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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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Orphaned by a Wildfire and Then Rescued by a Forest Ranger, Chips Is Now Bracing for a Frightening Return to the Wild

Chips and Tad Hair
"Tad (Hair) just took pity on her. He gathered her up and flushed her eyes out. Some girls have all the luck."
-- Nan Powers of Sierra Wildlife Rescue
Inside a forlorn enclosed pen at a wildlife rehabilitation center in northern California an almost seven-month-old bobcat named Chips to struggling to come to terms with the vicissitudes of outrageous fortune. Left an orphan by a wildfire of the same name that consumed seventy-five-thousand acres of the Plumas National Forest last August, her fragile life is now suspended between the human and animal worlds and she is facing a truly terrifying future.

On August 25th, members of the Mad River Ranger District stumbled upon the then three to four week old kitten alongside a road eight miles outside of Chester. Dazed and dehydrated, Chips was walking in circles around a tree stump. As it shortly was to be revealed, disorientation was the least of her worries in that she had sustained second-degree burns on all of her four paws as well as to her back. Her whiskers were singed and her eyes were so infected with soot and oozing so much pus that she could barely see well enough to even walk.

The rangers' first thought was to ignore her and to continue on with their mop up work but Chips was not about to be denied. Despite her obvious impairments, she still possessed enough presence of mind in order to utilize her keen sense of hearing in order to follow in their footsteps and every time that ranger Charles "Tad" Hair would stop she would curl up around his boots.

It is not known why she selected Hair to appeal to for help but that spur-of-the-moment decision in the end has made all the difference. If she had picked out another ranger he could have ignored her entreaties and sooner or later she in all likelihood would have succumbed to either starvation or predation and the world thus would have been deprived of ever knowing that she had existed.

Even then Hair's next inclination was to attempt to reunite her with her mother but that ultimately proved not to be possible. "No tracks whatsoever in the ash except for this little gal's," he later told the Plumas County News of Quincy on December 12th. (See "Chips the Bobcat Gets a New Home for the Winter.")

Rather than just leaving her to die on her own, Hair made the fateful decision to take her back with him to his base in West Lake Almanor. "I just couldn't leave him (sic) there," he later told the USDA's web site on September 5th. (See "Baby Bobcat 'Chips' Rescued from Chips Fire.")

There is an old adage that stipulates whenever a person saves the life of another he is from that time forward responsible for the well-being of that life and, accordingly, Hair's and Chips' fates are forever intertwined and cannot be torn asunder. Hair thus is now responsible for Chips whether he likes it or not.

"Tad just took pity on her," Nan Powers of Sierra Wildlife Rescue (SWR) of Placerville, which currently has custody of Chips, told The Sacramento Bee on December 27th. (See "Bobcat Gets Lessons on Living Wild.") "He gathered her up and flushed her eyes out. Some girls have all the luck."
Chips Is Fed by Laurie L. Pearson of the United States Forest Service

Considering the horrific toll that wildfires take on all animals each summer, it is a wonder that Chips survived at all. That is especially the case in that she was found in one of the worst burned-out areas.

"How it survived with the fire passing through is miraculous," John Heil of the United States Forest Service told The Sacramento Bee in the article cited supra.

As far as it is known no records are kept regarding the number of cats, both big and small, that are killed by wildfires each year. Moreover, only a handful of those that are rescued at the eleventh hour ever make the news.

One such fortunate cat who amazingly survived the Humboldt fire in northern California back in June of 2008 was Phoenix. Found near Paradise, she had sustained severe burns to her paws while saving the life of her kitten, Blaze. (See Cat Defender post of July 3, 2008 entitled "Phoenix Is Severely Burned but Still Manages to Save One of Her Kittens from the Humboldt Fire.")

Hair and his fellow rangers almost immediately fobbed off Chips onto the shoulders of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) in South Lake Tahoe. While she was interned there, her eyes were flushed thrice daily in order to clean out the infection and her burns were treated.

In order to fatten up the twenty-four ounce kitten, staffers fed her a daily ration of a dozen mice. Lacking the teeth in order to skin and grind up the bones, the rodents had to be pulverized before being presented to her. By contrast, bobcat kittens in the wild consume food regurgitated by their mothers. (See video entitled "Dinner with Chips" which was posted August 28th at www.ltwc.org.)

She also was given a special kitten formula, perhaps Kitten Replacement Milk, and pieces of ice not only to ease her dehydration but also to soothe her irritated throat and lungs. More soot and ash were removed from her fur.
Chips on the Mend

On November 1st , she was relocated to SWR in Placerville and since then both her paws and eyes are believed to have completely healed. She is currently confined in an outdoor enclosure with two other orphaned bobcats.

One of them is named Tuffy who is recuperating from a broken elbow that he sustained when he was run down by a motorist. The other one, Sierra, became separated from his mother near the Sierra Army Depot, southeast of Susanville.

Upon arrival, Chips at first continued to receive her customary daily rations of mice, chicken, and cat food but now that is largely a thing of the past. In an effort to prepare her for an eventual return to the wild, she is expected to catch her own mice and rabbits. Occasionally, however, she is fed roadkill squirrel and possibly other meats as well.

Placing her with Tuffy and Sierra is designed to not only acquaint her with other members of her species but hopefully she will be able to learn from them how to play and hunt. "The kits need to learn about and play with their own species; it is really good for them," Powers told the Plumas County News in the article cited supra. "They learn hunting behaviors, wrestle and play together."

