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Cat Defender

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Schneewittchen Gets Accidentally Trapped in a Lorry and Winds Up in Wien but in Doing So She Brought Along with Her Considerably More Than Just Her Pretty Face

Schneewittchen Arrived in Wien as an Unwitting Stowaway

"Aktuell stehen die Gesundheit und das Wachstum der Tiere im Vordergrund."
-- Wiener Tierschutzverein

Deutschland's loss is Österreich's gain.

On February 22nd, employees of a trucking company located in the Simmering district of Wien stumbled upon the presence of a pretty, longhaired black female of undetermined age in their depot. Instead of befriending her, offering her some food, and providing her with a place to hang her hat, they instead called in an exterminator who successfully trapped and removed her from the premises.

Although that disastrous turn of events surely must have caused her more than a few anxious moments, it ultimately turned out to have been a case of Glück im Unglück. That is because rather than expunging her life the pest control agents handed her over to Wiener Tierschutzverein (WTV) in Vösendorf, eighteen kilometers south of Wien, a day later on February 23rd.

By promptly identifying the truck that she most likely had arrived in and retracing its route, the trucking company eventually was able to determine that she had gotten on board somewhere in Deutschland but had been unable to extricate herself until its doors were unlocked in Simmering. That particular section of the österreichisch Hauptstadt is perhaps best known to the outside world as the location of the Wiener Zentralfriedhof which is the final resting place for the remains of Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and other notables.

None of that, however, explains exactly where and how that she got into such a predicament. The most likely explanation is that she was carried aboard the lorry inside a container of some sort. It additionally is conceivable that she unwittingly boarded the vehicle of her own volition after having been either frightened by something or chased by someone or some animal.

Upon arrival at WTV, she was christened with the celebrated name of Schneewittchen and an examination by the charity's veterinarian revealed that she was in excellent health. Since there has not been any mention in press reports of her being either emaciated or dehydrated, that would tend to indicate that her unplanned trip across international borders had taken less than a day.

Given that she also had been well cared for, she quite obviously has an owner somewhere but since she was neither tagged nor microchipped WTV was left without any obvious means of contacting that individual. That in turn meant that Schneewittchen was now a stateless cat without either an owner or any visible means of support.

Normally, cats that arrive in Österreich are not quarantined provided that they have either a microchip or a tattoo, a health certificate signed by a veterinarian, and have been vaccinated against rabies. Since Schneewittchen possessed none of those, it therefore is unclear exactly what her legal status was upon arrival.

The Kittens Arrived on March 21st

This is all conjecture but presumably WTV acted quickly in order to fulfill those prerequisites but even then it is far from clear if she was, en effet, placed under quarantine for a specific period of time. Even if that ultimately did come to pass, she was not impounded by immigration authorities but rather allowed to serve her sentence at WTV.

If she had landed in Angleterre it would have been an entirely different story. In particular, she would have been required by law to have spent six months in quarantine at a cost of several thousand dollars.

For example in August of 2008, a ten-day-old, black and white kitten named Ronaldo somehow managed to survive a three-day trip in the back of a delivery truck without his mother from Portugal to Corby in Northamptonshire. Shortly after his arrival he was taken into custody by the authorities and surely would have been killed if clothing retailer Matalan, at whose warehouse he had turned up, had not compassionately intervened and paid his US$3,200 quarantine fee.

"We decided to donate the full amount because the kitten was in one of our depots and it has touched everyone in the office," Carly Hughes of the retailer said back then. " They (the employees) were all chuffed to bits to be able to help him."

While staffers at WTV were trying to decide what to do with Schneewittchen they received an even bigger surprise when an ultrasound examination disclosed that she was one month pregnant and that at least four Katzenbabys were due to arrive in about another month. (See the Kleine Zeitung of Graz, February 23, 2018, "Trächtige Katze als blinder Passagier in Lastkraftwagen unterwegs.")

What, if any, effect that revelation had upon WTV's plans for Schneewittchen never has been disclosed. If they had been at all familiar with the writings of Ernest Hemingway, however, they surely would have known, perhaps even without the ultrasound, that "one cat just leads to another."

Whereas some rescue groups might have been chagrined by that development, WTV by contrast was overjoyed. In the days and weeks that followed it regularly posted updates and numerous photographs of Schneewittchen on its Facebook page.

It also set up a Mamazimmer just for her at its facility so that she would not be disturbed during her pregnancy and therefore could concentrate all of her energies upon bringing forth into this world a healthy litter. In addition to plenty of food and water, the carpeted room also was furnished with elevated resting perches and other amusements.

All of that was not undertaken for purely selfless reasons, however, in that staffers zweifellos looked forward to the opportunity of witnessing the miracle of birth and therefore to once again be able to view this old world through young eyes. That rewarding experience alone more than repaid WTV for its efforts on behalf of Schneewittchen.

