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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sweet Valley Mutilator Is Convicted of Piercing the Ears, Necks, and Tails of Tiny Kittens That She Later Sold on eBay

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you call right now, not only will you get a pierced and infected kitten -- oh there's more -- you'll also get a fourteen-gauge submission lead. And this is a fantastic thing. All of your neighbors will be jealous. They'll take that lead and poke it to the back of that cat's neck...You're walking the neighborhood with your cat. There's more! Oh, wait! If you call now, we can give you the actual tail that fell off of these cats."
-- Prosecutor David Pedri parodying Holly Crawford's eBay advertisement

On February 3rd, a jury in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, convicted the "Sweet Valley Mutilator" of one count of summary animal cruelty and one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Sadly, she was inexplicably exonerated on two additional charges of animal cruelty.

Thirty-five-year-old Holly Crawford of 71 Dobson Road in Ross Township, twenty-two kilometers west of Wilkes-Barre, had been charged with piercing the ears, necks, and tails of at least three two-month-old black kittens that weighed between two and three pounds apiece.

Jewelry also was inserted in their ears and rings in their docked tails. Perhaps most cruel of all, leashes were threaded through rings inserted in their tiny necks. (See photos above and below.)

Crawford is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31st by Judge Tina Polachek Gartley and although she could receive up to five years in jail, most likely she will escape with probation, a small fine, and a temporary ban on owning cats. Moreover, the dog grooming business that she operates out of her house, Pawside Parlor, may very well still be in business.

Her boyfriend and accomplice, thirty-seven-year-old William Blansett of 188 Gordon Road in Sweet Valley, was not charged because he allegedly only assisted her in peddling the so-called Gothic kittens and did not actually participate in the mutilations.

The case unfolded in December of 2008 after an unidentified party spotted a notice on eBay advertising "pure-black, tailless, pierced Gothic kittens" for $400 apiece. That individual then contacted PETA which promptly dispatched Amanda Kyle to Pawside Parlor to investigate.

That in turn led to Crawford's place of business being raided by agents from the SPCA of Luzerne County and the Pennsylvania State Police on December 17th. Press reports are somewhat contradictory but at least three kittens that had been pierced a total of ten times were seized.

Another kitten was found with its tail cut off while a fifth one was in the process of losing its thanks to rubber band that had been tightly wound around it. Unfortunately, by the time it was rescued its tail was too far gone in order to be saved and as a consequence had to be surgically removed by the SPCA.

"This is a first," Carol Morrison of the SPCA said at the time of the raid. "It's unbelievable anybody would do this to kittens." (See Cat Defender post of January 9, 2009 entitled "Pennsylvania Pet Groomer Is Caught Piercing the Ears, Necks, and Tails of Cats and Dogs and Then Peddling Them on eBay.")

From the outset of the two-day trial held in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, Crawford's attorney, John Pike, insisted that it was not illegal to mutilate cats. He even was able to dredge up an unidentified veterinarian who ludicrously testified that the kittens were not harmed by the piercings and that their condition was "eigentlich ganz gut." (See Krone of Wien, February 3, 2010, "Amerikanerin bot gepiercte Kaetzchen auf eBay an.")

That is not really all that surprising in light of the inveterate hatred that so many veterinarians harbor for homeless cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 16, 2006 entitled "Kansas City Vets Break Ranks with AVMA to Defend Cats Against Bird Advocates, Wildlife Proponents, and Exterminators.")

Their attitude toward domesticated cats is not much better in that some practitioners look upon them as little more than dupes for all the unnecessary and often harmful vaccinations that they administer. Premature killings and the tons of unsafe commercial cat food that they peddle on behalf of their corporate sponsors are two additional examples of their glaring lack of professional ethics. (See Cat Defender posts of March 12, 2009 and February 25, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned" and "Bess Twice Survives Attempts Made on Her Life Before Landing on All Four Paws at a Pub in Lincolnshire," and the Daily Mail, January 20, 2010, "Is the Pet Food You Are Serving Up Killing Your Four-Legged Friend and Making Your Vet Rich?")

The prosecution countered by calling to the stand veterinarian Melinda Merck in order to set the record straight. She then methodically proceeded to point out that the jewelry inserted in the kittens' ears not only damaged delicate cartilage but impaired their hearing by restricting their ability to train their sensitive ears in various directions in order to pinpoint sounds.

She also testified that the rings inserted in their tails and necks interfered with the kittens' balance and ability to jump in addition to leaving them prone to all sorts of infections, cancers, and nerve damage. Most telling of all, she scoffed at the defense's claim that the kittens did not suffer any pain. On the contrary, she declared that they suffered "hoellische Schmerzen."

Merck's expert testimony was buttressed by that of Kyle who related that Crawford had confided to her that the kittens sometimes further injured themselves by ripping out the piercings.

In his closing arguments to the jury, Deputy District Attorney David Pedri mocked the macabre nature of Crawford's unbridled cruelty and greed by declaring: "Ladies and gentlemen, if you call right now, not only will you get a pierced and infected kitten -- oh there's more -- you'll also get a fourteen-gauge submission lead. And this a fantastic thing. All of your neighbors will be jealous. They'll take that lead and poke it to the back of that cat's neck...You're walking the neighborhood with your cat. There's more! Oh, wait! If you call now, we can give you the actual tail that fell off of these cats." (See Citizens Voice of Wilkes-Barre, February 4, 2010, "Response to 'Gothic Kitten' Verdict.")

