Early one Monday in late February, Sarge, our beloved tabby cat, limped up to the front door. He was in obvious pain, and one eye was swollen shut. I knew he’d had another tangle with a feral cat that had been hanging around. Black with yellow eyes slightly askew, this aggressive cat had been claiming Sarge’s territory and taking as his own the cat food we often left on the porch. When Sarge would come home with various scrapes and scabs, I joked about wimpy Sarge getting his butt kicked. Seeing him hurting that morning was painful, though, and I realized I hadn’t taken the stray cat seriously enough.
Sarge joined our family in 1996 after we decided a cat might fend off the rats that frequented our attic. Before we had even chosen our cat, we had decided to name him Sarge, envisioning a tough-whiskered mouser who would not suffer fools or rodents. Although we loved Sargey from day one, we were way off the mark with the name. This kitty never struck fear in the hearts of anyone, nor did he take care of the rat problem. Instead, he preferred to pester us for canned food throughout the days he spent inside and out.
With his recent eye injury, Sarge’s condition did not improve with medication so, after 36 hours, our vet referred us to Nick Faber, D.V.M., a specialist in animal vision. After examining Sarge, Faber recommended the damaged eye be removed. Trying to save it would be problematic, iffy&emdash;and expensive. The surgery was performed the following day.
I could not allow the feral cat to continue to terrorize our pet, so I contacted City of Sacramento Animal Care Services to figure out what to do. They informed me that I could safely trap the cat and bring it to their facility, where they’d take a look at him. I rented a small trap from Western Feed & Pet Supply. Although I doubted that the wily cat would get near the cage I set on our porch, I placed a serving of Sarge’s finest vittles inside. Surprisingly, within an hour, my wife called to say there was an angry, hissing black cat in the trap.
I immediately took the captive cat to the city facility on Front Street, where a staff person determined that the cat was indeed feral and told me that rehabilitating such a cat was not possible. Nor could this particular cat be introduced into one of the feral cat colonies that the city monitors; he wouldn’t be accepted. I quickly realized he would be euthanized. I felt bad for the black cat but, seeing no viable alternative that would keep Sarge safe, gave the go-ahead.
Sarge recovered quickly at home, his frequent purring providing ample testimony to an animal’s supreme ability to adapt. He is back to sunning himself outside most mornings, absorbing the warmth from the hood of my car most evenings. Every time I look at his sutured eye slit, I am reminded of the nonchalant attitude I had while the wild black cat regularly beat him up. While I feel remorse for contributing to the situation and for putting the feral cat down, allowing him to continue to make our neighborhood his killing field&emdash;or turning Sarge, a longtime indoor-outdoor cat, into an indoor-only cat&emdash;was not an option.