Feral Cats Save a Young Boy from Harm and Hunger on the Mean Streets of an Argentinian City
"The boy was lying at the bottom of a gutter. There were all these cats on top of him licking him because he was really dirty. When I walked over they became really protective and spat at me. They were keeping the boy warm while he slept."
-- Policewoman Alicia Lorena Lindgvist
A colony of eight feral cats has been credited with saving the life a young boy who last month was left to fend for himself on the streets of Posadas in the northeast corner of Argentina. Not only did the cats feed, warm, and groom him, but they also protected him from predators and other evildoers.
The unidentified boy was discovered by Alicia Lorena Lindgvist of the provincial police of Misiones as she was making her rounds in the Christ King section of the city. (See photos above of her and the boy.)
"The boy was lying at the bottom of a gutter. There were all these cats on top of him because he was really dirty," she related to the Daily Mail on December 20th. (See "Real-Life Mowgli Kept Alive on Freezing Streets by Wild Cats.") "When I walked over they became really protective and spat at me. They were keeping the boy warm while he slept."
Scraps of food brought to him by the cats also were discovered nearby. "The cats knew he was fragile and needed protecting," Lindgvist added.
The boy, who had been living with the cats for "several days," apparently became separated from his homeless father while the latter was collecting cardboard to sell. The man later told the police that cats always had been protective of his son.
The boy, whom the English tabloids have dubbed Mowgli in reference to the Indian boy raised in wolves in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, has been taken into protective custody by the police and no further information has been released about him. He does not appear, however, to be any worse for wear.
Hopefully, he at least by now has a roof over his head because the streets are not any place for either individuals or animals to live. If the impecunious are unable to afford shelter, it is the responsibility of the state to provide it.
As charming as the story may be, there are nevertheless several inconsistencies within it that need to be examined. First of all, press reports peg the lad's age at one year but from what can be seen of him in the photographs above he appears to be quite a bit older and able to walk. That at least would explain how he became separated from his father since it is rather difficult for an infant to crawl very far.
Secondly, despite the cats' heroics a spokesman for Thames Valley Animal Welfare in Berkshire has poured cold water on their altruism. "They would have viewed the baby as a big hot water bottle. Cats will cuddle up to anything to keep warm, even dogs," he told the Daily Mail in the article cited supra.
On that point both he and Lindgvist are playing fast and loose with the truth. Posadas enjoys a subtropical climate with a year-round average daily temperature of a very humid seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, the high today is expected to be eighty-six degrees with a low tonight of only sixty. Later in the week the thermometer is expected to approach the century mark.
Consequently, with nighttime lows ranging from between sixty and sixty-eight degrees neither the boy nor the cats were ever in any danger of freezing to death. They both may have gotten a little cool during the pre-dawn hours but that is all.
The spokesman did, however, grudgingly concede that the boy "could have been feeding off the scraps they (the cats) brought."
Regardless of whatever motive is assigned to their behavior, there is no denying that the nurturing instinct exists in all animals. In fact, it is not uncommon for cats and other animals to succor the offspring of unrelated species.
In addition to caring for motherless puppies, chickens, and other animals, cats are known to occasionally bring home dead mice for their guardians to have for dinner. Just because the majority of humans are selfish, greedy, and uncaring, it does not necessarily follow that the animals are equally morally deprived. (See Cat Defender post of May 22, 2008 entitled "Strange Bedfellows: Colorado Cat Named Gizmo and a Turtle Named Shelly Become the Best of Friends.")
In conclusion, the rescue of "Mowgli" is a telling rebuff to all individuals who look upon feral, stray, and homeless cats as little more than vermin to be eradicated. Not only do all cats have in inalienable right to live, but they also render invaluable services to mankind, such as in keeping the rodent population in check and, occasionally, coming to the aid of abandoned children.
It also is important to bear in mind that all cats who wind up on the streets do so through no fault of their own. "A good proportion of...free-roaming cats were once owned, or they are one generation removed from house pets," Susana Della Maddalena of PetSmart Charities told USA Today on May 6, 2008. (See "Compassion Often Eludes Feral Cats; Groups Out to Save Them.") "We don't think it's fair to exclude them from help."
Lastly, the mere fact that these feral cats were capable of bestowing compassion upon a member of an unrelated species demonstrates their superiority to all men and women who are totally incapable of reciprocating.
Photos: Misiones Police.