Blondie the feral cat turned 50 recently. That’s 50 in cat years. Which is about 10 in human years. But it was a poignant birthday. For Blondie disappeared 3 months ago. And she’s almost surely dead.
Blondie was of the first litter of feral cats to show up at my campsite in the Berkeley hills when I first started camping there in 2007. She was still a kitten, actually. About 9 months old. Her mother had been hit by a car (I could tell it was Blondie’s mother when I spotted it lying on the side of the road because she looked just like Blondie). So she was faring for herself at an early age.
Incredibly wary and timid, it took Blondie years to come to trust me and be comfortable around me. If I made the slightest movement in her direction, she’d immediately jump backwards, always keeping a certain distance from me. And I never pet her in all those years. It was only in the last years of her life that I could tell she had come to accept me. Like a gear finally clicked in her cat mind: “OK. This one is on my side.”
Blondie used to do this thing that killed me. Every night around midnight she’d be waiting for me at the foot of the trail that led to my campsite. As soon as she spotted me, she’d go running up the trail towards my campsite. Leading me to the cat food dish, natch. And it was very helpful. Because the woods were often pitch dark at night, especially on moon-less nights. So it was helpful to follow Blondie’s blur of white fur which really stood out in the darkness. It helped me to stay on the trail (as opposed to bashing my head against tree branches or falling down the hill to my death). Any cat owner will tell you that they benefit from having a cat in all sorts of unusual ways. It’s definitely a two-way street between cats and humans.
But anyways, as Blondie was running up the trail, she’d do this odd thing. About every hundred yards or so she’d stop running and she’d roll over on her back. And she’d rub her back on the ground back and forth like she was petting herself. And she’d stare up at me with this incredible expression of pure joy and happiness. All night long she’d been waiting for me to show up. And now her cherished dream of supper-time was about to come true. So it was like she was beside herself with happiness as she laid there on the ground, wriggling around, rubbing her back over and over in ecstasy.
Then she’d jump back on her feet and resume running up the trail. Cats. Ha ha.
I always thought Blondie was the most physically beautiful of all the feral cats. She had this spooky, ethereal, self-possessed quality. Haunted almost. Like she was always thinking about something. But I could never be sure of what. Of course I miss Blondie. But I don’t mourn for her. She had one hell of a great life. She had the best of both worlds. Being able to run free and wild and feral in the woods all of her life, completely indulging her natural cat instincts. While also getting regular meals twice a day.
RIP Blondie. 2007-2016.