Two Thoughtless Old Biddies Crush Thirteen-Month-Old Sheba to Death Underneath an Electric Recliner
"I still blame myself although I know it was a freak accident. As it was dark under there, we forgot about her being curled up fast asleep."
-- Mel Wills
A cat loves an easy chair every bit as much as a human but its next catnap either in or underneath one of them could be its last. That is especially true if the chair happens to be an electric recliner.
That was the tragic fate that recently befell a thirteen-month-old cat named Sheba from the Plymouth suburb of Plymstock in Devon that was either suffocated, strangled, or had her throat cut when she became tangled up in the footrest. "Mum put the footrest down and it pushed her into the mechanism where she was killed by part of it pressing on her throat," her owner, forty-five-year-old Mel Wills, told the Plymouth Herald on October 3rd. (See "Owner's Warning after Cat Is Crushed to Death in Reclining Chair.")
Although the local fire department promptly responded to Wills' plea for help and freed Sheba, the slumbering cat never had a chance. (See photo above of Wills alongside the deadly recliner.)
Wills since has adopted an eleven-month-old kitten named Saffron from Gables Farm Cats and Dogs Home in Plymouth and in order to ensure that the new arrival does not meet with a similar fate she has dismantled the recliner and is planning on donating it to charity. (See photo of her and Saffron on the left below.)
Neither that belated safety measure nor the arrival of Saffron is going to bring back Sheba, however. "I miss my sweet little girl so much I don't want this to happen to someone else's pet," Wills told the Plymouth Herald. "She was too young to die. She had her whole life to look forward to and would have been absolutely spoilt."
Despite those no doubt heartfelt sentiments, Wills already has rationalized Sheba's death and exonerated herself. "I still blame myself although I know it was a freak accident," she added. "As it was dark under there, we forgot about her being curled up fast asleep."
Based upon that frank admission it thus would appear that Sheba had a habit of sleeping underneath the recliner and that both Wills and her mother were cognizant of that fact. Sheba's death therefore was far from being the freak accident that Wills claims and she accordingly is guilty of gross carelessness and neglect.
After all, it is well-known that cats like to secret themselves away in any available nooks and crannies. Moreover, electric recliners apparently have an appetite for cats, fingers, and toes that is every bit as voracious as that of a garbage disposal unit.
Because they are so small and live close to the floor, cats are easily victimized by falling vases, framed pictures, lamps, and other movable objects. They also are very easily stepped on even by attentive owners.
Considering Wills' age, she most likely has had numerous other cats previously and therefore should have been attuned to the dangers presented by bringing an electric recliner into her home. Moreover, it simply is asinine that anyone could be so bone-lazy as to want one of them in the first place.
First of all, they are a needless waste of energy at a time when the earth is being ravaged in order to mine the coal necessary in order to generate the electricity needed to power them and numerous other superfluous devices. It also is difficult to fathom how individuals as indolent as Wills and her mother are capable of properly caring for a cat which requires, at the bare minimum, a substantial amount of bending and stooping in order to feed and clean up after it.
Although it may sound harsh, Wills and her mother killed Sheba just as if they had put a pistol to her tiny head and pulled the trigger. Furthermore, Gables' questionable decision to allow them to adopt another cat is perhaps attributable to the fact that with two-thousand cats and dogs to care for at its eleven-acre sanctuary it already has more animals than it can handle.
Tragedies of this sort do not attract the attention that cases of either horrific abuse or gross neglect do but it is undeniable that airheads also kill and injure their fair share of cats. For example, dozens of cats recently have been scalded in washing machines allegedly because of their owners' carelessness.
These reported mishaps strain credulity in their own right but when they are viewed alongside deliberate scaldings they become even more dubious. (See Cat Defender post of October 31, 2009 entitled "Stefan W., Who Publicly Boasted of Scalding Kitty to Death in a Washing Machine, Is Let Off by a Berlin Court with a Measly Fine.")
Armchairs and sofas imported from China also have killed an undetermined number of cats in England, France and, most likely, elsewhere as well. That is in addition to claiming the lives of several individuals and injuring thousands of others.
