It was back in 2004 I think when I was relocating a feral cat colony because the land where they lived was being developed. Four of the old timers — ones who had been part of the colony from when we started to feed and spay/neuter — came home to live with me and my tame rescue cats.
Pops was the alpha male of the ferals and his buddy was Keyhole.When they first arrived at my house, they were in separate cages. Pops and Keyhole were next to each other. The wire between them was stucco mesh formed by large squares of wire. They could easily touch each other through these squares. One day I saw Pops reach through the wire and grip Keyhole across his chest. Keyhole responded by licking and grooming Pops through the wire as best he could. That was my first clue to the unusual relationship of these two. Soon they were out of the cages and mingling with the tame cats but those two were still together much of the time.
|Keyhole and Pops|
In 2009 Pops was diagnosed with jaw cancer whch led me into working with him with audio frequencies. That story is here. I had seen before that cats will shun an ill cat so I wasn’t surprised when the other cats started avoiding Pops. Keyhole stayed with Pops the longest and I saw their parting. Keyhole licked his face, hesitated then dashed away and stayed away. Pops was very social and I think being deserted by the other cats made it easier for him to allow me to touch him and care for him. He breathed his last as I was lifting him into the carrier after he spent the night beside me.
|when Pops had cancer|
Keyhole tried to resume his role of right hand man with the alpha cat of the tame cats, Parker. Parker looked after the other cats like alpha cats do, but he was used to being on his own. Mostly he ignored Keyhole but occasionally would playfully shoo him away. Keyhole seemed to relax about it and followed Parker around a little less.
Fast forward to now, 2014. We’ve all aged. Keyhole dropped some weight when I took the cats off kibbles but still is enthusiastic about food — including Parker’s. He’s hovering more around Parker again, and is more vocal. But he sleeps more deeply, is slower to wake and less skittish when I’m close to him. When Parker is with me, Keyhole waits for him nearby. Keyhole is affectionate with some of the other cats but still seems to want to be Parker’s right hand man, as he was with Pops.
|Keyhole and Parker|
Is Keyhole trying to relive his younger days with Pops the same way elderly people frequently relive their younger years? Maybe, but I think he’s just a Right Hand Man kind of guy, and he’ll finish his life being just that as best he can.