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Cat Defender

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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Dedicated and Compassionate Kilianstädterin Has Found at Least a Partial Solution to the Tragic Plight of alte und obdachlos Katzen

Luke and Melanie Gottschalk

"Diese Tiere sind in der Regel schwer vermittelbar, weil etwa Familien mit Kindern näturlich ein kleine und süße Katze wollen."
-- Melanie Gottschalk

When it comes to cats few issues are quite as heart-wrenching as that of those that have grown not only old but, through no fault of their own, also homeless. That is by no means a new problem in that it has plagued the species ever since time immemorial.

Now, a young technical designer named Melanie Gottschalk from the Kilianstädten section of Schöneck, twenty kilometers north of Frankfurt am Main in the state of Hesse, believes that she has found at least a partial solution to that age-old dilemma by placing them in the homes of pensioners. Being a lifelong fan of the species, she operates a private rescue operation out of her house for cats of all ages but it is the elderly ones that are her specialty.

Her rescue efforts begin with a perusal of the lost, found, and for sale notices on the Internet. "Ich kann inzwischen gut unterscheiden, welche Anzeige von einem Tierschutzverein ins Netz gestellt wurde oder ob ein Verkäufer Geld mit der Katze machen will," she disclosed to the Frankfurter Neue Presse on September 4, 2014. (See "Wenn alte Katzen obdachlos werden.") "Und dann gibt es die für mich interessanten Anzeigen, wo Menschen Tiere schnell loswerden wollen -- aus den unterschiedlichsten Gründen."

She then contacts the advertisers while simultaneously interceding with local veterinarians and other rescuers by e-mail on behalf of those cats. Some of those that she is able to gain custody of are placed fairly soon in new homes but the remainder she takes in herself and fosters until good homes can be secured for them.

At one point in 2014, she was caring for a Maine Coon named Luke, a tom named Baghera, a female named Lilly, and a pregnant cat named Emmi that had been rescued from floodwaters in Nidda, forty kilometers northeast of Frankfurt am Main. "Bekannte haben das Tier gefunden und mich informiert," she related to the Frankfurter Neue Presse. "Da konnte ich nicht Nein sagen und seither lebt Emmi bei uns (she and her boyfriend)."

Generally speaking, however, she has had remarkable success in finding new homes for those cats that she has rescued. "In der Regel dauert es nicht lange, bis ein neues Zuhause für die Tiere gefunden ist," she told the Frankfurter Neue Presse.

With old cats, however, she has run up against the same old Stolperstein  that has stymied traditional shelters for so long. "Diese Tiere sind in der Regel schwer vermittelbar, weil etwa Familien mit Kindern näturlich ein kleine und süße Katze wollen," she lamented to the Frankfurter Neue Presse.

As it often has been pointed out, necessity is the mother of invention and it was out of those frustrations that Gottschalt eventually hit upon the idea of placing old cats with pensioners. The arrangement works out well for senior citizens given that older cats are quieter and less demanding than either kittens or those that are in the primes of their lives.

As for the cats themselves, Gottschalk argues that such arrangements assure them of permanent homes for the remainder of their days. The rather obvious flaw in her reasoning is that old men and women also get sick and die and that in turn translates into their new arrivals being left homeless once again.

Just how big of a problem that is with the cats that she places with seniors, only she knows. Nevertheless, she presumably is willing to compensate for that drawback by retaking custody of those cats that find themselves displaced for a second time.

Since she does not limit her feline outreach efforts to Kilianstädten and Nidda, she was able to place a twelve-year-old Maine Coon from Mainz, sixty-six kilometers south of Kilianstädten in Rhineland-Pfalz, with a seventy-year-old woman in Hanauer Stadtteil Klein-Auheim, twenty-two kilometers south of Kilianstädten, whose dog had recently died. "Das war genau das richtige Tier für die Seniorin," she told the Frankfurter Neue Presse. "Die alte Dame ist super happy mit ihrem neuen tierischen Freund."

