Rusty was a semi-feral cat born in 2010. She was always more friendly than most of the feral cats around here. Our neighbours started feeding her and adopted her as an outdoor cat and took her to be spayed. I'm not sure if they took her to the vet for annual vaccinations. She grew to be larger than most female cats, and was definitely the alpha-cat in the area.
We gave her the name Rusty because of her high-pitched meow that sounded like a rusty door hinge. The neighbours called her Leelo, but we kept our own name for her. She lived in our garden and was fed regularly by her adopters and sometimes by us and other neighbours. She liked to greet everyone who came through the garden, sometimes with leg-rubs, sometimes with mews. She would accept a bit of stroking, but would tell you when she'd had enough. She often sat on the posts of the garden fence, or in a tree in the next garden. Her territory included our garden and bits of the neighbouring gardens. I often used to see her sitting on a ledge underneath an air conditioning unit next door. I would always look out for her when I was hanging up washing or looking out from out balcony. Once or twice when I was waiting at the roadside for people to come and give me something she would stay with me, winding and rubbing around my legs.
Over the years, she chased tom cats out of the garden, but often tolerated female cats and their kittens. I think she protected the mothers and kittens from tom cats, and they stayed for several weeks before moving on. Sadly, most of the feral mothers and kittens we've had in the garden have disappeared. I know there is TNR in our city, but it doesn't catch them all.
Last week we noticed something was wrong with Rusty, and this week the neighbours told us that she had died. They took her to the vet and she was given subcutaneous fluids for dehydration, which was her most obvious symptom, but she died. I don't know if they did tests to see what her problem was, so it could have been any illness that could cause dehydration or just prevent her from searching for water.
She had a happy and healthy life, right up to the end. She never had to go through the stress of mating, pregnancy, and raising kittens in the wild. She was well-fed, so she only hunted for pleasure or out of instinct. But still, I think an indoor life would have been better for her (and probably longer) and I'm sad my neighbours didn't try taking her in from an early age.
Rusty was not "my" cat, but she was part of my life and I will miss her.