Sparkles, Who Was Forced to Pay the Ultimate Price for Belonging to the World's Most Abused Species, Tops the List of the Most Memorable Cats of 2008
"One is permitted to assume an attitude of placid indifference in the matter of elephants, cockatoos, H.G. Wells, Sweden, Puccini, and even Mormonism, but in the matter of cats it seems necessary to take a firm stand. The cat himself insists upon this; he invariably inspires strong feelings. He is, indeed, the only animal who does. From his admirers he evokes an intense adoration which usually finds an outlet in exaggerated expression...But so magnetic an animal is bound to repel when he does not fascinate, and those who hate the cat hate him with a malignity which, I think, only snakes in the animal kingdom provoke to an equal degree."
-- Carl Van Vechten, The Tiger in the House
The recently concluded year was another eventful one in the cat wars. There were a few success stories, such as those involving Tinkerbelle, Tama, Roosevelt, and Caloo. Cats such as Emmy, Bonny, Janosch, Ginger, Georgia, and Ronaldo had narrow escapes but Malli was not nearly so fortunate. It also was the year that the world said good-bye to the beloved and respected Scarlett. Above all, 2008 will be remembered for the numerous despicable acts of abysmal cruelty that were committed against Sparkles, Trooper, Arwen, Chopper, Elmo, and Freeway.
So, without further ado, here they are: the eighteen most memorable cats of 2008. For previous year-end roundups, see Cat Defender posts of December 21, 2006 and December 25, 2007 entitled, respectively, Heroes and Victims: Sixteen Special Cats to Remember from the Year 2006 and Survivors and Adventurers: Fifteen Wonderful Cats to Remember from the Year 2007.
1.) Sparkles. Irish Cat Is Killed by a Firecracker Set Off in Her Ear.
Of all the heartbreaking, sickening, and disgusting stories to come out of last year the premeditated murder of a white cat named Sparkles from Arklow stands out from the remainder. Despite losing her left ear, hearing, and the back of her head to a firecracker, it initially looked like she was going to live.
She eventually was cleared to leave the hospital and to go home to her new family. The seizures and infections that had racked her tiny body from the outset proved to be unrelenting, however, and she was euthanized six weeks later. The horrific pain that she must have gone through brings tears to the eyes. Worst still, because the police in Wicklow County steadfastly refuse to take crimes against cats seriously, her murderer is still walking the mean streets of Arklow. (See Cat Defender posts of November 20, 2008 and January 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Trusting Domestic Cat Has Her Left Ear Blown Off with a Firecracker by Cretins Outside an Irish Bar" and "Disoriented and Racked with Excruciating Pain, Seizures, and Infections, Sparkles Loses Her Long Struggle to Live.")
2.) Tinkerbelle. Death Row Feline Gets a Long-Distance Reprieve.
Pretty as a picture, four-year-old Tinkerbelle was on death row at the SPCA's notorious slaughterhouse in Lakeland, Florida. At the last minute a telephone call came through from Sue Watts in Birmingham and a reprieve was granted. Following an outlay of $3,000, Tinkerbelle flew off into the wide blue yonder on August 28th in order to begin a new life in England. Because of Old Blighty's ludicrous quarantine laws, she is still in jail and will be until March but at least Watts is able to visit her.
The unlikely duo's paths crossed in late July when Watts was in the States to attend the wedding of one of her nieces in Davenport. Although she erred grievously in dumping Tinkerbelle at the SPCA before returning home, she now has atoned for that near-fatal mistake. "This cat struck up a relationship while we were there and we fell in love with it. So, it's the cat we want to provide a home for," is how she explained the rationale behind the long-distance adoption. Moral of the story: although it likes to play hide and seek, love is real and it can, on occasions, move mountains. (See Cat Defender post of September 4, 2008 entitled "Tinkerbelle Is Freed from Death Row and Flown to Safety in England Capping Off a Storybook Ending to Her Travails in Florida.")
3.) Emmy. English Cat Is Locked in a Storage Shed for Nine Weeks.
In October of 2007, a ten-year-old tuxedo cat named Emmy from Dame Agatha's old haunt
of Torquay in Devon became trapped inside an outdoor storage shed where she was forced to remain for nine weeks without either food or water. Rescuers theorize that she survived by licking up condensation that had accumulated on the shed's windows.
