There was a cat here who we called Silver Shadow. He was a big guy with a white chest and the rest of him was silvery tabby. According to our neighbours he had 'gone feral' many years ago and was actually from a local town and had once upon a time been a pet. Perhaps he had moved up the hill to where the wild females were, who knows. We didn't see him much. We did neuter him in 2010 when my vet friend was here - and she liked him so much she wanted to take him home, but like most of the males here he was quite nomadic and we would only see him occasionally as he dropped in to the 'feeding station' under the granary for some food.
You couldn't tell he had been a pet as he gave us a wide berth like the others. Anyway, one winter we were here and it was very cold. We had just arrived and were bringing things in from the car when we heard a plaintive crying and Silver Shadow came towards us looking bedraggled. He seemed to be in quite a state. He'd lost weight and his normally brilliant white chest was dirty. And he was really looking for help - he came right to us and wanted to come in the house. This was all a bit of a shock as he had never behaved like this, and he had a certain smell about him. We figured he must have an ear infection or something like that.
Over the next week we took him to the vet, and he stayed inside the house with us. He was acting like a pet cat. He let us clean him up, and he loved sitting on our laps, and wove himself round our legs when we opened the fridge door! The vet said he had some kind of mouth infection and gave him antibiotics, but we also had him tested for the nasty cat viruses.
To our great dismay it turned out he had both FELV and Feline HIV. The vet said whilst he was carrying these they might not be the reason for the active infection. But on the other hand, one or both of the viruses could be taking hold, with the mouth infection being part of process. If this was the case, he would die.
The problem was, we were leaving. I wondered if I could extend my trip to take care of him and I checked all the work stuff I had to do. Adam did the same and we didn't think we could. I wish we had changed our minds. The day we had to drive away leaving him outside broke my heart. I just hoped beyond anything that the long acting antibiotics would sort him out and he'd be back to his old self. I had spoken to the neighbours and explained that because of his mouth he couldn't eat dry food, and I left some tins of wet food. I also asked them to get in touch with his previous owners and let them know he was ill, and needed looking after even if just for the short term. I knew that wouldn't be the most appealing prospect for some people who probably hadn't seen him for years, but I was desperate.
We phoned a few days later to find out how he was and our neighbour said he was running around the village. I didn't know whether to believe her but I chose to, and felt relieved. When we returned a couple of months later we learned the truth. She had found him under our granary. To me it seemed he had been waiting for us to come back. He was very ill and she scooped him up and took him to her brother in law's house in the village. She didn't want a fox to kill him in his weakened state. Her brother in law Gerardo let him die under his granary, giving him water and food.
That is the very sad side to these cats, and the very hard part of not being here all the time. We try to help but sometimes our limitations make it all very painful. Here's to you Silver Shadow. You were a lovely cat, and we wish we'd done more.