In addition to forcing Chips to procure her own food, officials at SWR are intentionally being mean to her in a belated effort to instill in her a fear of humans. Toward that end, she is squirted with water whenever she comes too close to any of them.

"If you have a friendly bobcat in the wild, that's not going to work," the organization's Jill Tripoli told The Sacramento Bee in the article cited supra. The tactic seems to be working to a degree in that she now has taken to hiding whenever humans approach although, unlike Tuffy and Sierra, she still sticks her head out in order to have a peek at them.

There can be no denying, however, that Chips has much to learn and many mental adjustments to make before she will stand much of a chance of surviving in the wild. Plus, time is fast running out for her in that SWR plans on returning her and her mates to the wild in either March or April.
Fragile and Confused, Chips Is Torn Between Two Worlds

"They are too young to be released right now and wouldn't be able to fend for themselves," Powers conceded to the Plumas County News in the article cited supra. "We don't release any wild animals until they are old enough to fend for themselves and free of any injuries."

Despite the formidable obstacles awaiting Chips, Powers is confident that she and her companions are up to the herculean task that awaits them. "We try to keep them wild and so far, they are thriving and growing," she pledged to the Plumas County News. "By the time they go back into the forest, they will be about eight to nine months old and will be able to cope and defend themselves."

Surviving on her own, however, involves considerably more than simply being physically fit and having reached a specific age. Powers, accordingly, is guilty of failing to explain how six months spent in captivity ever could even remotely prepare Chips for what lies ahead.

Normally, bobcat kittens are born in the spring and remain with their mothers until some time in the autumn. In some cases they in fact spent the entire first years of their lives alongside their mothers.

It therefore strains credulity that SWR is going to be able to accomplish with Chips in six months what it takes female bobcats up to a year to do. That is especially the case in that the highest mortality rate found amongst bobcats is in those that die shortly after leaving their mothers and before they are able to perfect their hunting skills.

Even for those cats that are lucky enough to reach adulthood the going is so perilous that they live only six to eight years on the average. By contrast, they have been known to live for as long as thirty-two years in captivity.

Perhaps SWR is doing the very best for Chips that can be expected under the circumstances but that still does not constitute a valid excuse for condemning her to an almost certain death. Her life should be worth considerably more than that.
Henry Arnibal

As far as it is known there are not any reliable statistics available as to the success rate of rewilding orphaned bobcats, but even despite that glaring absence there is good reason to suspect that Powers's halcyon assessment of Chips' predicament is little more than public relations propaganda and a fundraising ploy. For example, a study conducted by Kristen Jule of the University of Exeter concluded that tigers and other large carnivores born in captivity stand only a thirty-three per cent chance of surviving in the wild. (See National Geographic, January 23, 2008, "Most Captive-Born Predators Die if Released" and Cat Defender post of March 11, 2008 entitled "South China Tigers Are Being Bred and Trained at a South African Reserve for an Eventual Return to the Wild.")

Whereas there is, admittedly, a world of difference between a tiger and a bobcat, the fact that Chips was orphaned at such a tender age makes it pretty much the same as if she had been born in captivity. In particular, it is doubtful that the hunting, mating, and nurturing skills that she would have acquired from her mother can be learned in captivity.

Much the same thing can be said of her urgent need to develop a healthy fear of humans. In short, everything that she would have learned from her mother must be rapidly picked up in either the School of Hard Knocks or from Tuffy and Sierra.

It also is important to note that SWR's specialty is rescuing and rewilding songbirds which is a considerably easier task than reintroducing medium-sized mammals to the wild. Even when it comes to birds the organization fails to disclose on its web site its success rate in returning them to nature.

By contrast, LTWC declares on its web site that over the course of the past three decades it has cared for twenty-thousand "critters" and released thirteen-thousand of them back into the wild. It conveniently omits, however, both a species by species accounting of those released and, most important of all, what later became of them and those not released. Accordingly, its boast of successfully rewilding sixty-four per cent of its "critters" is not only a meaningless statistic but a misleading one as well.

Even in the absence of any data concerning the success rate of rewilding orphaned bobcats it readily can be seen that Chips is facing an uphill struggle. Since Americans are so dead set against making the roads even moderately safe for animals, pedestrians, and bicyclists, motorists pose a major threat to her well-being as Tuffy so rudely found out for himself.

In many locales bobcats are hunted either for their pelts or because they are considered to be nuisance animals. A few individuals even dine on their flesh.

Thirty-eight-year-old Henry Arnibal of Sleepy Valley Road in Morgan Hill, thirty-seven kilometers south of San Jose in Santa Clara County, does both. Following his arrest on November 7, 2011, he admitted to not only skinning and preserving the pelt of a cat that he shot after it allegedly devoured five of his more than fifty fighting cocks but also to consuming its flesh.
Bobcat Trapped Atop at Saguaro Cactus

Since under California's draconian animal protection laws it is perfectly legal to both kill and to eat bobcats, Arnibal was charged only with shooting the cat without a permit. Santa Clara prosecutors compounded the miserable situation by being so lazy and derelict in their duties as to not even charge him with cockfighting. (See San Francisco Weekly, November 16, 2011, "Henry Arnibal, South Bay Man, Allegedly Likes to Consume Meth and Bobcats -- in That Order.")

Bobcats also are horribly abused and ruthlessly exploited by unscrupulous breeders, such as Mitchell Morris of Lawrence County, Alabama, who trap them in order to forcibly breed them to domestic cats so as to create Pixie-Bobs.

