My current cat, Nemo, is the second black tomcat I have had in my life. He leads a fairly pampered existence and is unconscionably self-satisfied, as well as fat. I fostered him for Forgotten Felines after he was abandoned in an apartment. Needless to say I ended up keeping him (or he condescended to stay with me). He’s lucky, because I have heard that black male cats are the last ones to be adopted from shelters.
He’s also luckier in many ways than the black tomcat I had on the farm as a teenager. Someone had dropped him at the small grocery store and gas station miles from our house. I had been sent to get some milk, and came home with the cat, much to Mother’s disapproval. I named him Firecat, after the Cat Stevens album, but that lasted about two hours. Mother said, “You can’t name him something I’m embarrassed to call out the back door,” and changed his name to Tom.
Tom, like most farm cats, got minimal care other than feeding and watering. He lived outside summer and winter, spending cold nights in the barn. I petted him, but he was not a cuddler.
Tom’s life was pretty good for a farm cat until I brought home another stray when I was in college, a tiny German shepherd mix puppy I named Chico. Tom smacked the puppy with impunity and generally lorded over him. But puppies grow, and before long Chico was even bigger than the average German shepherd.
Chico came up with a new game. He closed his jaws around Tom’s head and carried him around the yard, the cat’s body hanging out of his mouth. You could hear the cat’s muffled “meows.” He never left a mark on Tom, but the poor cat must have been terrified. I yelled at the dog until he dropped the cat, but I’m sure he did this a lot when I wasn’t there to intervene. Tom started disappearing between mealtimes and staying well out of the dog’s reach. Then he became very nervous–Mother thought he got hold of a mouse poisoned by strychnine, for he was high-strung and panicked at any sudden noise.
Tom finally moved to the woods and the barn, and would not come back even to eat. I called him and called him. At first he would answer me from the woods, but he wouldn’t come. Then he didn’t answer. He showed up at Aunt Lou’s house a few times, half a mile away. Then he was gone for good. He didn’t even come home to die, for Chico was still there.