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Cat Defender

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Friday, March 10, 2017

A Caring Woman in Tekirdag Comes Up with an Innovative Way in Order Lure In Cats from the Cold

A Newly-Constructed Ladder Allows Cats to Gain Entry into Ilhan's House
"This world is not just for people."
-- Sebnem Ilhan

With Tekirdag suffering through an especially cold and snowy winter, Sebnem Ilhan knew that she had to do something about the many wet and homeless cats that she saw shivering outside her house every day. In particular, she desperately wanted to bring them inside but for reasons that never have been spelled out by the media she was unable to do so, at least not in any conventional manner.

One possible explanation is that entry into her house is only secured via an elevator and that of course would preclude her from installing a cat flap. She could have trapped and then carried them inside but, for whatever reason, she declined to do that.

After considerable reflection upon the matter, she hit upon the idea of constructing a five-rung stepladder from a window in her house down to the sidewalk and that has solved that dilemma. "I made the ladder so the cats can come into my comfortable house," she explained to Yahoo News on February 28th. (See "This Animal Lover Built a Ladder for Stray Cats to Come In from the Cold.")

In doing so, she also had the foresight to take precautions against incurring any potential problems with her neighbors. "I thought if I put some flower pots there, it (the ladder) wouldn't bother anyone," she told Yahoo News.

Apparently that ploy has succeeded in not only keeping her neighbors at bay but an unspecified number of cats have availed themselves of the ladder in order to escape the elements as well as to stock up on some much needed replenishment. "I wish no animal is hungry and thirsty, just happy," she added. "This world is not just for people."

Sebnem Ilhan Comforts a Tuxedo

Press reports, already sketchy at best, have not delved into how all of this came about but since Ilhan voluntarily rescues both cats and dogs she in all probability began by setting out food and water for the cats at ground level. After that she in all likelihood moved the food to the bottom rungs of the ladder and then, little by little, was able to lure the cats all the way to the top and eventually inside her abode.

All of that sans doute required a good deal of time, effort, and patience but since she earns her livelihood by pulling teeth she is well versed in executing tedious and delicate maneuvers. Moreover, there never was any guarantee that the cats ever would catch on to what she had in mind and that is especially the case in regard to those who had spent their entire lives roughing it.

Located on the northern coast of the Sea of Marmara one-hundred-thirty-five kilometers west of Istanbul in the tiny sliver of Turkey that lies in Europe, Tekirdag has a Mediterranean climate that is characterized by long, hot, and humid summers that are followed by cool, wet, and snowy winters. Although overnight lows between December and March rarely dip below 35° Fahrenheit, it either rains or snows more than a third of that time.

That in itself is more than sufficient in order to make living outdoors a thoroughly wretched experience for cats. Even so, winters in the Mediterranean are nothing compared to those in the northern half of the United States and Canada which annually claim the lives of tens of thousands of cats. (See Cat Defender posts of March 5, 2007, January 21, 2010, February 2, 2015, February 23, 2015, March 14, 2015, and May 13, 2015 entitled, respectively, "Run Down by a Motorist and Frozen to the Ice by His Own Blood, Roo Is Saved by a Caring Woman," "Trapped Outdoors in a Snowstorm, Annie Is Brought Back from the Dead by the Compassion of a Good Samaritan and an Animal Control Officer," "Cruelly Declawed and Locked Up Indoors for All of His Life, Nicky Is Suddenly Thrust into the Bitter Cold and Snow for Twenty-One Consecutive Days with Predictably Tragic Results," "Abandoned to Tough It Out by His Lonesome in the Deadly Michigan Cold and Snow, Flick Sustains Horrific Injuries to His Front Paws When They Become Frozen to a Porch," "Ace Is Found Frozen to a Porch with His Eyes Gouged Out but the Authorities Are Too Lazy, Cheap, and Ailurophobic to Go After His Assailant," and "Bubba Is Condemned to Spend Forty Days Trapped Underneath a Snow Covered Porch after Her Uncaring Owners Prematurely Wrote Her Off as Being Dead.")

