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In Loving Memory of Frankie

December 3, 2007 : 6:27 PM

A tribute is written for a special feral who inspired an organization dedicated to TNR. 
 By Donna Powell, Founder of Street Cat Rescue

"Frankie", born September 2004 to “Kitty Mama,” was a very special feral cat. He had an important role in many lives, including mine. I decided after I started feeding a mama and papa cat at work, that I better find a way to get them all spayed/neutered. Not being a cat person, I had no idea what I was getting in to! I did research on the internet on how to humanely trap these cats and found several TNR (trap, neuter, release) folks up north that were able to help me in this endeavor.

I was able to trap both parents and took them in the next morning for surgery after I located a mobile clinic that would take them in. When I picked up the cats, they told me that the mama was lactating and based on the amount of milk she had, was nursing approximately 3-4 week old kittens! I was shocked when they told me “you must release her right away.” Worried for her safety and wondering if the kittens survived overnight, I was tormented and wondered if I had done more harm than good.
 "Protective 'Kitty Mama'"

Still somewhat feeling the effects of anesthesia, but following the recommendations the clinic gave me, I released the mom back towards an area where I suspected mom to have the kittens. She took off once the carrier door opened, and headed for that same area. I was worried but was told she may not be seen for three or so days. Meanwhile, I did my own investigating and found a business nearby that knew exactly where she had her kittens. Looking back now, if I had done more research upfront, I could have avoided this situation, and waited until kittens were old enough and mama cat was soon to be through nursing.

For three days, I did not see the mom but spotted the kittens playing outside this big wooden box. Mom had them tucked into that. Then on that third day, in the evening, “Kitty Mama” (named at this point), came to eat. I was so relieved! All three kittens did fine and so did mom. A couple of weeks later, Kitty Mama decided to start bringing the kittens closer to the feeding station and a couple of weeks after that, I was able to trap two kittens, tame them and adopt them out. The third kitten was harder to catch and when I finally did, he was very feral! I decided to name this one "Frankie.” The night he was trapped, the mama cat witnessed what I had done. The next morning, the Office Manager at work called me at home, informing me Kitty Mama was at the front door looking in, and crying badly.

Kitty Mama knew where I worked and knew I was the last one to have her last kitten! I knew then, I must do the right thing, and return Frankie as soon as he was neutered. Two days later, I was able to return Frankie to Kitty Mama. And what a joyful reunion that was! She was waiting anxiously. They called out for each other. As Frankie left the carrier, they took off, walking side by side, as if glued to each other, and Kitty Mama looked down at him as if she were scolding him, telling him ‘next time don’t wander off like that!’ They walked to the end of the grassy area and then both, suddenly turned around and looked at me as if to say “Thanks.” I knew then, I had made the best decision for all.

For months, I would see them eat, play and snuggle together and simply just be happy. This was so heartwarming and I could see the real effects of TNR and how well it could work. Being a big advocate on spaying and neutering pets, but feeling like I could only do so much to help the overpopulation crisis in this country, I suddenly realized that I really liked the idea of TNR and was actually excited about the thought of helping more cats!

I hooked up with a rescue group locally, that specialized in TNR and then another group that offered vouchers for free spays and neuters of feral cats. I was on a roll then! I continued to TNR cats but also found many tame cats that should be placed in homes, so took them home temporarily. Sitting outside one day looking at Frankie, with his piercing eyes, I was inspired to form my own rescue group, specializing in TNR and adopting out tame cats and socializing kittens of feral moms. Hence, Street Cat Rescue was born.

Over the years, Frankie became very comical. Rolling on his side, reaching out, as if he wanted to touch me, rubbing his back on the pavement, and “talking,” he charmed many a folk in the area. I informed the nearby companies that I invested a lot of time and money to get the cats TNR’d and that I fed them daily, to let others know, just in the event someone did not want them around. Everyone seem to like the cats there, once they knew they were TNR’d!

"Big Boy"

Some days, Frankie would decide that he wanted to eat his supper before I got off work. He would go to the front door of my job, staring in as if to say “I know she’s in there, tell her to come out.” Employees would see this and laugh and call me to come to the door. Frankie and his mom were fed a very good diet and people always commented on how beautiful and healthy they looked – that they didn’t look like “feral cats.” And then every spring, when the bluebonnets blossomed, Frankie oved to hide in the flowers, waiting for me to come out to feed him. Shown in the picture, you can see his mysterious gorgeous eyes, and his handsome face, beautifully contrasted amongst the colorful bluebonnets.

