Butterscotch Is Finally Freed from a Bug Trap but His Deliverance Has Come at an Awfully High Price that He Will Be Repaying for the Remainder of His Days
|Butterscotch, His Head Still Stuck in a Bug Trap, Pauses on a Fence|
"Eighteen days to capture a cat was...ridiculous. The challenges and threats we faced were beyond bizarre. The nightmare (yes, nightmare) is over."
-- Brandon Area Lost Animals
Some cats cannot seem to win no matter how hard they try. As a consequence, misfortune is the only traveling companion that they ever are destined to know and although they occasionally may be able to break free from its merciless shackles it is always waiting patiently for them just around the next corner like their shadows on a sunny day.
That pretty much sums up the rotten hand of cards that The Fates have doled out to a dashing orange and white tom about town named Butterscotch from Brandon in Manitoba. His first stroke of miserable luck occurred when he was cruelly abandoned to fend for himself in the street.
No one seems to know either where he came from or how long he had been homeless. Press reports likewise have not even ventured to so much as hazard a guess as to his age.
His second piece of rotten luck occurred when he accidentally got his head stuck inside a green and red plastic bug trap that was thirty centimeters in length and between ten and fifteen centimeters wide. It is not even known exactly when he became ensnared in the device.
All that has been revealed so far is that he first was spotted in the south end of town on July 23rd with the contraption on his head by a woman identified only as Colleen. Because of the color of his fur, she christened him Butterscotch and then notified Brandon Area Lost Animals (BALA).
What then followed was an eighteen-day race against the clock jointly undertaken by BALA and Brandon Animal Control in order to trap the cat and remove the device before he came to harm. Unlike so many unfortunate cats who become trapped in glue traps, jars, and discarded cans, Butterscotch apparently never was in any real danger of succumbing to either starvation or dehydration because he at least was able to both eat and drink even with the trap on his head.
It did however significantly impair his vision and, possibly, even his sense of smell and that in turn left him vulnerable to any human and animal predators intent upon doing him harm. The trap itself also was breaking apart and that presented other dangers as well.
"The problem was the plastic ring," veterinarian Jennifer Beckwith of the Grand Valley Animal Clinic (GVAC) in Brandon later explained to the Winnipeg Free Press in the second of two articles dated August 9th. (See "Butterscotch the Cat Rescued after Two and a Half Weeks, 'Recovering Well'.") "He'd stuck his head through the top of it and had managed to basically break it apart, but the ring was still hanging off his neck. Our big concern was he could have been hung up on something and strangled himself."
Without knowing how badly the trap itself had deteriorated, it is impossible to speculate on the likelihood of that happening. It is known, however, that cats who snag both conventional and elastic collars on foreign objects can suffer simply horrific injuries.
Even getting so much as a paw entangled in one of those old-fashioned identification devices can lead to disastrous consequences. (See Cat Defender posts of June 22, 2010 and May 28, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Hobson Is Forced to Wander Around Yorkshire for Months Trapped in an Elastic Collar That Steadily Was Eating Away at His Shoulder and Leg" and "Collars Turns into Death Traps for Trooper and Que but Both Are Rescued at the Eleventh Hour.")
Equipped with humane traps that were camouflaged with leaves, grass, and twigs, night vision cameras, and electronic monitors that were set up outside the traps, Toni Gramiak of BALA and about a dozen dedicated volunteers then organized a campaign to trap Butterscotch. The use of tranquilizers and nets was ruled out from the very outset as being far too dangerous.
The trappers relied upon both electronic surveillance data and sightings reported by the general public in order to determine where best to place their camouflaged traps. "We're interested in his path of travel, his behavior," Gramiak explained to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first of two articles dated August 9th. (See "To Catch a Cat: Inside the Bizarre Search for Brandon's Butterscotch.") "We need to find a spot where he's calm."
