I knew him only a short time. Nine months tops. But he made a huge impact on me, and now I mourn his death.
Noah arrived last spring, skittish yet curious. And hungry. I am a cat magnet. They find me no matter where I am. I’ve rescued over 70 cats in my adult lifetime. Some choose to make my home their Forever Home. Some move on. Others, like Noah, break my heart.
Every morning and evening Noah waited for me along the creek behind my house. I would bring him kibble and canned food. He wasn’t tame, yet he didn’t strike me as feral either. He was assessing me, determining whether I was worthy of his attention beyond food. Turns out I was.
A month later he brought me a sweet little calico who had no trouble determining my worth. She bound up to me with joy, and rubbed my ankels. I named her Candy. She now lives inside my home and is best friends with Dori.
But Noah still held back. I understood. Sometimes the cats come to me with wounds that cannot be seen. Their trust of humans has been destroyed. I take it as a challenge to prove to them not all humans aren’t worthy of their trust. Noah needed to be romanced, and I was up to the challenge.
It took me a few weeks, but eventually Noah allowed me to pet his head. I felt honored. It took me more weeks to get him to allow me to pet his body, and even more weeks for him to roll over and show his belly.
Showing the belly is the ultimate trust. They are vulnerable. At first Noah would lie on his side and let me pet his belly, but not fully roll over onto his back. It took a long time, but when he finally did, I reassured him I considered his trust the greatest of honors.
I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Although he had an impressive appearance with sharp claws and a practiced glare that made Nikolas howl from a distance and Frank avoid his path entirely, with me he melted into a gentle giant. His purr was the loudest I’d ever heard from a cat.
I like to make up silly songs for my cats, and with Noah I would sing… “I’m just a love machine, and I won’t purr for nobody but mew.”
I knew Noah needed vaccinations and to be neutered. But we weren’t quite at the stage where I could pack him into a crate without his fragile trust being destroyed. With cats you take one step forward and four or five back, depending on how many unseen wounds the stray has from his past.
When the weather turned chill, I provided him with a toasty warm camp with insulation and a heat lamp. He rejected it. So I worked with him to get his specifications right. His idea of the perfect home was not much more than a lean to against the house under a ratty old cat tree that he refused to climb because he kept all four paws firmly planted on the ground. But at least he had shelter during the fall, although it wasn’t sufficient to keep him warm during the winter. Our yard faces north and it can get pretty cold with high winds.
In late November the night temps were near freezing. I knew better, as most parents do when it comes to giving in to their child’s demands. I reworked the pet house, threw a tarp over it, attached it to the cat tree, creating a tunnel into the house. I put down a rug, and added a heat lamp. I also placed old chase lounge padding around the house and braced a huge board against it to keep everything tight, bound with bungee cords. It was not pretty, but it would do the job of protecting him if he used it.
And he did. He was stubborn, but he was no dummy. The heat lamp warmed him, and the tarp kept him dry. And life was wonderpurr. For a while.
A couple weeks ago I saw he had a respiratory infection, so I popped medication into his food and he ate it. A small victory getting pills into a big tom cat. Then, just last week, I was on the porch hanging out with him, and … I don’t know what possessed me… but I picked him up. And he let me!
We had now established a very tight bond. Whenever he saw me he rolled onto his back for a belly rub. And during some pretty harsh mornings, I let him sit on the door mat in the sunroom to eat. He really loved that. Sometimes he was more interested in getting belly rubs on the mat than eating.
Last week we had a horrific storm roll through with a full concert of thunder and lightning. Noah was planted against the glass door, looking terrified. I brought a cage into the sunroom and placed him inside where he sat for a while with Frank, Opie and Gidget checking him out from a safe distance. When the storm was over, I put him back outside, but left the cage in the sunroom.
The next day I picked him up for the first time. And I hugged on him as he let me carry him across the porch to place on the cat tree. He had finally decided the porch cat tree was safe enough to climb. So many small steps in such a short time.
Monday of this week I fed him on the porch as usual. He took a couple steps and I saw he had injured his back leg. Okay. We had now reached the moment when all our hard work to establish a relationship would pay off. Noah would be neutered and vaccinated, and we would live happily ever after.
But that didn’t happen. Noah had feline leukemia and AIDS. In shock, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He looked so utterly healthy. A big, robust panther with a trusting, sweet personality.
I picked his body up the following day, and that night in the pouring rain my husband and I buried him inside our fenced yard. The spot we chose had a center stage kind of appeal, surrounded by Julia Child yellow rosebushes. I added my Valentine flowers and a white ceramic dove to the grave.
Losing Noah will hurt my heart for a long time. I didn’t know him as long as I’ve known my other cats, but he sunk his claws deep into my soul. I have a great love for black cats. I’ve yet to meet one that wasn’t amazing, highly intelligent, and full of personality.
Rest In Peace, my sweet Noah. Till we meet again!