Like any good defense attorney, Pike maintained to the bitter end that his client never intended to harm the kittens. "It's the question of why did she do it. What was the intent? Not the end result," he declared to Citizens Voice.

Way back in 1791, Edmund Burke wrote that "those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never willingly abandon it" and those sentiments apply in spades to Crawford. For example, even in defeat she sounded more concerned about the loss of her livelihood than with any possible upcoming time in jail. "If it's part of my sentence that I can't work with animals anymore, that's just completely devastating," she told Citizens Voice.

That is nothing new as far as she is concerned in that she considers mutilating defenseless kittens as nothing more than a cheap and convenient way to turn a fast and easy buck. "My name is ruined, my reputation's ruined, (and) my business is ruined," she whined after she was formally indicted last year. (See Cat Defender post of February 26, 2009 entitled "Dog Groomer Who Sold Mutilated Gothic Kittens on the Internet Is Finally Identified and Ordered to Stand Trial.")

Even more shocking, there is absolutely nothing in the public record to suggest that Crawford ever has expressed a syllable of remorse over what she did to these kittens. Au contraire, she apparently stands by her initial disclosure that it is "neat" to mutilate kittens.

Martin Mersereau of PETA, who testified against Crawford, was pleased with the outcome. "This is a victory for these kittens, and it's a strong message to the public that cruelty to animals is no joke."

As for the unfortunate cats themselves, they remain in the custody of the SPCA. Although the piercings were removed and their wounds treated shortly after their seizure, they inexplicably have been held until the conclusion of the proceedings against Crawford.

That is both crazy and inhumane in that the kittens could not possibly have been of any evidentiary value to either the prosecution or the defense after the piercings were removed. It is even doubtful that they were brought into court and introduced into evidence.

Photographs of the kittens coupled with either written depositions or oral testimony from the arresting officers and attending veterinarian would have been more than sufficient. They accordingly should have been put up for adoption fifteen months ago.

Nevertheless, the SPCA finally has resolved to do the right thing by these horribly abused cats. "They are now completely in our care," the organization's Vince Sweeney told Citizens Voice in the article cited supra. "They'll be well taken care of, they'll be adopted. These are some cats that we can assure you are going to get homes."

Although the trial is now history, many questions remain unanswered. For instance, how long had Crawford been mutilating kittens? Also, how many kittens did she mutilate and what has happened to them?

Equally disturbing is the issue of exactly what types of individuals purchase mutilated kittens and for what purpose. It is conceivable that some individuals are attracted to the novelty of owning a so-called Gothic kitten just as other persons willingly shell out big bucks in order to own Savannahs, Toygers, Asheras, and other designer cats. (See Cat Defender posts of May 19, 2005, April 13, 2007, and February 19, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Savannahs: More Feline Cruelty Courtesy of the Capitalists and the Bourgeoisie," "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers," and "Asheras Are the Designer Chats du Jour Despite the Cruelties Inflicted During Their Hybridization.")

Far more sinister scenarios can be imagined, however, such as their being used in pornographic films, sadomasochistic rituals, and in the worship of the occult and other black arts. Regardless of the motivation, it is hard to believe that any of these kittens ever were treated humanely. (See Der Spiegel, February 25, 2010, "Satanisten sollen Katzen fuer Ritual getoetet haben.")

Worst still, it is likely that other feline mutilators are still in business. Nevertheless, kudos are in order all around for PETA, the SPCA of Luzerne County, and the Pennsylvania State Police for finally bringing the "Sweet Valley Mutilator" to justice.

Special thanks also are owed to Pedri for his spirited defense of kittens and cats. In an age where most prosecutors are content to turn a deaf ear to the suffering of defenseless animals he chose not to do so and this world is a far better place because of his actions.

On a somber note, the United States Supreme Court is expected to rule almost any day now in a case entitled United States v Stevens that a legislative ban on the trafficking in crush videos contravenes the First Amendment. Although these videos depict all sorts of horrific cruelty to animals, they are perhaps best known for a genre of films that feature naked women in stiletto heels stomping to death defenseless kittens and puppies.

Pedri and the jurors impaneled in Wilkes-Barre have shown the way forward toward a more humane society, but the right-wing moral degenerates who sit on the nation's top court are still living in the Dark Ages when it comes to the rights of animals. True to form, the slimy New York Times, National Public Radio, and just about every other media outlet and affiliated trade association in the country have filed amicus curiae briefs with the court in support of these videos.

Photos: Sky News and the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bess Twice Survives Attempts Made on Her Life Before Landing on All Four Paws at a Pub in Lincolnshire

"Bess has already used up two of her nine lives, but she's settled in now. She quickly got her paws under the bar, and she's ready to make her debut with the customers."
-- Matthew Walsh

The new year certainly got off to a disastrous start for an eight-week-old black and white kitten named Bess from Swinderby in Lincolnshire. In fact, it is somewhat of a miracle that she even made it through New Year's Day.

That was when she was stuffed into a carrier bag and cruelly dumped by the side of the road. Luckily, she was discovered by a man out walking his dog who freed her and promptly took her to a local veterinarian.

Instead of honoring the sanctity of all feline life by providing her with shelter and protection, this unidentified twenty-four karat fraud of the veterinary profession threatened to have her killed off if a home could not be procured for her. That was when Lady Luck shined her beam once more on Bess in the form of Matthew Walsh of The Bugle Horn Inn in nearby Bassingham who, upon hearing of her plight, readily agreed to save her life by adopting her.