Normally, corralling Butterscotch would not have posed much of a challenge to an experienced trapper like Gramiak but it did not take long for an unidentified saboteur to throw a monkey wrench into her meticulously laid plans. Described only as a south Brandon male in either his late forties or early fifties, the subversive began his obstructionist activities by damaging and overturning her traps. He followed that up by spreading lawn clippings in front of the traps, presumably to negate the aromatic smell of the tuna juice, catnip, and pheromones that she had laid down as bait.
He additionally attempted to disrupt the trapping exercise by, inter alia, banging on his fence, churning up a ruckus with a pressurized water hose, turning on his outside lights and cameras, and focusing a floodlight on Gramiak's vehicle. "He started blatantly sabotaging right in front of me," she futilely complained to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first article dated August 9th.
|Toni Gramiak and Volunteer Sandy Brown with a Camouflaged Trap|
Although the police were called in on numerous occasions, they inexplicably never took any action against the culprit. If the venue had been England, he in all likelihood would have been issued an Anti-Social Behavior Order and then jailed if he had failed to comply with its stipulations.
The mere fact that he was able to get away scot-free with his obstructionist activities reveals just how little the authorities in Brandon value the lives of cats. By contrast, if he had been engaged in actively sabotaging the efforts of emergency personnel to save the life of either an adult or a child there can be little doubt that the police would have arrested him on the spot.
Although it is by no means one-hundred per cent clear, it does not appear that the individual was acting out of anything even remotely approaching a genuine concern for Butterscotch's well-being. If, for example, he had had reason to believe that BALA and Animal Control were planning on harming him in any way his actions would have been completely justified because saving an innocent life trumps all political and legal concerns to the contrary.
That critical assessment of his motivations is based upon the conspicuous absence of anything in press reports that would tend to indicate that he ever attempted to come to Butterscotch's aid by either befriending him in any manner or leaving out food for him. Additionally, he has racked up quite a reputation over the years as being a prototypical neighbor from Hell.
For example, he has been accused of attacking residents' automobiles with air gun pellets, eggs, and canine excrement. He even has been accused of scattering nails in their driveways so as to puncture their tires.
Unlike the unidentified miscreant in Elsdorf, Nordrhein Westfalen, who back in 2009 was caught flagrante delicto putting out a Nagelbrett in order to intentionally injure Manuela Lisken's cat, this is apparently the first time that he has been caught venting his spleen on a cat. It therefore is difficult to say if he is an ailurophobe as well as a sociopath. (See Cat Defender post of June 10, 2010 entitled "Cat-Hating Gardener in Nordrhein Westfalen Is Told by the Authorities to Remove a Board of Nails from His Yard.")
"It goes on and on," is how one of his unidentified neighbors characterized his aberrant behavior to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first August 9th article cited supra.
"Nobody will look at him," another neighbor who also elected to hide behind the cloak of anonymity added in the same article. "Who wants all that (presumably, trouble)?"
The man quite obviously has his neighbors buffaloed and that in turn is likely to only embolden him to commit even more egregious affronts against them and their properties. Even Gramiak and her assistants were caught off guard by his obstructionist activities.
"Little did we know that our biggest challenge wasn't just going to be that he (Butterscotch) had his face covered affecting his sense of smell and sight," she confessed to the Winnipeg Free Press in the second article dated August 9th.
She soon got over her initial consternation, however, and if his behavior accomplished anything it served only to strengthen her resolve. "When I have to catch an animal, it's a job I have to do," she declared to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first article dated August 9th. "It's something you can't walk away from. Not a cat that's in distress like this one. The cat has to be captured."
So, in spite of all the daunting challenges, Gramiak and her team of volunteers persevered. "It's frustrating. It's heartbreaking. It's a challenge," volunteer Laurie Unruh admitted to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first August 9th article. "All you want to do is to do the best for this cat."
Although BALA did receive widespread support from the community for its efforts on behalf of Butterscotch, that did not deter some residents from maligning both it and the volunteers. "Some people say we're nuts. It's just a cat," kindhearted volunteer and mental health worker Jo-ann (sic) Pasklivich-Holder told the Winnipeg Free Press in the first article dated August 9th. "To each his own. Everybody has a right to choose a cause. I'd Help anybody in distress, people or animals."
