Each passing year catapults into international consciousness thousands of cats who, for one reason or another, make headlines. Some of them are renowned for their cleverness, usefulness, and the saving of their owners' lives whereas others delight the world with their playfulness, curiosity, and rugged individuality.
Most of them, however, have been victimized by unspeakable acts of cruelty and negligence. Even more troubling, the hideous abuse, naked exploitation, and senseless hatred that is directed at these noble creatures is not always recognized as such; rather, it is merely accepted as one of man's god-given prerogatives as delineated in Genesis 1:26-28 to lord it over all of creation.
In that respect, 2013 was not altogether that different from the preceding years in that the tears shed on behalf of the species far outnumbered the smiles and laughter that its members engendered. Although it is impossible to do justice to more than a handful of them, a few long-suffering and intrepid felines were able against staggering odds to get the better of their enemies and thus to come out on top in the end.
At the head of the class was a cat named Mario who somehow survived seventy-nine days without either food or water after an oil train exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic. In recognition of his stupendous accomplishment, he has been selected as Cat of the Year
No year would be complete without several miraculous rescues of long-lost felines and Poussey of La Havre and Disaster from Woodmere, Long Island, more than fulfilled that requisite. As best it could be determined, however, there was not any happy reunion for Bear and his distraught guardians in Essex.
A pair of remarkable cats, Norman from Kent and Muffin from just outside of St. Louis, even rose from their graves to astound not only their owners but the world as well. A Detroit kitten dubbed Chairman Waffles survived an horrific case of chemical poisoning but a Siamese named Rupert from Cambridge was not nearly as fortunate.
The Royal Mail in Stratford-upon-Avon cruelly and unconscionably gave the boot to its longtime resident feline, The Cat, but at the other end of that spectrum Ian from Birmingham in the West Midlands and Baby Cat from Tuscumbia, Alabama, clearly demonstrated their species' moral superiority to that of man by remaining steadfast at the sides of their stricken guardians. Old Sol robbed an eight-year-old Scottish cat named Luna of both of her ears while the world was forced into bidding a tearful and premature farewell to one of the cat family's greatest ambassadors when Arnie of the Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire died suddenly.
For a look back at previous articles in this series, see Cat Defender posts of December 21, 2006, December 25, 2007, January 25, 2009, February 20, 2010, February 23, 2011, May 11, 2012, and December 18, 2013 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," "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," "Abandoned and Left to Die in the Cold and Snow of Wisconsin, Domino Was the Most Memorable Cat of 2009," "Frosty, Who Nearly Froze and Starved to Death in an Uncaring Capitalist's Frozen Food Warehouse, Stands Out as the Most Remarkable Cat of 2010," "Andrea's Incredible Survival of Two Gassings Plus Attempts to Suffocate and Freeze Her to Death Makes Her the Overwhelming Choice as Cat of the Year for 2011," and "Unforgettable Hattie, Who Annually Returns Home for Christmas, Is Crowned as Cat of the Year for 2012.")
1.) Mario. Abandoned Tom Survives for Seventy-Five Days Without Either Food or Water after an Oil Train Explodes.
"Le Christian Lessard, de la Clinique vétérinaire du Lac Aylmer à Disraeli, s'est montré étonné des bons résultats, vu son long séjour en réclusion. Le chat a plus d'energie."
-- Françoise Belle-Isle of Fourrière municipale de Lac-Mégantic
There are few events in this world that can quite rival the perseverance and stamina of cats that have fallen victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. Whereas the physical deprivations that they are subjected to would be more than sufficient in themselves to suck the life out of most men, they not only weather them but somehow are able to summon the psychological reserves required in order to go on living long after all hope has evaporated.
In 2013, it was an amazing brown and black tom with yellow eyes named Mario from Lac-Mégantic in Province Quebec who was able to turn the tables on the Grim Reaper by surviving for an astonishing seventy-nine days without either food, water, or human companionship after he became trapped inside a residential building in a section of town that had been sealed off to the public after an American-owned freight train carrying crude extracted from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota and Montana exploded on July 6th. The resulting inferno demolished thirty buildings in downtown Lac-Mégantic and claimed the lives of forty-seven individuals.
The number of cats and other animals that perished in the holocaust never will be known but it surely must have been far greater than the human toll. Likewise, it never has been disclosed either where Mario came from or how that he became trapped in the building.
With no one in sight for blocks around to relieve his plight and with all hope nearly gone, he nevertheless bravely soldiered on by licking up condensation and eating whatever tidbits he was lucky enough to either scavenge or kill. He did his level best but it was not nearly good enough and each passing day brought him ever closer to having to face the final curtain.
In all likelihood he never would have made it out alive if The Fates had not intervened at the last moment and sent him a savior in the form of Mario Vachon who was in the devastation zone on September 21st surveying the damage. That was when he just accidentally happened to spot Mario's silhouette in a window.
Whereas most individuals would have callously ignored his desperate plight, Vachon immediately contacted a female acquaintance who in turn notified Françoise Belle-Isle of Fourrière municipale de Lac-Mégantic. After having devoted up to fourteen hours a day of her time to rescuing cats and dogs left homeless in the aftermath of the July 6th explosion, the hard-working Animal Control officer immediately went into action. "J'ai contacté le service des incendies de Lac-Mégantic," she related. "Le capitaine Denis Godin a accepté de m'accompagner dans le logement pour que j'y installe une cage-trappe avec une boite de nourriture."
A day later on September 22nd Mario was brought out but that by no means meant that he was out of the woods just yet. Au contraire
, he was so emaciated, dehydrated, anemic, and hollow-eyed that the first thought that crept into the diseased gourd of the attending veterinarian was to kill him off on the spot.
Even Belle-Isle was somewhat sympathetic to that warped viewpoint. "Une si longue disette peut avoir causé des dommage à des organs internes, particulièrment au foie,"she speculated at that time.
It never was disclosed how that argument ultimately played out but the important thing is that in the end compassion prevailed over expediency and Mario was placed on a protein-rich diet and fed iron-enhanced kibble. Given just that exceedingly slim chance of reclaiming the life that nearly had been taken away from him, he responded with alacrity and did the rest all by himself.
"Le Christian Lessard, de la Clinique vétérinaire du Lac Aylmer à Disraeli, s'est montré étonné des bons résultats, vu son long séjour en réclusion," Belle-Isle later revealed. "Le chat a plus d'energie."
Mario remained at Belle-Isle's shelter for a few more weeks before he was sterilized and put up for adoption. He later reportedly was adopted by a woman who lives somewhere in the administrative region of Mauricie, to the north of Lac-Mégantic.
Nothing further has appeared in the Canadian press regarding him so it, unfortunately, is not known how that he is progressing in his new home. The conceivable damage done to his liver and other internal organs as the result of having been forced to go without sustenance for such an extended period of time is still a concern so his health needs to be closely monitored but other than that he, hopefully, is still alive and doing well.
