Updated: Aug 12, 2019
A dear friend of mine takes care of feral cats on my little mountain, which basically consists of feeding them and giving them a garage to protect them from the elements.
They were obviously a bit more friendly with their food givers, but I occasionally fed them when the foster parents were out of town, and they were unfriendly to say the least, glaring at me from the shadows of the garage. I even lived in their guest house for a couple months when I accidentally left my second wife, and they didn’t come anywhere near me, which I found frustrating because most animals come right up to me.
That was a decade ago. In 2011 they asked me if I would like a kitten from a recent feral litter. I said no. I didn’t want a pet that I couldn't pet, and I was still recovering from losing my previous awesome cat to what we assume was some drunk driver.
I dealt with him having an inoperable broken tail and being incontinent for weeks, until a “good citizen” in town saw him out in the snow (he loved the snow) and took him home, where he shortly died.
After much deliberation, I decided to give this little bastard a shot. He hissed at me the entire drive home. When I got him to the theatre where I was living, I just opened the carrier, and he darted under my bed.
I left some food out for him, which he didn't touch, and randomly popped my head under the bed to say hi... for three days. On day three the food was gone. When I checked under the bed he walked right up to me. Not only did he let me pick him up, but he was totally cool with me holding him upside down, scratching his belly, and putting him up on my shoulders. He was a wild, stubborn cat, so I only let him go outside on a leash, which he reluctantly did.
I took him off the leash when I was confident he wouldn't disappear into the forest, but he would just follow me around and stare at me. Not only did he become the insanely friendly theatre cat, but he claimed my little mountain town as his own.
I would regularly get calls from businesses all over town to let me know where he was. He ended up being so friendly that I had to get him a collar, not because cats get lost, but I was afraid someone would steal him.
He would walk up to strangers with dogs, and hang out with the raccoons that lived in the tree next to the theatre. Sometimes he would disappear for weeks at a time, and just wander back into the theatre like nothing happened.
When I would pull up into my parking space, he would jump up on my hood and wait for me to get out. I once saw him get swarmed by a pack of coyotes. He swatted at them, climbed a tree, and jumped onto the roof of the theatre.
He would wander into the theatre while movies were playing and harass customers to pet him. He would curl up in bed with me every night, drooling profusely as he purred. He had no positive sound, being a wild cat, so his meows were just a squeak.
It was him and I against the world, literally when the theatre sold and I was fired and evicted from a job that the digital era had deemed obsolete. I found myself alone in the desert for a couple years, unemployable, begging for help, with this awesome cat.
I eventually found this amazing woman who would become my wife, and her Elmira-esque 1 year old, but he assimilated pretty well. He wasn't too thrilled about the addition of the feral Chairman Maow, but he eventually learned to tolerate him.
I mentioned his reputation in town, but he also found communities of people that loved him and fed him in the desert, and back on this little mountain. The initial call was always the same from new people: "we have your cat."
The answer, "let him go."
We knew something was wrong, but he was a stubborn scrapper. He spent his final weeks curled up with us on the bed. He didn't complain or whine. He just purred when we touched him and drooled all over the place.
We just made sure he had food and water, and plenty of love. He slept a lot, until he wasn't sleeping anymore. After waking up with us, he made his way into my office, and the kids play room, and sprawled out under a fort that the girls had made.
He looked completely at ease, except for the "squeak" snarl stuck on his face that greeted me so many times, like it was painful to try and meow. I will never find another soul like him. It was his time, and he had an amazing time... except for Chairman Maow... Chairman was a pain in the ass.