She had once belonged to another neighbor whose other cat chased her away - she was never able to get along with other cats, which was tough, considering I had about 6 others at the time, all male. So for the time being, she lived outside, and I left her food and water. Each evening, before I closed the curtains, she would come and look in the windows. She might have been unsociable, but it didn't mean she didn't get lonely.
The first night it was scheduled to go down to zero, I said, "OK, that's it," and brought her in to live. Of course the fights started, and, out of fear, she would pee in whatever little space in which she was trapped. But I always figure that an animal who makes it to my door does so for a reason, and we worked it out.
I put a door on my bedroom (which was open to the house before that, as I heat the entire house with a centrally located wood stove), and made it slatted, so that light and heat could pass freely. One of the others, Ralph, was always more afraid when in open spaces, and hid out in my closet all the time anyway, so he seemed like a good "cell-mate" for her. They didn't like each other, but they didn't fight, either.
Then I had a cattery built outside the window, so they wouldn't be denied access to fresh air and that great cat pleasure - sitting in the sun. They loved it. The other boys had their own, much larger cattery, outside a porch door. And so all was peaceful again in the house, though a bit complicated.
About 3 years ago, Ralph passed on, and she was alone in the room. I worried about how the isolation might affect her, and, as my desk is right outside the bedroom door, I began to let her come sit on the table, with a ramp leading to the windows, so she'd be able to sit in the sun, be with me, and be safe from the others harassment. OK, even more complicated but everybody was happy.
Then, 2-1/2 years ago, she was diagnosed with kidney problems, and the only way to keep her alive was to give her subcutaneous fluids every other day, so the kidneys had a chance to flush. It postpones the inevitable. She found it a little annoying, but not painful, and it's not a difficult procedure. It did, however, mean that I couldn't leave her, or the house, for more than overnight.
She had been getting thinner, of course, and a bit weaker over time, but the situation was complicated by the fact that she also had a heart murmur, which was getting stronger. Finally, last week, she had a heart attack and died, the whole thing taking less than three minutes. I'm thankful that, though I'm sure she was afraid, that part of the occurrence was brief.
Though I'm not religious, I lit a candle to guide her passing - to who knows where. I'm always grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the devotion that only animals are capable of bestowing. I only hope that in her next life, if there is to be one, that she will be able to receive, and give, all the love in the world.