In addition to being remembered for his unconquerable will to live, Mario always will be known as the cat who was saved by his silhouette. In this world, small, infinitesimal, and seemingly inconsequential events not only often loom large but sometimes they are all that stand between life and death. (See Cat Defender post of March 31, 2014 entitled "Mario Is Brought Back from Death's Door When His Silhouette Is Accidentally Spotted in a Window of Fire-Ravaged Lac-Mégantic.")
2.) Poussey. A French Cat Who Accidentally Wound Up in England Is Saved by Several Extraordinary Acts of Compassion.
|Poussey and Sandrine Foehr|
"He is a very affectionate cat and it wasn't his fault he found himself in the wrong country. We just had to help him."
-- veterinarian Jeremy Stattersfield
Shortly before Mario's world collapsed around him, another French cat residing an ocean apart was having a harrowing misadventure of his own. On April 22nd, a three-year-old brown and gray tom with green eyes named Poussey vanished without so much as a trace from the home that he shared with forty-six-year-old Sandrine Foehr, her husband, and three children in La Havre.
They searched everywhere that they could think of for him but he was nowhere to be found. It was only months later that they belatedly learned what a perilous misadventure he had been subjected to and just how close that they had come to losing him forever.
As best the beginning of his story can be pieced together, he either was stolen or became an unwitting stowaway in a motor vehicle that was driven two-hundred-seventy-four kilometers from La Havre to Calais. Once there, the vehicle was taken aboard the P&O Ferry and transported thirty-three kilometers across the English Channel to Dover in Kent.
He then either escaped or was intentionally let out somewhere en route
because on April 24th he was discovered wandering the automobile deck and taken into custody by the ship's crew. Upon docking, he was handed over to PC David Palmer of the Port of Dover Police and that is when his troubles began in earnest.
"Javert (Poussey) was effectively on death row," Palmer later said. "If an animal arrives without a pet passport, it becomes a rabies danger and must be put down or go into quarantine."
Not only that but English immigration officials and their subalterns are fast and efficient executioners. Consequently, Poussey's life-expectancy at that point could have been measured, not in years, but rather in hours.
"Our holding facility at the docks is designed for keeping a cat for not much longer than a day," Palmer added. "After that, if a home hasn't been found for it, the animal is usually put to sleep."
For whatever reason, Palmer took compassion on Poussey and even renamed him in memory of Jean Valjean's antagonist in Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, Les Misérables.
He accordingly contacted a dozen or so catteries, sanctuaries, and charities in Kent about boarding and medicating him for the next six months as is required under England's draconian quarantine laws.
Predictably, all of those that he contacted were too bloody cheap and uncaring to do a blessed thing for either him or Poussey. In desperation he turned to Jeremy Stattersfield of Burnham House Veterinary Surgery in Dover who magnanimously took it upon himself to vaccinate Poussey and to issue him a pet passport.
"He is a very affectionate cat and it wasn't his fault he found himself in the wrong country," is how the veterinarian, a bird-lover no less, explained his reason for acting as he did. "We just had to help him."
His efforts on behalf of Poussey did not end there, however. For instance, he next arranged for him to spend his first three weeks away from home at The Animal Inn on Dover Road in Ringwould, near Deal.
Following that, he placed him at the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary outside of Folkestone. Finally, he was able to prevail upon La Fondation Brigitte Bardot in Paris to foot the bill for his quarantining.
All the while that Stattersfield was busily attempting to keep Poussey alive, Palmer was still working overtime in order to locate his owner. Although an implanted microchip had been located and deciphered shortly after his arrival in Dover, Foehr had neglected to update the contact information contained in its database after she had adopted him and as a result all that Palmer had to work with was his old address.
Ignorant of that petit fait,
he nonetheless was able to convince Major Arnauld Caron of the Police aux frontières to have the local authorities in La Havre leave a letter on the door of Poussey's old address. Under normal circumstances that expedient would have been a complete waste of time and effort but in this instance Foehr, who had never for one moment given up looking for Poussey, went to the house and, amazingly, found Palmer's letter.
"That is my cat!" she exclaimed after contacting Palmer via the telephone. "But what is he doing in England?"
From that point forward Poussey's future was no longer in doubt. It was a terribly long time in materializing but sometime in late June Foehr and her three children traveled to Dover where they collected him at Stattersfield's surgery on Castle Street.
"We're so grateful to David Palmer and Jeremy Stattersfield. We have another cat and a dog back home but Poussey was extra special," fourteen-year-old Charlotte said on that joyous occasion. "After all, it was he who chose to come and live with us."
Stattersfield was equally gracious in acknowledging the various and invaluable contributions made by others in saving Poussey's life. "The police showed compassion, as did the quarantine kennels who reduced their fees," he disclosed. "The Brigitte Bardot Foundation...paid for his quarantine costs and the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary were there for him if an owner did not come forward."
Although all of those individuals, institutions, and organizations are deserving of nothing but the highest praise possible, their efforts would have gone for naught if it had not been for Foehr's steadfastness. Much like Vachon's accidental spotting of Mario's silhouette, her finding of Palmer's letter was every bit as improbable.
The thread that thus separates success from failure is indeed an exceedingly thin one. (See Cat Defender post of July 25, 2014 entitled "Poussey Overcomes a Surprise Boat Ride to Dover, a Stint on Death Row, and Being Bandied About Like the Flying Dutchman in Order to Finally Make It Home to La Havre.")
3.) Arnie. Kindhearted Tom Who Nurtured Lion Cubs Dies Unexpectedly.
|Arnie and Zara in 2008|
"He would climb into their (the lion cubs') baskets and snuggle up. There is nothing quite like a real, warm beating heart next to a young animal."
-- Kim Simmons of the Linton Zoo
This world was left a far poor place following the sudden death of a gentle and kindhearted ginger-colored tom named Arnie on January 9th. At the Linton Zoo in Cambridgeshire, which he called home after having wandered in as a homeless waif back in 2003, he had many responsibilities and he executed all of them with his special brand of élan.
He welcomed visitors, shared their lunches, and served as their unofficial guide as they toured the facility. He additionally brightened the days and boosted the morale of staffers simply by his presence.
It is for the exemplary service that he bestowed upon the inmates, however, that he will be best remembered. Perhaps most extraordinary of all, he rescued baby rabbits and marsh hens from the grounds which he then tenderly transported home for care and treatment.
As far as the outside world was concerned, he was known chiefly for his role in nurturing lion cubs that had been rejected by their mothers. "His most special job...was as the baby-sitter of abandoned newborn animals brought into the house for hand-rearing," zoo director Kim Simmons said after his passing. "Arnie baby-sat all four of our adult lions (Riziki, Karla, Zuri, and Safina) when they were cubs and some of their offspring too."