Now, fit as a fiddle and as healthy as a horse, Bess serves not only as the bar's mascot but also as a companion for its other longtime resident feline, Stumpy, who is an amazing twenty-two-years-old. Best of all, the two cats are said to get along well.

"Bess has already used up two of her nine lives, but she's settled in now," Walsh told the Lincolnshire Echo on January 14th. (See "Pub Landlord Saves Abandoned Kitten.") "She quickly got her paws under the bar, and she's ready to make her debut with the customers."

That should not pose any difficulties in that she obviously enjoys a pint or two every bit as much as Walsh's regulars. The only obvious difference is that her tipple of choice is milk as opposed to either beer or sour mash. (See photo above.)

Despite the happy denouement, Walsh nevertheless was angered by the inhumane way in which Bess was treated. "...we are appalled at the cruelty shown to such a defenseless animal, and we can only hope that people will stop and think about their actions before abandoning helpless animals in the future," he told the Lincolnshire Echo in the article cited supra.

Some individuals no doubt will heed his sound advice, but most feline abusers tend to be serial offenders who never will mend their wicked ways. For them, the only recourse is arrest and incarceration.

This is especially true in light of the recent spate of high-profile entombments and abandonments. Most prominently, an orange and white kitten named Duff was discovered entombed inside a canvas bag on August 20th at an apartment complex in Spokane. (See Cat Defender post of October 3, 2009 entitled "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")

Later on January 8th of this year, a young black female cat named Titch from Westcliff in Essex was discovered sealed up inside a backpack that had been stuffed inside a plastic bag and then tossed in the trash. (See Cat Defender post of February 24, 2010 entitled "Sealed Up in a Backpack Inside a Plastic Bag and Then Tossed in the Trash, Titch Is Rescued by a Passerby in Essex.")

Hopefully, the bad times are now a thing of the past as far as Bess is concerned and she, like Stumpy, will be able to enjoy a long and happy life at The Bugle Horn Inn. Should that come to pass, she will join a long list of legendary cats who have made their homes at English pubs.

Most notably, there is Daisy of the Hen and Chicken Pub in Southwater, West Sussex, who on November 24, 2006 celebrated her twenty-second birthday. (See Cat Defender post of December 15, 2006 entitled "Minnesota Cat Named Baby Celebrates His Thirty-Sixth Birthday; English Pub Cat Named Daisy Turns Twenty-Two.")

"She's been here all her life and although the pub has had different management couples they've all had Daisy." co-owner Chris Marks said on that historic occasion. (See photo above of him and Daisy.)

Of course, not all pub cats spend their entire earthly existence in bars. For instance, Carlsberg's stay at The Swan in Ironbridge, Shropshire, was short but sweet. (See Cat Defender post of December 12, 2007 entitled "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime.")

Along with all of England's feline-friendly pubs there are bound to be a rotter or two in the woodpile. One such drinking establishment is the Blunsdon Arms in Swindon, Wiltshire, who has horribly mistreated a cat named Ember. (See Cat Defender post of October 23, 2008 entitled "Pecksniffian Management at Swindon Pub Plies Ember with Food and Then Gives Her the Bum's Rush.")

On the whole, however, peripatetic felines with parched palates are generally welcome to slake their thirsts at most English watering holes. Some of them, such as Bess and Daisy, even find their metiers and homes amongst the spigots of beer and pie-eyed barflies.

Photos: Lincolnshire Echo (Bess) and the West Sussex Observer (Daisy and Marks).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sealed Up in a Backpack Inside a Plastic Bag and Then Tossed in the Trash, Titch Is Rescued by a Passerby in Essex

"This was a deliberate act to harm a healthy, friendly animal. Titch was very lucky to have been heard in the bin before she suffered any permanent harm."
-- RSPCA Inspector Matthew Gough

The appalling disregard that many individuals have for the sanctity of feline life continues to astound. For some of these ailurophobes, disposing of either an unwanted cat or kitten is as easy as tossing it out in the trash.

That was the sad fate that befell a young black female cat named Titch from Westcliff in Essex last month. After being stuffed into a backpack, she then was sealed up in a plastic bag and tossed into a garbage can.

Fortunately, a passerby on Glenwood Avenue heard her cries for help on January 8th and freed her. She since has recovered from her trying ordeal and been adopted by a new family.

Inspector Matthew Gough of the RSPCA is investigating the matter but, predictably, no arrests have been made so far. (See photo above of him and Titch.)

"This was a deliberate act to harm a healthy, friendly animal," he told the Southend Standard on January 17th. (See "Who Threw Away Titch the Cat in a Bin Bag?") "Titch was very lucky to have been heard in the bin before she suffered any permanent harm."

On August 28th of last year, an orange and white kitten named Duff was found entombed inside two canvas bags that had been thrown out with the trash at an apartment building in Spokane. By the time that his presence was discovered by maintenance workers, Duff already had spent six days inside the bags. (See Cat Defender post of October 3, 2009 entitled "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")

Titch and Duff are exceptions to the rule in that they survived the murderous attempts made on their lives by their owners. Countless other cats are not nearly so fortunate, however.

