Pet columnist Rene Knapp on abandoned cats.
She drags her thin, tired body through another dark back yard. Her coat is damp from the cold rain, but hunger drives her on. Will there be food by this garbage can? Will there be a mouse in the grass? Will the back porch light go on and a kind person see her and offer some food and shelter?
These are the questions she asks herself day after day, and too often the answer is “not tonight, little one.” Last year she was the free kitten in the newspaper, adopted by a young woman and her boyfriend who just moved into an apartment together. They fell in love with her cute, fluffy coat and playfulness. She had toys, food and a clean litter box. They thought she was the best pet ever, but they kept forgetting to take her to the vet for her shots and to get her spayed.
At first her home saw harmony between her humans, but then the boyfriend started staying out late and not bringing home his paycheck. They started fighting, and the poor kitten was frightened. They began to neglect her, forgetting to give her water or food and letting her litter box overflow. Finally, the man moved out and the girl could not afford the rent. Her parents said she could come home, but not with a cat.
The girl opened the door to the apartment and put the cat outside. She did not bother to call friends or family to try to find her pet a new home. She did not advertise online or in the paper, nor did she go to rescue organizations. She just told herself the kitty was so beautiful, someone would take her in.
Well, that didn’t happen. It was winter and so very cold to a young cat that had never been outside before. Somehow she scrounged food and found places to sleep, and she survived. But in the spring, a tomcat sought her out. Soon, she had five kittens in her womb. Her hunger increased, and she became thinner but struggled on. In April, she found an old shed, crawled inside and brought five tiny babies into the world.
The world is cruel, and kittens are not immune to its cruelty. The teenage mother cat does not have enough milk, and the two smallest babies die within a couple of days. She is full of fleas, which find themselves on her babies. Two more die of flea anemia, leaving one pretty little calico kitten left. Only the strong survive, and unfortunately, the pattern continues on — now there are two females having kittens until they die, usually at the age of 2 or 3.
A sad story? Yes, and it happens every spring in every neighborhood. Good people turn their heads and do not allow themselves to see the suffering of the abandoned cats in their neighborhood.
Whether it is in a bus station, the back of a McDonald’s or the woods behind your house, they are there, with their big scared eyes and their thin bodies. Will you help?
Small organizations will probably not be able to take the cat — by the time it finds its way to your yard, it will be pretty feral and not allow humans to touch it.
But if you are willing to feed the cat and provide a little house for safety (which is all the poor creature really wants), most groups will lend a trap and even provide a voucher to take the cat to a vet to be altered and receive its shots. There is nowhere to put these forgotten felines, so you must be willing to become caretaker.
Yes, we know it is not your cat — but it is your problem, as well as your neighbors, as well as mine. It won’t take a lot of your time, it won’t take a lot of your money, but without the kindness of strangers, these little animals will suffer and die. Can you live with that? I know I can’t.
Contact Rene Knapp at email@example.com.