In order to facilitate such successful adoptions, she must first overcome two daunting obstacles. The first of which is to identify those senior citizens who might be willing to take on the care of an elderly cat. Secondly, those individuals then must somehow be prevailed upon to adopt.

As far as the first problem is concerned, Gottschalk has been able to circumvent it by relying upon an eclectic mix of e-mail, word of mouth, and fliers that she distributes to merchants in and around Schöneck. Although surmounting the second dilemma surely would tax the oratorical skills of even the most seasoned carnival barker, since she has been able to convince at least one dog owner to adopt a cat she must be pretty good at that difficult chore.

Even though her results so far have been only meager, she is demonstrating that the correct strategy coupled with hard work can produce amazing results. The true secret of her success does not lie in strategy, however, but rather in an altogether different ingredient that is so sorely lacking in traditional rescuers and shelters.

"Ich mache das aus Liebe zu den Tieren und verlange auch kein Geld dafur," she summed up for the Frankfurter Neue Presse.

It goes almost without saying that her initiative is direly needed given that the options available for elderly and homeless cats are few indeed. Just as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the best of all possible solutions would be for their guardians to make provisions for their continued care in their wills.

That is what Ellen Frey-Wouters of the Bronx did for her two companions, Troy and Tiger, before she kicked the bucket in 2015. Specifically, she left behind US$300,000 for their continued care. (See the New York Post, August 21, 2017, "Bronx Widow Leaves $300,000 Fortune to Her Cats," and the Daily Mail, August 24, 2017, "Here, Kitty, Kitty! New York Woman Leaves $300,000 to Her Cats in Her Will with the Request They 'Never Be Caged'.")

Although the transition from one home and one guardian to another home and a new caretaker is not an easy adjustment for an elderly cat to make, it is still preferable than for it to wind up totally on its own. If that should not be feasible, the second best option would be for owners to prevail upon close family members to take over the care of their cats after they are gone.

That is precisely what Beverley Hume of Newcastle upon Tyne did after both of her parents died and left behind their elderly cat, Ginger. Sadly, even her compassion proved to be insufficient in order to safeguard the life of the twenty-five-year-old male from the machinations of those individuals and institutions who fervently believe that old cats should not be allowed to draw so much as one more breath under any circumstances. (See Cat Defender post of January 11, 2012 entitled "A Deadly Intrigue Concocted by a Thief, a Shelter, and a Veterinary Chain Costs Ginger the Continued Enjoyment of His Golden Years.")

Even more reprehensibly, the simply abhorrent attitude that veterinarians and shelters have toward elderly cats is shared by the overwhelming majority of owners who do not hesitate to have them killed off as soon as their care becomes either expensive or inconvenient. Despite its popularity, murdering elderly cats never should be an option for either individuals or institutions.

Even those cats that are lucky enough to outlive their guardians are left with very few options. For example, just about all of those that are dumped at shelters are immediately liquidated shortly after their arrival.

That is because just about all of those wretched institutions are anything but animal shelters; rather, they are thinly disguised feline extermination camps. Secondly, even if staffers were willing to attempt to find homes for them the general public, as Gottschalk has pointed out, has little or no interest in adopting old cats.

Even those extremely rare organizations that have an abiding respect for the sanctity of all feline life, such as Yorkshire Cat Rescue (YCR) in Keighley, West Yorkshire, have a devil of a time finding homes for their senior citizens. For instance, YCR is currently on its fourth attempt to locate a permanent home for a fourteen-year-old tom named Harvey. (See Cat Defender posts of August 31, 2017 and March 12, 2018 entitled, respectively, "With His Previous Owner Long Dead and Nobody Seemingly Willing to Give Him a Second Chance at Life, Old and Ailing Harvey Has Been Sentenced to Rot at a Shelter in Yorkshire" and "Much Like a Nightmare that Stubbornly Refuses to End, Harvey Continues to Be Shuttled from One Home to Another at the Expense of His Health and Well-Being.")