For example, a ten-year-old gray cat from Hampton, New Hampshire, was sealed up inside a black Spalding gym bag with forty to fifty pounds of rocks on May 12, 2008 and left on the beach. When the tide came in she drowned in six feet of water. (See Cat Defender post of May 20, 2008 entitled "Malice Aforethought: Upstate New York Cat Is Saved from a Watery Grave by a Dead Tree and Passerby; New Hampshire Cat Is Not So Fortunate.")

As far as Essex is concerned, cases of animal abuse are increasing at an alarming rate. Not only have a number of dogs recently been dumped in the southern part of the county but homeless cats are under assault in Pitsea. (See Cat Defender post of October 23, 2009 entitled "Essex Welfare Bum Who Sicced His Dog on Cats and Beat Them with His Cane Is Now Pretending to Be the Victim of an Assault.")

Photo: Southend Standard.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Abandoned and Left to Die in the Cold and Snow of Wisconsin, Domino Was the Most Memorable Cat of 2009

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again."
-- Andrew Lloyd Webber from the musical Cats

Of all the heartbreaking stories to come out of 2009 none was more memorable than the saga of a homeless black and white cat named Domino from Poynette, Wisconsin. Following an unplanned trip to Arizona, she was returned to Poynette and cruelly abandoned to fend for herself in the cold and snow.

She is joined by eighteen other unforgettable felines including Felix who survived being trapped for thirty-five days in the ruins of the Koelner Stadtarchivs and an ailing cat known only as Katzen-Mama from Deusen who fended off a rapacious fox in order to save not only herself but her four kittens as well.

Railroads, for better or worse, featured prominently in the exploits of Percy from Scarborough in North Yorkshire, a kitten named Diesel from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and another cat also named Diesel from Inverness Station. Refuse proved to be a source of woe for Autumn of Richmond, Virginia, who mistakenly wound up at the city dump, and Duff from Spokane who was deliberately entombed in a canvas bag that then was set out for the garbageman to collect.

Howard of Alaiedon Township in Michigan, who was run over and left to die in a ditch by a hit-and-run combine operator, was rescued at the last minute by a pair of caring lads. In Swansea, Massachusetts, pretty little Sleepy was sealed up in a package and dumped on the doorsteps of a mattress retailer.

Blackie from Albany, Oregon, and Tiger from Calgary confounded the medical community by unexpectedly coming to the aid of their ailing guardians. Sammy was booted out of the post office in tiny Notasulga, Alabama, after the authorities caved in to the prejudices of a cat-hater while at Manchester International Airport lovable Ollie proved once again that he is still full of all sorts of surprises.

Overall, 2009 will be remembered as a year filled with sorrow. For example, motorists claimed the lives of both Casper, the famous bus-riding cat from Plymouth, and Eco, the police's mascot and head mouser in Hamilton, Massachusetts.

It was an especially horrendous year for politicians' cats. President Bush's cat, India, died shortly before he left office in January. A few weeks later, former First Cat Socks from the Clinton Administration was killed off by his new owner, Betty Currie, after he became ill. Across the pond, Alistair and Margaret Darling's cat, Sybil, from 10 Downing Street died unexpectedly.

For previous cats of the year, see Cat Defender posts of December 21, 2006, December 25, 2007, and January 25, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Heroes and Victims: Sixteen Special Cats to Remember from the Year 2006," "Survivors and Adventurers: Fifteen Wonderful Cats to Remember from the Year 2007," and "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."

1.) Domino. Homeless Cat Struggles to Survive the Winter.

For four years, Ann and Mike Hirz from the Madison suburb of Poynette fed a five-year-old black and white homeless cat with stunningly beautiful green eyes named Domino. When they decided to relocate to Green Valley, Arizona, in late March they carelessly allowed her to become trapped inside a shipping crate. It therefore was not until eleven days and two-thousand miles later on April 10th that her presence was detected by a workman installing drapes.

Acting upon the advice of Patti Hogan of Paws Patrol in Green Valley, they drove Domino back to Poynette and abandoned her to fend for herself. "It (Domino) knows its safety area. It knows its sources of food and shelter. This is Domino's best chance of survival," Hogan argued at that time.

To begin with, the Hirzes' initial decision to run out on Domino was shameful and inexcusable and they only compounded their original mistake by steadfastly refusing to give her a home in Green Valley. As for Hogan, her analysis of Domino's chances of surviving the winter in Wisconsin is flawed in that with the disappearance of the Hirzes so too vanished her food supply and possibly shelter if she was sleeping underneath their house.

Now, with winter in full force Domino is on her own, that is if she is lucky enough to still be alive. Only recently a thirteen-year-old cat named Annie from Norfolk, Massachusetts, came within a whisker of freezing to death after she got caught out in a snowstorm. (See Cat Defender post of January 21, 2010 entitled "Trapped Outside in a Snowstorm, Annie Is Brought Back from the Dead by the Compassion of a Good Samaritan and an Animal Control Officer.")

Saddest of all, Domino's fate is shared by millions of cats who are abandoned and dumped by irresponsible caretakers, such as the Hirzes, each year. Animal protection groups, such as Paws Patrol, are not much better in that they have a tendency to wallow in their own dogma as opposed to either expending the time and resources that are required in order to socialize homeless cats for adoption or by providing them with the resources and protection that they require in order to survive on their own. (See Cat Defender post of May 8, 2009 entitled "Domino, Feral and All Alone, Faces an Uncertain Future in Wisconsin Following an Unplanned Trip to Arizona.")

2.) Casper. Bus-Riding Cat Is Killed by a Taxi Driver.

