This is really a story about an abandoned cat, but it’s also a great example of one of many reasons why cats are safest living indoors. We all know cats are often hit by cars, we know they are killed by coyotes, but we don’t often think about the possibility they are trapped by neighbors who don’t want cats on their properties. These trapped cats may end up dropped off at a county shelter, or they may end up dropped off in a neighborhood or out in the country somewhere.
If you don’t think your cat can tolerate being indoors all the time, consider a cat fencing product such as Cat Fence-In (www.catfencein.com), or Cat Fence (www.catfence.com). Products such as these are easily attached to the top parameter of your fence line and keep your cats from leaving your yard, and predators from entering your yard. They are virtually invisible to neighbors and not terribly expensive when you consider you won’t have to worry about the horrors your cat may face outside on its own. We’ve noticed even the cats seem more relaxed when lounging in a yard fenced with cat fencing. They know they’re safe!!
Breaking a deadly cycle
On March 6th, 2002, we received news of a cat in crisis. A neighborhood “barn cat” dragged herself up to a woman’s porch in Cornelius, and collapsed. The rescuer assumed the cat had been hit by a car, since its back legs appeared to be paralyzed. A sweet little orange and white tabby cat, Sweet Spirit (her new name) responded to all the attention she was given with a very loud purr. The rescuer contacted one of our volunteers and we made arrangements for medical intervention.
Our vet, Dr. Mark Norman, noticed two small puncture wounds on Sweet Spirit’s spine and thought a dog or coyote had bitten her. X-Rays showed something much more horrific. Sweet Spirit had been shot. There were fragments of lead lodged around her spine. She had some involuntary movements in her tail, but could not use her back legs or control her bladder or bowel. Dr. Norman estimated the gunshot wound was as much as a week old, resulting in a longer delay than ideal when attempting to bring down swelling around this type of injury. Sweet Spirit continued to purr and respond to any attention with affection. Everyone wanted to give this sweet little girl every chance to recover. We began a series of traditional and holistic therapies and held out hope that Sweet Spirit would regain control of her bladder and bowel, at least.
That was eight years ago. Sweet Spirit never regained any use of her legs, bladder or bowel. The damage from the gun shot proved too much. Because her condition requires manual expressing in order to relieve herself, Dr Mark and the staff at Bethany Family Pet Clinic made the commitment to keep Sweet Spirit as a clinic cat. She moves around (without pain) by using her front legs to drag herself wherever she wants to go. She and Roscoe, another cat who was rescued missing both of his back legs, spend their days lying on a blanket on the front counter of the clinic. The staff and clients dote on her, and both she and Roscoe adore the attention.
But don’t be lulled into believing this is a story with a happy ending. Sweet Spirit found refuge because someone intervened and took responsibility. Most of these stories don’t have happy endings.
The cycle continues
Sweet Spirit’s tragic story is not an isolated case. In rural areas, many cats are poisoned or shot everyday. It’s heartless and it’s shameful, but it continues to be an obscene form of population and nuisance control in the country. Why does it happen?
This cycle begins with one irresponsible person. Her previous owners had abandoned Sweet Spirit. Why? Because they felt they could no longer keep her? Because they decided to move and didn’t want to bring her along? Because they were convinced she could survive in the country, living on rodents and other prey? Did they leave her in their neighborhood to fend for herself, justifying their action by saying “Oh, one of the neighbors will feed her or take her in.”? Did a neighbor notice her as a “stray” and decide to drive her to the country, somewhere far away, and drop her off to get rid of the problem?
These are examples of the cycle of abandonment. It’s a deadly one. Cats like Sweet Spirit are domestic cats. They cannot survive on their own. In rural areas, where coyotes are both abundant and hungry, cats are merely bait, seldom surviving more than a few days on their own. If a coyote doesn’t kill them, many abandoned cats die of hunger or thirst. Hunting is foreign to many domestic cats. Even if they happen to be good at it, ingesting rodents causes cats to develop intestinal parasites, which inhibits their digestion until they begin to malabsorb nutrients from their food, eventually reducing their life span. The lucky ones, who find a way to survive, continue to breed more kittens who will not survive. Add a few more problems: inclement weather, cars travelling at high speed on country roads, feline infectious diseases, and people who use cats as “target practice.”
When someone abandons a cat (or dog), they don’t just violate the law against animal abandonment…they sign the cat’s death warrant and they die alone and afraid.
Many people are indifferent to the suffering of cats (or other animals), but are they aware of the law? Animal abandonment (even if it isn’t your animal) is against the law. Or 167.340 It is a Class B Misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $2,500.00 fine. You can help break the deadly cycle by telling everyone you know about the law, and reporting violations if you witness them.
If you are unable to find a way to continue to care for your cat, please, do the humane and responsible thing and either find them a permanent, safe new home, or bring them to a rescue or shelter. You can prevent a tragic death and your conscience will feel so much better.