R.I.P. Bandit - Bandit before he got his battle scars

On October 2nd, 2007, I had to bring a sick cat to the vet thinking he'd just need some antibiotics. Instead he needed to be put to sleep.

I love cats - I have two of my own (one has since died) - but this cat didn't belong to me. He belonged to someone at one time because they took the trouble to have him neutered. Somewhere along the way, they stopped caring. Maybe he belonged to one of the families in the neighborhood that moved out in recent years. Maybe his owners just lost interest in him. In any case, he was left to fend for himself.

I first encountered Bandit, as I later came to call him, stealing food from my cats' bowl in the kitchen, some years back. I had one of those magnetic cat-flaps in the door leading from the kitchen to the garden. Yet, he'd managed to discover the weakness in its design and jemmied the lock.

Naturally, when he saw me, he went back out through it like greased lightening. He started bullying my cats out in the garden so at that point I reckoned he hadn't been neutered. He seemed to want to demonstrate that he was the alpha male to every cat in the neighborhood. During this period, my cats developed a lifelong dislike of him.

He got into many a scrape during this period of his life and suffered for his violent tendencies - shredded ears, cuts and other injuries from fighting. At one time, he appeared to have lost almost half his face. It was completely devoid of hair and pretty messed up. He eventually recovered although that side of his face would never again have the thick fur it once sported.

Any time he saw me in the garden, he gave me a wide berth. And he was still occasionally breaking in through the cat-flap to steal food. In the summer of 2004, things seemed to change. Maybe that's when he was neutered because he stopped being aggressive. Some cats are naturally wary of strangers, some will greet you like a long-lost friend. Bandit would hiss at me in the garden. Something made me think he might have been abused by people, perhaps his owners. Wary cats tend to slink away to find cover. They don't challenge people.

So I hissed back at Bandit. He was obviously confused by this uncharacteristic human behavior. Out in the garden that summer, I'd talk to him if I saw him. As the days and weeks went by, he approached me closer and closer. Then, one day, late that summer, he sidled up beside me while sitting on a step, I was reading a book. He even let me stroke him.

He was actually a handsome looking cat and would have looked even more handsome were it not for the various battle scars.

Over the ensuing 3 years, he'd regularly drop by, break in, and stay a night or two. Ok, I caved. I even put a bed together for him. He seemed to understand the rules of the house - no fighting with other cats and no spraying. He even used the litter tray.

But I didn't take him in. He was an occasional visitor.

In the last few months of his life, he became very friendly. I guess he felt he could trust me. A couple of weeks before he died, he reappeared looking somewhat the worse for wear. His coat wasn't well groomed. I gave him a flea treatment and that improved things enormously.


Bandit in his bed

Then, about a week later, he disappeared again. A couple of days after that he arrived back in a sorry state. His tail was caked with blood, his back legs appeared to be in pain and were also covered in blood. I cleaned them as best I could with salt water but I thought he might have been hit by a car. He went off to the bed that was there for him.

The next morning he was quiet. Not lethargic though. He just looked like he was miserable. He also smelled bad. And a blood stain in his bed showed he'd bled overnight. If he had internal injuries, that might have indicated rectal bleeding. So I made an appointment with the vet to have him looked at later that day.

When the vet looked him over, he couldn't find any external injuries that would account for the amount of blood I'd cleaned off him or the dried blood that was currently on him. An abdominal exam didn't reveal any ruptured organs so blunt force trauma was ruled out.

Then the vet examined Bandit's mouth and found that he had a number of abscesses that had ruptured. As he was grooming himself, he had been bleeding into his own fur. And it was the abscesses that was causing the smell.

Bandit had also been drinking profusely, a possible symptom of kidney disease. It also showed he was severely dehydrated. A cat his size should have weighed 4.5 kg (10 lbs) but he weighed only 3.5 kg (7.5 lbs).

Perhaps if he was flooded with fluids and antibiotics through an intravenous drip, he would make a recovery. But before that, the vet wanted to test him for feline aids. It would be a couple of hours before the results would come through, so I headed home.

The call came just after 8pm that night. Bandit had tested positive for feline aids. And he was in the late stages of the disease, too far gone for treatments to be of any great use. And so that awful decision had to be made - to let him live in misery for the short amount of time he had left or to end his suffering.

I chose to end his suffering. I wish I could have been there at the end to ease his passing.

Sometimes life really sucks.

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