Cat-lovers around the world were charmed last summer when they read about a twelve-year-old tuxedo named Casper who had taught himself to ride the bus around Plymouth in Devonshire. The intrepid feline reportedly had been making the one hour, eleven-mile journey unescorted for the past four years.

Their joy quickly turned to tears of sorrow when Casper was run down and killed by a hit-and-run taxi driver on January 14th of this year as he crossed the street to the bus stop. "I never dreamt I'd miss an animal as much as I miss him," his owner, sixty-five-year-old Susan Finden, later said. "He was lovely and loved people so much. He was such a different character."

He also was a big favorite with the drivers of First Bus. "He usually just curls up at the back of the bus," driver Rob Stonehouse said last summer. "Sometimes he nips between people's legs but he never causes any trouble."

Casper was a beautiful cat and he will be sorely missed not only by all those who were fortunate enough to have known him in Plymouth but also by his many friends in cyberspace. (See Cat Defender posts of August 27, 2009 and January 30, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Casper Treats Himself to an Unescorted Tour Around Plymouth Each Morning Courtesy of the Number Three Bus" and "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Taxi Driver while Crossing the Street to the Bus Stop.")

3.) Howard. Kitten Survives Being Run Down by a Combine Operator.

In cities and suburbs cats are preyed upon by motorists in search of cheap thrills while in farm country it is, more often than not, combine operators that they have to fear. That was the tragic lesson foisted upon an eight-week-old kitten named Howard from Alaiedon Township in Michigan last July.

After having his front paws almost completely severed by a hit-and-run combine operator, Howard lay suspended between life and death in a ditch alongside a wheat field for a week. He surely would have died then and there if ten-year-old Kyle and eight-year-old Bryce Billingslea had not overheard his plaintive cries for help on July 30th as they rode their bicycles down Willoughby Road.

Gary Ireland of Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter (ICACS) was summoned and he transported the near death kitten to Lansing Veterinary Medical Center where the staff was able to save his life but, unfortunately, not his front paws.

Nevertheless, after multiple skin grafts and time spent in foster care with Terri Valentino of Mason, Howard was well enough to go home with his rescuers, the Billingslea lads, in late November.

His tragic story struck a sympathetic chord with area residents who pooled their resources in order to cover his $2,000 medical tab. "His story has evoked compassion and empathy within our community and for that we all owe Howard a debt of thanks," ICACS stated on its web site.

"Who would have thought he would be the one who would give us so much more than we could give him: a humane sense of community," the organization concluded. (See Cat Defender posts of August 20, 2009 and November 24, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Combine Operator Severs Howard's Front Paws and Leaves Him in a Ditch to Die but He Is Saved at the Last Minute by a Pair of Compassionate Lads" and "Howard the Combine Kitty Is Adopted by the Lads Who Saved Him from a Sure and Certain Death in a Ditch Alongside a Michigan Wheat Field.")

4.) Ollie. Manchester International's Top Cat Gives Up a Secret.

Having made this list as one of the most memorable cats of 2007, Ollie thus becomes the first feline to be so honored again. It is not quite certain, however, if he would appreciate this latest accolade; after all, it is a tad embarrassing for him and all concerned.

When he arrived at Manchester International in 2007 as a down-at-the-heel stray with a huge chunk of his left ear missing the staff just automatically assumed that he was a tom. A routine visit to the vet last year proved once again that when it comes to cats assumptions do not count for much because Ollie was proven to be a female.

"We were completely shocked when we found out and just couldn't believe it," airport employee Bob Molloy confessed with a red face. As a consequence, the cat's name has been changed to Olivia although to his legions of fans around the world he always will be Ollie.

On the positive side, this unexpected revelation has done absolutely nothing to diminish his popularity. He still resides in a specially designed cat house that is built into the side of the airport's administrative office in Olympia House. The airlines, vendors, and employees of the facility see to it that he is well fed and food parcels still arrive from both near and far. He also has his own page on Facebook with more than fifteen-hundred followers.

It has not always been smooth sailing for him, however. In 2008, airport suits tried to get rid of him but were thwarted by angry letters of protest from his many friends from around the world. (See Cat Defender posts of November 8, 2009 and November 28, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Oops! Ollie Belatedly Gives Up a Closely Guarded Secret Much to the Chagrin of Employees of Manchester International" and "Lovable Ollie Finds a Home at Manchester International Airport After Workers and Vendors Come to His Aid.")

5.) Sleepy. Kitten Is Sealed Up in a Box and Then Dumped.

Someone did pretty little Sleepy a bad turn. The seven-week-old kitten was sealed up inside a brown box without either any ventilation or milk and then dumped on the doorstep of a Sleepy's mattress outlet in Swansea, Massachusetts. She was discovered the morning of June 24th by store employee Michael Medeiros.

"It looked like a UPS box. We get deliveries of hand soap and discount tickets in boxes just like this, except this one was duct-taped," he later related. "When I tossed the box on my desk, I heard a meow."

When he opened the box he discovered to his surprise a hungry kitten with an eye infection but otherwise in pretty good shape. Although she had been provided with a few morsels of kibble, it is doubtful that she was able to eat it because of her age. (See Cat Defender post of July 3, 2009 entitled "Pretty Little Sleepy Survives a Suffocation and Starvation Attempt on Her Life Thanks to the Timely Intervention of a Mattress Store Employee.")

