Cats, cats and more cats. Clearly we’ve got a problem with feral cats here in Winters. They’re everywhere. There’s a right way and a wrong way to address this problem. Let me tell you about the wrong way.
It was the day of our Earthquake Street Festival, close to 5 p.m., just before everything begins. Main Street was abuzz with activity: street vendors getting their booths ready, musicians doing sound checks on stage, hay bales being drug into place for seating. In short, organized pandemonium. Just to make things spicy, it was at least a trillion degrees that August afternoon.
I am one of the festival volunteers, so I was buzzing around, too, when one of the vendors came up to me to report that a cat was stuck in a storm drain near her booth and meowing pitifully. Everyone’s upset and worried.
What else can you do but drop everything and rescue the cat?
I called Yolo County dispatch, which said an Animal Control officer would call me back. Not having much faith in that actually happening at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday, I chose a more direct solution and spotted another festival volunteer, Paul, and told him we had a new and improved problem: cat stuck in drain.
Paul dropped what he was doing and set off with the worried vendor, while I returned to my last-minute festival loose ends. In a few minutes, Animal Control called back, I explained the situation, the upset children nearby, and many more soon to arrive, but he was thoroughly unimpressed.
“Cats get stuck in drains all the time,” he said. The best he could do is check it out in the morning. I headed off to deliver the bad news, but meanwhile, Paul had fashioned a fishing line of sorts with his hay hooks and was dropping it into the storm drain. Turns out, the cat was in a trap and he thought he could snag it. Paul’s on it. Situation handled. I went off to stamp out other fires.
The next day, I ran into Paul at the café, and he told me that the cat was actually a kitten, and had been there awhile — long enough for rats, roaches or ants to strip the flesh from its tail and eat holes in its ears. It was emaciated, starving and dehydrated, and he doubted it would survive, but someone took pity on it and took it home anyway.
I tracked down the person who took the kitten home, because the incident really bothered me. I know we’ve got more feral cats than we know what to do with, but to leave an animal to die is beyond cruel. I was hoping the kitten survived, because it would make a heartwarming story, and hopefully teach a lesson to those who think it’s OK to abuse cats.
Well, the kitten didn’t survive, the Good Samaritan told me. She said it was so filthy and ant-infested that ants were still coming out of its ears long after she’d cleaned it up. Even with an IV line for the dehydration and feeding it by hand, it was too far gone. Although it gulped the food, the poor little thing only lasted a day or so. She added, with a catch in her voice, that although it had a miserable existence, she was happy that at least the last thing it knew was loving kindness.
Sadly, the story has a troubling postscript. The kitten was so hungry that it accidentally bit the finger of the girl who was feeding it. Our Good Samaritan recalled that fact after kitten was already buried, and became worried about rabies. She dug the kitten up and had it tested, but unfortunately, the results were “inconclusive.” That’s not good enough with rabies. The girl had to undergo rabies treatments as a precaution.
Wonder if the person who left that trap in the drain would step forward and reimburse the girl for her medical expenses?
As for the trap, Animal Control did follow up and said the trap left in that storm drain was not theirs. When they leave traps, they’re checked every day. So, we apparently have a freelance trapper in the community who’s more interested in setting the traps than checking them. I wonder how many other storm drains and alleys in town have half-dead animals in them too.
Yes, there are too many feral cats here. But the cats aren’t the problem. People are the problem. And I don’t mean the amateur trapper. If you own a cat that is allowed outdoors and isn’t spayed or neutered, I mean you. You are the problem. You contributed to the pitiful death of that kitten in the storm drain. You contributed to a girl having to undergo rabies treatments.
Oh, but I don’t want to spay my cat! Kittens are so cute! I want my children to see the beauty of nature!
Really. Are they cute when they’re starving to death, covered in ants? How about showing your children the natural beauty of rats stripping a kitten’s tail down to the skeleton while it cries out piteously? How about teaching your children that this is what happens when people don’t take responsibility for their pets.
As for our local cat-trapper, after having him undergo rabies treatment just for fun, I’d love to leave him trapped in a storm drain for a couple weeks too, so he’ll understand what it feels like to be helpless, hungry, thirsty, cold, lonely and frightened, and your life’s force seeping away as ants and rats gnaw your flesh.
Yes, jerkwad, cats can feel those things. Even feral ones. And, just in case he survives this, I’d next have him neutered, because he shouldn’t be breeding either.