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A Hard Lesson

By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm Contributing Editor

Monday, October 4, 2010

Foxy the urban barn cat

Photo by Audrey Pavia

Foxy loved her life as an urban barn cat.

Everyone who has a barn cat knows the risks. Outdoor cats are susceptible to all kinds of dangers, and tend to have a shorter life span than their indoor counterparts.

I know this and believe it. Yet I took a chance by having an urban barn cat. I tried my best to keep her safe, but I knew the day might come when I would lose her to the dangers of the outdoors. 

I previously wrote about how Foxy had spent her entire life in small New York City apartments until she came to live with my husband and me two-plus years ago. We tried to keep her confined to the garage, but she would have none of it. She wanted to be outside. 

To minimize the risks to her wellbeing, we developed a routine. For more than two years, it worked. I would let her out in the morning after feeding the horses, when I knew the coyotes were going back to their dens. Foxy would hang around our backyard farm all day, lounging in the sun and chasing critters across the patio. Just before sunset, Randy would feed her dinner in the garage and latch the cat door so Foxy was in for the night. 

Foxy didn’t like this routine. She wanted to be outside at night, probably because she could hear rodents scampering around, just asking to be caught. The world is different at night, and she wanted desperately to explore it. But the dangers of speeding cars and prowling coyotes compelled me to keep her confined at night. She would make attempts to dash out the door, but Randy and I got good at stopping her short.

But recently, Randy was away for the weekend. I fed Foxy her dinner, but forgot to latch the cat door. I had a lot on my mind that night and I made a mistake. Apparently, it was a fatal one.

The next morning when I went out to give Foxy her breakfast, she wasn’t in the garage. I realized my mistake and walked all around the property, calling her. She didn’t come. I spent the next three days looking for her all around the neighborhood. I left the cat door unlatched and her food in the garage, in case she came home. But she didn’t.

Foxy never strayed far beyond on our property. There’s no way she wandered off to someone else’s house and made herself at home there. She was happy here and loved her life. There is only thing that could have happened to her: a coyote.

I cry every day when I see her litter box and empty bed in the garage. I still leave them, holding onto the hope that one day she will come back. I leave the cat door unlatched just in case. 

I have a lot of guilt and a tremendous sadness. It’s my fault she is gone. I should have remembered to latch that door.

My sister, Heidi, tried to console me by saying that the last two years of Foxy’s life were the most wonderful years she ever had. I know that is supposed to make me feel better, and it does in a small way. Yet I still miss seeing that fluffy fur ball whenever I go into the garage. I suspect I always will.

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Sorry for the loss
a', Houston, TX
Posted: 10/16/2013 3:50:19 AM
I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. We have coyotes around our place as well, even though it is still the suburbs, and some of our cats have also gone missing in the past. We are careful now to keep them in at night but I do have one cat - Aspen - who frequently refuses to come in (even when he's right there in the driveway, 20 feet from the door) until you've brought out the tuna to bribe him. I love animals but there is a drawback to living with them in that you are almost guaranteed to outlive them and it never gets any easier to lose them. Hope you feel better soon.

Heidi, Portland, OR
Posted: 10/10/2010 10:27:39 PM
I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your barn cat. The loss of a pet is not an easy thing. Foxy certainly was loved and will be remembered.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 10/7/2010 4:35:35 AM
I am sorry for your loss. Glad though that Foxy was able to have a good life.
Twice I have had barn cats come up missing. Assumed it was coyotes also. But my husband was moving old hay around the barn this spring and found the remains of two cats. Can't identify them, but they were curled up as if sleeping, all this time I blamed the coyotes....I also had a cat go missing for an entire summer, only to show up in the fall and not recognize me as the person who fed her for three years. Sometimes we forget that they are animals and they like to be wild.
Caron, Syracuse, NY, NY
Posted: 10/5/2010 8:12:53 PM

About the Blogger

Audrey Pavia

Audrey Pavia
Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia's adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters while working full-time, with no one to help her but her husband, Randy, a born-and-raised New Yorker. And you thought "The Simple Life" was out there?

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