In particular, he would groom, watch over, and entertain them but in reality he meant much more to them in that he became the de facto
mothers that they had lost. "He would climb into their baskets and snuggle up," Simmons added. "There is nothing quite like a real, warm beating heart next to a young animal."
Although he suffered from arthritis in his rear legs and other unspecified age-related maladies, his death came as a complete shock. "...after completing his staff greetings and doing his usual morning rounds to see his zoo friends, purring all the way, Arnie, our ginger tom, returned home for a spot of breakfast and then snuggled up on his bed and went to sleep," the zoo later disclosed to the BBC on January 29th. "There he passed away peacefully."
Hopefully, that is actually what happened and he was not eaten by one of the lions that he was assigned to nurture. Although his work with orphaned cubs was nothing short of extraordinary, it also placed his life in constant mortal danger.
That is something that Simmons freely acknowledged way back in 2008 when he was assigned the task of taking care of Zara. "Arnie the cat loves having cubs in the house and the two are great friends, but we'll have to guard him as Zara gets bigger and stronger," she told the Daily Mail.
The zoo, as far as it is known, never disclosed if it provided Arnie with either a memorial service or a proper burial. All that is known is that Simmons was contemplating authoring a book about his life.
If so, there would appear to be no lack of interest in such a project. "We had hundreds of messages but it went crazy when MSN ran it in America," she said of his obituary. "His story seems to have touched, and been shared by, so many."
Indeed, Arnie's appeal was, and remains to this very day, international in scope. "A cat with an outstanding personality, Arnie was without a doubt a most extraordinary cat who had an extraordinary life," is how the zoo eulogized him. "He will be missed by not only the people who knew and loved him, but by his many animal friends around the zoo."
In pausing to remember Arnie's remarkable life it is of paramount importance that it also never be forgotten that the use and abuse of domestic cats by zoos and captive-breeding facilities is not only dangerous but a dirty and exploitative affair as well. Specifically, those facilities that employ cats to nurse wild animals require lactating females and that in turn leads to the disturbing question of the fate of their own kittens. Most likely, they are whacked immediately after birth.
At the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans, domestic cats are not only used as surrogate mothers in its diabolical cloning experiments but as sperm and egg donors as well. Not surprisingly, genetic abnormalities, premature births, abortions, and high infant mortality rates are the norm. (See Cat Defender posts of September 6, 2005 and November 17, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Clones of Endangered African Wildcats Give Birth to Eight Naturally-Bred Healthy Kittens in New Orleans" and "Mr. Green Genes' Coming Out Party Ushers in a New Era of Unspeakable Atrocities to Be Committed Against Cats by Cloners and Vivisectors.")
To sum up the entire sorry arrangement, almost nothing is known about how these cats are acquired, treated and, most important of all, what becomes of them once they have outlived their usefulness to their overlords. Since neither the long arm of the law nor any animal protection group is willing to champion their cause, cats like Arnie are entirely at the mercy of their exploiters and abusers.
Given the manner in which zoos and captive-breeding operations so brazenly abuse, kill, publicly dissect, and traffic in the body parts and fluids of their star attractions, their crimes against defenseless domestic cats surely must be far worse. All of that makes it all the more remarkable that Arnie was able to persevere at the Linton Zoo for nearly a decade.
It therefore can only be devoutly hoped that his life was not a total living Hell and that he was able to snatch a modicum of happiness out of such a perilous and exploitative existence. (See Cat Defender posts of April 12, 2013 and July 24, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Arnie of the Linton Zoo Is Remembered as a Wonderfully Loving and Charismatic Cat Who Gave Back Far More Than He Received During His All-Too-Brief Sojourn Upon This Earth" and "Red Panda That Was Rejected by Her Mother but Later Adopted by a Cat Dies Unexpectedly at an Amsterdam Zoo.")
4.) Norman. Black Tom Startles His Owner by Returning from the Dead.
|Norman and Karen Jones|
"I said 'Is that you, Norman' and he meowed back."
-- Karen Jones
Regardless of whatever The Fates have in store for him farther down the road, Norman will forever be remembered around Ashford in Kent as the cat who returned from the dead. His macabre adventure began sometime in April when his owner, forty-eight-year-old Karen Jones, scooped up the lifeless body of a black cat from the side of Beecholme Drive in the adjoining neighborhood of Kennington.
Since the dead cat was the same size and color and had identical facial features as well as the same length of fur, she jumped to the conclusion that it was Norman. The fact that she also allows him to freely roam the perilous and densely crowded streets of Ashford and that the cat was found only two-tenths of a mile removed from her house on Mardol Road served only to solidify her worst fears.
"I hadn't seen Norman all morning because he goes roaming around," she later disclosed. "So I had a feeling it was him when I saw the cat by the side of the road."
Even more disgraceful, she was fully cognizant of the dangers that she was subjecting him to as the result of her negligence. For example, he had sustained a broken leg in 2012 when he, apparently, was run down by a hit-and-run motorist and he was scratched in the eye by another cat a year later.
It accordingly would not be unreasonable to conclude that she was halfway expecting his demise. "Norman has been in the wars in the past and has come back dragging an injured leg behind him," she candidly admitted. "He is a tomcat who just goes roaming about and pops in every now and then for some food."
Although while he was alive Jones, who works for the supermarket giant Sainsbury, behaved like she could not have cared less whether he lived or died, she certainly did right by him once he was believed to have taken that long ride on the dragon. In particular, she had her twenty-two-year-old son, Harry, to dig a grave for him in the garden.
She did not stop there, however, but also provided him with an hour-long memorial service. Following that he was interred with his toy mouse and a black porcelain cat was placed atop his grave as a marker.
She then retired for the evening convinced that she had seen the last of Norman but at breakfast the following morning a grumpy black cat turned up demanding to be fed. "I said 'Is that you, Norman' and he meowed back," she later disclosed with a red face.
Even then she was not quite convinced that the black tom standing before her was actually Norman. "At first I thought he had been resurrected from the dead but he didn't know what all the fuss was about," she added. "Then I realized we must have had the wrong cat."
Just to make sure that her eyes and ears were not deceiving her, she ventured out into her garden in order to visually confirm that the cat she had buried the previous day had not revived and subsequently crawled out of his grave. To say that the entire experience had been anything other than an emotional roller-coaster ride for the mother of two would be a huge understatement.
"It was incredibly emotional because we had spent a whole day grieving," she related. "Suddenly we found ourselves switching from tears of sadness to tears of joy."
To her credit, she did not forget about the cat that she had buried. "It is all really funny but I was devastated when I found out that he had died and there must be a cat owner out there who feels like I did," she said commiseratively.
Acting upon those heartfelt sentiments, she accordingly issued a public appeal for the nameless cat's owner to come forward and to reclaim his remains. "Despite knocking on neighbors' doors there has been no contact from the dead cat's owners, sadly," she later disclosed.
