Christopher, Who Has Persevered Through Tragedy and Given Back So Much, Is Now Being Held Captive for His Valuable Blood
"It's weird. It's really true that he seems to understand things. He knows when he can help. He alerts us when things aren't right about a cat."
-- Monica Thompson of Nine Lives Foundation
As the anecdotal evidence continues to mount it is becoming clearer with each passing day that at least some cats are either psychic or possess an astonishing sense of empathy. The latest such amazing cat to garner worldwide attention is a four- to five-year-old orange and white male named Christopher who resides at Nine Lives Foundation's Feline Well-Care Clinic in Redwood City, California. (See photos of him above and below.)
Most important of all, he is able to sense when cats and kittens are either sick or in distress and therefore need to be comforted. "He'll often paw at a cage door to be let in so he can clean and comfort a cat in there," Robert Lowery of Nine Lives told The Mercury News of San Jose on August 22nd. (See "Nine Lives, Sixth Sense: Cat at Veterinary Clinic Seeks Out Ailing Cats.")
Nine Lives' founder Monica Thompson readily concurs. "It' weird. It's really true that he seems to understand things," she told The Mercury News. "He knows when he can help. He alerts us when things aren't right about a cat."
If Christopher's exploits sound familiar it is because they mirror those of a five-year-old gray and white cat named Oscar who resides at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Where they differ is in that Oscar's speciality lies in providing comfort to humans who are knocking on death's door. (See Cat Defender posts of July 30, 2007 and May 27, 2010 entitled, respectively, "A Visit from Oscar the Cat Means the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at Rhode Island Nursing Home" and "When Lovers, Friends, Health, and All Hope Have Vanished, Oscar Is There for Those Who Have No One and Nothing Left.")
In addition to comforting fellow felines in need, Christopher also is adept at socializing homeless kittens. For example, back in July he took a pair of abandoned waifs under his care and within a couple of weeks he had dispelled their fear of humans.
"The kittens were so excited to see (him) that when he left (their) cage they would sit and cry," Thompson added in the interview with The Mercury News.
As compelling as his work with other cats and kittens has been, Christopher's own personal history is even more remarkable. In March, he ruthlessly was run down and left for dead by a motorist on Crystal Springs Road. Luckily for him, he was rescued by kindhearted bicyclists Elizabeth Benishin and Wayne Smith who eventually were able to get him to Nine Lives. (See photo of her on the left below.)
Given that he had suffered a broken pelvis, Nine Lives might very well have abandoned him to the same cruel fate that befell an impecunious kitten in Chattanooga this past summer if his saviors had not magnanimously pledged to foot the bill for his care. (See Cat Defender post of July 16, 2010 entitled "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It.")
Even with that hurdle out of the way he was not expected to walk again. He confounded his doubters, however, and after emergency surgery and several weeks of recuperation he soon was up and about again.
"One day while his cage was being cleaned, Christopher decided he was done with sitting in his cage and jumped onto the exam floor room," Thompson related to The Examiner of San Francisco on August 12th. (See "Miracle Cat's Recovery Purring Along at Vet Center.") "From that day forward, he worked a little each day to strengthen his muscles and was soon walking with ease and even running."
July 11th marked a turning point in Christopher's life because that was when Nine Lives accidentally discovered that he has type B blood which is found in approximately only five per cent of all cats, mostly purebreds. That occurred when an anemic black kitten from the Humanimal Connection in Los Altos arrived at the clinic in dire need of a blood transfusion.
The kitten was in fact so low on blood that Thompson was unable to draw enough in order to even type it. Since Christopher was jumping up on the operating table and nuzzling the kitten Thompson on an impulse grabbed him and used his blood to treat it.
Against all odds, both cats turned out to have type B blood flowing in their veins and the transfusion was a rousing success. The kitten subsequently recovered and was returned to the Humanimal Connection.
None of that in any way alters the salient fact that Thompson's flagrant disregard for established veterinary practice just as easily could have killed the kitten. Moreover, it is doubtful that many cat owners would be too thrilled at the thought of her pumping untyped blood into the veins of their beloved companions. Be that as it may, Christopher's fate now was sealed.
With Nine Lives coveting his valuable blood, it is not about to put him up for adoption anytime soon. He "serves a purpose" at the clinic, Thompson told The Mercury News in the article cited supra.
"Who knows how many cats he'll save in the years ahead?" Lowery parroted his boss in the same article.
Although donating blood is considered to be a safe procedure as far as cats are concerned, it is not without its health risks. For example, all donors are sedated for ten minutes while approximately fifty-three milliliters of blood are drawn. It takes another four hours, however, for the barbiturates to wear off and for a cat to regain the full use of all of its faculties.
Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine any circumstances where the ingestion of barbiturates ever could be in a cat's best interest. In fact, some of them that are sedated for routine sterilizations and airplane flights never regain consciousness.
Next, a patch of fur is shaved away from their necks and one of their jugular veins is tapped; this is standard procedure with all vets except a handful that still draw blood from the legs. The removal of their fur in such a vulnerable location in turn exposes them to the risk of being seriously injured either by other cats or sharp objects.
Bruising also is common at the donation site and usually lasts for three or so days. Although the needles used to draw blood are sterilized beforehand, inflammation always is a concern with cats.
For example, both vaccinations and implanted microchips have been known to cause inflammation which in turn can lead to cancerous growths. (See Cat Defender post of November 6, 2010 entitled "Bulkin Contracts Cancer from an Implanted Microchip and Now It Is Time for Digital Angel and Merck to Answer for Their Crimes in a Court of Law.")
