I recall writing my first article for the column, just over two years ago, in which I said sometimes, in the dead of night, thinking about the animal rescue cases I had been involved with, I could justify a baseball bat and an AK47 and use of both. Probably for all the best reasons, I‘m too much of a chicken to try, but oh, the temptation!
I originally started this article with an update on an article I wrote last year, where we had rescued a cat from a “collector”. In the time between I first wrote and now, the undercover rescuer had removed eight cats from the house and handed them over to a number of rescue and rehabilitation centres. Sadly, he was not able to rescue them all and two died who should not have died at all. However, we had to balance the lives of two cats against eight. This is the type of decision which haunts me and him and we both have added these two poor souls to the list of animals we have failed.
We are now trying to orchestrate it so that I can visit the house, cause a ruckus and tell the owners I’m going to report them, so the heat is taken off the undercover rescuer, who has much to lose if the owners think that he reported them and retaliate.
On a Sunday evening, in the middle of this and in the middle of the undercover rescuer’s own cat being very ill, he takes a call from a friend of a friend who has a neighbour who apparently is moving to Liverpool. That day. And who has given us one hour, that’s right, one hour, to find her cat and kittens a new home. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t simply wake up one morning and decide, hey, you know, I’m going to up sticks and move to Liverpool. Oh dear, what do I do about the cats? This miserable excuse for a human being had some time to find a home for her pregnant cat.
So I backtracked and asked, just to clarify – “Hang on, you mean to say you have been told about an owner with a cat and kittens and they’ve given us an hour to get there, retrieve the cat and kittens and find a place for them”. “Yes” was the answer.
I asked how many – one cat and five 5-day old kittens, we talked through the options (not many – his place or mine) and eventually decided on his as I was going to be away from home for 14 hours a day, not really useful for a stressed cat with new kits. Half an hour, when K, my contact, got back, he rang me, hardly able to speak with rage. The Mommy cat was really young – she looked about six months old but K was assured she is around a year old. She was stick thin. There were seven kittens, not five. This was her second litter and the tom cat had already been allowed to get at her again. Her last litter was only homed a week or so ago, which means she was nursing and pregnant. When K got there, there was no litter tray, no food, nothing. K took the cats.
I asked where the Daddy Cat was. Apparently, they were taking him with them. What made it worse was that the owner was woefully upset at being parted from the cat she “loved so much” and was sitting on the floor, weeping and wailing. Loved so much?!! She loved her so much she let her get pregnant at the earliest opportunity, let it happen again, left rehoming her until it was too late, then decided the best course of action was to lock the cat and kittens in the flat and hope that the landlord would find them? K said he was not sure how he didn’t hit her …
I live in a suburb of a big city. There are resources for people who no longer want their animals. People who are unemployed can get their animals neutered for free. One of the places you can get this done advertises every week in the local paper. I do not for one minute believe that this woman, who, as it turns out, was a petshop customer, was not aware of this – flyers were situated permanently on the counter in the shop.
The drama was not over. K settled cat and kittens in his spare room and gave Mommy some space to settle down. When he went back in, Mommy had moved the kittens but had not fed them and they were hungry and crying. K called me and I suggested that he leave Mom and kits for an hour on their own and then check again. I got together some supplies – glucose, rescue remedy and a few other bits and took them up to K’s place just in case. By the time I got there, a good hour had passed and Mommy, who was called Flossie, was completely ignoring the kittens. I did some healing with her and got her as far as the blanket on which the kittens lay but she displayed no interest in them, just looked at me beseechingly and miaowed.
I checked her and she was completely dry – no milk at all. She was overly-friendly, as if scared if she didn’t nuzzle us, we’d hurt her.
We did the usual phone round. In this sort of situation, cat rescue basics include:
– Rescue org numbers? Check!
– Emergency vet number? Check!
– Correct analysis of what may be wrong? Check!
– Supplies? Uh … not really, but something to get us through the night
– Cab fare? Oh shit! Let’s cobble our pennies together.
For some reason, very few cat rescues occur in the beginning of the month – it’s always when you’re rubbing pennies together in the hope they’ll mate and multiply that you end up with a midnight dash to an emergency vet!
I had already alerted a lady at the Cat’s Protection League, whose number I was able to obtain through someone else who was getting two kittens from them – everyone’s regular phones were on answerphone – and she was wonderful. Not only did she make a few calls and then come back to me to confirm that the CPL would pay the bill, but she also arranged for a lady for us to contact the next day regarding rehoming, as neither K nor I were able to do this properly long term.
The vet wasn’t marvellous, as he decided this wasn’t an emergency, as kittens can last a while without food. K pointed out we couldn’t be sure when they had last eaten and the vet said well, you’ll have to get some nutrition down them. Bless him (not!), it was Sunday night and he obviously had had enough of being the emergency vet for the weekend.
Neither K nor I had the proper stuff but luckily another friend did, so K went charging out into the night to fetch it. At 11pm, he texted me to say everyone had eaten, including Mommy and Mommy was nursing them, even though she had no milk.
K was then left with the task of being up all night, feeding them every three hours. He had been up most of the previous night due to his own cat’s crisis and he had an interview the next day. The next morning, Mommy, who was called Flossie, was full of good food, lots of water and with a nightful of cuddles and reassurance behind her, had started producing milk at 7am. K then took Flossie and her brood to the vet, where they were given the all-clear.
The CPL collected them two days later and they are now with the woman I originally called, who specialises in very young kittens.
This was an ending which could have been so different. The landlord might not have gone into the flat for days, by which time Flossie and her kittens would have starved to death.
I would like to think that this case is unusual, but it is not. The CPL lady was on her way to another call from a lady who had been feeding a stray cat and kittens and who was going on holiday the next day and suddenly realised that she needed to do something.
Both these stories have the potential to have happy endings and I fervently hope that all the cats and kittens in these two rescues go on to have happy, loved lives. However, I have also heard about a woman who was sent to jail for a fairly minor offence, lost her council flat and her daughter as a result and the council boarded up the flat and left their cat inside to starve to death, which it duly did.
Why are people so wilfully ignorant in a city where help is available? Why did the council worker not just ring the RSPCA? Why did this owner think it perfectly acceptable to leave her cat and kittens locked up in a flat without food or water but take the other cat with her? I am sitting writing this article with Arthur next to me. I could no more lock my house and leave him to die than I could chop my own head off.
We have reported this woman for abuse and I sincerely hope that the report carries weight and she is prosecuted. At the very least, her other cat should be removed from her care and rehomed and she should never be allowed to have animals again. Sadly, because we rescued the cats and they didn’t starve to death, the RSPCA probably won’t prosecute her, but we weren’t going to sacrifice Flossie and her babies to make a point.
My neighbourhood seems to get worse and worse in terms of animal care. Although between us three, we know quite a few people who will call us when they come across this sort of situation, it grieves me to know that just a few streets away, there might be a cat or dog who didn’t have the good luck of having an owner who knew someone who knew us. I can’t take any more cats on a permanent basis, nor can M or K.
The rescue home we use for rehoming is also full, as are most of the other rescue organisations. Is it too much to ask that people get their animals spayed? I swear I will hit the next person who tells me it is unnatural … my stock response is that it isn’t, but nor are antibiotics, computers, washing up liquid or plasters and I can thus understand that they don’t use them either. I’m beginning to think a big thump across their wilfully ignorant faces might have more of an effect.