It is not known whatever became of Norman or even if he is still alive today. All that has been revealed is that after he had skyrocketed to international fame Jones retained a publicity agent in order to promote his career.
Now that she has a distinct financial interest in his continued well-being, it can only be hoped that she will take far better care of him in the future. "Norman is doing well and remains totally unaware of the media fuss," was all that she was willing to divulge back in 2013.
Much more to the point, she neglected to mention that he also is totally unaware of the machinations of motorists who run down and kill cats for fun, such as the one buried in her own backyard. (See Cat Defender post of June 12, 2013 entitled "Pronounced Dead, Eulogized, and Then Relegated to the Underworld, Norman Astounds His Guardian by Turning Up Hungry and Grumpy for Breakfast the Very Next Morning.")
5.) Muffin. Black Female Survives Mistakenly Being Buried Alive.
"My mom thought my cat was dead because she was laying (sic) down."
-- Bradley McCallum
In addition to mistakenly burying the wrong cat, some owners are so callous and negligent as to bury cats while they are still very much alive. That is precisely what Sarah McCallum of the St. Louis suburb of St. Jacob did in April to a sedate and loving black female of undisclosed age named Muffin.
The details are rather sketchy but McCallum reportedly stuffed Muffin into a medium-sized United States Postal Service box and buried her in a shallow grave after she allegedly found her cold, not breathing, and lacking a discernible heartbeat. For the next three and one-half hours she was confined to her premature crypt and that surely would have been the end of her if McCallum's six-year-old son, Bradley, had not upon returning home from school requested and received permission to plant a flower on her grave.
"When I was burying a hole for it (the flower), I heard a meow," he later explained. He then notified his mother who arrived on the scene and quickly extricated Muffin.
"As soon as I put the shovel in the ground then I could hear and then I couldn't move the dirt fast enough," McCallum said afterwards. Muffin then was rushed to a local veterinarian who, inexplicably, declared her to be in perfect health.
If McCallum is being completely truthful and did not intentionally entomb Muffin just to get rid of her, the most plausible explanation is that she had suffered some sort of seizure and then went into a brief coma. Even under such a scenario it is extremely odd that the attending veterinarian, apparently, did not perform either a complete blood count, a neurological examination, or order an MRI, all of which are pretty much standard diagnostic tests in such circumstances. It additionally seems strange that the practitioner did not put Muffin on either diazepam, phenobarbital, or potassium bromide in order to ward off such attacks in the future.
Perhaps most amazing of all is that she somehow managed to survive being buried underground for an extended period of time. The most plausible explanation to that conundrum is that the box not only must have contained some residual oxygen but it may not have been taped all that tightly as well. The sod also may not have been packed too densely on top of it.
In her defense, McCallum blamed her precipitate action on a desire to spare Bradley and his siblings the trauma of seeing another dead cat after one had died a year earlier. She also claims that the attending veterinarian exonerated her of all wrongdoing.
"Even the vet said anyone would have mistaken the cat comatose with her temperature so low," she declared. Bradley, however, was not quite so easily bamboozled. "My mom thought my cat was dead because she was laying (sic)
down," he retorted.
Regardless of whether his mother acted in good faith or not, there can be no denying that Muffin owes her precious life to Bradley because if his great love for her had not prompted him to visit her grave she surely would have suffocated to death while attempting to extricate herself from the box. "This is the only cat that likes to snuggle with me," is how he later explained both his love for her and reason for acting as he did.
It is not known what has become of Muffin but with a guardian who is unable to tell a live cat from a dead one, an incompetent veterinarian, and possibly even serious health issues of her own, Muffin's prospects do not look especially promising. All that she has going for herself is Bradley's love and that may not be sufficient in order to save her the next time around. (See Cat Defender post of June 24, 2013 entitled "Buried Long Before Her Time, Muffin Is Freed from the Crypt by Her Devoted Six-Year-Old Snuggling Partner.")
6.) Disaster. Missing Long Island Tom Is Rescued at Times Square by a Zombie.
|Disaster and Jeremy Zelkowitz|
"I dress as a zombie every day and I just love animals. I try to do the right thing."
-- Jeremy Zelkowitz
One of the most telling aspects of Manhattan is the complete absence of cats from its old familiar thoroughfares and alleyways. Even those that do somehow manage to eke out a meager existence in that urban hellhole are either cruelly locked away in tiny apartments or, sooner or later, wind up on death row at a shelter. It accordingly boggles the mind why anyone other than inveterate bigots, the greedy and ambitious, murderers, and buffoons of all sorts would willingly choose to live in such a cesspool of both anti-feline sentiment and human depravity.
With that being the case, whenever one of them ventures out into the borough's crowded sidewalks and streets it typically generates quite a stir and that is exactly what happened at around 1 a.m. on March 31st (Easter Sunday) when a five-year-old black and white tom named Disaster was spotted in jam-packed Times Square. He was doing his level best in order to steer clear of both pedestrians and motorists alike but it is an open question as to how much longer he would have been successful in that endeavor if a zombie had not intervened and plucked him out of harm's way.
His savior actually was not a card-carrying member of the walking dead but rather twenty-two-year-old Jeremy Zelkowitz of Coney Island in Brooklyn who dresses as one in order to lure passersby into frequenting the Times Square Hotel of Horrors located at 669 Eighth Avenue and across the street from the bus station. "It was really scared," he later said. "He was, like, looking around at the sirens and stuff."
With scarcely so much as a second thought for his own personal safety, Zelkowitz ran out into the street and plucked the obviously frightened cat from the oncoming traffic. "I spoke to people who had seen it earlier trying to get into Dallas BBQ and Starbucks and a bunch of stores on Forty-Second (Street)."
The callous and uncaring attitude of merchants in the area toward a cat in extremis
is certainly nothing out of the ordinary in that shekel
-counters, whether they be corporate chieftains, the bourgeoisie, or small nickel and dime operators, seldom have done any favors for cats. With Zelkowitz, however, it was an entirely different matter.
Fearing that Disaster might be in need of veterinary attention, he then hailed a taxi at his own expense and transported him to Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners at 410 West 55th Street which operates an all-night emergency clinic. Once there, however, he apparently had quite a battle on his hands convincing the practitioners to even so much as take a look at Disaster. "I told them right away, 'Look, I'm not crazy. I work at the haunted house'."
Press reports at the time failed to broach the subject but money also likely was a huge sticking point in that it is almost unheard of for any of these bloodsuckers, Stattersfield excepted, to lift so much as a lousy finger in order to save the life of a cat unless they first are paid up front and in full. Regardless of how that tug-of-war was resolved, in the end the veterinarians eventually got around to examining Disaster and in doing so they pronounced him to be no worse for the wear with the notable exception of an infected right ear.