Despite the genetic abnormalities, personality disorders, and other hideous consequences of such mismatched matings, the $300 to $1,500 price tags that such designer cats command is making this abhorrent practice more common. "I found gold in my backyard with these kittens," Mitchell, a devout Christian, crowed in 2007. "God will send you money and miracles in the strangest ways." (See Cat Defender post of June 28, 2007 entitled "Rural Alabama Man Makes a 'Killing' Forcibly Breeding Domestic Cats to Bobcats in Order to Create Pixie-Bobs.")

Even when man is not the menace, starvation and disease, particularly parasites, bedevil the lives of bobcats. Owls, eagles, coyotes, and foxes routinely kill bobcat kittens and adults are subjected to predation at the hands of cougars and gray wolves.

For example, in August of 2011 a bobcat was chased up a fifty-foot-tall Saguaro cactus in Arizona's Sonoran Desert by a hungry cougar. The cougar stared up at the bobcat and growled several times before going on about its business.

Not about to take any chances, the bobcat awaited atop the three-hundred-year-old cactus for six hours before coming down and heading back to the Superstition Mountains. "It's a successful story of a bobcat (who) avoided being eaten by a mountain lion with a happy ending of its successful exit back into the desert," Curt Fonger, who photographed the dramatic confrontation, told the Daily Mail on August 24, 2011. (See "How Did He Get Up There? The Cat Who Got Stuck Up a Cactus.")

In the barren desert, cacti are, arguably, a cat's best friend and that is true for domestic cats as well as for bobcats. For instance, later in that same year a black domestic cat with white patches was forced to spend three days atop another Saguaro cactus in the same desert near the town of Mesa.
A Domestic Cat Likewise Ends Up Stranded Atop a Cactus

Believed to have been chased up the cactus by a coyote, the cat cruelly and inhumanely was left to fend for itself after local firefighters, in stark juxtaposition to the conduct of their English counterparts, adamantly refused to mount a rescue. (See Cat Defender posts of February 20, 2007 and March 20, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Stray Cat Ignominiously Named Stinky Is Rescued from a Rooftop by a Good Samaritan After Fire Department Refuses to Help" and "Bone-Lazy, Mendacious Firefighters Are Costing the Lives of Both Cats and Humans by Refusing to Do Their Duty.")

Fortunately, the cat eventually was able to make it down on its own after which it promptly disappeared. (See Daily Mail, November 15, 2011, "Make a Sharp Exit: House Cat Gets Stuck Twenty Feet Up a Giant Cactus for Three Days Before Climbing Back Down.")

Even if against all odds Chips somehow should be able to steer clear of all human and animal predators she in all likelihood ultimately will be done in by her rehabilitators. Although SWR has not publicly broached the subject, it would be shocking if it does not outfit her with an electronic surveillance collar before releasing her. After all, the turning of all animals into guinea pigs that they can ruthlessly exploit at will is far too much of a temptation for wildlife biologists and rehabilitators to resist.

Should that turn out to be SWR's game plan, Chips' sojourn upon this earth will not be anything short of an unrelenting Hell consisting of nonstop harassment, repeated trappings, and tranquilizations. While they have her at their mercy, her handlers at SWR will rob her of blood and tissue samples as well as repeatedly measure, weigh, and probe her insides.

Once they have sucked all the blood out of her, they will manufacture some phony-baloney excuse in order to kill her. That is precisely what wildlife biologists in Arizona did to Macho B. a few years ago. (See Cat Defender post of May 21, 2009 entitled "Macho B., America's Last Jaguar, Is Illegally Trapped, Radio-Collared, and Killed Off by Wildlife Biologists in Arizona.")

Such barbaric and patently inhumane behavior already is the norm as to how bobcats are treated in Vermont. Since at least 2004, Mark Freeman, Kristen Watrous, and others affiliated with the University of Vermont in Burlington have been doing precisely that to hundreds of them in a joint project with the Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Financed by Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Shelburne Farms, the Vermont Trappers' Association, and unidentified private citizens, this massive surveillance and abuse project has been undertaken ostensibly in order to study the impact that development and road construction are having on the cats. As per usual with all wildlife biologists, that is not even a rough approximation of the unvarnished truth.
Kristen Watrous with a Drugged Bobcat  

Au contraire, the project's ulterior motive is to fabricate data so as to rob the bobcats of what little that remains of their habitat and in turn to give it to developers and others. While it sans doute is true that wildlife biologists would like a few of the cats to survive, that is only so that bloodthirsty, moneygrubbing hunters, trappers, and houndsmen will have them to kill and chase.

Trumping all of those nefarious designs, the project provides wildlife biologists with a carte blanche opportunity to line their pockets and to further their careers. Above all, it allows them to play God by ruthlessly dominating and abusing these cats. (See Seven Days, April 18, 2007, "What About Bobcat? Taming Vermont's Feline Fatale.")

With such a perverted mindset, it is not surprising that wildlife biologists and their cohorts kill thousands, if not indeed millions, of animal each year while tagging them. Amazingly, this detestable naked abuse and subjugation so far has escaped public censure.

