Jun 12, 2010

R.I.P. Tabbico, Beautiful Feral Cat

Tabbyco Watches Me
We lost Tabbico on or about May 16, 2010 but I didn't find her body until the other day. She died from unknown complications/problems with her spay surgery. Tabbico was one of the smartest and prettiest feral cats in the entire colony....

Tabbico got her name from her coloring. She had a lot of calico coloring, mixed with some tabby stripes. She also had a little bobtail. I've spelled the name Tabby-co and other ways on the blog, I know. Since it was just made-up in my head it didn't really have an official spelling.

What happened...

On April 27 I received an email from United Paws letting me know that the Neuter Scooter would be in town on Thursday, May 13. I immediately made plans to take in 4 cats... I have 4 live traps, so I do four cats at a time.

I was hoping to trap some of the young unspayed females in the colony, one of which included Tabbico. She was probably my favorite feral cat, in part because of her unusual color and bobtail and in part because she was clearly super-smart and curious about everything. She was always watching me, wondering what I was up to...

Well, I didn't catch all the cats I wanted on the 12th but as luck would have it, one of those cats was Tabbico.
Feral Tabby-co Posing For Picture

Not so lucky as it turned out... I caught one other female, the other two trapped cats were males. But off they went to the Neuter Scooter vet anyway. Bob took them in for me... I've been having a lot of problems with social anxiety so I need someone to help me with this stuff. Anyway, he was first in line, so our cats were numbered 1 through 4.

With the Neuter Scooter program, you pick up your cats the same day. And we did. It was earlier than usual because there weren't as many cats this time. Often the vet does a hundred or more in a day but this time there were only 30 some odd total. I don't know the exact number. So we got to pick them up at 3.

The kitties were a bit disoriented as usual. The only one that seemed completely out of it was Tabbico. But it takes time to recover, so we always keep them warm and covered. By evening, the kitties were getting anxious to get out... except for Tabbico. She was still acting disoriented, kind of half standing up and then falling over.

Still, this isn't unusual after surgery - especially if she was done late in the process. She should have been among the first, though, but I didn't think about that.

The next day Tabbico was just quiet. Not as agitated as the other ferals. But she was also smarter than any of the other cats so I took it that she was just waiting out her time.

Eventually I took each trap back to the location where the cat was trapped. In Tabbico's case, that was just outside a hay storage barn. She was the second of the three to be released. Oddly, she didn't run away like ferals usually do. Instead she kind of slunk away, low to the ground. That was odd and got my attention. I noticed when I put the traps away that the little piece of masking tape with the cat numbers on it said "36" on Tabbico's trap. Odd, I thought, because she was one of the first four cats to register and get numbers.

When I finished releasing the others I came back to check on Tabbico, but I couldn't find her in the hay.

Tabbico didn't show up at meals.

This is not that unusual for a feral back from the vet. It's traumatic for them and they avoid their usual locations, sometimes. They always show up after a few days, though.

Tabbico never returned.

I hunted for her to no avail. Only recently, I took apart one of my cat shelters as part of my search and I found her body there.

Tabbico Investigates

Poor Tabbico. My intentions have always been to help these animals have better lives. I didn't help her at all.

I wish she had never gone in that trap. Yes, she would have had kittens and yes that's a problem. But at least she'd still be alive. As it is, I'm responsible for her death instead. This is the first cat I'd ever lost to spaying. And having trapped and paid for a hundred other anonymous cats, why did it have to be the feral cat I loved so much?

It makes me think a lot about whether I'm doing any good. The whole process of being trapped and going to the vet is pretty traumatic and terrifying for the kitties, I'm sure. And if this is the end result, then it is more like Abu Gahraib or Guantanamo Bay than a rescue project. What am I doing here?

Tabbico appeared many times on this blog, thanks to her beauty and curiosity. But this is the very last time...

Bobtail Tabbyco On Her Throne
Rest in peace, little Kitty ...I'm sorry I failed you.


  1. You did what you know should have been best for Tabbico. You wanted to free her from the heat cycles and the stress of parenthood. Unfortunately no surgery is without risk. You should not doubt your actions. You have done so much for the colony and make such a difference in their lives. When your heavy heart lightens, please reconsider and continue to share your memories and photos of Tabbico with your readers. She was special. If anyone failed her it was our society's ability to treat animals as disposable. So, so sorry for your loss.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. Please don't let this discourage you from the wonderful and important work you are doing. You didn't fail Tabbico; it is the irresponsible people who don't spay and neuter who have failed the cats.

    Rest in peace, Tabbico.

    ps: My word verification was "waysayf." I think this was Tabbico letting you know she made her way safely to the Rainbow Bridge.

  3. My eyes have tears in them. I know you are sad. I know there are regrets and the what if's.

    I just had my 1st feral spayed and was going to release her the next day.

    I know she would rather be out of the 4x4x2 foot cage she is in, but I worry about mastitis as she was nursing and I worry about her incision dehiscing, so I will keep her confined through Monday and hope she will be fine to send on her way...

    Fly free and yes, like Redcat said, I hope in time your sadness will fade and the happier memories remain.

  4. Tabbico knew how much you loved her and we know how much you love these precious kitties. Please contine to be an angel to these lost kitties. We will never forget her or all the beautiful kitties that have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.

  5. Oh Chriss I am so sorry to read this. Please do not let your heart be so troubled by guilt and what if's. That serves no good purpose. Some things that seen routine can go wrong for not good reason. Tabbyco was called up to heaven for reasons we know not why...you were her angel here on earth and she will not forget that. I hope that memories of your kindness will be a balm to many more kitties as the come and go through your life.
    You are my Hero....Love Misses Peach

  6. Poor little girl. That happened to the cat my sister was going to adopt...died of spaying complications. I think she must have known you loved her...

  7. Thank you. I guess I need some time to regroup.

  8. rest in peace tabbico.
    hey you didn't fail her. you did what was best for her. sometimes shit happens that is beyond our control. that's it. hang in there k. tabbico is in a better place now and she lives in as gorgeous as ever in your beautiful photos.

  9. I admire you for your selfless efforts in caring for your colony and my thoughts are with you at this difficult time. It may be the circle of life, but that doesn't mean you don't stop and feel the pain. You did the right thing and should continue on with your efforts. Those animals are lucky to have someone who cares for them like you do. Keep up the great work :-)

  10. Poor little girl, and poor you. The more cats you do, the more likely that you're going to run into a situation like this. At least you know the warning signs now, and will be able to make a more informed decision next time around, helping another cat. My heart goes out to her - and to you.

  11. Chriss, I'm so very sorry to read about Tabbico. I have admired her many times on the blog and on Flickr, and she was beautiful. It is even worse that she died because of a spay operation which is something that should have made her life better. Don't give up.

    You know that most of the time it doesn't turn out that way, and it is better to take that small risk than to let them keep reproducing more kittens into the crazy, unsafe world of the ferals.


Comments are welcome! I always answer questions if I can.