The trying ordeal left her with, quite understandably, a fear of both tight places and of being left alone. She also initially was having difficulty jumping due to atrophy that had developed in her legs.
Adding insult to injury, her owners had moved into a new house during the interim and no longer wanted her. At last report she was still at a shelter and looking for a new home. (See Cat Defender post of January 23, 2008 entitled "Emmy Survives Being Locked in an Outdoor Storage Shed for Nine Weeks Without Either Food or Water.")
4.) Tama. Tortoiseshell Turns Around Money-Losing Rail Line.
The Wakayama Electric Railway's Kishigawa Line in western Japan was hemorrhaging red ink like a faulty fountain pen and losing passengers by the droves. That was when management hit upon the brilliant idea of appointing a nine-year-old tortoiseshell named Tama that hung around the Wakayama terminal as its stationmaster.
Since her appointment, ridership has soared by more than ten per cent and the railroad is back in the black. As for Tama, she has been rewarded with a medallion and a cap as well as a hefty increase in salary, i.e., cat food. Books have been written about her and she has been featured in a documentary film. She also has an entry devoted to her on Wikipedia and Tama merchandise is selling like hot cakes.
In addition to overseeing operations, she spends a good deal of her time posing for photographs with tourists and other well-wishers. "She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place," Yoshiko Yamaki, a spokesman for the railroad, said last year. (See Cat Defender post of June 2, 2008 entitled "Ridership Soars as Tama Takes Over as a Stationmaster on Money-Losing Commuter Train Line.")
5.) Trooper. Kitten Dies after Being Tossed from a Speeding Auto.
In still yet another heartbreaking story involving abominable cruelty, an eight-week-old, hazel-eyed black and white kitten named Trooper died last summer as the result of injuries that he sustained on July 31st when he was tossed from a speeding automobile on Route 168 South near the Virginia and North Carolina border. Rescued by kindhearted Michele Laney of Moyock, he was rushed to Mount Pleasant Veterinary Clinic in Chesapeake where he was treated for a broken leg and abrasions to his face.
His prognosis was good and Laney was excited about the prospect of being able to take him home to live with her. On August 14th, however, his lungs collapsed and kidneys failed. Emergency surgery was performed in order to install a catheter but he died on the operating table. The veterinarians theorize that he may have either sustained internal injuries that did not show up on the initial x-rays or that his body was simply too young to cope with the extent of the injuries that he sustained.
Whatever the reason, there cannot be any disputing that his death broke not only Laney's heart but those belonging to his care-givers as well. (See Cat Defender post of August 28, 2008 entitled "In Memoriam: Trooper Survives Being Thrown from a Speeding Automobile Only to Later Die on the Operating Table.")
6.) Bonny. German Cat Is Entombed Underneath a Bathtub.
The scrapes that cats manage to get themselves into and, occasionally, out of never cease to amaze. A good case in point is a Persian-mix named Bonny that belongs to Monika Hoppert of Stadthagen, Niedersachsen.
Following a plumbing rupture in her building in June, Hoppert left the door to her flat ajar so as to allow the carpeting to dry out. Unbeknownst to her, Bonny slipped out and took refuge underneath the bathtub in a neighbor's apartment.
Unfortunately for her, workmen failed to detect her presence and proceeded to tile over her escape route. The neighbor heard her meowing one day in August while showering and a rescue was mounted. Too weak to even stand, Bonny's weight had plummeted from thirteen to four pounds.
She was in such sad shape in fact that the attending veterinarian wanted to euthanize her. Being a tough-minded German, Hoppert was not about to stand for any such drivel and instead took Bonny home and nursed her back to health by her lonesome.
Ironically, it was precisely the faulty plumbing that almost cost Bonny her life that ended up being her savior in that it was only through the consumption of water that had leaked from the tub that she was able to have survived. (See Cat Defender post of September 8, 2008 entitled "Bonny Is Rescued at the Last Minute after Spending Seven Weeks Entombed Underneath a Bathtub.")
7.) Janosch. German Cat Is Accidentally Sent Through the Post.
