On my lap
In his box in the shed
It rained in the morning two days last week. Butler did not show up for breakfast either day. When he finally showed up for dinner on Friday, he was very weak and had lost weight; I don't know if he had eaten at all during those two days. I put him in a dog carrier (alone in the days, and with his mother Smudge at night) for protection from the coyotes (one came past the hay pen during dinner on Tuesday), but his condition did not improve. He had trouble breathing through his stuffy nose; it was as if he had something blocking his throat. He seemed to know what food and water were, but was not interested in food and could not take much water.
Monday I left him out by the hay after breakfast. He had found a shady spot in the hay when I checked on him at lunch time, and had gone off to the far corner of the pen by dinner. I picked him up and put him on a hay bale, but he did not want to stay. When I talked to someone and opened the farm gate, he wandered off, probably never to be seen (alive) again.
Butler was my favorite cat. He was the first of the kittens born last spring. He was born on Saturday, and Parker and Schwarzie were born on Sunday. The other queens had their litters later.
Butler would often sleep on my lap after breakfast. In the evenings, he would hunt bugs outside the shed, and talk to me while he did. (Or maybe he was talking to the bugs.) I remember the day he caught a pregnant mole; it was more than he could eat. With a shovel, I brought it into the shed for the younger kittens. Sir Ed enjoyed those.
In the evenings, after I closed the gate, I would often go back by the shed. Butler was often outside chasing bugs and meowing at them. I would walk and talk to him and tell him how I would one day have a real home for him, which I thought I would.
He was a long-sleeved tuxedo cat, with a bit of a moustache. Before I knew those kittens well, I distinguished the tuxedos by the color of their nose. This one was Booger -- he had a pink and black nose with a half a black mustache off to one side (The others were his sisters Pinky -- pink-nosed Parker -- and Schwarzenase). That did not seem like a good name for the cat, so I asked myself who wears a tuxedo? A butler, and the name of Butler stuck.
The morning of March 8, I went out to the shed early, and Butler spent a good deal of time on my lap. I came back in and went out agaib later (about 8:00 am). Parker was sleeping on my lap, as Rico was looking for a box for her kittens), but I needed to get the rest of the day started.
I asked Butler to jump onto my lap (from the shelf above) so Parker would leave. That afternoon, Rico had kittens, and Parker never returned to the shed; Butler came only rarely, and usually only when it was raining. Thus our yearling shed cats became barn cats. In the barn, I often found Butler sitting on the seat of the tractor. No photos of this are available.
When we moved out of the red house on the 15th of April and I no longer had access to feed them in the shed, Butler was one of the last to make it across the road. I told him we'd have to eat on the other side one evening before we moved out. I saw him on Thursday evening the 19th, but he did not cross the road.
On April 26th, I was a little late and did not see Parker that morning. Mama (long black-haired queen) came up along the road and walked back to the gate with me. Rico (grey queen) wanted some water. I took ticks off of Rico's ear and Truffles's (Mama's black son) whiskers.
This evening, again I was late and missed Parker. Truffles, Friendly (Butler's grey little brother), and Axel (Butler's nephew, with the same father as Truffles) were there, and Inky (sister to Truffles) was too. Inky had a tick on her chest, and I did not have any tweezers.
I brought a chair so I could sit down and pet them by the hay bales. I heard a cat calling from the woods, and it sounded a little like Butler. I went to the bale closest to where this cat was and talked to him, saying, "If you know my voice, you can come out of the woods and I'll feed you. Lots of the other pretty cats come here to eat." I shook the can of food and poured some into its lid. He didn't come out. I went and filled the other water dish, and he still didn't come.
I went over to where I feed the cats close to the old house. Pretty Grey Cat was there and had something in her ear. She ate, but would not let me get it out. I went back to the hay bales, then went down by the trailer and the construction site. Truffles and Friendly followed me down the hill. Friendly walked under the trailer, and both let me pick them up (including both at the same time).
When I got up the hill, Butler was sitting on an old hay bale inside the electric fence. I turned it off, opened part of the gate (top wire only), and went inside. I poured him the rest of the food. He wasn't sure at first, but then he ate it and let me pick him up (and purred softly while I was holding him).
He was a little upset. The new people evidently aren't feeding him as well as I usually did. I fed them maybe too much, but they still went and hunted. I spent more time with him than I thought I would that night because it was just so good to see him. And then, I did not see him for the next couple of days.
He did come across the road to eat on the 30th, eating on some rocks by the old house. It started to rain, and I carried him inside my jacket toward the hay bales. I put him down so he could come to the bales on his own. He stayed in the area until the dogs discovered there were cats there and the mother cats brought kittens over. Then it was hit and miss for a while. He was more regular than his sister until the last week as described above.
I will say that he went off before I visited Champaign in mid-to-late May. I did not know if I would see him again. While I was in Illinois, I dreamt I saw him sitting with Sandy cat (1983-2004). I returned to the Missouri farm, and so did he.
Butler and his sister Dark Lady showed up after dinner on Wednesday night (6th of June). He was still moving slowly. I put him where I knew he would be safe from predators and from getting lost that night. Thursday morning, he was able to find the water and drink some, but eating was too much. A promising sign was that I could feel him purring as he sat on my lap after I picked him up.
Thursday evening, he came up to the water (or maybe I helped him. I forget). He was having trouble drinking, so he turned his head sideways. Some of the Fancy Feast came out into the water. I let him sit there while the other cats ate. I let his sister Parker have a little bit of the canned food.
Friday morning, I went to check on him while the other cats were eating. I found that he was stiff and cold. I put him out in a sunny spot for a little bit. And when I came back and stroked his head, it was warm (from the sun) but he was lifeless. After deciding where to put him, I started digging. But I needed gloves, loppers to cut through the tree roots, and boots to help drive the shovel. I put him in an old 100% cotton pillowcase with holes, and when the hole appeared deep enough, I put him in.
Ten of the eleven cats presumed living showed up for dinner that night, although Truffles and Dark Lady were late. Parker came to the hay bales after dinner. Everyone was there this morning, and that's the first time everyone has been there waiting since before the kittens were born three months ago.
Truffles disappeared during my trip to Illinois at the beginning of July, and Friendly disappeared Sunday night before I moved to Illinois. I'll be back this next week to take Parker with me.