Ladders not only are helpful when it comes to rescuing cats from the elements but they also play a vital role in assisting elderly and disabled cats to get around on their own. For example, when a handsome ginger and white male named Tom from Fulham in the London borough of Fulham and Hammersmith, located six kilometers south of Charing Cross on the north bank of the Thames, came down with arthritis that made it not only difficult but painful as well for him to scale the eight-foot garden fence that surrounds his house.

Tom with Adrienne Ellery and Gareth Bowen

At first his owner, Adrienne Ellery, did not know what to do but her thirty-five-year-old boyfriend, retired firefighter Gareth Bowen, had an idea. "I had some wood left over from building a fence so I started on a staircase," he later confided to the Daily Mail on September 19, 2011. (See "It Was a Joint Effort: Arthritic Cat Is on Top of the World after Owners Build Him a Spiral Staircase to Get over Garden Fence.") "I knew Tom was an intelligent cat and would figure out how to use it."

His partner was not so quickly persuaded, however. "When Gareth told me what he wanted to do I was astonished and thought he was a bit mad," she admitted to the Daily Mail.

Undaunted by her skepticism, Bowen forged ahead. "I was watching Tom and it was sad to see him struggle with the fence," he added to the Daily Mail. "Some days he could do it but when he came back down he was faced with an eight-foot jump and he would land with such a thud that I knew it wasn't good for his joints, particularly with the arthritis."

The end result of his labors was an aesthetically appealing twelve-rung spiral staircase that allows Tom to get up and down the garden fence. Once he reaches the summit, he is now able to navigate around the neighborhood by walking on top of the wall.

It was not all smooth sailing, however, and initially it appeared that Ellery's reservations may have had some merit. "When it was finished Tom didn't know what to make of it and I was a bit worried he wouldn't figure it out," Bowen conceded to the Daily Mail. "But then Adrienne tempted him by putting some food on each step and then Tom couldn't wait to run up the stairs. It was if he had used it all his life."

Tom Making His Way Down

Ellery readily concurred. "...it's made all the difference to the cat," she declared to the Daily Mail. "It means he can get around the neighborhood and as he's getting older it's important for his quality of life."

The staircase, which Gareth constructed in a single day's work, thus has improved both Tom's physical as well as his psychological health. "On the way down he jumps the last few steps as a way of proving to himself that he can still do it," Bowen concluded. "It's great because it means he's not stuck in the house and can be sociable with the other local cats."

Bionic implants may one day be yet still another option for cats that have been robbed of limbs by murderous motorists and combine operators. These prosthetics consist of polymer and rubber paws that are attached to titanium rods that in turn are inserted into holes drilled into their ankles.

For instance in December of last year, a handsome one-year-old homeless tuxedo named Pooh was fitted with a pair of bionic legs at the Central Veterinary Clinic in Sofia in order to replace the rear limbs that were stolen from him by either a motorist or a train engineer. "Pooh's condition is more than satisfactory," thirty-five-year-old Vladislav Zlatinov of the surgery told Yahoo News on January 28th. (See "Paw-fect Rescue: Bulgarian Stray Cat Gets Bionic Legs.") "There might be some clumsiness but he can walk, jump, and run. The only difference is a gentle tapping sound."

Steven, an eight-month-old cat who also lost both of his rear legs last year, likewise has been fitted with a new pair of bionic legs but press reports have not disclosed how that he is progressing. Both he and Pooh were brought to Zlatinov's surgery by Let's Adopt Bulgaria of Sofia which footed the enormous bills for both operations.

Tom Is Back on Top of Things in His Neighborhood

"We went to Zlatinov looking for a solution because he had solved other hopeless cases of injured animals before," the charity's Vyara Mladenova told Yahoo News. "But we didn't expect him to offer this solution and for it to be successful."

It is believed that Pooh ("Fluff" in Bulgarian) and Steven are only the second and third cats in the world to have been fitted with bionic paws. The first one was a black tom named Oscar from the parish of Grouville in the Balliwick of Jersey who lost both of his rear appendages to a combine operator in the autumn of 2009.