The doggedness of their sworn enemy did, however, force Gramiak and the volunteers to not only amend their strategies but, above all, to proceed with extreme caution at all times. "A lot of the info we had we weren't putting out there because we do believe he was monitoring the (news) sites," Gramiak later told the Winnipeg Free Press in the second August 9th article. "He was following, he was finding us, there were mysterious things going on."
|Sandy Brown Monitoring the Traps Electronically|
In particular, although Gramiak knew early on that Butterscotch was able to eat and drink, she did not divulge that information to the public out of a fear that either the saboteur or someone else would attempt to poison him. That information also could have been used in order to have lured him into a private snare for all sorts of other nefarious purposes.
The tug-of-war that developed between BALA and the saboteur was the third misfortune to befall Butterscotch. Although he had been doing the very best that he could in order to survive on his own and under extremely trying circumstances, he now found himself branded as an outlaw and hounded both night and day on two different fronts.
Caught in the crossfire, he was only a heartbeat away from disaster and it arrived with a vengeance on the evening of August 7th when he came within an eyelash of being crushed to death underneath the wheels of a trucker while crossing the street. Although it is difficult to say if Gramiak's aggressive trapping regimen was in any way to blame for the incident, that is a distinct possibility.
Although to her credit she did attempt in vain to get the trucker to stop, the incident not only left her badly shaken but it also vividly drove home to her just how dangerous a game she was playing. "To watch and know I can do nothing for him...it's hard," she afterwards admitted to the Winnipeg Free Press in the first August 9th article. "If he got hit by a car right in front of me..."
Working as she does in the animal protection movement, Gramiak of all people should be acutely aware that motor vehicles do not kill cats and other animals. Au contraire, it is precisely motorists that are to blame and they commit their dastardly deeds intentionally and with impunity.
All the sleepless nights spent by Gramiak and the volunteers finally paid off at 7 a.m. on August 9th when Butterscotch unwittingly strolled into one of their camouflaged traps. The winning combination of various lures that had been tried throughout this exercise turned out to be tuna, two kinds of cat food, and catnip. A trail of tuna juice that led up the path to the trap also proved to be simply too enticing for him to ignore.
With the successful denouement of their trapping campaign, everyone associated with the effort finally was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. "Eighteen days to capture a cat was...ridiculous," BALA stated August 10th in an untitled article posted on its Facebook page. "The challenges and threats we faced were beyond bizarre. The nightmare (yes, nightmare) is over."
While that doubtlessly was true as far as BALA and Animal Control were concerned, Butterscotch's latest nightmare was just beginning and that constituted his fourth stroke of misfortune. This latest installment of misery began when he was taken into custody by Animal Control and transported to GVAC where he was anesthetized by Beckwith and the trap removed. While she was at it, she vaccinated him for rabies, distemper, and leukemia and gave him a good dousing for fleas, worms, and mites.
Despite being severely handicapped by the presence of the bug trap, he was neither emaciated nor dehydrated. Best of all, he tested negative for both FIV and FeLv.
"He's recovering well from the ordeal," the practitioner told the Winnipeg Free Press in the second article dated August 9th. "He's of course a little bit lighter now that he doesn't have a bug trap on his head."
As soon as he had recovered from the anesthesia, Butterscotch was remanded to the city pound for three days. That was necessitated by the twin realities that no one ever came forward to reclaim him and he was neither wearing a collar, tattooed, nor carrying around inside of him an implanted microchip.
Following that terrifying ordeal, he next was sloughed off onto Funds for Furry Friends where he was placed in foster care so that he could be socialized for eventual adoption. Not surprisingly after have been cruelly robbed of his freedom and bandied about like a Flying Dutchman, Butterscotch initially found the confinement to be a harrowing experience.