A precipitate drop in blood pressure as indicated by pale gums, rapid heart rates, and poor pulses also is common in donor cats and therefore necessitates that fluids be administered during and after the procedure. Repeated donations sometimes can lead to the onset of chronic anemia.
Although there are considerable differences in the various protocols observed by surgeries, donor cats generally must be between the ages of one and eight and are precluded from giving blood any more frequently than once every three months.
Considering his age, Nine Lives most likely is planning on holding Christopher hostage for the next three to four years so that it can drain him dry. He therefore could be facing up to sixteen of these grueling, life-threatening procedures.
Donor cats are treated considerably more humanely by the St. Tammany Humane Society in Covington, Louisiana, which only recently lent a two-year-old tortoiseshell named Peony to the Louisiana Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center in Mandeville as a donor cat. (See photo of her below.)
Unlike Christopher, she will put in only one year of service before she is returned to the Humane Society and made available for adoption. That is certainly good news considering that she is not any stranger to hard times herself thanks in no small measure to having been abandoned outside the rescue group's door in a cardboard box back in May. (See St. Tammany News of Slidell, June 20, 2010, "Homeless Cat to Save Lives by Donating Blood.")
As far as it is known, all surgeries further stipulate that donor cats must be sterilized and consequently Christopher surely was divested of his testicles upon arrival at Nine Lives; that is, if he had any left by that time. It could be argued that a more humane approach would have been to have left him intact with the hope that some of his offspring also would possess type B blood. That way the burden of donating could have been parceled out amongst several cats.
Much more to the point, there should be limits not only on the number of times that a cat can be used as a donor during the course of a calendar year but also on the number of years that one can be employed in such a fashion. Ideally, no cat should be put through this process more than once in a lifetime.
The constant need for type B blood is another reason why the en vogue policy of indiscriminately sterilizing all cats is a bad idea. Such a policy also has provided a rationale for cloning whereas traditionally owners left brokenhearted by the death of a beloved cat always had their offspring to love and cherish. (See Cat Defender posts of October 16, 2006, January 5, 2007, and February 1, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Unable to Turn a Profit, California Cat-Cloning Company Goes Out of Business," "World's First Cloned Cat, CC, Finally Gives Birth to Three Healthy Kittens at Age Five," and "Cats Are Destined to Be Treated as Horribly as Lab Mice Now That Vivisectors Are Able to Clone Them with Altered Genes.")
Donor cats additionally are cruelly cooped up inside throughout their tenure of indentured servitude and even the EPA freely acknowledges that indoor environments are far more polluted than the world outdoors. On top of that Christopher most likely is forced to spend a disproportionate amount of his time confined to a cage and probably is left all alone nights, weekends, and holidays.
Above all, cats are entitled to their freedom. They need fresh air and sunshine like all living creatures. They should be allowed to wallow in green grass, to tramp through fallen leaves, to experience the chill of autumn and the cold of winter, as well as to feel the rain and snow in their faces.
Veterinary offices are by definition chock-full of sick and injured animals and as a consequence they, like shelters, are not the most hygienic environments for cats. Also, whereas most surgeries segregate donor cats, Christopher is allowed to mingle with the patients which increases the odds that he might contract a disease.
To shanghai unconsenting cats into becoming long-term blood donors is the very epitome of inhumane and barbaric behavior. If any medical doctor ever were caught doing likewise to a patient that practitioner would be jailed and the same logic should be applied to those who treat cats in a similar fashion.
Besides, it is unnecessary for Nine Lives to treat Christopher so shabbily in that there are numerous animal blood banks scattered around the country. Of course, Nine Lives is compelled to pay for that blood whereas it is considerably cheaper for it to simply take it from Christopher by force.
Christopher is by no means an isolated case. Tens of thousands of cats and dogs are at this very moment languishing in the back rooms of veterinary establishments. Tucked neatly away from the prying eyes of both animal rights activists and the public they live, suffer, and die in obscurity. Out of sight, as per usual, translates into being out of mind and beyond the reach of all compassion.
Nine Lives in all likelihood already has been paid in full by Benishin and Smith for treating Christopher's fractured pelvis and it has benefited in spades from the remarkable work that he has performed with other felines. His notoriety in the press and on Facebook no doubt also has led to a marked increase in donations.
The time therefore has come for Nine Lives to stop exploiting him and to put him up for adoption. He deserves to be in a loving home where he is respected for the extraordinary cat that he is instead of having the blood routinely sucked out of him.
In a YouTube video entitled simply "Nine Lives Foundation," Thompson speaks of her love for cats and of her desire to add a sanctuary to her organization's existing surgery and shelter. That is all highly commendable but what is conspicuously lacking in her eloquence and incessant begging for money is a total lack of respect for cats like Christopher. Quite obviously her sense of empathy is every bit as retarded as Christopher's is developed.
Great works still ring hollow if they are not accompanied by compassion and a genuine respect for animals and their rights. For example, any advocate for children would be scorned and ridiculed as a hypocrite if she neglected and exploited her own offspring and the same logic applies to cats.
Sadly, unless something drastic is done all that Christopher has to look forward to over the course of the next four years is a quarterly regimen of being sedated, shaven, and poked with a needle.
Photos: Nine Lives (Christopher), Facebook (Benishin), and St. Tammany News (Peony).