6.) Sybil. Cat Formerly of 10 Downing Street Dies Unexpectedly.

Like Ollie, this is Sybil's second appearance on this list but, unfortunately in her case, this time around it is in the form of an eulogy. The black and white moggy died July 27th of an undisclosed illness at the London residence of an unidentified acquaintance of her former guardians, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and his wife, Maggie.

She made quite a splash when she arrived at 10 Downing Street on September 10, 2007 with the Darlings from Edinburgh. "Sybil has been brought down because there are mice here," Darling said on that historic occasion. "She's a really good mouser." Otherwise, not a great deal is known about Sybil other than that she was adopted from a shelter and named after Basil Fawlty's wife from the 1970's BBC sitcom, Fawlty Towers.

Initially, she was given free rein of the grounds and a basket was set out for her at the Exchequer. Things soon went sour, however, and she was curtly dismissed after only six months on the job.

Uncorroborated reports in the English media have blamed her ouster on the antipathy that Prime Minister Gordon Brown harbors in his bosom for not only cats but all animals in general. Calvin Coolidge once said that "any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House" and the same rationale is equally applicable to cat-haters at 10 Downing Street.

"As numerous thinkers have noted, cats often have a soothing quality on their owners," London's Independent astutely pointed out in its eulogy. "Granted, the economy is looking as shaky as a newborn kitten at the moment, but imagine what condition it might be in now without Sybil."

(See Cat Defender posts of August 13, 2009 and September 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Sybil, 10 Downing Street's Former First Feline, Dies Unexpectedly from an Undisclosed Illness" and "After a Dreary Ten-Year Absence, Number 10 Downing Street Has a New Resident Feline and Her Name Is Sybil.")

7.) Katzen-Mama. Sick Cat Saves Kittens from a Fox.

In a tale that bears an eerie real-life resemblance to a classic 1950's episode of the radio drama Escape that was entitled "A Shipment of Mute Fate," a cat known as Katzen-Mama somehow was able to summon the strength not only to fend off a rapacious fox but also to save the lives of her four, eight-week-old kittens to boot. Most amazing of all, she did all of that while suffering from the debilitating effects of the flu and being so emaciated that her weight had plummeted to two and one-half kilos.

This life and death drama unfolded June 7th on the grounds of a recycling plant in Deusen, a suburb of Dortmund in Nordrhein Westfalen. The fox did, however, inflict several severe bite wounds to Katzen-Mama's side and head and she probably would have died from infection if it had not been for the prompt intervention of a kindhearted worker at the plant who had been feeding her for the past two years.

The worker telephoned Gabi Bayer of Arche 90 in Dortmund who in turn took Katzen-Mama to veterinarian Malinda Waechter who sutured up her wounds, placed her on antibiotics, and provided her with some much needed nourishment. (See photo above.)

"Eine Mutter mit einem Loewenherz," is how Bayer later described Katzen-Mama's heroics. (See Cat Defender post of June 26, 2009 entitled "Emaciated and Suffering from the Flu, Katzen-Mama Fights Off a Vicious Fox in Order to Save Her Four Kittens.")

8.) Felix. Cat Survives Being Buried Alive for Thirty-Five Days.

When the world renown Koelner Stadtarchivs collapsed on March 3rd they brought down with them an adjoining apartment building at 220 Severinstrasse that was home to a twelve-year-old mackerel-colored cat named Felix. For the next thirty-five days he remained buried underneath sixty tons of rock and debris.

On April 16th, firemen Stefan Lorscheid and Alexander Hintzen overheard him meowing and freed him from his tomb. Although Felix was dehydrated, famished, and understandably as weak as water, he was otherwise unharmed except for a pair of broken claws. Veterinarians theorize that he survived by licking up rain water, which Koeln certainly had plenty of last winter and spring.

"Ich hab's im Gefuehl gehabt, dass Felix nicht tot ist," his thirty-four-year-old guardian, Andrea Schroeder, said following the rescue. (Er ist) "ein Kaempfer."

Dr. Daniel Leopold of Koeln's Fire Department later termed the rescue of Felix as "unserer schoenster Fund." Leider, his sister, Cleo, apparently did not survive the collapse. (See Cat Defender post of April 16, 2009 entitled "Felix Survives Being Buried Alive for Thirty-Five Days in the Rubble of the Koelner Stadtarchivs.")

9.) Sammy. Ailurophobe Gets Cat Booted from Post Office.

For more than ten years, Sammy was a fixture at the post office in tiny Notasulga, Alabama. Owned by Lorenz Ponzig, the affable orange cat would divide his mornings between napping on the front table and greeting his many admirers from the Auburn suburb.

All of that came to an abrupt end early last year when an unidentified female resident went on the warpath by demanding that he be evicted from the premises because, inter alia, he did not pay taxes, she was allergic to cats and, most ludicrous of all, that he had assaulted her. Although local residents rallied to his defense, spineless postal brass acceded to the ailurophobe's demands and banned Sammy from the facility.

"Sammy's got more friends in Notasulga than any other individual I know," legendary Auburn football coach Pat Dye declared. "We ain't worried about football. We're worried about the cat."

Sammy's supporters did succeed, however, in establishing a post office box for him and letters of support as well as food parcels, toys, money, and gift certificates poured in from around the country. At last report, he still can be reached at P.O. Box 173, Notasulga, AL 36866. (See Cat Defender post of February 11, 2009 entitled "U.S. Postal Service Knuckles Under to the Threats and Lies of a Cat-Hater and Gives Sammy the Boot.")

