A couple of weeks ago, Socks the feral fighting tomcat appeared on the farmhouse’s front porch, the left side of his face wet with blood. One of his wild adventures must have gone sideways and left him less one eye, and he quietly sat there nursing his injury.
Socks is only the name Shel and I use with each other to refer to him. In truth, he is an unnamed and untamed cat, living at the periphery of the farm, one of a litter birthed just over five years ago by yet another, now dearly departed, farm cat. We would glimpse him from time to time stalking in the margins, occasionally coming onto the farmhouse porch for reasons known only to him.
He is the last of the unfixed cats on the farm. When we moved here nine years ago, we discovered that the previous owners had abandoned their cats when they left, so one of our ongoing projects has been to trap cats, have them neutered, then release them back on the farm. The last round happened a couple of summers ago. We were able to trap nearly all of the unfixed cats—Ninja and Medium, Puffball and Scruffy, maybe more I’ve forgotten about—but Socks remained untrappable. He would approach the trap, sniff the trap, paw the trap, but never enter the trap. I kept at it until winter arrived, when it is advised not to trap and neuter cats, then admitted defeat.
The thing was, though, Socks was a problem. Territorial. Aggressive. The avowed nemesis of our good and gentle farm cat Herbie—in fact, we’re nearly certain Socks is responsible for the couple of infected cat bites for which we needed to take Herbie to the vet over the past year. I knew I needed at least to try again to trap Socks, but other urgencies and emergencies on the farm got in the way.
Then Socks showed up on the porch with his gruesome wound. Poor cat.
Once again, I reached out to my contacts in the West Michigan cat rescue community, and Angela, who has been a great help to us before, replied that if I could trap Socks, she would see that he was cared for through the organization she works with, Heaven Can Wait.
Well, I had been down that trapping road with Socks before, to no effect, but resolved to try again. I set out the live trap that Sunday, and every day that week thereafter. Socks went through his old routine, still wise to the bait. Then, on Saturday evening, after the sun went down and before I disabled the trap for the night, we heard it snap shut. I checked, and Socks was in it, mad as hell, and scared, but trapped. At long last.
I prepared a warm place in the garage for him to spend the night, and the next morning I passed him off to Angela. A couple of days later, she had him examined by a vet. Socks will get his eye socket cleaned up and sown shut, and he has been neutered, and once healed will return to his home, our farm, less one eye but still wild and free.
And, look, I know that this is only a cat. That the world is rife with human suffering, a full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. And that the travails of one cat pales in comparison to all of that. But as the farmer I am responsible for all the creatures that call this place home and to do by them the best I am able, every last one. Including even ornery one-eyed fighting tom cats.
(And if you would like to support the good work being done by the folks over at Heaven Can Wait, please do!)