Not all of its efforts have been in vain, however, in that it has successfully placed a fifteen-year-old ginger and white tom named Frank in a new home. (See Cat Defender post of September 5, 2017 entitled "Written Off More Than Once as Being All but Finished, Frank Is Living Proof That Old Cats Not Only Have Value but Considerably More Life Left in Them Than Most People Are Willing to Acknowledge.")

Elsewhere, it even took Cats Protection three tries in order to secure a permanent home for a ten-year-old tuxedo named Ian from Birmingham after his guardian had died without making any plans for his continued care. (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.")

Harvey, Frank, and Ian are exceptions to the rule in that the overwhelming majority of old cats never make it out of shelters alive. For that reason alone, shelters never should be an option for them or, for that matter, any cat no matter what its age and circumstances.

The second most likely destination for cats that have outlived their owners is the street as George, Pops, Orakal, and so many others have have discovered to their distress and horror. (See Cat Defender posts of March 23, 2015, August 6, 2015, September 15, 2015, and May 4, 2017 entitled, respectively, "Old, Sickly, and on the Street, George Accidentally Wanders into a Pet Store and That, in All Likelihood, Saved His Life," "Elderly, Frail, and on Death Row, Lovely Pops Desperately Needs a New Home Before Time Finally Runs Out on Her," "Pops Finally Secures a Permanent Home but Pressing Concerns about Both Her Continued Care and Right to Live Remain Unaddressed," and "Seventeen-Year-Old, Sickly, and Blind Orakel Is Abandoned to Fend for Herself in the Unforgiving Streets of Breitenfurt bei Wien.")

Although most any existence, no matter how harsh, is still preferable to unjustly robbing these cats of their inalienable right to live, there cannot be any disputing that dumping elderly cats in the street constitutes the very epitome of cruelty and that is especially the case with those that have lost their eyesight and mobility. In most instances, the absolute very best that they can expect from a cutthroat and uncaring world is to be offered shelter by kindhearted, private individuals who respect their right to live.

Private sanctuaries are a third option but they are few in number and usually operate at capacity. (See Cat Defender post of May 27, 2016 entitled "Snubbed by an Ignorant, Tasteless, and Uncaring Public for the Past Twenty-One Years, Tilly Has Forged an Alternative Existence of Relative Contentment at a Sanctuary in the Black Country" and the Donau Kurier of Ingolstadt, July 9, 2013, "Die Geschichte der Maya.")

Managed TNR colonies offer a fourth option for elderly cats and Alley Cat Allies has had several of its charges in Atlantic City live to be at least twenty years old. (See Cat Defender post of December 10, 2011 entitled "Snowball Succumbs to the Inevitable after Toughing It Out for Two Decades at Atlantic City's Underwood Hotel.")

Even so, it is cruel to sentence elderly cats to spend their last days all alone and outdoors. Plus, the Underwood Hotel is a dangerous place for even humans, let alone defenseless cats. (See Cat Defender post of August 24, 2017 entitled "The Brutal Murders of a Trio of Atlantic City's Boardwalk Cats Provide an Occasion for the Local Rag and PETA to Whoop It Up and to Break Open the Champagne.")

Considering the extent to which the game of life is stacked against them, only a handful of cats ever live long enough in order to become senior citizens. Those that do accordingly should be treasured for the rare gems that they are and every day that they continue to grace the face of Mother Earth ought to be regarded a a precious gift.

Even granting them that much is still woefully insufficient. In particular, not only should their right to live be enshrined in law but that also should entitle them to warm, secure, and loving homes, a good quality diet, and top-notch veterinary care. To afford them anything less makes a mockery of any lingering pretenses that man may still harbor in his malignant bosom about his own fundamental fairness, decency and, most importantly, right to exist himself.

Photo: Thomas Seifert of the Frankfurter Neue Presse.