The culprit is a fungicide known as dimethyl fumarate (DMF) which is inserted into the furniture in order to retard the growth of mold during both storage and shipment to market. Normally inert, DMF vaporizes when it comes into contact with body heat and even workers handling it are advised to wear protective clothing and glasses.
In addition to causing death, skin burns, rashes, swelling, eczema, vision problems, and breathing difficulties have been reported. In one particularly tragic case, a father, son, and family cat were killed in Paris by a toxic armchair in 2008. (See Daily Telegraph, December 4, 2008, "Toxic Leather Armchair Kills Father, Son, and Cat, Family Claims.")
Although it is anybody's guess as to how many cats, dogs, and other household pets have been killed by DMF, the European Union belatedly has banned its importation. Nonetheless, the fact that one-hundred-thousand pieces of furniture containing this deadly chemical were sold in England without any of them being recalled by the regulators means that many of them are still in homes and no doubt killing additional cats and endangering the lives of humans as well.
Earlier this year, retailers in England reached a settlement with approximately two-thousand victims that will pay them between £1,175 and £9,000 apiece. This £20 million award, which is believed to be the largest of its kind in English history, only pertains to those individuals who suffered minor injuries.
Litigation involving at least another three-thousand victims who suffered severe injuries is continuing. As far as it could be determined, owners who have lost cats have not been compensated so far.
"Many suffered serious health problems simply because of the new sofa they chose. At the start there was a real fear factor, as nobody knew the cause," Richard Langton of Russell Jones & Walker, who represented the plaintiffs, told The Times of London on April 27th. (See "Hundreds Burnt by Toxic Sofas to Share £20 Million Compensation.") "The doctors took nine months to identify the chemical. Some people thought they had skin cancer and were dying."
Years ago Dylan Thomas exhorted his dying father "not to go gentle into that good night" but if he were alive today he would need to expand that admonition to include both cats and easy chairs. After all, most people make their quietus while in the sack.
It also is important to realize that furniture does not have to be either electric or toxic in order to imperil the lives of cats. In particular, individuals who neglect to thoroughly inventory articles that they are discarding could very well be initialing their cats' death warrants.
For instance, when Ann and Wayne Crews of Richmond, Virginia, took receipt of a new bedroom set on Valentine's Day of 2009 they simultaneously had the deliverymen to cart away their old mattress and box-spring. Little did they suspect at the time that their two-year-old cat, Autumn, was hiding inside.
As a result, Autumn was forced to spend the next week at Haynes Home Furnishings' warehouse in Williamsburg before being deposited at the city dump in Suffolk on February 20th. Fortunately, Haynes' employees heard her cries for help at the last minute and freed her and she was reunited with the Crewses a day later.
On February 9th of the same year, Spokane resident Bob Killion unwittingly donated a couch to a local thrift shop with his cat, Callie, trapped inside. On February 25th, Vicky Mendenhall purchased the sofa for $27 and took it home with her.
It was not, however, until March 10th that Callie's presence was discovered and it took an additional two days before she was reunited with Killion. (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.")
History repeated itself back in August when sixty-nine-year-old Edmonton resident Timmy DeJordy donated her old mattress and box-spring to the charity Sleep Country. Unfortunately, her seventeen-year-old cat, Precious, was hiding inside the mattress.
Everything eventually turned out all right and Precious was returned unharmed to DeJordy two days later. (See photo above of the happy reunion.)
"She was shedding but she looked good considering what she went through," DeJordy later told the Edmonton Journal on August 26th. (See "Edmonton Cat in the Mat Comes Back.")
The lesson to be learned from all of these mishaps is that when it comes to cats and furniture nothing can be taken for granted. Technologically advanced furnishings, foreign imports, and even old castoffs each pose potential hazards for cats. Accordingly, all changes in a cat's environment, but especially new arrivals and departures, should be closely scrutinized.
Photos: Plymouth Herald (Wills with recliner and with Saffron) and Bruce Edwards of the Edmonton Journal (Precious and DeJordy).