Tragedy of Too Many Cats
Early in the summer, I received a frantic call from my parents, who live several hours away in a very congested suburb of New York City. Their old cat, Frankie, had escaped and was missing for several days. Of course, since he was neutered, we knew he wasn’t looking for romance.
Neighbors had been called, garages checked, sheds opened. A search party looked under bushes, in trees, and in parked cars. From my home upstate, I began the process of calling anyone we could think of — veterinarians, sanitation, public works and parks departments, to name a few.
That´s when the reality of what we already know truly hit home — there are so many cats, they have almost become a non-entity for numerous shelters and animal control organizations. Although everyone I spoke to was very nice, as most people who work in animal protection are, no one could help. Very few shelters took reports of lost animals, since they “were likely to move on and not be in the same place.” In addition, because they had limited access/entrance policies to promote “no-kill” philosophies, they wouldn’t take them in, anyway. I asked if they had programs to assist anyone with spay/neuter or medical needs in case someone decided to adopt a foundling, and they didn’t. Sadly, having just found on my own property five new cats this year alone, I can say from experience that this is a very worrisome statewide problem.
Fortunately, Frankie came home a few days later, but he wasn’t well. We took him to Dr. Cheever’s amazing new veterinary hospital, where he was released the next week in better but guarded health. Sadly, due to his age and other complications, he again deteriorated, and we made the kind decision to euthanize him while in my arms. We were so very lucky that we know what happened to him and that we had the comfort of comforting him in his final days. Frankie was a rescued city stray with a bad leg, and the idea that he could have died alone and in pain out again on the street was unbearable.
And yet suffering and dying on the streets, farms, and back alleys, where many so-called feral cat colonies are considered rescued, is what is happening to countless poor felines. Three cats that I found came from a nearby situation where they had been neutered and then left to fend for themselves with minimal food, shelter, and supervision — and they all arrived on my doorstep with medical issues. Their future was not bright, and because there are so many homeless cats out there with nowhere to go, I have kept them. At this point, though, I will not be able to take in another, so then what?
As NYSHA and countless other well-respected groups have been stressing for years, the answer is preventing the birth of these felines. Yet, unbelievably, when the issues of cat licensing and mandatory sterilization are raised, people say that they will create circumstances where animals are abandoned because caregivers cannot afford to pay for these procedures. But can we afford not to? Responsible pet care is costly, but with monies raised and saved, we can create low or no-cost spay/neuter programs that will actually pay for themselves while alleviating many of the horrific cruelties associated with overpopulation.
Frankie deserved, and ultimately found, a great life to which all cats are entitled. None should ever have to face the distressing world of being homeless.
As always, for the animals,
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXV, No.2, Fall 2011.