While this blog is, officially, about the goings on of Purrfect Cat Rescue, from time to time, I and other volunteers with PCR may post something from our personal experiences in pet rescue. This is something I wrote a while ago for my own blog. I’m publishing it here to give people new to animal rescue an idea of why it’s so important to support PCR— or any other animal welfare group for that matter— and to remind them to properly care for the animals they chose to make a part of their life.
Tim deserves a post all his own as it would not be overstating things to say that he changed my life.
Tim was an adult and not at all tiny when I first met him, but he had a lame foot and I guess I wasn’t feeling very imaginative so I christened him Tiny Tim. He showed up regularly for months for a daily meal. One day he brought a friend, and then another: Tigger and Slim, as they are now known.
It took a week or two for me to realize that Tigger and Slim (who, despite their names, are both females) were his girlfriends. Very soon both of them started to put on some weight. I think you could officially call this the moment I reluctantly became a pet rescuer. Slim, so-named because she was not slim, took a shine to my only cat at the time, Figaro, so she was easier to trap.
At the direction of the local cat rescue (who had dozens of kittens waiting to be adopted) I chose to have a spay/abort performed on her. A few people I know were saddened, maybe even shocked, that I had arranged for a cat abortion, but pragmatism is a major part of this job. If there are already hundreds of kittens in your zip code who cannot find homes what practical merit is there in allowing more to be born if it can be easily remedied? (My apologies to anyone whose Pro Life stance is offended by this blunt statement; give me a call and I’ll send you a hundred kittens to make you rethink it.)
While Slim was fairly easy to trap, Tigger put up a good fight on the two occasions I tried to trap her. After my second failed attempt at trapping her, she did not show up for two days; when she finally did, she was noticeably thinner.
She arrived daily for one large meal and returned to wherever her babies were hidden. I tried numerous times to follow her but she always managed to outwit me. When the kittens were about a month old she began to bring them for visits, allowing them to eat some of her food in preparation for their weaning. The bed I had made for her long before she delivered them they began to use; within a week or so, they were mostly living in my yard.
None trusted me very much, but this did not stop them from following Figaro into the house to play in the living room. This is where I made my big mistake. Tigger—who you must remember is a feral cat, one that cannot be so much as touched by a human, began to bring the kittens in the house in the evening to spend the night. They would all sleep under my sofa while she stayed in the yard, essentially guarding them. In the morning, they would all leave and she would walk up the stairs and sleep the day away under my dresser.
The mistake I made was in not separating the kittens from Tigger once they were weened, keeping them locked in my room as I did with the later litters I have socialized. I should have established myself as the one they were reliant upon. Instead they came and went as they pleased, and ultimately could never be socialized enough to be adopted out. That was two years ago and those now-adult cats still come and go as they please, staying the night when the weather is bad enough, other times gone for days leaving me wondering if anything has happened to them.
Of all the stresses I suffer in animal rescue, none compares to the one I created for myself with this daily situation; I hope someday to convince all my cats that they are in fact my cats. .
Bringing this back to my original subject—their father, Tim continued to show up for meals and I made a few failed attempts to trap him so he could be neutered. One night when he was leaving my patio he was seen by a neighbor’s dog who chased him up a tree. The dog briefly caught Tim by the neck and he received a few scratches to the neck. They would have been minor to an indoor cat that could be treated, but for a feral living in the elements they eventually proved fatal.
The scratches became infected and they, along with whatever other health issues Tim may have had, killed him. The last time I saw him I knew it was too late to do anything even if I could have caught him.
Months later I learned the rest of his story from someone who lived in the area of my complex where I had trapped a litter not resulting from Tim. I was talking about the various ferals I have trapped and those I had not and she knew who I was talking about when I mentioned Tim.
Tim had once been a house cat but was left behind when his owners moved. Happily for him, the new owners took a liking to the cat who came into their yard looking for food, and they took him in. Eventually they adopted a dog who did not like the cat, and Tim was sent back outdoors.
A year or so later, they moved, taking the dog— but not Tim— with them. Two sets of owners, abandoned by both, neutered by neither, out on his own. It was shortly after this that he was hit by a car. That event left one of his legs permanently disfigured, and it left him distrustful of people, cementing his fate as a feral from then on. When I walked home after hearing this story I had tears in my eyes, but they were tears of anger more than anything else.
I understand that things change. People who once wanted an animal no longer do: it’s too much work; the animal has behavioral issues; they cannot afford it; their new residence does not allow it . . .
What I do not understand is how someone can simply dump an animal. There are pet rescues and shelters in almost every locale (several in mine) so there is no excuse other than selfishness and cowardice not to turn over an unwanted pet to the proper agency. It’s possible that Tim would never have been adopted out, that he would have had to be euthanized, but maybe that would have been better than living and dying as he did.
I apologize for this picture, but I am hoping someone who needs to see the result of shirking the responsibility of a pet will see this and think twice.
This was the last time I ever saw Tim. My cat trap was not set up that morning so there was nothing I could do but feed him. I somehow knew I’d never capture him, even if only to have him euthanized. Instead, my camera and I captured photographic evidence of his life and his death. The picture is disturbing or saddening to most people. To me, it’s a reminder of why I am doing a job that quite frankly I don’t like a lot of the time.
If you have ever had a pet euthanized you’ve probably received a copy of the poem “Rainbow Bridge” from someone. I’ve euthanized so many cats—some of them my own aging pets, some of them disease-riddled ferals and strays—that I am sick to death of reading the damn poem. . .
. . . At the same time, I do wonder if someday I will see Tim again; I want to thank him for changing me from a person who bemoans a problem into someone who does something about the problem.