"I dress as a zombie every day and I just love animals," is how Zelkowitz later explained his heroics. "I try to do the right thing."
There can be no disputing that on this occasion he certainly did that and considerably more. Furthermore, even if he never does another worthwhile thing in his entire life saving Disaster was a pretty impressive feat and for that reason alone he will not have lived in vain.
His derring-do was not the end of the story, however, because while they were examining him the veterinarians found an implanted microchip which led them to the startling revelation that Disaster had escaped from the home of Jimmy Helliesen in Woodmere, Long Island, two years previously. In fact, his name is derived from the unofficial motto, "flirting with disaster," of the Seventy-Ninth Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where his former owner works full-time as a police officer and part-time as a rescuer of homeless cats.
Although Disaster apparently still remembered his former caretaker, his homecoming was destined to be an exceedingly brief one because Helliesen wanted nothing more to do with him and as a result almost immediately put him up for adoption. Consequently, it is anyone's guess as to what has become of this intrepid and long-suffering cat.
As to how he transversed the thirty-four kilometers that separate Woodmere from Manhattan, the only thing known for certain is that he did not pussyfoot that great and perilous a distance. Most likely he was either transported by car or arrived as an unwitting stowaway in a consignment of some sort.
He also had not been living on the streets of Manhattan for the previous two years. That in turn leads to the inescapable conclusion that he must have had a guardian who later dumped him in the street because that is the only apparent explanation that would account for that individual's failure to come forward and to reclaim him once his story had appeared in local newspapers, on television, and the Internet.
In hindsight, it seems quite clear that neither Helliesen nor the individual who abandoned him in Manhattan were proper guardians for Disaster. In particular, neither of them either loved him as they should have or were willing to safeguard his fragile life.
Perhaps he finally at last has found what they were so unwilling to provide him with but even that is not known. Far from being an isolated case, Disaster's unhappy plight epitomizes the cruel fate of countless millions of his sisters and brothers who not only are doomed to travel through this world unloved and underappreciated but despised and hated as well. (See Cat Defender post of May 30, 2013 entitled "Stone-Broke, Homeless, and All Alone at the Crossroads of the World, Disaster Is Snatched from Harm's Way by a Representative of the Walking Dead.")
7.) Chairman Waffles. Detroit Kitten Survives a Hideous Case of Chemical Poisoning.
"If you don't look at him, you wouldn't know that he's been through what's he's been through. His recovery, both physically and emotionally, has been incredible."
-- Kevin Hatman of the Michigan Humane Society
This once pristine and vibrant planet already was a filthy and dirty place in which to live way back in 1962 when Rachel Carson published her seminal work on the state of the environment, Silent Spring,
and conditions have only deteriorated since then. Air and water pollution alone are strangling the life out of both animals and man, but not too many individuals seem to care.
On top of all of that this world is chock-full of individuals who get their perverted jollies out of dousing cats with paint, acid, turpentine, gasoline, hot oil, concrete, and other deadly chemicals. Even those poisons that are left either unattended or simply improperly disposed of, such as antifreeze, can take an horrific toll on the species.
Although utterly shocking, it therefore was not necessarily anything out of the ordinary when in September of 2012 a fine-looking five-month-old black and white kitten subsequently named Chairman Waffles was found wandering the forbidding streets of Detroit with severe chemical burns to his mouth, tongue, and face. Rescued by either a Good Samaritan or an unidentified humane group, his deliverance could not have come a moment sooner in that he was so close to death that he could barely even breathe.
"He was obviously in a tremendous amount of pain," Kevin Hatman of the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) of Bingham Farms, twenty-eight kilometers north of the Motor City, later disclosed on February 16, 2013. Once his condition had been stabilized, Chairman Waffles was forced to undergo three emergency surgeries at a cost to the charity of several thousand dollars.
The first one was to remove dead tissue from around his nose, mouth and, possibly, tongue just so that he could once again breathe freely. A second procedure was required in order to remove his hard palette while yet still another operation was needed to extract a pair of canine teeth as well as to reconstruct his face.
Against all odds, he made it through that seemingly interminable hell and survived even though he will require specialized veterinary care for the remainder of his life. "The mouth is constantly exposed," Hatman added. "You can see his tongue."
Despite lingering concerns, his prognosis is fairly optimistic. "There are potential medical issues, but our veterinarians are pretty confident that because (they) haven't developed yet, there's a very low risk for future medical problems," Hatman predicted.
The first step in the long process of placing him in a new home was to assign him to a foster mother and in that regard the MHS did not have to look far afield. "I always end up fostering the special needs guys who come in here," the organization's own veterinarian Amy Koppenhoefer, who gladly undertook the job herself, later said. "He just happened to be extra special."
Toward the end of February of 2013 her good work and that of the MHS paid a huge dividend when he left her house in order to go and live with Dawn S. Zifilippo of St. Clair Shores, twenty-one kilometers southeast of Detroit. He did not go by his lonesome, however, in that she magnanimously consented to take along his playmate, Mr. Burns, who also had been in foster care with Koppenhoefer.
So, after a simply terrifying introduction to this wicked and dangerous old world, this resilient and long-suffering kitten does indeed have a future that is pregnant with all sorts of possibilities. "He's happy, always on the go, jumps around and likes to explore. He likes to cuddle and purrs a lot," Hatman summed up. "If you don't look at him, you wouldn't know that he's been through what's he's been through. His recovery, both physically and emotionally, has been incredible."
The nature of the deadly substance which did so much damage to his face and mouth never was determined. Likewise, it is not known how that he came into contact with it.
His exposure to it accordingly could have been either accidental or deliberate. Either way once he came into contact with it he unwittingly exacerbated the calamity by attempting to wipe it off of his face and head with his tongue.
It additionally is not known either how long that he was on the street or if he at one time had had a permanent home of his own. The only thing that is known for certain is that nobody ever ventured forward to reclaim him in spite of all the publicity that his struggle to beat the odds and live attracted.
His suffering once again focuses attention on just how perilous the streets can be for homeless kittens and cats. Fortunately for him, the MHS not only came to his rescue but did not spare any expense when it came to saving his life. Sadly, Chairman Waffles is the exception, rather than the rule, in that regard. (See Cat Defender post of May 2, 2013 entitled "Poisoned Within an Inch of His Life While Living on the Mean Streets of Detroit, Chairman Waffles Survives Three Surgeries in Order to Live Again.")
8.) The Cat. Given the Bum's Rush by the Royal Mail, Loyal Tom Faces an Uncertain Future.
"The area manager came in and said 'The Cat has to go for health and safety reasons.' We are all angry and upset. It is health and safety gone mad. This cat does not do anything wrong."
- an unidentified employee of the Royal Mail
For five years, a black tom dubbed simply The Cat spent his days at the Royal Mail's sorting facility on Birmingham Road in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He would show up promptly at 3:30 a.m. on days that the facility was open and remain around until it closed later in the day.