"For the first week in foster care, this traumatized kitty was frozen in fear," BALA stated August 25th in an untitled article posted on its Facebook page. "He would lash out at anything that startled him, and had an intense fear of hands and growled if any human got dangerously close to him."
|Butterscotch Tried to Run but He Could Not Get Rid of the Bug Trap|
Through the judicious use of treats, patience, and chemicals such as Feliway Diffuser, Feliway Spray, and Pet Naturals Calming Formula for Cats, Butterscotch's foster mother finally was able to wear down his resistance. BALA described the process as follows in the August 25th article:
"With time, his safe distance was down to inches. His need for affection and his fear of hands created a dilemma. To get that needed first human contact, treats and kibble were placed under the human's leg. Butterscotch pushed his head in for the food and he melted. He collapsed and purred, rubbing his body against his foster mom's."As wonderful as all of that may appear au premier coup d'oeil, it does not in any way alter the sobering reality that it, like everything else heretofore in Butterscotch's short life, is destined to be transitory. That is because it is unlikely that his foster mother is going to adopt him and that in turns means that he is going to be not only uprooted again but, far more importantly, deprived of the care of the one person that he has come to trust.
Even placing him in the right home is not going to be an easy task. "It's got to be the perfect family because a lot of people might want him just because he's Butterscotch," Gramiak told the Winnipeg Free Press in the second August 9th article.
"Obviously, he's become famous," she candidly acknowledged earlier in the first Winnipeg Free Press article dated August 9th. "A cat wearing a hat."
To hear BALA tell it, however, Butterscotch's socialization is a done deal and his future as a pet cat is assured. In the August 25th Facebook article the organization gushed:
"Two weeks after coming into care, Butterscotch revealed his true self. He is a playful big kitten who loves to play fetch for treats. He loves human affection, rolls around on his trusted human's lap and he gives a lot of purrful head bumps."That possibly could be the case but a far more likely scenario is that he has succumbed to the Stockholm Syndrome. After all, he is in jail and has to not only sing for his supper but his survival as well.
Much more importantly, it quite obviously was not necessary to anesthetize him in order to either cut off the plastic bug trap or to vaccinate him. Both BALA and Beckwith had a far more sinister motive in mind when they chose that course of action.
In particular, they were unable to resist the overpowering temptation to sterilize him and that was the fifth stroke of bad luck to befall him. Although Gramiak simply could be a sterilization fanatic, it would appear that her marked disdain for his philandering played a role in her decision to have Beckwith put an abrupt end to his love life.
"It's quite the relationship. But I think he has other girlfriends she doesn't know about," she said of his courtship of one female in the first Winnipeg Free Press article dated August 9th. "He's such a Casanova."
If there is any validity to that assumption, that would put her thinking on a par with that of Debbie Schultz, a former vice president of the Key West SPCA, who nearly succeeded in sterilizing the world famous polydactyls at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum out of existence. In her case, it was a tom named Ivan whose street corner romantic escapades drove her over the edge and launched her on her ruinous ball-whacking campaign.
"I saw Ivan many times loose. Ivan is a very unneutered, very macho male cat, and in each case, he had one of the street cats pinned down," she indignantly complained back in December of 2006. "We have an ordinance that says a nuisance cat can be removed." (See Cat Defender post of January 9, 2007 entitled "Papa Hemingway's Polydactyl Cats Face New Threats from Both the USDA and Their Caretakers.")
Simply put, some individuals cannot abide the sight of any cat deriving so much as a moment of pleasure out of this vale of tears called life. The same blatant hypocrisy abounds in Anglo-American politics in that it is perfectly acceptable for various religious, ethnic, and racial groups to behave like the royal families of Europe by intermarrying for both profit and power but any randy old bugger who gets caught doing any unauthorized dipping in what is deemed to be an inappropriate honeypot is immediately pilloried.
