Domino-cat-death-sun puddle
Cats,  Feline Fine Art

Cat Wisdom 101 Former Feral Domino, Dead at Age 16

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Cat Wisdom 101’s Former Feral, Domino Dead at Age 16 by Layla Morgan Wilde


It feels like a dream as I write these words about Domino’s death. We expected Clyde, who is older and more ill to go first. Domino, the former feral who survived seven brutal winters outdoors and so much more was a superhero we expected to live much longer. For those readers who have followed us for years, know what an active and beloved member of the cat blogging world he was. To create this tribute, I skimmed through 14,000 photos and endless posts and somehow none of it does this larger-than-life cat justice.

snowshoe cat in snow

Domino was the consummate survivor. He endured endless tick bites, numerous respiratory issues, cat fight wounds and abscesses including one that almost resulted in amputation and a move to a new home five months ago. He kept going season after season in any kind of weather with a thick coat and a ballsy attitude to protect him.


domino snow-cat wisdom 101

snowshoe-feral cat-domino

Domino arrived on our covered porch one cold spring day in 2004 deciding this was his home but he refused to come inside for seven years. Goodness knows we tried and it took that long to trap and neuter him (surely a record of some kind!)


If you haven’t read his rescue story, Operation Domino it’s a doozy. The “before and after” photos speak volumes.

feral cat before and after

When we moved five months ago, he hid under the bed for weeks and expressed no interest to explore the lovely and wild grounds. I thought for sure he’d find a favorite tree with thick roots to scratch and sunbathe on. He gradually poked his head outside and developed a routine of racing across the lawn to a jumble of impenetrable bushes where he’d stay for hours and then race back inside. Domino marched to the beat of a different drummer and the change of location proved deadly.

.cats-quote-march-different-drummer-cat wisdom 101

In July, a new mobile vet examined him and there were no surprises. A diagnosis of early kidney disease. No biggie. Bad teeth. So what else is new? The blood work rang no warning bells.

When we live with cats, it’s easy to flow from one day to the next missing tiny, subtle changes. With geriatric cats, major shifts can occur in one season or less. One day in late summer, I did a double take. Holy cat gods! When did he shrink to half his size? Always a particular eater, he grew fussier. A few weeks ago, he decided to make an ottoman in the living room near Clyde’s lair, his nest. Fine. He didn’t want to sleep with my husband. Bingo! It was time for a vet visit. See that post about Domino

Domino was one of the original Cat Wisdom 101 team that including Merlin, Gris Gris and Odin who is the last surviving member. Sigh, this dates from the early days of this blog,

team cat wisdom 101

The thought of curating through thousands of photo and 2000 posts since 2011 stopped me in my tracks. Not to mention the last photos taken this week, random bits of video dredged up by my husband, there was enough content for a mini-series. Let’s face it. Domino was no Grumpy Cat but my photo of him drinking out of our pond won the CWA Muse Medallion in 2011 for Best Color Photography.

I couldn’t find a digital copy of the photo but I snapped this (bad pic) from a bulletin board in my kitchen.

Muse medallion winner cat wisdom101

Domino didn’t have a vain bone in his Snowshoe/Ragdoll body and zero interest in being a model but indulged me on a semi-regular basis for photos silly or educational. Merlin was our primary purveyor of cat wisdom but Domino was no slouch.

cat DNA is 95% tiger

He was the poster boy for adopting FIV+ cats. Boy, he squashed that myth paws down.

fiv+ former feral birthday Domino

formerly feral-cat-Domino


Okay, I might be a little bit handsome. And I do have a beauty spot on my nose. Love really made him blossom.

He was a one person cat and my husband was it. So much so that he lolled on his lap every evening watching TV and slept with him in the prime spot once held by Merlin my soul cat.

formerly feral-cat-massage

cat daddy-real men love cats-cat wisdom 101-LOL cats


LOL cats-cat daddy-cat wisdom 101

Who knew this lap cat would take his final final lap a few days ago. Instead of his usual leap up to the lounge, he needed a little help to reach his happy place.

domino-lap cat-cat daddy








As his feral days waned, his confidence grew and he made eye contact with his soulful blue eyes.