One of his favorite pastimes was to lounge on a pool table in an upstairs rest area set aside for the employees. The workers fed him and even occasionally purchased small toys for him.
In return, he not only brightened their days with his presence but also provided them with a much needed break from the monotony of their drudgery. Employee San Smith even credits him with helping her to get hired in the first place. "He was with me through my interview, in the chair beside me," she testified.
The good times came to a screeching halt in April when hotshot Neil Armstrong was appointed area manager. Anxious to assert his newfound authority, he took a quick look around for someone to sock it to and settled on The Cat.
"Although this stray cat has been a regular visitor to the good-natured postmen and women in our sorting office, we will be speaking to a local animal welfare charity to find a suitable permanent home for the stray," is how his designated mouthpiece dressed up his anti-cat sentiments for consumption by the gullible masses.
The initial reaction from workers at the facility was shock which quickly morphed into anger. "The area manager came in and said 'The Cat has to go for health and safety reasons.' We are all angry and upset," one unidentified employee responded. "It is health and safety gone mad. This cat does not do anything wrong."
A second employee echoed those sentiments. "He has been here longer than most of the managers so how can they possibly demand its (sic)
eviction? He does not get in anyone's way or cause problems; it (sic)
just sits around...," that worker declared. "We are in (an) uproar. It is our cat. It is ludicrous."
The employees rallied to The Cat's defense by taking to both Facebook and Twitter and they soon were joined by local residents who responded by dropping off food for him and venting their spleens against Armstrong's high-handedness. "What a shame that H/S are getting rid of this cat. Don't they know he could keep vermin down," area residents Kado Crocker argued in vain. "And (he is) beneficial to workers so they work better and more relaxed."
The Cat's supposed supporters started out talking mighty big but once push came to shove they fell in line with management's inhumane thinking and perverted way of doing things much like a stack of toppled dominoes. "He is staying with us for the moment," a spokesperson for the group later disclosed. "But he's actually a lot poorlier than we thought he was so in the long term we all agreed that it is best for his health if he finds a proper home."
Unfortunately, the straight dope on the eight-year-old tom's health never was made available to the public. All that was revealed at that time was that he was examined on April 23rd at Pets at Home's surgery in the Maybird Shopping Park whereupon he was diagnosed to be suffering from an oral infection of some sort. He subsequently was scheduled to have had a pair of teeth extracted a fortnight later.
Whatever became of The Cat has been hidden in a web of intrigue, double-talk, and outright falsehoods. For instance, it initially was claimed that he was too ill to be adopted even though a Royal Mail employee had previously disclosed that individuals from as far afield as Canada, Australia, Mexico, and Spain had expressed an interest in adding him to their homes.
Following that, it was announced that he had been given to Kumfy Cats in Blackwater, Hampshire, where he was scheduled to have lived out his remaining years. Finally, it was announced that he had been taken in by Happy Cats Rescue in the village of Whitehall in Borden, Hampshire.
He then supposedly was not only rehomed but renaned as Stamp. The charity's Jo Lucas later described him as "fit."
It consequently is impossible to say with an authority what ultimately happened to this wonderful cat. He conceivably may not even still be alive.
It can only be hoped that he is alive and at long last has secured the permanent and loving home that heretofore had always eluded him. If the truth dare to be told, the postal workers, in addition to throwing him to the wolves in his time of greatest need, really did not do all that much for him.
First of all, they neglected to provide for either his personal safety or housing. Instead, they left him to wander the perilous streets of Stratford-upon-Avon nights, weekends, and holidays. They likewise never provided him with veterinary care or made much of an effort to place him in a proper home.
Some of the workers, most notably Kerry Bambridge, even stooped so low as to disparage him on social media. Trumping all of those sins of both commission and omission was their totally inexcusable failure to even provide him with a proper and dignified name and the reason for that grievous oversight could not possibly have been anything other than deliberate.
On June 17, 1938, the Blue Network aired an episode of Death Valley Days
entitled "The Burro Who Had No Name" and the plot centers around a donkey named "Old Whitey" who befriends a prospector named Ollie Martin to the chagrin of his partner, Walter Scott "Smitty" Smith, who believed that white ones were unlucky. (The show lives on today at Internet Archive and elsewhere on the web.)
After Old Whitey had trailed them to their camp the following argument ensued:
Ollie: "Sure enough, it's Old Whitey!"
Smitty: "Don't you dare give him a name!"
Ollie: "Why not?"
Smitty: "Once you name an animal he's yours."
Ollie: "Who says so?"
Smitty: "Why, it stands to reason."
Ollie: "You mean..."
Smitty: "So long as he has no name he's a stray, a stranger, a rank outsider. Just you give him a name, any kind of name, and he belongs to you."
After Old Whitey saves Ollie's life Smith undergoes an abrupt change of heart as is witnessed by the show's concluding dialogue:
Smitty: "Have you named him yet?"
Smitty: "Then let's give him a name now. After all, he's earned it."
Ollie: "You know what it'll mean, don't you?"
Smitty: "That he'll be ours for the rest of his life."
Without question The Cat earned that much and considerably more but the employees of the Royal Mail were too cheap and heartless to have done even that much for him. Instead, they greedily snatched up everything that he so generously gave to them gratis
and in return they repaid him with empty promises and insincere words of love.
His suffering, neglect, and ultimate fate accordingly rests on their consciences, that is, if against all odds they should have any. (See Cat Defender post of November 18, 2013 entitled "Cast Out and Set Adrift Upon a Sea of Unremitting Misery and Uncertainly by the Disgracefully Ailurophobic Royal Mail, The Cat at Long Last, Hopefully, Has Found a Safe Harbor.")
9.) Luna. Homeless Scottish White Cat Loses Both of Her Ears to Skin Cancer.
"Every cat is different and she has had a rough time. She needs time to get her confidence back."
-- Nina Chisholm of Cats Protection
Being homeless and on the street is a difficult row to hoe for any cat. Besides the daily demands of procuring food, water, and shelter from the elements, those who either were born that way or later fall into such a predicament also do not have any protection whatsoever against both human and animal predators that are intent upon doing them harm.
Those that are born with either white or pale-colored fur also have to contend with a far more insidious foe in the form of the sun. There apparently are not any statistics kept on the subject, but the toll exacted from these cats in skin cancer must be exceedingly high.
For instance, at some undisclosed point during the summer of 2013 an eight-year-old white cat named Luna was rescued from the streets of Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire by Cats Protection. Sadly, by that time the sun had so ravaged her ears that they had to be surgically removed.
It is not known how long that she was on the street but given her age it very well could have been years. The good news is that the veterinarians believe that they removed all of the malignant tissue and that her hearing has not been compromised.
