Fred Wheezy, an orphan with half a working lung who recovered to win fame as a detective, to star on Broadway and to contemplate a teaching career, was killed on Wednesday by a car outside his home in Queens. He was 15 months old, known nationwide as Fred the Undercover Cat.
"He was here and then gone in a moment," said his caretaker, Carol Moran.
Fred was whiskery and black-striped, with darting eyes and no fear, sickly then rambunctious and not long for this world. In his time, he etched a parable of the city streets that hate you so blithely and without knowing, that hate us all. He was born to these streets, and what drew him back none could say.
Animal Care and Control pulled him nameless and rank from the Brooklyn alleys in September, estimating his age at 4 months. He had severe pneumonia, a collapsed lung and a second lung partly filled with fluid. He was cribbing like a lame horse, desperate to breathe. Treatment failed; his death was scheduled.
Then Ms. Moran, a Brooklyn deputy district attorney who oversees animal cruelty cases, adopted him and a litter mate from a shelter. She named them Fred and George for the Weasley twins, the practical jokers of the Harry Potter books. There were antibiotics, steam showers and chest poundings, and Fred thrived. He chased her other two cats. He chased her dogs, too.
"He was a live wire," Ms. Moran said.
In February, Fred served as the come-on in a sting operation against an unlicensed veterinarian. Afterward he was the centerpiece of a news conference with the district attorney, Charles J. Hynes. Photographers coochied-cooed, people laughed, there was coffee. The whole thing was shown on TV.
Later, Mr. Hynes gave him a Law Enforcement Achievement Award. At a breakfast ceremony in Downtown Brooklyn, Fred was applauded alongside police officers who had been in gunfights. Last month, he appeared in Shubert Alley with Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore to promote animal adoption.
There was talk of taking him to city schools to demonstrate pet care.
At home in Howard Beach, Queens, Fred settled into an indoor life of chases and naps and sudden pounces. There was air-conditioning. There were sunbeams.
"He was my baby," Ms. Moran said. "He was very, very sweet. He was very attentive to us. He was a pain in the neck to his sister; he chased her off the bed."
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Moran and her husband opened the back door to carry their 14- and 16-year-old dogs downstairs. The cats chased one another outside. Only Fred circled the house and ran into the street. He was struck by a car and killed instantly.
"Usually we can catch them right in the yard, or somebody will go out under the deck and come out with cobwebs on his whiskers," Ms. Moran said. "I don't know what he saw, or what struck him, or what possessed him."