That is not meant to imply that Butterscotch may not go on to have a longer, healthier, and even happier life as a castrated and domesticated tom than he would have had living on the mean streets of Brandon but that is far from being guaranteed. Just because a homeless cat is able to adjust to one situation does not necessarily mean that it will accept being uprooted and transferred to an entirely different living arrangement.
|Butterscotch's Fate Is Now Sealed|
That was the hard lesson that Joan Wiley of St. Catharines in Ontario learned firsthand earlier this spring when she unsuccessfully attempted to fob off on a friend a black and white tom with yellow eyes named Merlin that she had somewhat domesticated. For various reasons but principally owing to the bullying of another cat, the experiment turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and Merlin had to be returned to Wiley.
"My good intentions to find Merlin a loving permanent home had robbed him of the joy of life," she wrote in a guest column for The Globe and Mail of Toronto on July 6th. (See "For Merlin the Feral Cat, a Spell Indoors Was Hell.") "My main concern had been for his physical safety, but I badly miscued on his emotional needs."
At last report, Merlin had resumed his happy-go-lucky existence as a combination indoor and outdoor cat but primarily the latter. As for Wiley, her misadventures with him were not a total loss in that she apparently has learned a valuable lesson from her mistakes.
"My experience with Merlin reminded me again of the folly of making assumptions about the needs and lives of humans and non-humans alike, especially those who can't speak for themselves," she stated in The Globe and Mail article. "In this diverse world, we should proceed with extreme caution when we try to cram the proverbial square peg into the highly overrated and one-size-fits-all round hole."
It is nothing short of appalling that individuals such as Gramiak, Schultz, and others like them who work with cats are so blinded by ambition and besotted by dogma that they are totally incapable of recognizing the existence of individual circumstances, unique histories, different personalities, and varying needs. Such pigheadedness is, in and of itself, arguably the most egregious form of ailurophobia imaginable in that it serves only to perpetuate the naked abuse and exploitation of the species.
Furthermore, along with domestication and sterilization also come a myriad of additional concerns and responsibilities that whomever ultimately gains custody of Butterscotch is going to have to sooner or later address. In particular, such cats are prone to obesity, diabetes mellitus, and bone cancer.
If they are cooped up exclusively indoors, they never receive the exercise and mental stimulation that they require in order to stay both physically and psychologically fit. Plus, indoor environments are hazardous to their health. (See Cat Defender posts of August 22, 2007 and October 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Indoor Cats Are Dying from Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, and Various Toxins in the Home" and "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence.")
For Gramiak and others to ignore these concerns is nothing short of dishonest. Moreover, their attitude demonstrates an appalling disrespect for the nature, health, and happiness of cats.
In his 1922 seminal work, The Tiger in the House, Carl Van Vechten unriddled the sterilization conundrum as follows:
"But it has become the general custom, except for those who keep kings for breeding purposes, to alter these toms, so that they grow into large, affectionate, and lazy animals, who sleep a good deal, and are generally picturesque but not very active. These altered toms are generally the favorites as pets. Personally, I am more interested in cats who retain their natural fervor."Even in saying that much he misses the boat by a mile when he implies that unaltered toms cannot be gentle, loving, and extremely well mannered toward their owners. Also, some of them exhibit little or no interest in either the opposite sex or in roaming and as a consequence it is senseless to castrate them.
For better or worse, Butterscotch's fate was sealed the moment that he wandered into Gramiak's cleverly disguised trap and there is not anything that anyone from the general public can do for him now. Hopefully, he will be able to find a measure of contentment and happiness somewhere down the road but even that depends in large part upon what type of guardian that Funds for Furry Friends foists upon him.
The sad reality of the situation is that his life no longer belongs to him and that is the sixth and by far worst coup du sort to have befallen him. Given what is known about those diabolical monsters who strut around on two legs with their long noses poked high in the air and running off at the mouth, being forced to live down at heel, under the thumb, and according to their whims is the scariest fate that ever could happen to anyone, cat or individual.
Photos: Moggies (Butterscotch on a fence), Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press (Gramiak and Brown with trap, Brown watching the monitors, and Butterscotch on the run), and BALA (Butterscotch in a trap).