My little Molly has fallen asleep for the very last time.
On a cold October night in 2008, I started a “rescue mission” for two feral kittens. I had seen them around my house with an adult cat who I believed to be their mother. Then the mother cat disappeared. The two kittens huddled on my porch. And then it got cold one night.
I never intended to keep the two kittens, but those two turned into a total of six from their little family who came into my life. The kittens — who I eventually named Molly and Bessie — were too feral to be adopted by people who wanted sweet and loving cats. So I had no choice but to keep them. Over the past 13 years, I’ve struggled to save them and make their lives safe and comfortable.
That long rescue mission finally came to an end today. And even though I worked hard to give them all they needed, I somehow feel as though I failed them.
I don’t know why I feel that way. If I hadn’t taken them in, they would have had short and unhappy lives. The home I gave them was the best they could have possibly had. I just wanted them to be safe and happy.
I wanted them to learn to trust and love and relax. It was hard for them.
I’ve told the story before about how Molly was returned to me by the family who tried to adopt her. When she came back from that failed adoption, she was pregnant. You can read here about how I brought them inside and about her four kittens.
One of Molly’s kittens died after a few weeks. The remaining three girls were named after the English Brontë sisters — the writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It’s been a heartbreak for me to lose each one of them at an early age. There seemed to be something in their genes that caused them to die early.
I was very close to Emily. She was the only one of the family who really wanted love and attention from me. She slept on top of me each night of her life. I lost her when she was only 6 years old.
Charlotte was the leader of the three sisters. She lived until she was 7 years old. She suddenly had the same issues which killed Emily — and the vet could never say for sure what the problem was.
Solid black Anne lived until she was 10 years old. She was a victim of the same sort of issue that had already taken her sisters.
Molly’s sister, Bessie, died three years ago, when the pair were 10 years old. So Molly was the only one left. The matriarch of the group was going to last the longest.
About the first of this year, I thought Molly was going downhill — in ways that matched what all the rest of them had gone through. But she recovered from whatever was making her seem slow and lethargic. I had high hopes that she’d stay with me a few more years.
About a week ago, she started getting weak again. She had always been tiny — between 4.5 and 5 pounds — but she was even thinner. She was weak. She was eating well, but her body seemed to have stopped absorbing the nutrients.
It was exactly like what all the rest of this little family had gone through. I knew she was dying, but I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it, because it hurt too much. When I came home from work Friday evening, her little body was cold.
For most of her life, Molly had been unwilling to let me get close to her. She ran whenever a human was close. Any interaction with her was difficult and usually left me scratched and bloody. She was still a terrified feral cat who thought she was in danger.
Over the last year, something started changing for Molly. I’m not sure what caused it. Every now and then — when she was in the right mood — she would allow me to touch her.
It felt like a miracle.
Molly slowly learned to enjoy some attention, at least occasionally. For the first time in her life, I heard her purr. There were times when she was almost like a normal, loving cat.
As I think back over her 13 years — and the struggle to save her entire family and give them safety — the times that stand out to me the most now were those times in the last year. They were times when she finally looked at me with her beautiful green eyes — with peace instead of fear — and allowed me to rub her.
And on those times, she would purr long and loud.
I regret that I was never able to solve their medical issues and give all of them the long lives I would have preferred for them. But I did the best I could — and I know they were safe and they were as happy as they could be.
For a feral little girl who lived most of her life in fear, she didn’t really have a lot to give to humans. But she did give me something valuable over this last year.
She finally gave me her trust.
I saved her the best way I knew how. I hope it was enough for her. I hope she was happy.
Note: You can see plenty of other photos of Molly on their Instagram page. Below is my favorite photo of Molly and Bessie together. Molly is on the left.