10.) Diesel. Tiny Kitten Survives Terrifying Train Ride.

Little Diesel is a very courageous kitten. He would have to be in order to survive what he did.

On October 13th, he somehow endured a nine-hundred-mile train ride by clinging to the undercarriage of a Chiltern Railways locomotive as it made five trips between London's Marylebone Station and Kidderminster in the West Midlands. With the train traveling at speeds in excess of one-hundred miles per hour it is truly astounding that he did not either fall off or die of fright.

His presence finally was detected when the crew heard him crying while the train was stopped at Wembley Station in northwest London. Lured out of hiding by the offer of a slice of salami, he amazingly was unhurt. Later, he was adopted by nineteen-year-old Jodi Fox, an employee of the railroad from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. (See photo.)

(See Cat Defender post of November 15, 2009 entitled "Diesel Amazingly Survives a Harrowing Nine-Hundred-Mile Train Ride by Precariously Clinging to the Undercarriage of a Speeding Locomotive.")

11.) Percy. Scarborough Cat Rides the Rails by Himself.

A very clever black cat named Percy from Scarborough in North Yorkshire has learned to ride the train all by his lonesome. In fact, he has been taking North Bay Railway's old miniature trains on a weekly basis for the past four years.

He boards the train near his home in Peasholm Park and rides 1.2 kilometers to the end of the line in the Scalby Mills section of town in order to visit Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary. Once at the aquarium, he spends his days outside the penguin exhibit. (See photo of him with the aquarium's Amy McFarlane.)

"He always knows when the train is coming as well. He is a very smart cat," according to the aquarium's Sharon Jarvis. "We all love Percy and we are sure he will carry on coming here." (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2009 entitled "Percy Takes the Train All by Himself in Order to Visit the Penguins at an Aquarium in Scarborough.")

12.) Duff. Kitten Spends Six Days Entombed in a Duffel Bag.

Twenty-three-year-old Donivan Crews is a real monster! On August 14th he zipped up an orange and white kitten inside a duffel bag and then nonchalantly tossed him out with the trash.

Luckily, two alert and compassionate maintenance workers at Crews's Spokane apartment building heard the kitten's muffled cries for help and freed him on August 20th. By that time he had been in the bag for six days and was just about at the end of his rope.

"This kitten was very lucky to be found at 11 this morning, otherwise it probably would have died today," Nicole Montano of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) said after the rescue. "We are thankful to those who rescued this kitten from what would have been a (sic) horrific death."

At last report, the workers were expected to have adopted Duff. As for Crews, he has been charged with only "confinement in an unsafe manner." (See Cat Defender post of October 3, 2009 entitled "Deliberately Entombed Inside a Canvas Bag for Six Days, Duff Is Saved by a Pair of Alert Maintenance Workers at an Apartment Complex in Spokane.")

13.) Autumn. Thrown Out with the Trash, Cat Survives Trip to City Dump.

Two-year-old Autumn's habit of playing inside a box-spring nearly ended up killing her. On February 20th, Ann and Wayne Crews of Richmond, Virginia, accepted delivery of a new bedroom set and at the same time had the deliverymen to cart away their old mattress and box-spring. What they failed to realize was that Autumn was trapped inside the box-spring.

Consequently, Autumn was forced to spend the following six days being shuttled between Haynes Home Furnishings' warehouse in Williamsburg and the city dump in Suffolk. It was only at the last minute when Wilbert Davis and Norman Bleech were dumping the box-spring that they heard Autumn meow and freed her.

"She was just looking all in shock," Davis later recalled. "We were both in shock and just looked at each other, not knowing what was what." (See photo of him with Autumn and the Crewses.)

Except for having worn down her claws to a frazzle in a futile attempt to escape, the misadventure left Autumn no worse for wear. (See Cat Defender post of March 23, 2009 entitled "Mistakenly Tossed Out with the Trash, Autumn Survives a Harrowing Trip to the City Dump in Order to Live Another Day.")

14.) Tiger. Calgary Cat Detects Cancer in His Guardian.

Fifty-nine-year-old Calgary resident Lionel Adams owes his life to his eight-year-old orange cat, Tiger, whose persistence led to the discovery that he was suffering from stage one lung cancer.

"He (Tiger) would climb into bed and take his paw and drag it down my left side. He was adamant there was something there," Adams stated last year. "And it was right where the cancer was."

Adams's long-term prognosis is unknown following the removal of a tumor the size of a soda can, but what is no longer in question is his reinvigorated relationship with his cat. "He never had that much to do with me except to come over for a pat," is how he described the relationship prior to the discovery of the tumor.

Now, the duo have became much closer. "I get a little emotional when I think about it. As far as I am concerned, he saved my life," Adams said following surgery. "I think if he hadn't done that pawing part it could have gone on for another five, six months undetected." (See Cat Defender post of April 11, 2009 entitled "Tiger Saves His Owner's Life by Alerting Him to a Cancerous Growth on His Left Lung.")

15.) Diesel. Inverness Station Kills Off Its Mascot.

For fourteen years Diesel was a mainstay at Inverness Station. Loved and admired by both locals and foreign visitors, she often received gifts, such as toys and beds, from fans as far away as Finland. None of that, however, deterred First ScotRail from handing her over to the Scottish SPCA to be killed after she was stricken with kidney trouble in April.