Saving the animals is not nearly enough; they also must be free of human abuse and domination. (See Cat Defender posts of February 29, 2008, June 11, 2007, May 4, 2006, and April 17, 2006 entitled, respectively, "The Repeated Hounding Down and Tagging of Walruses Exposes Electronic Surveillance as Not Only Cruel but a Fraud," "Katzen-Kameras Are Not Only Cruel and Inhumane but Represent as Assault Upon Cats' Liberties and Privacy," "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals," and, "Hal the Central Park Coyote Is Suffocated to Death by Wildlife Biologists Attempting to Tag Him.")

In little Chips' case, the difficulties associated with the de rigueur of everyday living pale in comparison with the confusion that exists in her mind. Born in the wild, she first became separated from her mother and since that time has been living with humans. Now, she is about to be abandoned again, only this time around it is going to be into an environment that is far more perilous than anything that she has known before in her young life.

Like the gods of the Epicureans who were said to exist in the intermundia, Chips belongs neither totally in the wild nor in civil society. In just a few short weeks she will be forced to either sink or swim on her own in an unforgiving landscape where even so much as a split second of either confusion or indecision could be fatal.

It perhaps would be better to send her to a bobcat sanctuary if a legitimate one could have been secured. Under absolutely no circumstances should she be interned at either a godforsaken zoo or captive-breeding facility.

The only other option would  be to reverse course and  raise her as a domestic cat and on that subject there is a sharp divergence of opinion. For example, Barbara Roe of Bitterroot Bobcat and Lynx of Stevensville, Montana, maintains that bobcats can be made into loving pets.

"Bobcat and lynx, when tamed and raised properly with lots of human contact, bond very strongly to people and domestic pets," she states on her web site where she offers bobcat kittens to the public for $1,750 apiece.

On the other hand, Alyssa Ast maintains that because of their mercurial temperaments the cats are dangerous to both their owners and other domestic animals. She also cites their penchant for spraying and destruction of property as two additional reasons why they do not make good pets. (See Yahoo News, September 23, 2010, "The Dangers of Owning a Bobcat.")

True enough on December 7, 2008, a cat named Benny inadvertently bit Santa Claus's left wrist when he became spooked by dogs at a picture-taking event held at PetSmart in the Shore Mall in Mays Landing, New Jersey. Jonathan Bebbington of nearby Vineland, who was posing as Santa, later was treated for six minor puncture wounds.
Chips Emerges from Her Den at SWR

It never was clarified, however, whether the eight-month-old cat was a genuine bobcat or a hybrid Pixie-Bob. In either case Benny's owner, Christine Haughey of Egg Harbor Township, should have had more bon sens than to have exposed him to a crowd of not only Christmas shoppers but dogs and cats as well. (See Cat Defender post of December 19, 2008 entitled "Regardless of Whether He Is a Pixie-Bob or a Bobcat, It Is Going to Be a Blue Christmas for Benny after He Inadvertently Bites Santa Claus.")

Although the anecdotal evidence is far from being conclusive, domesticating a bobcat kitten certainly would be a considerably easier task than George and Joy Adamson had with the world famous lioness, Elsa. (See Cat Defender post of October 10, 2005 entitled "Animals Start Returning to Born Free Nature Reserve in Kenya as Poachers and Bandits Are Driven Out.")

Of course, the entire subject of adopting and providing Chips with a loving home is moot without there being someone willing to undertake that daunting task and that quite naturally brings this discussion full circle back to Hair. Although there is absolutely nothing in the public record to even remotely suggest that he has either the inclination or resources to do so, he has shown himself to be a compassionate individual and accordingly adopting Chips is an option that he should give considerable thought to before it is too late.

Some people would counter by arguing that it already is too late to domesticate Chips. Perhaps so, but as long as there is life there is hope and Chips' life is far too precious to be sacrificed without a fight. She has come too far and endured too much to become a victim of SWR's ideology.

Despite whatever wildlife biologists and rehabilitators, scientists, and rationalists claim to the contrary, there actually is very little about life that is logical. Rather, it is profoundly absurd and, most often, gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking.

The Fates conspired so that Chips' and Hair's paths crossed on that deserted road back in August. By abdicating his responsibility to her, Hair is tampering with fate and that always is a very dangerous thing to do.

Both the ancient Greeks and the Germanic tribes of old essentially agree on the tragic nature of life. Since most thing cannot be altered for the good, man's only true choice in life is either to summon the courage in order to deal with fate or to cowardly run from it. Tant pis, is to stubbornly deny the crucial role that it plays in this world.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recommended that life's challenges be met with amor fati. Whereas it is always possible that Hair will have a last-minute change of heart not only for Chips' sake but for his own as well, that does not appear to be in the cards.

Instead, he apparently has decided not only against mounting a second rescue but to indulge in a touch of the macabre by personally being on hand for Chips' sendoff. "(I) would love to be involved in her eventual reintroduction into the wild, whenever that may be," he told the USDA's web site in the article cited supra.

Barring nothing short of a miracle, that is destined to be the last time that either he or anyone else ever sees Chips again, at least alive.

Photos: United States Forest Service (Chips and Hair, Chips and Pearson, and Chips being held), Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center (Chips on the carpet), San Francisco Weekly (Arnibal), Daily Mail (bobcat and cat atop cacti), Seven Days (Watrous and tranquilized bobcat), and Randall Benton of The Sacramento Bee (Chips coming out of her den).

