Teddy is one of the originals at the colony, at sixteen pounds he's an imposing fellow with quite the personality. He is very dominant and seems to only tolerate certain females. At one point when we had friendlier cats he caught on and would allow us to pat him, now he keeps his distance a bit more but still there is a relationship, he engages.
We've had Teddy to the vet a few times and the last year or so he's had ear problems. He had polyps removed from his ear last June probably due to chronic infections. This winter his ears were bleeding and I was finally able to trap him and get him to a vet. They did what they could but the polyps are in his ear canal and what he really needs is a total ear canal ablation. It's a procedure done by a surgeon at a specialty clinic.
My first thought was that it wasn't doable but as I've watched him with his ears bleeding and pus coming out some days I decided to explore it.
He seemed to think it was certainly an option and that he could conceivably recover well. There are risks and possible complications. Probably the most concerning one is loss of hearing function which is somewhat likely, how much is unpredictable and would be difficult to evaluate. Teddy needs his hearing to stay safe from the trucks down there. I asked if there was anything else that could be done for his ears and there isn't. It's likely he is in pain. Cats are amazingly stoic creatures, it hasn't affected his appetite but I hate the thought that he's suffering.
And I haven't mentioned the cost yet, minimum it would be is $4000 but it could be more. That's a lot of money to raise, a lot of resources. What a terrible dilemma. I truly don't know what the right thing is to do. The rational thing would be to say it's too much money to spend on one feral cat, that the surgery may be too much for him to recover from, how terrible would it be to spend all that, and have him go through it and not be able to recover. On the other hand, it's Teddy, not an abstract concept, it's a cat we've been feeding for many years, he's my cat, he's our cat, I love him and feel responsible for him, as much as I do the ones in my own home. I had someone say that they thought it was too much money to spend and they would give him the summer and then euthanize him, but how would I be able to trap Teddy and say today is the day you die. I would never let an animal suffer but he eats well, he does his usual things, if you didn't notice his ears you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with him.
If he was tame I wouldn't hesitate. If I thought he could live happily inside afterwards and I had a place for him to go nothing would stand in my way in my efforts to save Teddy. But I don't know if he would be ok inside after all these years as the king of the colony.
They don't teach you in the TNR course what to do in a situation like this. It's not simple, I only hope that we can find our way to do the right thing, the best we can do for this magnificent creature that I know that all of us who feed feel such love for.