Domino cat_RIP_catwisdom101

Make no mistake, he belonged to daddy and never sat on my lap. He allowed me the honor of grooming and photographing him but that’s about it. If I happened to moved too forcefully into a room, he’d duck for cover. God forbid I was carrying a broom. Domino’s tail was broken in two places from his life before arriving on our porch. I always suspected a violent woman inflicted harm. It’s all the more remarkable that he opened his heart wide. He often gazed adoringly at my husband and loved to play and snuggle in a brotherly way with his feline siblings.

His love for me was guarded until near the end making it all the more bittersweet.

Indoors or outdoors, he found the most comfortable place possible to snooze but at heart he remained a nature lover and wild boy.

feral cat quote

Domino Taurus cat astrology

Domino feral cat wisdom 101

Domino was no diva but he gradually accepted his beefy good looks and embodied the attributes of a Taurus. I guestimated his birthday to early May and we celebrated it on May Day.

Taurus cat astrology

Too down-to-earth for serious frivolity, he could care less for birthdays or any holiday for that matter. The only costume I could wrestle him into would be virtual like this Halloween pic.

He put a spell on us and bound to sprinkle some fairy dust in kitty heaven.

witch cat spell hat

He had limited star power but he brightened our Universe on a daily basis with his quiet and earthy presence long before he decided to move indoors 8 years ago. He first established outdoor relationships with Merlin and his sister Coco. Merlin took to him right away but Coco shied away. When Coco died in 2013, Domino deepened his friendship with the grieving Merlin. He’d join us on daily walks and often sat on a porch table window looking wistfully at life indoors.

domino-window-cat wisdom 101

wrestling-LOL cats-cat wisdom 101

Once he embraced indoor life, he luxuriated in its comforts like heated window ledges and comfy beds galore.

settle down and relax with a cat

This was Domino’s first real cat bed before realizing the pleasures of human beds and laps.

formerly feral cat - Domino

When Odin and Gris Gris arrived on the same day, he had two new pals. Odin was still a kitten and leash trained which for some reason frightened him initially. Before long they reveled in roughhousing and wrestling. Gris Gris was an unsocialized older boy of 12 and they hit it off instantly as they both did with Merlin. All remained good friends until Gris Gris died suddenly from a stroke at age 15 in 2013 Merlin died at age 21 in 2015.


As Domino aged, they drifted apart but this is what I’ll always remember. I found a never seen video of them wrestling.

Always stoic, Domino mourned Merlin but found it in his heart to love again when Nou Nou arrived and then finally Clyde three years ago.

I snapped this with my phone last week. Domino and Nou Nou slept together until 2 weeks ago. When I brought him to her after he died, to say her good-byes she didn’t want to go near him. I sensed that she wanted privacy so I left the room. After a minute, I peeked in and she was all over him, sniffing him and saying good-bye in her way.

Domino_nou nou-cat friends

domino_nou nou-dead cat pay respects

Odin sensed the change before any of us. He deals with grief by acting out and was wildly restless for days. He knew he was ill but curious why he wore a harness for the first time ever. Domino enjoyed the fresh air but tried making a beeline for the impenetrable bushes so we felt a leash and harness was the safer option.

He didn’t say goodbye to Domino in front of us but flew out of nowhere during the burial and stomped on the grave. Clyde seemed weirdly happier and has a favorite new spot in the kitchen. It’s too soon to share funeral pics since we only buried him today but we gave all the cats two days to say their good-byes. Down to earth Domino was treated with respect but not the lavish “Lying in state” send-off Merlin was given.

We’re still in a state of disbelief and rapid cycling of emotions. He looked so good lying in a basket expecting him to meow for treats. On Tuesday, he was having trouble getting to the litter box and we moved it near his bed. The Gabapentin acts well for pain but made him sleepy.

While hubby was gone all afternoon, I sat with Domino sending Reiki, playing Tibetan Buddhist prayers for the dying. I felt the end was nearing and if he worsened, we’d call in a vet for euthanasia. Meanwhile, I kept him cozy on a heating pad with soft lights.

domino_dying cat Reiki

When hubby returned home, I prepped dinner and ate by our outdoor bonfire. During dinner we stopped to check in on Domino and he’d died. We’d only left him alone for a few minutes but he took the opportunity for a quick exit. That was so Domino right to the end. Independent. His way or the highway.

