Hobson Is Forced to Wander Around Yorkshire for Months Trapped in an Elastic Collar That Steadily Was Eating Away at His Shoulder and Leg
"It had cut into his skin and was almost down to the muscle under his leg. It had cut all the way around and left only three inches of skin on his shoulder."
-- Geraldine Murgatroyd of the York RSPCA
Elastic collars are ballyhooed as being safer for cats than conventional models because their expandability makes it possible for their wearers to wiggle out of them should they ever become snagged on some obstruction. The reality of the situation is quite different in that they often turn into even worse death traps that ensnare cats' legs as well as their heads.
That was the alarming situation that handsome black and white little Hobson found himself in late last Fall. In circumstances that are not exactly clear, the elastic collar that he was wearing slipped underneath his right front leg and thus trapped both his shoulder and leg in a pincer movement.
"It had cut into his skin and was almost down to the muscle under his leg," Geraldine Murgatroyd of the York RSPCA told The Press of York on April 19th. (See "Collar Recommendation after Cat Suffers Horrific Injuries.") "It had cut all the way around and left only three inches of skin on his shoulder."
Hobson's injuries were so severe that he required emergency surgery and thirty staples to close his wound. (See photo above of him with the Rachel Harris of the York RSPCA.)
To his credit, Hobson kept his chin up throughout his long and trying ordeal. "He has a super personality," Murgatroyd added. "He even purred when we pulled the staples out."
Best of all, he appears to be well on the road to recovery. "Hobson is doing very well and his injuries thankfully (are) now behind him," Murgatroyd's co-worker, Peter Anderson, wrote in an e-mail letter just to hand this afternoon.
Based upon a photograph posted on the organization's web site it appears that he is missing a large patch of fur on his back but hopefully it will grow back in time. The major difficulty at the moment is locating a good home for him.
Although he is described on the RSPCA's web site as "a lovely cat who wants to be friends with everyone," inexplicably no one in Yorkshire apparently wants to befriend him. Perhaps therefore someone from outside the area will be willing to give this long-suffering and richly deserving cat a home. If so, he or she should contact the RSPCA either by telephone at 44 01904 654949 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is not known how Hobson got into such a horrifying predicament. All that is certain is that he was found in extremis back in February on a farm near the affluent spa town of Harrogate, approximately thirty-five kilometers west of York.
Since someone had to have outfitted him with the collar, he most likely at one time or another had a regular home. Sometime thereafter he was in all probability cruelly abandoned to fend for himself. Worst of all, his owner did not even have the bon sens to remove the collar beforehand.
Based upon the extent of his injuries, it is a good bet that he had been on his own for several months at the very least. Under such trying circumstances he not only was forced to procure food and shelter but to defend himself against predators, motorists, and ailurophobes. Plus, England suffered through an especially rough winter.
As his wound grew progressively worse, walking, jumping, and climbing sans doute became more difficult and there was the ever present danger that an infection could have killed him at any time. It therefore is truly amazing that he was able to find the courage and strength in order to have survived.
Hobson's plight is very similar to that of a stray named Que from Queens, Nova Scotia, who in December of 2007 was discovered on a farm with his right paw entangled in his collar. In fact, his predicament was so dire that his paw had become stuck in an upright position at the side of his head.
That forced him to hobble around on three legs for an estimated six to seven months as the collar grew into his "armpit." Although the type of collar was never specified, it certainly sounds as if he was wearing an elastic one.
Following several operations, seventy stitches, and a ton of antibiotics Que eventually recovered and was put up for adoption by the Queens SPCA. (See photo above.)
Hobson's close brush with death once again has focused debate on the hazards associated with elastic collars. "People think these elastic collars are best, but they are not," Murgatroyd told The Press in the article cited supra. "We tend to get about three of these incidents a year, but this was the worst case I have seen in the three years I have been here. He needed quite a lot of surgery."
Susie Hughes of the Manchester and Salford RSPCA recommends breakaway collars as a safer alternative even though they are, quite obviously, more expensive in the long run. "Our response is 'good, it means they are doing their job,' and surely their beloved companion is worth two and one-half pounds a time," she told The Press.
Regardless of what type of collar is used it needs to be checked on daily basis in order to make sure that it is functioning properly. Above all, cat owners should have enough intelligence to realize that collars fastened to growing cats must be constantly loosened.
Notwithstanding that admonition, an unidentified elderly woman living on Derrick Avenue in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, outfitted a tiny black and white kitten named Trooper with a collar that she never bothered to adjust even as the female grew into an adult. Consequently, it was not surprising that when she was discovered on March 26, 2008 by workers from a local shelter that the collar had grown into the skin and her neck had become infected.
Emergency surgery was required in order to remove the collar but Trooper, thankfully, has since made a complete recovery and now has a new home to boot. (See Cat Defender post of May 28, 2008 entitled "Collars Turn into Death Traps for Trooper and Que but Both Are Rescued at the Eleventh Hour.")
Although collars not only can come off but additionally fail to offer cats absolutely any protection whatsoever against thieves, poisoners, motorists, and wild animals, their usage is nevertheless essential because they quite often force Animal Control officers and shelters to think twice about summarily executing them. (See Cat Defender post of June 15, 2010 entitled "Bay City Shelter Murders a Six-Week-Old Kitten with a Common Cold Despite Several Individuals Having Offered to Give It a Permanent Home" and KTSM-TV of El Paso, March 31, 2010, "Woman Furious over Untreated Cat.")
If any of these professional cat killers pick up a feline wearing a collar they may spare its life for a few days if they think that they either can sell it back to its original owner or to someone else. If, however, they come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the cat is homeless not only will they summarily kill it but they also will withhold veterinary treatment.
It is a sad commentary on the human race but the plight of cats is not all that different from that of the impecunious. In both instances, either money or connections are needed not only in order to live but also to procure life-saving medical intervention and to check the evil designs of enemies.
Photos: Sarah Tweedie of The Press (Hobson and Harris) and Renee Stevens of The Chronicle Herald of Halifax (Que).