Following surgery, Cats Protection next turned its attention toward finding her a permanent home. "She can be loving when she knows you but she is quite guarded," Nina Chisholm of the charity's North Ayrshire Branch remarked at that time. "People might be put off by the way she looks, but cats that have problems like only three legs or a missing eye quite often get the sympathy vote."
Whereas it is not known if Luna at one time did have a home, living on the streets had, quite predictably, taken an emotional as well as physical toll on her. "Every cat is different and she has had a rough time," Chisholm added. "She needs time to get her confidence back."
In addition to securing a good home for her, since she obviously could not be returned to the street in her condition, steps needed to have been taken in order to protect her exposed inner ears from punctures, flying debris, and the elements. Above all, she could not be allowed back out into the sunlight, even for brief periods of time, without both sunscreen and protective headgear.
Trumping all of those concerns is the persistent fear that the cancer could return with a vengeance at any time. Should that occur, it is highly unlikely that either her new guardian or Cats Protection would be willing to invest the labor and money required in order to save her life for a second time.
Regrettably, it has not proven feasible to determine how that she is getting on or even if she still is alive. (See Cat Defender post of August 12, 2013 entitled "Luna Weathers a Costly Assault from Old Sol and Is Looking to Make a New Start in Life but a Dark Cloud Is Looming over Her Future.")
10.) Rupert. Cambridge Siamese Is Killed by Chemical Poisoning.
"Sadly it appears that he has suffered from some kind of poisoning, possibly through treading in a substance and licking it off his paws, or possibly maliciously."
-- Rosemary Rodd of the Cambridge Branch of the RSPCA
The sad reality about chemical poisonings is that most cats do not survive such attacks, regardless of whether they are accidental or deliberate. A good case in point was the cruel fate that befell a handsome black Siamese of unspecified age named Rupert in Cambridge during the last week of February.
Rescued from the street by a Good Samaritan, he later was diagnosed by Companion Care Vets of Coldham Lane to have sustained chemical burns to his paws, mouth, tongue and, worst of all, kidneys. He lingered on for several days in intensive care before he either died on his own or was deliberately killed off by the veterinarians.
As was the case with Chairman Waffles, the nature of the poison never was positively identified. "The vets initially thought it was likely to be antifreeze, but are now thinking that it may be some corrosive substance as he also has signs of chemical burns in his mouth," Rosemary Rodd of the Cambridge Branch of the RSPCA said at that time.
It likewise never was determined how that he came into contact with the deadly substance. "Sadly it appears that he has suffered from some kind of poisoning, possibly through treading in a substance and licking it off his paws, or possibly maliciously," she theorized. "Whether or not this was deliberate, the RSPCA is obviously concerned that someone has left a dangerous substance where animals can come contaminated and suffer."
Expressions of concern and crocodile tears are woefully inadequate and they most assuredly contribute absolutely nothing toward protecting feline lives. For the sake of all the animals and Mother Earth, all poisonous chemicals should be taken off the market and replaced with biodegradable substitutes.
Although it is not totally unheard of, it is somewhat rare for a Siamese to be abandoned. Even more perplexing in Rupert's case, he was neither microchipped nor sterilized and that in turn leads to speculation that he may have been used for breeding purposes and then, for reasons that are unknown, dumped in the street.
Regardless of whatever type of life he may have previously enjoyed, it is nothing short of heartbreaking that it had to end so prematurely and painfully for him. His death additionally demonstrates that even expensive and exotic cats are subject to the same types of abuses and cruelties as other less coveted breeds of felines. (See Cat Defender post of May 2, 2013 entitled "Poisoned Within an Inch of His Life While Living on the Mean Streets of Detroit, Chairman Waffles Survives Three Surgeries in Order to Live Again.")
11.) Ian. Elderly Tuxedo Refuses to Abandon His Deceased Guardian.
"The circumstances were very sad and it must have been awful for the cat. He was trapped indoors wondering why his owner wouldn't wake up, feed him or let him out."
-- Sheila Pennell of Cats Protection
Dying unexpectedly and thus leaving behind one or more cats to fend for themselves in an extremely hostile world is every serious cat-lover's worst nightmare. Nevertheless, such profound tragedies occur all the time and in a heartbreaking and disturbing case that once again focused attention on this issue a ten-year-old tuxedo named Ian was left trapped indoors in May with his deceased guardian.
That surely would have been the end of him if concerned neighbors had not intervened and contacted Police Community Support Officer Ian Concannon who traveled to the woman's home on Knightwick Crescent in the Kingstanding section of north Birmingham where upon entry he discovered Ian curled up beside her lifeless corpse. It never was divulged either how long the woman had been dead or how long Ian had been forced to go without food, water, and having his litter box emptied.
"The circumstances were very sad and it must have been awful for the cat," Sheila Pennell of Cats Protection later said. "He was trapped indoors wondering why his owner wouldn't wake up, feed him or let him out."
Contacted by Concannon, Pennell assumed temporary custody of Ian and agreed to foster him at her home in the suburb of Erdington, eight kilometers northeast of Birmingham. "He's now over his trauma and has settled in well," she disclosed shortly thereafter. "He is quirky and has a loving nature. But it is sad to see him looking out his lonely pen in the nice weather wishing he had a new home and a garden of his own."
In addition to all that he had been put through up until then, securing another home for him turned out to be a far more arduous task than originally anticipated. For starters, the dead woman's relatives wanted no part of him.
In fact, they did not even know his name and that resulted in Cats Protection dubbing him Ian in honor of his rescuer. Although he may have been flattered by that gesture, he likewise was not about to provide the grieving cat with a new home.
"He's a lovely little cat and the circumstances in which I found him were very sad," Concannon acknowledged. "I like cats myself, but I live in a shared house with a landlady so I can't have him."
Two offers of adoption did not work out for undisclosed reasons and consequently it was not until the middle of June that Cats Protection finally was able to place him in a new home. At last report, he was said to have adjusted well to both his new guardian and surroundings.
Best of all, he reportedly had not suffered any permanent physical damage as the result of having been forced to go without food and water for such an extended period of time. Psychological damage could, of course, be an altogether different matter but since so little is known about how cats deal with grief Ian will have to work out those issues by himself.
Finally, by remaining with his fallen caretaker he demonstrated his fidelity to her. It is extremely doubtful, however, that she would have been anywhere nearly as steadfast in her commitment to him if their roles had been reversed.
In that respect, the odious practice of whereby callous owners employ unscrupulous veterinarians in order to murder their unwanted cats continues to rival the wholesale crimes committed against the species by shelters and Animal Control officers. (See Cat Defender post of July 27, 2013 entitled "Instead of Killing Her Off with a Jab of Sodium Pentobarbital and Then Burning Her Corpse, Ian Remains Steadfast at His Guardian's Side Long after Her Death.")
12.) Bear. Two-Year-Old Tom Goes Missing after His Owner Enters the Hospital.