Saturday, February 09, 2013

New Start Cat Rescue Center Abruptly Kills Off Victoria after the Cancer Returns to Her Already Ravaged Ears

The Ill-Fated Victoria Following Emergency Surgery

"She was so brave. But the vet confirmed my worst fears that the cancer had returned. There were no options left for her."
-- Wendy Hyde of New Start Cat Rescue Center

Victoria, a long-suffering victim of skin cancer, has been killed off by her foster mother, Wendy Hyde of the New Start Cat Rescue Center (NSCRC) in Newent, eight miles northeast of Gloucester. Although no specific date has been given for her execution, it is believed that the foul deed was committed just after Christmas.

Victoria made headlines around the world after she was found wandering the streets of Newent on October 14th. By that time her cancer-ravaged ears had become such an unremitting source of torment that she was left with no alternative other than to attempt to remove them with her claws. In fact, by the time that she was found her left ear had been left uselessly dangling at the side of her face.

Because of her obvious ease around people it is suspected that she at one time had a permanent home and later was abandoned. It is unclear, however, if she was deserted before or after she contracted cancer.

Nevertheless, since she was a white-haired cat she should not have been left out in the sun for any prolonged period of time without being equipped with either sunscreen or some sort of protective headgear. Adding to her miseries, she was forced to procure shelter, food, and water as well as to elude both human and animal predators during that horrible time. Considering all of that, it is amazing that she was able to hold on for as long as she did.

Upon arrival at NSCRC Victoria underwent emergency surgery and was released into the care of the charity's Wendy Hyde. She later was forced to make a return trip to the veterinarian in order to have an infection treated but otherwise things were looking up for her.

"She's not out of the woods yet but she's certainly on the mend," Hyde reported in late October. "...she is a lot more perky now and she's taken over my living room." (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2012 entitled "In Utter Desperation, Victoria Claws Off Her Rotting Ears after She Is Stricken with Cancer and Abandoned to Aimlessly Wander the Forbidding Streets of Newent.")

Individuals in both London and on the Isle of Jersey generously had offered to provide her with a permanent home and donations in the excess of £500 poured in from as far afield as Canada, New Zealand, and China. All of that coupled with Hyde's earlier statements served only to make the unexpected announcement of her death all the more shocking and heartbreaking.

"She was so brave. But the vet confirmed my worst fears that the cancer had returned," Hyde informed The Citizen of Gloucester on January 5th. (See "Cat with No Ears Which Captured Readers' Hearts Dies.") "There were no options left for her."

Although words fail to do justice to what Victoria was forced to endure, NSCRC's elliptical account of events is sorely lacking in both specifics and candor. Most glaringly, it has not revealed any details of either the cancer or what measures were taken in order to treat it.

This is mere supposition but more than likely Victoria was suffering from cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma which is an especially aggressive cancer that it difficult to treat. Not withstanding that, surgery is not the only means of combating that deadly disease. For instance, radiation and photodynamic therapy, the latter of which improvises a combination of dyes and lasers, could have been tried.

Chemotherapy was another option especially if the disease had spread beyond her ears. Also, cyrosurgery possibly could have been tried on small tumors.

Even if none of those procedures had proven effective, her life likely could have been extended indefinitely through the application of painkillers, antibiotics, and topical analgesics. It thus appears that Hyde was being considerably less than truthful when she categorically stated that she was left with no alternative other than to kill Victoria.

After all that she had been put through she certainly deserved every opportunity to go on living for as long as possible. Although nothing ever could begin to make amends for how horribly she had been treated, Hyde and NSCRC had a solemn moral obligation to make her last days and years as happy as possible.

Instead, they betrayed her trust and abandoned her just like all the other people who had wandered in and out of her brief life had done previously. The only difference is that this time around Hyde's coldblooded betrayal is destined to be the final one.

No information has been released regarding the disposition of her remains but more than likely they either were burned or thrown out in the rubbish. Since NSCRC was too cheap and lazy to care for her while she was still alive, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that it was not about to spring for a proper burial and a tombstone.

That, quite naturally, segues into the always contentious subject of money. In particular, other than stating that Victoria's surgery had cost thousands of pounds NSCRC has not made any public accounting whatsoever.

In order to have so much as a tiny smidgen of credibility, it is imperative that the charity reveal to the public a detailed accounting of not only how much money it spent on Victoria's surgery but how much it would have cost to have continued treating her. It also must disclose the total amount of donations that it received which were specifically earmarked for her care and how that money was spent.

Rather than unilaterally electing to kill off Victoria, the organization could have issued an appeal for additional contributions and true cat lovers from around the world surely would have responded with their usual generosity. To place a greater value upon shekel accumulation instead of saving lives is a form of advanced mental illness that, sadly, afflicts the overwhelming majority of mankind.

The charity's outrageous hypocrisy and self-righteous pontifications likewise reveal its utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a moral conscience. "It looks like the owner has abandoned her. How could anyone do that?" the organization's Louise Barrow asked rhetorically back in October. "We, more than anyone, know just how expensive vets' bills are at the moment, but it is awful."

While that certainly is true enough what NSCRC did to Victoria was far worse in that it not only abandoned but snuffed out her precious life as well. The charity's egregious crime is compounded by the fact that its resources and access to topnotch veterinary care far exceed those available to ordinary citizens.
Jazzy and Becky Robinson

It is well established that Animal Control officers, shelters, policemen, ornithologists, wildlife biologists, and other virulent ailurophobes kill tens of millions of cats each year. What is not nearly as well publicized is that perhaps millions more of them are killed off each year because their owners, unscrupulous veterinarians, and phony-baloney rescue groups are too cheap to treat them.