Then one day, while sitting on the grass, close to Frankie doing his rolling and reaching out to me, I laid down beside him and reached out my hand. Suddenly, we “touched” paw to hand…Frankie lightly bounced his paw on my hand, several times…feeling the “different touch” and then he just held it there. It was a magical moment! From there, I slowly reached around and scratched his neck. He stood up and let me continue to scratch and pet him, up and down and he was thoroughly enjoying it! After that day, he would casually come around, pretending to not really make an effort, but making his back available for pets. He couldn’t appear too willing you know! After all, he was a feral cat and Kitty Mama always watched cautiously from afar.

About a year prior, the local newspaper decided to do an article called “Taming the Feral Cat Population.” While doing the article they solicited pictures of people and their feral cat colonies…and I knew I had to call them. Frankie would surely pose for the newspaper! And he did. He, Kitty Mama, and Big Boy all came to eat on time and somehow Frankie just knew what was going on. He started rolling around, reaching out to the photographer, and being his normal comical self. The photographer was impressed! His picture is framed at the Austin Humane Society, who offers the largest “TNR” resource for the city- covering the costs of almost everything for the trappers.
Almost three years to the day Frankie was born, I found Frankie's body - lying dead on the grass, very close to the feeding station, while returning to work after a long holiday weekend. My designated feeder for the weekends had called over that weekend saying she was concerned something had happened, as no cats came to eat all weekend. Knowing that sometimes the cats would not be around when I fed, I was not overly concerned but had a feeling of suspicion at the same time.
"Frankie's Beautiful Mom- 'Kitty Mama'"

I was devastated…NOT Frankie. He was the younger one and the one I could pet! I called my husband to have him pick up Frankie and take him to the vet for an autopsy. I was worried someone had possibly harmed him but there was no evidence of that. The vet concluded an underlying heart condition, probably dying from a heart attack. I tried to work that day, but tears kept rolling down my cheek….and all the while hearing a special song playing in my head “This Used to be My Playground” by Madonna. 

  Whenever I would feel overwhelmed with everything  on my plate, or just feeling sad or blue, I would drive into town just to see Frankie. I would lie on the grass, contemplating life. Knowing I had helped a being like that for so long, and how well he was doing, would somehow make all my troubles go away. ..and I would feel like "all was right with the world".
Things have not been the same since Frankie died. Kitty Mama became depressed and then all of a sudden started taking on Frankie’s role and doing all the things he did for attention, but with a sadness in her at the same time. I spent extra time with her, consoling her, talking to her, and reaching out to her as I did to Frankie. Kitty Mama is not quite ready for anything more, but one day, she will be - I can just feel it.

In just a little over a year and a half, I TNR’d close to 300 cats. And have taken in 70 cats total to be adopted. I want Street Cat Rescue to grow and to educate the public on TNR, especially apartment management companies, whose complexes experience an influx of feral/stray cats and who seem to experience struggles over allowing TNR.
Frankie-  this was our playground and you will forever be in my heart - I will look after your “mama".

Follow up 2015: I have been caring for Ms. "Kitty Mama" now for over 10 years.  She is at least 11 years of age if not older.  She is still very vibrant and healthy and greets me every day I come to work.  Four years after Frankie died, on Mother's Day weekend, Kitty Mama FINALLY let me pet her....It started with a back scratch and she immediately started drooling.  It was an amazing sight and the best Mother's Day present I could get.  To this day, we have this game we play...she prances around and plays hard to get and the only time I can pet her is "in the bushes" where I feed her.  I say " Do you want a back scratch? You better get in the bushes"...and she pretends she doesn't see me and it's then, and only then...that I can come from behind and give her a nice long back and neck scratch.  She has stopped drooling when I scratch her back, but she still closes her eyes.....and goes into a trance. :)


Follow up 2016::  "Kitty Mama comes home!" - After a scare of missing her for several days and given her age, I decided to take her home to live out the rest of her life.  Here she is in her new home where I can keep a close eye on her and provide her a more comfortable life.

"Kitty Mama comes Home!"

How you can help
In Frankie’s memory, I have has set up a special fund “Frankie's Friends Memorial Fund” to help as many feral cats in my area as possible. I hope to create a voucher program to supplement the city and local Humane Society’s resources, and to help fellow trappers with medical costs. Please donate to this wonderful cause, in honor of a very special feral cat, named “Frankie.”

All donations are tax-deductible.
Or mail donations to the following:

Street Cat Rescue
P.O. Box 2524
Round Rock, TX 78680

Thank you. 
Donna Powell
Founder of Street Cat Rescue

Posted by Jennifer Hayes, Best Friends Network
Photo credit: all photos reprinted with permission by Donna Powell of Street Cat Rescue. The main photo of the black cat in the bluebonnets is Frankie, the other black cat photos are Kitty Mama, and the black and white cat is Big Boy.

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