That groundbreaking surgery was performed a year later by Noel Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick's Referrals in the Eashing section of Godalming, Surrey. Leider, it is not known either how that Oscar is doing or even if he is still alive today. (See Cat Defender post of November 20, 2010 entitled "Celebrated as the World's First Bionic Cat, Oscar Now Has Been Turned into a Guinea Pig with a Very Uncertain Future.")

The reason that so few of these procedures are performed is, quite obviously, their exorbitant cost. Although Let's Adopt Bulgaria has not publicly disclosed how much that it paid Zlatinov for Pooh's and Steven's surgeries, Oscar's new limbs cost his owners, Mike Nolan and Kate Allan, a whopping £50,000.

Such procedures surely must cost considerably less in Sofia, however, given Zlatinov's newfound optimism. "(The operations) give hope that even in a country like Bulgaria innovative things can be done," he proclaimed to Yahoo News.

Pooh and His Bandaged Paws Following Surgery

Although there certainly is not anything secretive about the technology that put Oscar, Pooh, and Steven back on their feet, there is not any record of such procedures having been performed in the United States. If that is indeed the case, it can only be attributable to Americans' legendary cheapness rather than to any lack of expertise.

Even Zlatinov has reservations about bionic implants. "Cats who (have) lost one leg do pretty well. But what happens if they loose both their hind legs?" he rhetorically mused to Yahoo News. "Yes, they move somehow, but what quality of life are we talking about?"

Not only is he wrong to raise such an objection, but unless a cat is in simply excruciating pain and without so much as prayer of recovering, most any kind of life is better than none. Moreover, the quality of life afforded amputees is actually quite good.

For example, in Monmouth, Illinois, a black and white female named Trace has only two legs. Both of her rear ones were ground up inside a motorist's engine but Geoffrey Weech of the Monmouth Small Animal Hospital never even once considered killing her.

"We felt that if a cat can be that normal with three legs, I think they can adapt to two legs," he said afterwards. (See Cat Defender post of November 17, 2010 entitled "Penniless and Suffering from Two Broken Legs, It Looked Like It Was Curtains for Trace Until Geoffrey Weech Rode to Her Rescue on His White Horse.")

Pooh and His New Bionic Rear Legs

As if any additional proof was needed, a tortoiseshell named Callie Mae at the Theodore Veterinary Hospital in the Alabama town of the same name does not have any legs at all. "She's a good kitty," Sandy Tomlin of the surgery averred to WKRG-TV of Mobile on August 9, 2010. (See YouTube video entitled "Legless Cat Ready to Start Another Life.") "She even caught a mouse one time."

Cats who have lost legs also can be fitted with specially designed wheelchairs in order to help them stay mobile. That is precisely what Louise Broomhall of Seadown in the district of Canterbury on New Zealand's south island did for her beloved one-eyed cat, Blacky, after he lost both of his rear appendages to a hit-and-run driver in June of 2010. (See The Press of Christchurch, August 19, 2010, "Blacky (the cat) Gets His Wheels.")

Killing cats that are either homeless or disabled should not be an option for any society. All of them can be saved but doing so requires, like everything else that is worthwhile in this world, time, money, and effort.

Owners such and Ellery and Bowen were willing to go the extra mile for Tom as was the case for Nolan and Allan in regard to Oscar and Broomhall with Blacky. Ilhan did not harden her heart and turn her back on the homeless cats of Tekirdag and the same can be said for Let's Adopt Bulgaria and its compassionate care for Pooh and Steven. As far as Weech and the Theodore Veterinary Hospital are concerned, the kindness that they have showered on Trace and Callie Mae, respectively, can only be described as extraordinary.

The imperative therefore is not contract but rather to expand the circle of care, compassion, and legal protections to all cats regardless of either their socio-economic status or the extent of their disabilities. That lofty goal is a preeminently achievable one; all that is lacking is the commitment to make it a reality.

Photos: Sebnem Ilhan (ladder), Daily Mail (Tom), and Let's Adopt Bulgaria (Pooh).