One-year-old Janosch from Rottach-Egern in Bayern crawled into a shipping crate at a neighbor's house last June and was accidentally sealed up and sent through the post to Dorsten in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Fortunately for him, an alert postal employee noticed that something was alive and moving inside the crate and he was freed twenty-four hours later.
Because of her busy work schedule, his forty-four-year-old owner, Gitti Rauch, was unable to immediately go and collect him and this necessitated his spending the next twenty-seven days in a shelter. All totaled, Janosch's misadventures wound up costing her $440 in shelter fees and transportation expenses.
"Du bist eine teure Katze!" she chided Janosch once they were happily reunited. All kidding aside, she was overjoyed to have him back. "Aber das war's mir wert, wir sind froh, dass er wieder da ist," she added. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2008 entitled "Janosch Survives Being Sent Through the Post from Bayern to the Rhineland.")
8.) Arwen. Florida Cat Is Murdered with a Bow and Arrow.
A black and white cat named Arwen from New Port Richey was shot through the abdomen with an arrow outfitted with razor blades on April 28th. She wandered around town for several days in what must have been horrific pain until she was discovered on May 1st and rushed to Geoffrey Adams' surgery.
By that time her left front leg had become so infected that it had to be amputated. She was given a blood transfusion, placed in an incubator, intravenous fluids were administered, and a feeding tube was inserted. She also was treated with antibiotics and painkillers and Adams believed that she was going to live.
Despite his dedication, generosity, and Herculean efforts, Arwen died unexpectedly on May 4th. "She fought hard while she was with us, so we did not give up on her," he said immediately after her death. As is the case in just about all feline murders, Arwen's killer remains at large due a lack of interest on the part of the New Port Richey Police in bringing either him or her to justice. (See Cat Defender post of May 13, 2008 entitled "Just When It Appeared That She Was Going to Make It, Arwen Dies Suddenly after Being Shot in the Abdomen with a Barbed Arrow.")
9.) Chopper. Kitten Is Divested of His Fur and Left in the Cold.
A twelve-week-old orange kitten named Chopper was shaved from head to tail and left to die in the Ontario cold in November. His abuser also did such a mean job of shaving that the kitten was left with cuts all over his tiny body.
Luckily for him, he was rescued in the nick of time and turned over to the Ontario SPCA where upon examination it was determined that he additionally was suffering from severe malnutrition, a respiratory infection, fleas, worms, and ear mites. "He was in rough shape...we didn't know if he'd make it," Dave Wilson of the SPCA said at the time. "He was probably just trying to survive on the street and somebody did this to him."
Despite long odds against him, he nevertheless did recover and, just as importantly, his days as a street cat are history in that he now has a new home. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2008 entitled "Shaved from Head to Tail and Left to Freeze to Death in the Ontario Cold, Chopper Is Saved at the Last Minute.")
10.) Malli. Cat Dies after Trip from Malaysia.
She was born in a shipping crate sometime around Christmas of 2007. On February 4th, she and her mother and siblings were loaded aboard a ship in Johor Bahru where she was destined to remain without either food or water for the next thirty-two days until she arrived at Samsel Supply Company in Cleveland on March 7th.
The twelve-week-old black and white kitten survived but her mother and siblings died en route. She was taken into custody by the Cleveland Animal Protective League where she was nursed back to health. She later was placed in foster care as a prelude to her anticipated adoption by an employee of Samsel.
Just when it appeared that there was going to be a storybook ending to her miseries, she died unexpectedly on March 22nd of possibly either a congenital defect or a compromised immune system. (See Cat Defender posts of March 21, 2008 and April 25, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Malli Survives a Thirty-Two Day Voyage from Johor Bahru to Cleveland Trapped Inside a Shipping Crate" and "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care.")
11.) Scarlett. Heroic Mother Cat Is Killed Off by Her Owner.
She always will be remembered for the daring rescue of her five, four-week-old kittens from a burning garage in Brooklyn back in 1996. In addition to her heroics, Scarlett was a survivor who spent the remainder of her life handicapped and in pain. For instance, not only were the tips of her ears and blotches of her fur burned off in the inferno but also her eyelids. That necessitated that her pupils had to be medicated several times a day in order to keep them moist.
