This is Tommy.  He has been in our lives since we moved into our house nearly two years ago.  But it was just recently he became not just a stray, but a part of our kitty family.

I remember the first time I fed him.  It was several months ago when I saw him alone on our back porch.  He had always tagged along with our smallest cat, so we would see him on occasion around the neighborhood.  We both knew he was a stray - his ears are in bad shape and his fur is rough.  No collar, not fixed, all claws.  Blind in one eye.  Eight, ten years old.  Could be younger, since strays visually age much quicker than house cats.

I saw him out back.  Usually when he saw one of us, he would make pathetic meow sounds and walk away.  This time he sat there, staring at me.  I went back into the house and got some wet cat food.  Not thinking, I left it in the can, eager to feed him since he was actually suffering my company.

I set the bowl next to him and moved several feet away.  He started scarfing at the can, pushing it along the concrete.  Fear welled up as he started moving towards me.  At the time, I had no idea how docile he was, and the fear that he had rabies or something worse, and didn't realize how close he was to me and would attack when he realized - yikes.  But I stayed still, and he pushed the can up against my knee and finished eating.  I spoke to him then - just silly little things, but he knew I was there and he didn't mind.  And that day, I fell in love with the little tom cat - naming him Tommy.

We are trying to cage him and take him to the vet.  He is smart about this, though.  It's like he knows, and only comes around very early while I leave to work, or late at night, when the vet is closed.  We need to take him in, though, and fix him, make him well and give him a peaceful place to be.  Make him a true part of our family.

My deepest fear is that he is too sick, too old.  That our vet will tell us that he must be put to sleep.  I have no idea how old he really is, how many winters he has suffered alone and outside - how awful is it that I would bring him death?  What pain is he in, though?

Today I spent an hour with him out on the back porch.  I fed him, then sat down next to him.  He let me pet him, then curled up on his favorite wicker chair and rested.  He looks so old - it breaks my heart.  I asked him what I should do?  God, I don't want to take him to the vet and have them kill him.  I really do love him as one of mine.  I just wish he was healthy.  Please, please, when I take him in, let them say he has a chance.  I'll pay anything just to make him well.

Tommy had to be put to sleep on July 6th, 2004.  We had captured him days before and brought him into the vet.  We were elated to find out he did not have cancer behind his ears - they were ear mites that had infested so bad that they had bit through to the other side - something very painful, but repairable.  But then the doctor came back with the fatal diagnosis of FIV - Feline AIDS.

FIV has no cure.  Once a cat has it, he might live for a few years longer if he is housed inside and nurtured.  It is spread by mating and fighting.  Tommy was not fixed and was very scrappy looking, so there is no telling how he got it.  But the fact is he was too far gone.  His little body wasn't healthy enough to keep up the struggle to fight against this disease.

My heart was broken for this little guy - did he even have a chance?  My only hope is that we made up for some of his rough life in the last few months we knew him; maybe we made his existence a little less awful.

It was with bitter relief the week afterwards we had our cats Char and Coco tested - both negative.  Really, I think this is another testament on how wonderful Tom was - he never bit or scratched them, he was just docile to them both.

Please, please spay and neuter your cats.  Think before you bring a kitten home that it is a life-long commitment.  When it turns into a cat, or has problems, you can't just abandon it.  These are God's creatures - respect them.  It is my only plea to you now after having to put this wonderful being to sleep.