"I was called in to hospital and got kept in. Bear was with Jim at home that night but he hasn't been back since."
-- Sylvia Manning
Becoming ill and thus being unable to care for a cat can lead to consequences that are every bit as disastrous as suddenly dying and leaving it, like Ian was left, to fend for itself. That was the grim reality foisted upon fifty-four-year-old Sylvia Manning of Bunting Lane in Billericay, Essex, when she entered Basildon University Hospital on February 22nd for treatment of multiple myeloma.
In doing so, she left the care of her two-year-old brown, black, and white cat Bear, whom she had adopted six months previously from the Celia Hammond Animal Trust, to her common law husband, Jim Wakeling. She was no sooner out the door however before disaster struck.
"I was called in to hospital and got kept in. Bear was with Jim at home that night but he hasn't been back since," she later confided to the Billericay Gazette.
"I feel terrible I can't do anything or go and look for him."
During her extended convalescence, Wakeling erected Lost Cat posters in the neighborhood, posted notices online, solicited and received the assistance of the Billericay Gazette,
and even offered a reward for Bear's return. "I've listed Bear on missing cat web sites and leafleted a large area of Billericay to the east of the high street and south of the railway and some of the sightings have led us to think he may have crossed over to the west side of high street," he related. "Basildon Leaflets (of Laindon) helped us and covered an entire area around South Green at no cost. It's likely he is moving between the houses without being seen."
Despite that concerted effort, Bear was nowhere to be found. "So far we have had a few people thinking they have found him and Jim has rushed home only to find it was another cat that looked similar to Bear," Manning said dishearteningly. "I really hope someone will find him."
Last seen on Greens Farm Road, Bear was wearing a distinctive orange collar and had been microchipped. He also has a prominent fold in his right ear.
"(He is a) lovely playful little boy," is how Manning described him. "Very friendly," Wakeling added.
Given his good looks and vibrant personality, it is entirely conceivable that either an area resident or an individual passing through Billericay may have picked him up from the street and does not have any intention of returning him. Individuals do that all the time without any consideration whatsoever for a cat's heartbroken owners.
It is not known therefore what ultimately became of Bear but as of March 30th he was still missing. (See Cat Defender post of April 24, 2013 entitled "A Cancer Victim in Billericay Issues an Urgent Appeal for the Prompt Return of Her Beloved Cat, Bear.")
13.) Baby Cat. Young Mother Walks Back Home to Be at the Side of the Stricken Owner Who Earlier Had Abandoned Her.
|Baby Cat and Haley Nichols|
"My cat knew I wasn't okay and she came back home. I think she's here watching over me."
-- Haley Nichols
Twenty-nine-year-old Haley Nichols of Tuscumbia, Alabama, made a truly horrible and totally unforgivable decision during the early days of January. That is when she elected to get rid of Baby Cat and her two kittens because she was having difficulty paying the pet fees imposed upon her by her draconian landlord.
She accordingly surrendered them to Pets Are Worth Saving in Florence which sterilized and subsequently placed them with a farmer in Spring Valley. "I thought she'd be happier because she always wanted outside here, and I knew she was going to be in a barn and stay with her babies," Nichols later explained. "I thought it was perfect and that she'd be happier, and I wanted to do what's right for my pets."
Under most circumstances that would have been the end of the matter and their paths never would have crossed again, at least not in this world. Life often is stranger than fiction, however, and unanticipated, miraculous twists of fate do sometimes occur much like bolts from out of the blue.
In this particular instance, Nichols was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer a few weeks after she had abandoned Baby Cat and as a consequence she was forced to undergo four days of treatment in Birmingham. Upon returning home sometime in early February she received the shock of her life.
"I woke up and there was a cat at my window. I looked and I was like that cannot be Baby Cat. It can't be," she later explained. "I reached and opened the door and she ran in and meowed and I thought it can't be her, but she has a distinctive meow."
It was her all right and she, as far as it is known, had spent the preceding four weeks walking the eleven kilometers that separate Spring Valley from Tuscumbia. Even more amazing, she had to cross several perilous roads and highways during the course of her homeward trek.
"My cat knew I wasn't okay and she came back home. I think she's here watching over me," Nichols commented afterwards. "I just feel blessed to have her back, and I know that she's going to make my healing process better because she's like a friend."
As heartwarming as all of that may be, press reports at the time left many troubling questions unanswered. First of all, if Nichols was having difficulties coming up with the penalties imposed upon her by her landlord beforehand, it is hard to see how that she was going to be able to meet those obligations now, especially on top of her escalating medical bills.
Secondly, the long-term prognosis for a woman suffering from stage three cervical cancer is, sadly, not encouraging. Fourthly, it never was revealed what became of Baby Cat's kittens.
Although it would be wonderful if this story could have a happy ending, the odds are decidedly against such a dénouement.
In particular, unless Nichols was able to have gotten a handle on both her medical and financial problems, Baby Cat was destined to once again become either homeless or to wind up in even direr straits. (See Cat Defender post of April 24, 2013 entitled "A Cancer Victim in Billericay Issues an Urgent Appeal for the Prompt Return of Her Beloved Cat, Bear.")
* * *
The common thread that connects each of these thirteen wonderful cats is that at some point in their lives they were abandoned, either one or more times, by their guardians and became homeless. That total even includes Norman and Muffin who were written off as dead and as a consequence prematurely abandoned to their graves.
In addition to such confirmed enemies of the species as ornithologists, wildlife biologists, PETA, shelters, Animal Control officers, and vivisectors, it might not be totally unfair to now add a significant portion of cat owners to that ignominious list. At the very least, more of them need to wake up and realize that owning a cat is a lifetime commitment and that to cruelly abandon one to either the street or to a shelter is, in most cases, tantamount to a death sentence.
Such behavior also is terribly shortsighted in that in this ever changing world where lovers, friends, youth, money, and health come and go with the wind, a cat's love, as both Ian and Baby Cat have so vividly demonstrated, is the one constant that is real and endures. Charles Dickens perhaps summed up the matter best when he observed, "What greater gift than the love of a cat?"
It additionally is less than flattering that cats in distress often receive far more compassion and love from perfect strangers, such as Vachon, Palmer, Stattersfield, and Zelkowitz, than they do from their owners. Organizations such as La Fondation Brigette Bardot, MHS, and Cats Protection can sometimes help to make up for their glaring deficiencies but they are not any substitute for conscientious owners who take their responsibilities to their cats to heart.
Photos: Canoe.ca (Mario), Daily Mail (Poussey, Norman, and The Cat), Facebook (Arnie), KTVI-TV of St. Louis (Muffin), the New York Daily News (Disaster), The Herald News of Southgate (Chairman Waffles), London Metro (Luna), Cambridge News (Rupert), Birmingham Mail (Ian), Sylvia Manning (Bear), and WAAY-TV of Huntsville (Baby Cat).