Understandably, Sparkle did not like the idea of losing her one remaining kitten and so when she saw us strangers hanging about, she immediately picked up her kitten and moved her into an inaccessible (to us) hole in the barn wall. There the pair remained for the summer. It didn't take long for this noble huntress, who daily trekked out and provided tasty morsels for her defenseless baby to win over this mother's heart. Yes, Sparkle was a great hunter, and her dedication to Sprinkles was obvious.
When early fall came, one of my daughters noted to me that it seemed like the game had dried up. Being ignorant of all things cat and rodent, I was surprised, but had to admit that perhaps my daughter's observation was correct. We began to feed the cats, and soon enough, more cats joined the crew. Two juveniles, a black cat we began to call Minuit, and a tabby cat whom we call (uncreatively enough) Tabby. The papa cat, Ol' Tom, also a tabby, strode through the farm on occasion. Our own little cat family.
With late fall, the temperatures dropped. The cat pride began to hang out on our deck, catching the warmth that escaped from under our doors. In the last few weeks, Sparkle changed. She began to be insistent that she needed to be inside. Every time a door opened, she was right there trying to get in. The same daughter who noticed the lack of prey, suggested quite possibly Sparkle was expecting kittens again. Chris thought so too. The other cats showed no change in behavior, so likely she was either expecting kittens or becoming sick.
Yesterday, Chris found her body. I feel awful about it. I feel that it is somehow my fault--I just don't think I was observant enough to the changes in her; I just didn't notice that she was trying to get our attention so desperately. I distinctly recall one of the last things she did in the week before she died, when I was locking the door. She jumped up onto her hind legs (like a dog) onto my lower legs, and her claws came through my jeans. She had never done that before. I just pushed her off. What killed her? We don't know, but perhaps one of her kittens died, and she died of infection. Now we will never know for sure.
While the life of a cat, however beloved, is not in any way comparable to the life of a human with an eternal soul, I see in Sparkle's last days a parallel with the nurse from England who committed suicide after being the butt of a global joke. Surely she also gave some signs to those around her in her last days and weeks that she was in trouble. Obviously, those signs, like Sparkle's, also went unnoticed by those closest to her. Sparkle's death reminds me to pay attention. To take note of changes. And to act. God help us all to notice and to act, before it is too late.