Only a handful of these unfortunate cats ever make the headlines but nonetheless those that do must never be forgotten. For example, in 2006 the editors and reporters of The Caledonian-Record in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, rewarded their longtime, three-legged office cat, Tripod, for his years of faithful service and companionship with a deadly jab of sodium pentobarbital. (See Cat Defender post of February 9, 2006 entitled "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont.")

A year later the public library in Spencer, Iowa, did the same thing to its beloved mascot, Dewey Readmore Books. (See Cat Defender posts of December 7, 2006 and May 10, 2007 entitled, respectively, "After Nineteen Years of Service and Companionship, Ingrates at Iowa Library Murder Dewey Readmore Books" and "Iowa Librarian Vicki Myron Inks Million-Dollar Deal for Memoir About Dewey Readmore Books.")

International acclaim was not even sufficient in order to save the fragile lives of either feline heroine Scarlett or former First Cat Socks. (See Cat Defender posts of October 27, 2008 and March 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Loved and Admired All Over the World, Feline Heroine Scarlett Is Killed Off by Her Owner after She Becomes Ill" and "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.""

If the famous do not enjoy any protections against the machinations of their callous owners, the same applies in spades to unheralded cats who fall into the hands of morally bankrupt passersby, shelters, and veterinarians. (See Cat Defender posts of September 28, 2011 and October 23, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Marvin Is Betrayed, Abducted, and Murdered by a Journalist and a Shelter Who Preposterously Maintain That They Were Doing Him a Favor" and "A Supposedly No-Kill Operation in Marblehead Betrays Sally and Snuffs Out Her Life Instead of Providing Her with a Home and Veterinary Care.")

In late November of last year, Alley Cat Allies (ACA) killed off its office cat, Jared, after he was diagnosed with cancer, kidney disease, and anemia. (See Cat Defender post of January 2, 2013 entitled "Alley Cat Allies Demonstrates Its Utter Contempt for the Sanctity of Life by Unconscionably Killing Off Its Office Cat, Jared.")

On January 23rd, the organization announced on its web site that another of its office cats, Jazzy, had died two days previously. The cause of the thirteen-year-old tortoiseshell's death has been listed as a recently diagnosed case of encephalitis.

According to ACA, she suffered a seizure over the weekend, was rushed to an unidentified veterinarian, and by Monday morning (January 21st) "was gone." That certainly is an oblique way of describing her death and leaves open the distinct possibility that she, like Jared, was killed off rather than treated.

For whatever it is worth, Becky Robinson and ACA have assured their supporters that they "took every step possible to treat her and identify the cause." (See "Alley Cat Allies Remembers Office Cat Jazzy.")

The total lack of candor demonstrated by ACA, NSCRC, and other rescue groups stands in stark contrast to that exhibited by many private citizens who not only disclose the nature of the disease, diagnosis, and treatment afforded their either sick or injured cats, but also the names of the attending veterinarians and the costs involved. Even if they ultimately decide to kill off their cats they do not beat around the bush about it but rather say so in unequivocal language.

The problem is compounded by these groups' reliance upon handouts from the public for their existence. Yet, in spite of that they do not recognize any obligation to be truthful with either their supporters or the public at large.

Such morally repugnant and patently dishonest behavior contributes absolutely nothing toward elevating the status of cats to that of sentient beings who are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Au contraire, it perpetrates the entrenched belief that they exist only as objects of amusement, exploitation, and abuse who can be either cruelly abandoned or killed off as circumstances dictate. That is acutely the case with sick and injured cats who often are casually discarded as if they were nothing more than a pair of worn-out shoes once their continued care becomes either too expensive or simply inconvenient.

In reality, such thinking and behavior is not all that far removed from that of ornithologists, wildlife biologists, PETA, veterinarians, and other avowed enemies of the species. Whereas those monsters kill cats on sight, most rescue groups eventually get around to doing the same thing. The only tangible differences are that it takes them a bit longer and they are allowed to get away with their hideous crimes by cloaking them in a cocoon of lies and double-talk.

The total lack of respect for the sanctity of feline life demonstrated by rescue groups and veterinarians also sets a terrible example for the remainder of the public. That is because when what they should be doing is raising the bar in respect to the proper care of cats, they actually are lowering it. Such behavior additionally gives a hollow ring to all of their pronouncements about abandonment and abuse.

Every bit as disturbing, the public does not seem to mind that these organizations kill cats and lie about it and that callous indifference is reflected in their continued financial support of them. Some owners even leave large sums of money in their wills to PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, and other groups with explicit instructions that any cats which survive them are to be immediately killed.

Worst still, none of these organizations have any intention of ever mending their evil ways. For instance, ACA's only response to criticism leveled against it has been to demonstrate its true fascist and totalitarian nature by attempting to silence its critics. If it should be allowed to prevail, only its outright lies and half-truths will remain as the touchstone for what constitutes the proper care of cats.

In their defense, these groups undoubtedly would argue that they have bigger fish to fry and that accordingly the lives of individual cats are of little consequence. While there can be no denying that resources always are in short supply, killing cats is nevertheless indefensible under any circumstances.

In Dame Agatha's 1940 novel, One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, Hercule Poirot was presented with an analogous moral conundrum. Specifically, he was prevailed upon by Alistair Blunt, a powerful politician, to overlook a few murders in the name of the greater good.

"I am not concerned with nations, monsieur," the great detective, being a man of moral conscience, replied. "I am concerned with the lives of private individuals who have the right not to have their lives taken from them."