Suffering from lymphoma, kidney failure, a heart murmur, Hyperthyroidism, and bad teeth, guardian Karen Wellen elected to have her killed off on October 11th in spite of the fact that she still had a hearty appetite. The good news is that four of her kittens were still alive at last report.
Even in death she remains an inspiration to cat-lovers everywhere. She will not soon be forgotten. (See Cat Defender posts of October 27, 2008 and September 15, 2005 entitled, respectively, "Loved and Admired All Over the World, Feline Heroine Scarlett Is Killed Off by Her Owner after She Becomes Ill" and "Scarlett, the Cat Who Saved Her Kittens from a Burning Building in 1996, Is Still Alive on Long Island.")
12.) Elmo. Beloved Persian Is Executed by a Cop.
A ten-year-old Persian named Elmo belonging to Roger Oldaker of Cecil, Pennsylvania was trapped and summarily executed on the spot by a local police officer on March 22nd. Acting upon a complaint filed by an unidentified cat-hating neighbor, the policeman claimed that he was justified in killing Elmo because he was running loose like a stray and not wearing a collar.
The readily observable facts paint an entirely different picture, however. For starters, Elmo was an expensive Persian and a healthy and well-groomed one at that. Secondly, the fact that he did not flee when the cop approached was another strong indication that he was a domesticated cat.
Oddly enough, it was his domestication that ultimately cost him his life. "He just didn't know where to run," a distraught Oldaker later said. "Another cat ran away, and the policeman said if my cat would have run, he would have let him go." (See Cat Defender post of March 31, 2008 entitled "Cecil, Pennsylvania Police Officer Summarily Executes Family's Beloved Ten-Year-Old Persian, Elmo.")
13.) Roosevelt. Stray Tomcat Finds a Home and a Mission.
Nobody seems to know where he came from; he simply wandered onto the spacious grounds of Lake Quinault Lodge on the coast of Washington State in the spring of 2007. It did not take him long, however, to win over the hearts of both staffers and guests and to become an indispensable part of the operation in the process.
He now wears many hats. He is the lodge's mascot, concierge, and mouser but, above all, he is a beloved companion of both employees and tourists. He frequently accompanies guests on hikes through Olympia National Park and staffers compete with each other in order to spend their breaks with him. After his busy days have ended, he can be found most evenings reclining in his favorite chair in front of the fireplace in the inn's cozy lounge.
Not content with merely soaking up the good life, he is busy helping to raise money not only for a proposed no-kill shelter in Aberdeen but also to buy food for the area's homeless cats and dogs. (See Cat Defender post of January 7, 2008 entitled "Roosevelt, Who Has Brightened the Lives of So Many Vacationers, Now Sets His Sights on Saving Other Homeless Cats and Dogs.")
14.) Ginger. Cat Survives Trip from China to England.
A male cat named Ginger survived a five-week, sixty-five-hundred-mile voyage from Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province to Nottinghamshire last summer trapped inside a consignment of textiles. When he was discovered by employees of Toray Textiles in late July, Ginger was famished and dehydrated but otherwise unharmed.
Like all foreign cats arriving in Angleterre, he immediately was sentenced to six-months in quarantine and should be getting out just about now. Luckily for him, Toray generously stepped forward and agreed to foot $2,800 of his $3,200 quarantine fee. On top of that, employee Deborah Ford has consented to provide him with a home. (See Cat Defender post of August 11, 2008 entitled "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire.")
15.) Caloo. New Jersey Cat Lands a Job in Politics.
Caloo, a four-month-old black, brown, and white cat with strikingly beautiful green eyes, moseyed unannounced into Borough Hall in Carlstadt back in August. She promptly was taken into custody like a convicted felon on the lam and given an appointment with the hangman.
That was when borough administrator Jane Fontana came to her rescue and convinced the borough council to adopt her as "The Carlstadt Cat." Caloo now spends weekdays in Fontana's office and weekends at her residence.
