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RIP Tyler the Amazing Feral Barn Cat

April 25, 2011

Tyler the Amazing Feral Barn Cat

Tyler was our favorite person on the farm. Hands down. Done deal. The end.

I say “person” so as not to diminish him to what could be thought of as “just a cat”, or “just an animal” or “just a pet”. He made a place for himself as an important part of our family. Now that he’s gone, the void is so big, and so sad… it’s that much more evident just how special he had become to each of us.

He was about a year old when he came to live on our little farm. He was feral, and insane, and wild and wanted nothing to do with us or anyone or civilization or anything. Period. We tried keeping him in the barn for a few days so he would learn where he lived. Not gonna happen. He actually scaled a vertical wood beam in the barn and escaped through some magic portal unseen to human eyes in the rafters.  And then he was gone. And we didn’t see him for weeks. We figured he just disappeared into another dimension or was living the sweet life in the woods by the creek, freed from the constraints of life as a barn cat – slave to some crappy humans.

Eventually, we saw him slinking through our tall overgrown goat field. He’d made a little kittie burrow for himself, and seemed to have woven a network of trails through the grass. He would see us and disappear into the woods. Eventually, he would see us and stay put and watch. And finally one day, he saw us and took a step forward. We sat in the grass, with some ground chicken, and coaxed him over to us for a goodie. It took about an hour. Finally, he came up to Jared and stole away a nibble of chicken.

And then a flip switched. He went from wild, feral, crazy, not to be trusted around your face/eyes area – to rolling around, filled to the brim with ferocious feral love, in Jared’s lap. Drooling.

Still, not really to be trusted around your face/eyes area, and I think he never really got there. But we’ll get to that.

Since that day, about a year ago, he’s been on the fast track to house-cat-dom. Or his version of it at least.

He was the most agreeable cat on earth. Just so mellow, and sweet, and funny, and talkative, and studly, and sensitive. He really had it all. Despite his agreeable nature, he did everything his way. I have to say, he reminded me a lot of Jared. So recognizably individual. So easy to be around, yet so unwavering in his way of being. I loved it.

His way definitely included maintaining his wild streak. He spent his days outside, rain or shine, hunting rodents. We would see him in the field stalking. Or sitting on a tree stump in the rain, managing to look so majestic even though he was all wet. And on really special days, he would bring us treats. Super special treats. Like a massive chicken carcass. Or a huge rat. Or a mostly dead field mouse. He brought us these things so we could have first dibs, but we quickly realized that if we paid great interest in the gift he’d brought, and made a big to do about it, and told him how awesome he was and how much we loved our goody, “but, you can have this one T. Really, I insist.” He would chomp away and leave us a little bloody grease spot on the deck by the sliding glass door.

He took on the roll of protecting the chickens from the hawk. He loved the chickens. He would eat chicken feed out of the chicken feeder. Surrounded by chickens.

He adopted our puppy. Or maybe it was the other way around. Who can tell… But what cat will wrestle with a giant breed dog? Tyler would. And he loved it.

We have two other cats, and they are great. But Tyler had a way of making us feel special. Like he loved us, and didn’t expect anything in return. Anyone with cats knows that the love they show is mostly about them somehow. Tyler was different. He really, really loved us.

My brother, Darren,  moved in with us recently, and Tyler adopted him too. They were bed buddies, snuggle buddies… Tyler even took to grooming Darren. Face hair, ears, chest hair… It was hilarious. And sweet. So sweet.

Jared had proclaimed Tyler as his favorite long ago, since the magical flip switch moment out in the field. I think they were soul mates. Forget about the wife, he connected with that cat. I think of Tyler as Jared’s daemon. His animal spirit walking beside him.

For a while, during Tyler’s arc to semi-tameness, he and I didn’t see eye to eye. He would scratch me, and bite me – hard. It took me a few weeks to realize that he was doing this quite literally out of love. He would be so excited to see me, and to snuggle me, that it would manifest in what I came to call “feral love” – snuggles turned intense, turned slightly frantic… that desperate wild need for closeness, turn mildly violent. It wasn’t the classic cat over-stimulation. It was feral love. It was different. That wild streak… He loved with it, hard. And I loved him so much. So much. Anyone who has been here and met him will have been introduced to him as “Tyler, the amazing feral barn cat. He’s totally the raddest animal on this whole farm.”

I think the 4 of us: myself, Jared, Darren and Timber will probably always have a few little scars on our skin to remind of Tyler. And his love bites. And love scratches. And love maulings.

Over the last several months, Tyler has spent an increasing amount of time in the house with us. The other cats weren’t so sure that was a good idea. He totally didn’t care. Nothing phased him. The puppy wrestling with him, the other cats hissing at him. Loud noises, getting stepped on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him jump, or even look nervous. He wanted to be with us so badly. On us. Snuggling. Drooling. A good snuggle session with Tyler was the greatest thing in the world, even if it usually ended in some amount of broken skin and bleeding. Seriously, the love was so wild and feral and meaningful it was always worth a swift bite to the chin, or a claw hook to the neck skin, or such an intense, lengthy, licking on the face that we were left with several layers of skin missing.

He spent a lot of time bonding with the baby/belly. My friend Xep says that his awesomeness must have transferred to the baby. I will totally take that. I would love to give her Tyler’s calm, his adventurous spirit, his passion and love.

We toyed with the idea of keeping him indoors. No one could bear the thought of losing him to one of the many dangers of outdoor life. But he was a wild man. Denying his wild streak would have been cruel. He needed to be outside just as much has he needed to be with us. He really had the good life, and we decided it would be selfish to deprive him of his wild, feral needs. In the end, that wild streak took him to his painfully early death.

But it was that wild streak that made him amazing.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. amanda permalink
    April 25, 2011 1:23 pm

    i’m so sorry d. this is heartbreaking. i’m glad you guys gave tyler so much love and he gave it back so awesomely.

  2. lorrie permalink
    April 25, 2011 5:02 pm

    I only met Tyler once but he left a lasting impression. So sorry this happened.

  3. May 24, 2011 10:12 am

    Oh, D, this post makes my heart ache with pain and joyful understanding….you know, we have discussed this but I just want you to know you do him great honor in your descriptions. Can’t wait to see if that baby of yours manifests…

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