We wish him safe passage and so grateful for the kind condolences arriving like this one from our friends at Furball Fables.

Much love always,

Layla, Clyde, Odin and Nou Nou

cat-condolence card-cat wisdom 101


  • Cindy Hall

    I’m so sorry for your loss of Domino. He was beautiful inside and out, and lived his life the way he wanted by coming into your home after so many feral years alone. If our pets lived as long as humans, we would worry about what would happen to them when we leave this earth. However, saying goodbye to our pets is never easy, and I still cry over the loss of all our cats and dogs who have gone before us. My thoughts are with your family and your fur family.

  • Marjorie and Harvey

    I am trying a different browser to see if I can make a comment stick as a tribute to Domino.
    He was a fine cat and I know his loss will be a grievous one. Your tribute to him radiates love and pride in your wonderful boy and I can only imagine the gap he leaves. Your commitment to him speaks volumes about your love for cats, and especially those in special need and I just know he will have left the earth happy having lived with you.

  • Angel Ms. Phoebe’s family

    We were so sorry to read of Domino’s passing, we had grown to love him over the years as he reminded me so much of my own former feral, FIV+ mancat Kaspars who earned his wings in 2017 at the age of 16.
    These cats are so worth the time, patience and love and regardless of what anyone says CAN become beloved members of the family.
    Domino was an amazing soul, so kind to his fur sibs and performed as a great ambassador to the world on behalf of feral and cats with FIV. He brought many smiles to us and we thank you for sharing him with us. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time and we are here if you need anything. Fly free sweet boy, you will never be forgotten.
    Purrs of love, Beth & Pearl

  • meowmeowmans

    We were heartbroken to read of Domino’s passing, and our hearts ache for you all. What a life he had, and what love he knew there with you. We send gentle purrs and prayers, and much love for you all.

  • Elaine Hutzelman

    Sending my sympathy with healing thoughts your way on the loss of Domino.He lived his life the way he wanted and surely knew how much he was loved,outside and inside. The best place to bury a cat is in your heart. He was a treasure and is now a memory.

  • Elizabeth Harney

    A Parting Word
    Dedicated To Yum Yum

    Today we said goodbye
    but your love goes with me
    to the rainbow country beyond
    your were with me to the last
    and for that I am glad
    I can wait for you in peace
    because I know I am loved
    ©Blue Coyote 9-28-05

  • Timmy Tomcat

    It sounds like he chose the path that he would exit on and that says a lot to who he was. Thanks so much for sharing his story with us all. Domino watch over us as your prowl the Rainbow Bridge setting you territory and letting those you know visit and some stay. We will see each other again when the time comes.

  • Lissa

    I’m so sorry Layla for your lost, I’m in tears as I read this it reminded me of the lost of my dear Toby.
    May Domino RIP. 😢

  • Barrie

    What a beautiful cat and a tender story! I too adopted a feral who was one of the sweetest cats I have ever had. Domino had a wonderful life filled with lots of human and cat love. His passing seemed very peaceful thanks to your loving preparations. I know you and the cats will miss him terribly. My thoughts, prayers and love go out to you all. I believe you will see him again.

  • Mickey's Musings

    We are so sorry to hear that Domino has crossed his Bridge.
    He was lucky to have found you as you were to find him.
    While he will live on in your memory, we know it will never replace his physical presence.
    Some cats just hold onto your heart forever.
    May you ,at some point, find peace knowing you were able to live with this dear cat and make memories.
    Purrs,Georgia and Julie
    and “mum” Nancy

  • caren

    oh Layla! this tribute was beautiful! what a storied life this beefy and most handsome boy lived! Loved how you wrote about “his way or the highway” and I LOVED seeing these photos again, many I had seen but not having seen them in some time it is as if they were brand new. I am so deeply, deeply sorry. Please send Joe my deepest sympathy as well. I know this has to have been devastating for him (and you), but as you said, he was a “Daddy’s Boy”………..wish I could hug you both………..sending much love and I will be in touch soon. xoxo