So, too, is it with cats. The ends no more justify the means when dealing with them and other animals than they do in governing the relationships between men. To indulge in such tosh is tantamount to sanctioning almost any evil.

Photos: The Citizen (Victoria) and Cat Channel (Jazzy and Robinson).

Friday, February 01, 2013

Precious Little Hattie Returns Home for Her Sixth Consecutive, but Hopefully Not Last, Christmas

Hattie and Allan Spurgeon
"I really love animals and taking care of them. I'm going to feel really bad some year when she doesn't come back."
-- Allan Spurgeon

Christmas long since has come and gone but there always is time for one more yuletide story to warm the heart on a cold February evening. That is especially the case for one whose setting is familiar to fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and whose storyline mimics that of Cleveland Amory's much celebrated 1987 book, The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

The protagonist in this touching tale is a fifteen-year-old longhaired white cat named Hattie who for distinguishing marks has a faint gray spot between her ears. Like her mother and great-grandfather she was born on Allan Spurgeon's farm in tiny Hope, Minnesota.

Her first nine years on this earth were unexceptional but about six years ago she began to roam. In particular, she disappears each May and does not show up again until a few days just before Christmas. Spurgeon and his family accordingly have dubbed her "the Christmas Cat."

"It's cool that she comes back before Christmas -- just in case there is a gift for her just like a child would," he told The Leader of Owatonna on December 29th. (See "'Christmas Cat' Returns -- Again -- to Farm Near Hope.")

Last December, for example, she returned on Christmas Eve but did not leave the insulated shed that serves as her home on the farm until four days later. Because of her advanced years, Spurgeon was somewhat surprised that she even returned at all.

That was strictly a case of dejà vu as far as he was concerned because he felt the same way the first time that she disappeared. "I looked in all the buildings and ditches and didn't find her anywhere, thought she was gone," Spurgeon told The Leader. "Then on the morning of Christmas Eve the first year, she returned."

Hattie's comings and goings are every bit as puzzling as they are miraculous in that Spurgeon never has been able to discover where she spends her summers and autumns. "It's a mystery to us," he told The Leader. "She's the only one (of his barn cats) that wanders."

Owatonna veterinarian Stephen Krumm believes that she is living on her own nearby. "She probably is living off the land in the summer and returns home during the winter just like we have summer and winter homes sometimes," he theorized to The Leader.

Spurgeon at first thought that she might be residing at the Hope Campground but since the water there is shut off in  early autumn that does not seem likely. He also dismisses the notion that she could be staying with summer residents because he does not know of any in Hope.

Cats are forever a mystery and that makes deciphering their behavior a very dicey proposition. "The wonderful thing about the cat is the way in which, when one of its many mysteries is laid bare, it is only to reveal another," Robert De Laroche wrote in The Secret Life of Cats. "The essential enigma always remains intact, a sphinx within a sphinx within a sphinx."

Nevertheless, it is known that they can tell time more accurately than Breitling and that they possess a keen sense of direction that enables them to find their way home across hundreds and even thousands of miles. (See Cat Defender post of April 27, 2007 entitled "French Cat Mimine Walks Eight-Hundred Kilometers to Track Down Family That Abandoned Her.")

They also have a penchant for place which is attested to by the old proverb that stipulates that dogs belong to people but cats to places. For Example, in late 2010 a black and white shorthaired male named Boomerang was trapped at an apartment complex in Stayton, Oregon, by Shannon Johnson of the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon.

He then was placed with a farmer on the outskirts of Sublimity, eight or so miles removed from the apartment complex. He stayed there for a week before bolting back up Highway 213 to his old abode.

Johnson promptly trapped him again and returned him to the farm with the same result. That is when she decided to change tactics.

"Obviously, this cat needs to be an indoor-only cat, which makes it harder to find him a home," she told the Statesman Journal on December 10, 2010. (See "Boomerang the Cat Lives Up to His Name.") "But he's such a gentle little cat. I know he'd make a good family pet."

Not only is imprisoning cats indoors cruel but it is hazardous to their health as well. In this particular instance that expedient would not have been necessary if Johnson had not so badly botched both adoptions.

Boomerang and Shannon Johnson

In particular, she instructed the unidentified farmer to crate Boomerang for three days. First of all, cats never should be confined to cages except when traveling.

Second of all, seventy-two hours is too short of an interval in order to expect one to adjust to a new environment. Once that is taken into consideration on top of the trauma of being caged it is not surprising that Boomerang took to his heels at the first opportunity.

A far better alternative would have been to confine him indoors for a month but uncaged. That would have given him sufficient time in order to have adjusted to both his new environment and caretakers.

If he had been fed and treated well during that interim it likely then would have been safe to have given him free rein of the farm. By that time his memories of his hardscrabble life at the apartment complex hopefully would have not only receded but been replaced by new and positive ones associated with his new home.

It therefore is not anything out of the ordinary that Hattie is able to not only find her way home but at precisely Christmastime. Attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding her behavior is an entirely different matter.

Krumm's theory that she is living off the land seems unlikely because winter comes early to southern Minnesota and heavy snows and subfreezing temperatures are not uncommon as early as October. With most wildlife either having migrated or gone into hibernation, there is little for her to eat and even obtaining drinking water in such a frigid environment would be difficult.

The most plausible explanation therefore is that she has been befriended by tourists. Since Spurgeon does not know of any in Hope, it is likely that Hattie has ventured outside the area.