"Diesel was a much-loved personality around the station for well over a decade. She will be sadly missed by staff and customers, including many foreign visitors to Inverness," is how First ScotRail's Michelle Crawford eulogized her. (See Cat Defender post of June 25, 2009 entitled "Inverness Station Kills Off Its Resident Feline, Diesel, after Fourteen Years of Faithful Service and Companionship.")

16.) India. President Bush's Cat Dies at Age Eighteen.

Because she spent the majority of her eight years as First Cat in the shadow of former President Bush's more famous Scottish Terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, India's death at age eighteen on January 4th of last year took many people by surprise. Born in Austin in 1991, the black cat was said to enjoy tuna, the White House library, and piano recitals.

Muslim critics of Bush showed their total lack of both morality and class by mocking her passing. That followed a 2004 incident where Indian youths burned Bush in effigy because they ignorantly believed that in naming his cat as he did he was taking a backhanded slap at their country.

Actually, India was named in honor of slugger Ruben Sierra who used to play for the Texas Rangers when the team was owned by Bush. Sierra was known as "El Indio."

Since the White House declined to release any particulars, it is not known either what killed India or the final disposition of her remains. (See Cat Defender post of January 24, 2009 entitled "India Dies at Age Eighteen Leaving the White House Without a Resident Feline for the First Time in Sixteen Years.")

17.) Socks. Bill Clinton's Former Cat Is Killed Off for Health Reasons.

Suffering from cancer of the jaw, hyperthyroidism, kidney trouble, and hair and weight loss, former First Cat during the Clinton Administration, Socks, was killed off by the staff of Three Notch Veterinary Hospital in Hollywood, Maryland, on February 20th. That decision was made by former Clinton secretary, Betty Currie, who had served as the cat's guardian since 2001.

Socks's remains were cremated with Currie retaining one-quarter of them. The other three-fourths were parceled out to the Clintons, Currie's co-workers, and an unidentified party in Little Rock. As far as it is known, no memorial service of any kind was ever held.

Socks was born in Little Rock in 1991 and lived with the Clintons at the governor's mansion before moving with them to Washington in 1993. In 1996, he was featured on a postage stamp issued by the Central African Republic.

He also brightened up the humdrum lives of children, the elderly, and afflicted through the countless visits that he made to schools, old folks homes, and hospitals. After leaving the White House, he remained in the public's eye by appearing in Little Rock's Christmas Parade in 2002, at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland, in 2004, and as grand marshal of an animal fair held in Leonardtown, Maryland, in May of 2008.

(See Cat Defender posts of March 12, 2009 and December 24, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned" and "Former First Cat Socks Is Gravely Ill with Cancer and Other Assorted Maladies.")

18.) Blackie. Former Stray Helps Guardian Battle Emphysema.

Little did retired engineering consultant Charles Bennett realize when he brought a stray named Blackie into his Albany, Oregon, home in 2004 that he was getting a guardian angel in the deal. Suffering from the debilitating effects of emphysema, Bennett used to be prone to severe attacks at night while sleeping but all of that has changed since Blackie joined his household.

Blackie now stays awake nights monitoring his rescuer's breathing and as soon as any irregularities are detected he immediately arouses Bennett before an attack can occur. "I don't know if he's helped save my life or not, but he's saved me from some full-blown breathing attacks," Bennett said last year. "I'm now getting more sleep than ever because it takes an hour to get back to sleep after an attack." (See photo of the pair.)

Other than looking after Bennett, Blackie is a connoisseur of classical music, especially piano recitals. The keyboard also serves as a convenient way for him to let Bennett know when he wants to go outside in that all he needs to do in order to gain his caretaker's attention is to bang on the keys. (See Cat Defender post of April 18, 2009 entitled "Blackie Stays Up Nights Monitoring His Guardian's Breathing for Emphysema Attacks.")

19.) Eco. Station House Cat Is Run Down and Killed by a Motorist.

When his family relocated to Florida they cruelly dumped him in the street where he was subsequently hit by a motorist. Once he recovered, he found a home at the police station in Hamilton, Massachusetts, for the remaining eleven years of his life.

The good times came to a tragic end on February 15th when he was once again run down by a motorist only this time there would not be any miracle recovery. In appreciation for his years of faithful service, the officers gave him a memorial service and saw to it that he received a proper burial.

"He was part of the family here," is how detective Stephen Trepanier eulogized him. (See Cat Defender post of March 18, 2009 entitled "Eco, Who Was a Mainstay at Small Massachusetts Police Department, Is Run Down and Killed by a Motorist.")

Photos: Green Valley News (Domino), The Sun (Casper), ICACS (Howard), Manchester Evening News (Ollie), The Herald of Attleboro (Sleepy), BBC (Sybil), Stephan Schuetze of Bild (Katzen-Mama and Malinda Waechter), Deutscher Depeschendienst (Felix), The Tuskegee News (Sammy), News Team and the Daily Mail (Diesel and Jodi Fox), Scarborough Evening News (Percy and Amy McFarlane), SCRAPS (Duff), Ann Crews (Autumn and Wilbert Davis along with Ann and Wayne Crews), CTV (Tiger), BBC (Diesel of Inverness), Kimberlee Hewitt of the White House (India), Barbara Kinney of the White House (Socks), David Patton of the Democrat-Herald of Albany, Oregon (Blackie and Charles Bennett), and Jim Daly of The Salem News (Eco).