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    I am so very sorry to hear about the death of the true Viking Warrior Cat Domino. I always thought about the Norsemen whenever I saw those ice blue eyes and that strong face and body and that beautiful fur coat. He was a true warrior at heart and in spirit but alas all warriors must lay down their weapons in their dotage. We are truly thankful that he decided to embrace the indoor life.
    He was one of a kind for sure and your husband was most assuredly honored with his love and loyalty. Warriors honor their own.
    The tribute was so beautiful and did justice to his life. We know there will be a huge void in the household and no other will ever fill his place there. The heart of a Warrior , the Soul of a King.
    Here’s to you Domino! Warrior King! Viking Lord! Slayer of Winter!
    Long live the Warrior King!
    May you have days of sunshine, peace and health. Forever the Nordic King.

    Luvs and Purrs to you, your husband, Clyde, Nou Nou, Odin and all the spirit souls of the kitties that met Dom at the gates.
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang >^..^<

  • Cathy Keisha

    I’m here to pay my respects to Domino. After reading the tribute, Domino and myself shared a lot of traits. I was only feral a year or so but it’s still my way or the highway. I only purr for Pop and he’s the only one who can pick me up. I’m sending comforting purrz to you, his human dad, Nou Nou and Clyde.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    Godspeed your journey to heaven Domino; you lived your life your own way, listening to
    no one but yourself; more should have the courage to do so. Say hi to those we know and when you get the chance, send mom and dad the “sign” you’re living your 10th life to the fullest. We
    are truly sorry and send hugs to you, mom, dad and the family you leave behind ♥♥♥♥♥♥

    tuna, mackerull, dai$y, dude, sauce & boomer

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Thanks dearest Tabbies and we’re on high alert for signs but nothing yet. There were many signs of prognostication a few days before.

  • Annabelle

    It is the passing of not just dear Odin, but the loss now of all four of the originals. It is so difficult to be the one left behind. We can only carry their memories and how the love touched us onward. It’s not enough, but it’s all we have. Layla I am deeply sorry and I sit here with tears in my eyes because I understand the sadness and pain of loss. I wish there were words that I could say that would be of comfort to your heart, but I know from myself that there is not. I can only tell you how sorry I am, but thank you for sharing Odin and all of your cats with us. Blessings and Prayers.

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Thanks for your kind condolences. Odin is still with us but is the remaining member of the original four. After he goes, it really will be the end of an era .

  • Chris Davis

    Oh, Layla, my heart goes out to you on the loss of Domino. H knew love every day of his life, and when he was ready, left this world on his own terms—his final gift to you. I’m holding you and your family in my heart during this sad time.

    Much love…Chris

  • Andrea

    Oh, what a shock! I’m so sorry for your loss. He was truly a unique cat. And thanks for taking in a feral cat no matter how long it took. Time is a virtue when it comes to dealing with ferals and well worth it as you no doubt know. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • RJ Peters

    What a wonderful tribute this memorial post is for the indomitable Domino. Great photos and heartfelt glimpses into his life with you and your husband. It may have taken a while, but Domino knew how lucky he was to finally be loved and live the better life he deserved. Everyone who knows you is grateful that he found you and was so loved for the “last half,” the good years he might never have known. My heart is with you…

  • Brian Frum

    We are so very sorry to hear about dear Domino and we send love and hugs your way. Domino was always a favorite of ours and your tribute was special and beautiful. Run free dear Domino, you surely earned it.

  • Alice F Towery

    Oh goodness, I have followed your blog for so long. I have a folder on my computer labeled Merlin so I will place your tribute to Domino in it today. It is so very sad and hard to lose one of our precious kitties~ I lost my 18 year old Calvin this spring and my granddaughter always puts wildflowers on his grave where I buried his brother Hobbes’ ashes and his sister Sophie’s ashes along with him. Please know that I am praying for you in your loss. Love to you, Alice and Ra & Nola (my abys)

  • Vicky, Inky & Toots

    So sorry to hear of Domino’s passing. May he run free over the bridge. Sending head bonks and many purrs your way.

  • Emma

    So sorry for the passing of Domino the rebel heart. Had the love from a semi feral kitten and she passed away on her own terms too. Miss poppy she was my little baggy belly.