These summer residents very well could be taking her inside and showering her with the love, attention, and treats that she is denied by Spurgeon. After all, there must be some motivating factor behind her abrupt decision to roam.

As far as it is known, cats do not suffer from mid-life crises and since she has been spayed she obviously is not looking for a mate. Wanderlust, while a distinct possibility, does not seem likely.

Nevertheless, something triggered her roaming and that could have been related to either some new development or newcomer to Spurgeon's farm six years ago. It also is conceivable that she has developed a disdain for all the hustle and bustle that occurs during planting and harvesting.

If she indeed has secured a summer home, it would not be unusual for her caregivers to cruelly abandon her to her own devices at around Christmastime each year. Such revolting behavior, after all, occurs all the time.

For example, back in 2009 Mike and Ann Hirz of Poynette, Wisconsin, hightailed it to Green Valley, Arizona, and in doing so left behind a five-year-old tuxedo named Domino to tough it out on her own in the cold and snow. Even more outrageously, that callous decision was made after feeding her for four years and even adopting one of her kittens. (See Cat Defender posts of May 8, 2009 and February 20, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Domino, Feral and All Alone, Faces an Uncertain Future in Wisconsin Following an Unplanned Trip to Arizona" and "Abandoned and Left to Die in the Cold and Snow of Wisconsin, Domino Was the Most Memorable Cat of 2009.")

The sad and appalling truth of the matter is that few individuals recognize cats as moral equals. Rather, they use and abuse them before eventually either abandoning them or having them killed off by shelters and veterinarians once they have outlived their usefulness to them.

The only thing therefore to be said positive about Hattie's summertime guardians, if they in fact do exist, is that by leaving her behind Spurgeon is still able to have the pleasure of her companionship. Otherwise, he never would have known what became of her.

"I really love animals and taking care of them," he vowed to The Leader. "I'm going to feel really bad some year when she doesn't come back."

In addition to the perils posed by the elements and motorists, there also are predator coyotes, foxes, and owls in the area. Skin cancer is another concern, especially for white cats such as Hattie.

If she is going to left outdoors for long periods of time, sunscreen needs to be applied to her ears, nose, and possibly the area around her eyes. Equipping her with some sort of protective headgear is another option worth exploring. (See Cat Defender post of November 14, 2012 entitled "In Utter Desperation, Victoria Claws Off Her Rotting Ears after She Is Stricken with Cancer and Abandoned to Aimlessly Wander the Forbidding Streets of Newent.")

Even more alarmingly, as a senior cat time is no longer on her side. Like all elderly animals, man included, she needs an easier lifestyle and prompt access to competent medical care.

"She's a tough animal," Spurgeon added insouciantly. "I was worried at first, but she is obviously doing okay."

Her longevity is attributable in no small part to her genes. Her mother, for instance, is sixteen years old and still lives on the farm whereas her great-grandfather lived to the ripe old age of fifteen.

Sadly, she and her mother are the last of the line given that both of them have been sterilized. That makes Spurgeon's apparent indifference to Hattie's well-being all the more appalling.

The care of an outdoor cat is one of the most perplexing and heart-wrenching dilemmas imaginable. Despite the obvious difficulties, Spurgeon should be doing everything in his power in order to preserve and prolong her sojourn on this earth. That is of the utmost importance not only if he truly cares about her but also in order to avoid any later regrets.

While she is safely at home he should be canvassing surrounding towns in an effort to identify summer residents. He then could contact those individuals and inquire about Hattie.

Secondly, either he or his grandsons could trail her once she leaves the farm in May. If that is not feasible, he might want to consider equipping her with a GPS collar.

Should be choose to pursue that latter option, it is imperative that the collar be removed as soon as possible before it causes her any bodily harm. (See Cat Defender posts of May 28, 2008 and June 22, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Collars Turn into Death Traps for Trooper and Que but Both Are Rescued at the Eleventh Hour" and "Hobson Is Forced to Wander Around Yorkshire for Months Trapped in an Elastic Collar That Steadily Was Eating Away at His Shoulder and Leg.")

In that same vein perhaps even a conventional one with a name tag would suffice. If feasible, a brief note could be enclosed in the tag.

The best solution considering her age would be for Spurgeon to bring her inside and attempt to win her over with tons of treats and loads of affection. That way she might be less inclined to leave in May.

Besides, no cat should be forced to live outdoors during Minnesota's rugged winters. Condemning a cat to do so is the epitome of animal cruelty.

Hattie, quite obviously, is a very special cat. Her life is precious and it is imperative that Spurgeon wake up and realize that before it is too late.

The rigors of everyday existence alienate most individuals from the things that are really important in this life. The same can be said for such foolish pursuits as wealth, fame, domination, and hedonistic pleasures.

Consequently, the things that really matter, such as youth, health, friends and family, the animals, and Mother Earth, are relegated to afterthoughts in people's busy lives. At the very top of the list of undervalued treasures that this world has to offer is the companionship and love of a cat.

The sand is fast running out of the hourglass but Hattie's unexpected return on Christmas Eve has bestowed upon Spurgeon a priceless opportunity to atone for his years of neglect and to play a decisive role in not only extending her golden years but in making them as comfortable and pleasurable as possible. Carpe diem!

Photos: Ashley Stewart of The Leader (Hattie and Spurgeon), Timothy J. Gonzalez of the Statesman Journal (Boomerang and Johnson), and the Green Valley News (Domino).