too short a short time. ♥

  8. He touched my heart too...strongly. I fell in love with him right from the start. Tears are flowing again for a little peach colored cat I came to lone and who gained my heart as surely as my Katie did.

  9. Four years is so short for Raleigh. And less than 2 years of comfort
    and love with you, all to short. He certainly was a beautiful color
    Peachy, and how nice for you he was so friendly and loving. Maybe he
    knew that Cammie and himself had too little time to spend on earth.

  10. Angel Raleigh deserved your kindness; we are all very glad that he had it for a good chunk of his short life.

  11. Raleigh was such a sweetie guy and he was so thankful to be with you, we could see it.

  12. dood... uz sissy panzee catz iz done cryin now sew we can see ta type R message two ewe...

    ewe waz ment ta find dad N stay with him N we iz bee yond sorree it waz knot for 20 yeerz sted oh two.

    we dunno.. if ewe noe....just how manee livez ewe touched, how manee friendz ewe had.. N will all wayz have, how much ewe bee loved... trooth buddy, trooth

    we noe ewe R happee N healthee N livin large & in charge with cammie; parker; bear bear, & tungsten; a long with countlezz
    palz; yet we will miss ewe ♥♥

    heerz ta scratchin on wood, an endlezz gentle breeze; see ya again sum day ~~~~

    ☺☺☺ pea ess.... ya dinna let de "catfather" bother ya dood....THATZ sayin sum thin :) :)

  13. This is such loving tribute to Raleigh. Who knows how much love and attention he had in the past but he reaped a bountiful supply at the cozy apt! I will miss reading about your "peach". I'm glad he spent his last days in your care being physically and emotionally taken care of. Godspeed sweet Raleigh, I will miss you too.

  14. How awful to lose two darlings like this. ~hugs~ Again, you did a wonderful job. How anyone can abandon or mistreat animals is a mystery, while you go above and beyond providing the best possible living conditions possible.

    1. Some of the outsider-cats, one realises, are holding their own; they can cope. One wants to bring them in, but they are doing all right. Others, like Raleigh, are not. That’s why I brought him inside. I like to think that he at least had another twenty months of life, and a decent one. Thank you for your thoughts and kindness.

    2. In my dealings with “outside” cats, I’ve noticed the same thing. Some have the “street smarts” and some don’t. It’s a sharp divide. I’m so thankful Raleigh—a perfect example of the latter—found you.

  15. This is such a beautiful, heartfelt, post. Raleigh was so lucky to have your love.

  16. I read this the other Day and could not put in a message as it was just a bit much for me at the time as it brought back thoughts of so many of our family who have been deeply loved. Raleigh was a special fellow and your writing of him showed that to such a wide audience that he will be forever remembered which is how it should be. He was one of that special breed of cat, many of the ginger stripe, who are gentle to all others and make such fine companions to all. Thank you so much for the pictures of this very wonderful fellow. We know it will be a change and send our support