  • Cats Herd You

    We are so sorry. Layla. Sharing part of our life with a former feral is a special gift, both to the humans and the cat who discovered home’s comforts. May your memories of him be a blessing.

  • Roxanne

    I can honestly say I feel your emotions….I’m so very sorry Layla…Domino was a gem and now he is running free….I never met Domino but I feel a connection….Your tribute to Domino is 100% from the heart…so very sorry Layla. I forget and now take the time to appreciate my housecats and ferals more….so sorry….my heart goes out to you…

  • Pamela Kimmell

    Domino was his own man…..I always respected him for that yet he allowed himself – finally – to live out his last years enjoying attention, love, warmth and real comfort. I remember when he made his first steps through the door – hesitating – wanting to stay free but curious about what was on the other side. I suppose he still was at the end of his life – curious about the other side and now he’s there. He’ll watch over you all forever just as those who went before him have. Layla I’m so sad for your loss. He was a rock but ever so tender on the inside. I’ll be thinking about you and hoping that boy will make it known that while he may have been a Daddy’s boy – he appreciated you and loved you for being his Mom.

    Love, Pam and Teddy too

    • Layla Morgan Wilde

      Oh Pam thanks for remembering his early days during the transition time. He truly was a rock with a mushy center xoxo

  • Kathryn

    Oh Domino, my heart and Cheddar’s cries for you, but you have found peace, so that makes us happy. Peace be with you always.


    Kathryn and Cheddar Oleski

    • Kathryn

      I haven’t seen Cheddar in months. Son has him and won’t give him back. I had been at a motel that had a bad manager, but the motel manager now is wonderful, and I can stay here forever and can have Ched. But Son is obstinate. I must have Ched.

  • Emilia

    Fly Free Domino – your old pals will be waiting to greet you and show you around the Rainbow Bridge. I’m so sorry for your loss Layla, it’s heartbreaking when they have to leave us. He was a beautiful boy. He sure knew what he was doing when he chose to join your family.

  • Lizabeth

    My heart breaks for you Layla and your husband. I am so sad that he has passed away.. Domino is so beautiful and oh my those beautiful blue eyes, you made such a difference in Dominos life and every cat you touch..I know how difficult the loss is the worst part knowing we must part for a while. My Love and prayers are with you..

  • Meezer'sMews&TerrieristicalWoofs

    Oh, how sad.
    Domino will be forever loved, cherished and treasured, in the depths of your heart.
    We send our purrs, licks and hugs to try and give you some small comfort at this difficult time.

    Rest well, Domino and then fly strong and healthy through endless catnip meadows.

    (When I return from vacation, I will send you a memorial ‘card’…)

  • Erin the Cat

    Oh my, I am so sorry you have lost the daily friendship and love and magic of such a wonderful and special companion & friend. As tears roll down our cheeks we say a prayer for Domino that he finds as much love and kindness across the bridge, as he had with you, his meant to be and most special family.
    Gentle purrs for Domino and you all at this saddest of times. . . .
    ERin & Mrs H

  • Catherine Heckel

    I’m so sorry for the pain you’re feeling at Domino’s journey across the Rainbow Bridge. I have an 18 yr old calico, Maggie, who showed up at our door too. She was a stray I think, Knowing I’m facing your situation one day, I’m grateful to you for sharing your experiences and for caring for Domino.

    • Layla

      Thanks Catherine. I’m glad this helped prepare some for the inevitable road ahead for you and Maggie. Death may be a morbid subject but I believe the more we humanize and normalize it with dialogue we all benefit.

  • ConnieMarie Poulson

    My thoughts are with you, I enjoyed knowing Domino and am deeply saddened by his passing. I’m at a loss of words to say anymore.

  • ellen beck

    Domino had a wonderful life with you, and I am so glad to have known him through your blog for so many years. He truly broke the misunderstanding about FIV .
    Condolences to you his human family, and to his fur family, I know you will all miss him and feel a void.
    May your journey be swift Domino there will be plenty of places to explore and nice sunshine there and of course friends you have known…

      • Mugg Muggles

        So sorry to hear about Domino! I remember your descriptions when he was a lurker on your porch. I always knew he’d eventually go indoors, but gee, it sure took him long enough!
        R.I.P. Domino!

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