In addition to regularly attending meetings and generally trying to keep the politicians on the straight and narrow, she enjoys watching paper being printed and chasing computer mice. Like Tripod in Natchez and Bootsie in El Cerrito, Caloo is living proof that cats have a future in politics. (See Cat Defender posts of September 22, 2008, November 28, 2008, and March 20, 2007 entitled, respectively, "New Jersey at Long Last Has at Least One Honest Public Servant and Her Name Is Caloo from Carlstadt," "Natchez Politicians Pause to Remember Tripod on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Death" and "El Cerrito's Bureaucrats Distinguish Themselves by Showing Compassion for a Waif Known as Bootsie.")
16.) Georgia. Bronx Moggy Survives Twenty-Five Days in Subway.
Given the fact that navigating New York City's labyrinthine subway system is a daunting enough task for most humans, it must have been positively terrifying for a seven-month-old black cat from the Bronx named Georgia who spent twenty-five nerve-racking days lost deep within its innards during January and February. While en route to the veterinarian, Georgia somehow managed to escape from her cage while her owner, Bronx librarian Ashley Phillips, was waiting for the IRT at Fifty-Ninth Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
The tragic story instantaneously became fodder for the city's tabloids but it was just as quickly forgotten as soon as all hope for a successful rescue faded. Then, like un coup du ciel, Georgia was located and rescued on February 16th thanks to the combined efforts of Consolidated Edison, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and Transit Police. With the exception of a broken leg and a scratch on her nose, Georgia came through her rough ordeal in better shape than anyone could have hoped. She was, however, dehydrated and considerably skinnier.
"I'm still in shock," Phillips later said of the rescue. "I kind of gave up hope that they'd find her." Quite obviously, miracles occur underground in New York City as well as on the Hudson. (See Cat Defender post of March 7, 2008 entitled "Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound after Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York City Subway System.")
17.) Ronaldo. Bounty Is Placed on Tiny Kitten's Head.
Ronaldo was only ten-days-old when he arrived in a shipping crate abroad a lorry at Matalan's depot in Corby, Northamptonshire during the first week of August. That did not deter predatory quarantine officials, however, from placing a $3,200 bounty on his head.
Fortunately for the Portuguese kitten, the clothing retailer magnanimously agreed to ransom his life. "We decided to donate the full amount because the kitten was in one of our depots and it has touched everyone in the office," spokeswoman Cathy Hughes said. "They were all chuffed to bits to be able to help him." (See Cat Defender post of August 18, 2008 entitled "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head.")
18.) Freeway. Orange Tabby Survives Being Thrown from a Truck.
"All of a sudden, I see this cat flying in the air...I was devastated when I saw him. The poor thing bounced as high as my truck." That was how volunteer animal rescuer Catherine Barton described the tossing of an orange tabby named Freeway from a speeding gray pickup truck on I-95 near Stuart, Florida on Boxing Day of 2007.
She immediately pulled over and scooped up Freeway and rushed him to veterinarian Joel Rossen's mobile surgery where he was treated for abrasions to his face, nose, and ears as well as a broken tooth. Unlike Trooper, Freeway was able to survive this cowardly and despicable act of feline cruelty. (See Cat Defender post of January 14, 2008 entitled "Freeway Miraculously Survives Being Tossed Out the Window of a Truck on Busy I-95 in South Florida.")
Photos: Belfast Telegraph (Sparkles), Fox-13 of Tampa (Tinkerbelle), BBC (Emmy and Ginger), China Daily (Tama), Brian Clark of Hampton Roads TV (Trooper), Denis Lochte of the Schaumburger Nachrichten (Bonny and Monika Hoppert), Theo Klein of Bild (Janosch and Gitti Rauch), WTSP-TV of St. Petersburg (Arwen), Erica Bajer of The Chatham Daily News (Chopper and Kelly Spero of the Ontario SPCA), Steve Trueman of the Cleveland Animal Protective League (Malli), North Shore Animal League (Scarlett), Roger Oldaker (Elmo), David Sandler of The Daily World of Aberdeen (Roosevelt), Alexis Tarrazi, The Leader of Lyndhurst (Caloo), Ashley Phillips (Georgia), Alison Bagley of the Kettering Evening Telegraph (Ronaldo), and Deborah Silver of the Vero Beach Press Journal (Freeway and Joel Rossen).