Mama's Last Trip Across the Work Yard

Urban Wild Kingdom – Postscript: Mama Moves On

2 mins read

It’s the blog I didn’t want to have to write.

The goal of colony management is to get the colony to the point where no one has kittens, the member cats live out their normal lives and as they die, the colony shrinks and finally, there is no colony.

It sounds so scientific and reasonable.

In real life, the cats that you have come to know disappear and you know what is going on and it sucks.

The week before I left for vacation, Mama started not showing up for meals regular like she always did. It wasn’t like her: she’d wait for you and dance in circles over to the food station, every day, morning and evening, just like clockwork.

Cats in the wild look for a place to hide when they are ready to die. I don’t know much more about the process beyond that they just disappear. The other caretakers and I talked about catching Mama if we got the chance: we didn’t want her to suffer unduly if her time had come.

One day that week she finally came out after I called to her, but I could see she was not doing well. She had been getting skinnier like older cats tend to. On this day, she had to stop three times and rest just to make it across the parking lot.

I took a town car to the airport – on impulse asking the driver to swing by the work yard. I just wanted to see if Mama was around. I didn’t spot her in the yard, but when the driver turned the car, there was Mama, across the street, hunkered down, hugging the side of a building.


She never did that.

The driver stopped the car next to her – she didn’t move, just kept staring at whatever had captured her attention in that moment. I took a long look at her and we continued to the airport.

Sometime during the next week, I had the feeling that Mama was gone. I stood on a trail overlooking a remote glacial lake in the Canadian Rockies and cried. When I got home, my neighbor confirmed that Mama had simply stopped showing up.

* * *

It’s a surprising lot of grief for the loss of this little cat that would hover close and meow while we dished up the food, but never let us touch her. Except for J. Sr. – Mama indulged him.

What does it mean, if anything? There are those who say that the health of a society can be judged by how its members treat its children, elderly and animals. I worry about that. We’re not doing very well.

For myself, I hope that in some awkward way I am stumbling towards living into my best potential as a human being, one bowl of cat food at a time.

For Mama, I hope she just found a nice place and went to sleep, that she didn’t suffer. And I wish her the Buddhist blessing om mani padme hung – that she have a good rebirth in the next life, whatever her path might be.


I am grateful that she crossed mine.

For Mama

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J.R. Hampton

Fiction writer and cat aficionado discovered Emeryville in the ’90s, loved it and stayed. Her most recent thriller, "Eidolon" (working title) is out to agents and she's begun work on the second book in the series. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter.


  1. Aww, this is such a sad post. I hope that Mama is doing well wherever she is now. The image of her having to stop 3 times to make it across the parking lot is so sad and poignant. I think it’s great what you did and are doing for this feral cats community.

  2. I call my cat, Mamas. Short for MamaGirls, which took over her first name, Katarina. So the posting automatically had an emotional connection to me. How kind of you to feed a wandering cat. Some folks completely avoid that to keep them away. But you have a good heart. I’m sure she appreciated you.

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