Schneewittchen and Her Kittens in the Mamazimmer

The charity's compassionate treatment of her and her unborn kittens stands in stark contrast to how horribly cats, and especially kittens, are dealt with in the Vereinigten Staaten. Looked down upon as being nothing more than garbage that is unfit to live, Animal Control officers such as Barry Accorti of North Ridgeville, Ohio, put an end to their brief lives with bullet wounds to their tiny heads. (See The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, June 11, 2013, "North Ridgeville Clears Humane Officer of Wrongdoing for Killing Feral Kittens but Animal Groups Want Action.")

Shelters in Vallejo, California, Sugar Land, Texas, and elsewhere extirpate them en masse every day of the year. (See Cat Defender post of July 29, 2010 entitled "The Benicia Vallejo Humane Society Is Outsourcing the Mass Killing of Kittens and Cats All the While Masquerading as a No-Kill Shelter" and The Fort Bend Star, July 14, 2010, "Baby Kittens Put to Sleep in Error.")

Others, such as the Bay County Animal Shelter in Bay City, Michigan, hate kittens so much that they will not even allow the public to intercede on their behalves by adopting them. (See Cat Defender post of June 15, 2010 entitled "Bay City Shelter Murders a Six-Week-Old Kitten with a Common Cold Despite Several Individuals Having Offered to Give It a Permanent Home.")

As far as the land of the dollar bill's bloodsucking practitioners of veterinary medicine are concerned, it is almost unheard of for any of them to be willing to lift so much as a lousy finger in order to save the life of any kitten or cat unless they first are presented with a wheelbarrow that is brimming over with greenbacks. Even forking over their mandatory thirty pieces of silver is not any guarantee of gaining their cooperation and competence; au contraire, the money only serves to embolden them to be even more obstinate, dictatorial, uncooperative and, above all, incompetent. (See Cat Defender posts of July 16, 2010 and April 8, 2018 entitled, respectively, "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, an Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It" and "A Rare Behind the Scenes Glimpse at the Ruthless Murders of Two Cats by an Indiana Veterinarian Exposes All Those Who Claim that Lethal Injections Are Humane to Be Barefaced Liars.")

All of WTV's fidelity, steadfastness, and hard work paid a huge dividend when into this world of many wonders came seven more on March 21st. Sadly, one of them died shortly afterwards but that still left five tuxedoes and one jet-black kitten. (See OE24.TV of Wien, March 22, 2018, "'Blinder Passagier' bekan sechs Junge.")

From the slew of photographs that WTV has posted of them on its Facebook page they appear to be in excellent health and on Saturday, April 21st they celebrated one month on this earth. The Fading Kitten Syndrome, which can strike without warning, is something that WTV and its veterinarians need to be on the lookout for but other than that they appear to be well on their way toward becoming healthy adult cats.

Even though things so far have worked out really well for Schneewittchen and her kittens, there cannot be any denying that she has had a narrow escape. Plus, her plight is yet still another rather poignant reminder of the myriad of perils that all modes of conveyance pose for unchaperoned cats.

In addition to her and Ronaldo, Neo, Carlsberg, Frosty, and Mausi have miraculously weathered perilous misadventures after they, too, became trapped in delivery trucks. (See Cat Defender posts of November 6, 2006, December 12, 2007, April 8, 2010, and March 16, 2013 entitled, respectively, "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado," "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime," "A Frozen Food Purveyor Knowingly Condemns Frosty to Spend Five Weeks in Its 28° Fahrenheit Warehouse Without Either Food or Water," and "Mausi Is Saved from a Potentially Violent Death on the Fast and Furious Autobahn Thanks to the Dramatic Intervention of a Münchner Couple.")

Unfortunately, Ally's travails proved to be too much for her to overcome. (See Cat Defender post of April 18, 2010 entitled "Ally's Last Ride Lands Her in a Death Trap Set by an Uncaring and Irresponsible Supermarket Chain and a Bargain Basement Shelter.")

Three of the Kittens Celebrating Their One Month Birthdays on April 21st

The operators of garbage trucks likewise pick up and crush to death countless cats each year but Penny, Alfie, and Maisy are three that sidestepped that cruel fate at the very last minute. (See Cat Defender posts of August 23, 2007, May 4, 2010, and May 12, 2017 entitled, respectively, "An Alert Scrap Metal Worker Discovers a Pretty 'Penny' Hidden in a Mound of Rubble," "Picked Up by a Garbage Truck Driver and Dumped with the Remainder of the Trash, Alfie Narrowly Escapes Being Recycled," and "Miracle Maisy Is Bound and Tied, Soaked in Petrol, Sealed Up in a Plastic Bag, and Then Run Through a Trash Compactor but, Amazingly, Is Still Alive Thanks to a Pair of Compassionate Garbagemen.")

Because they are so ubiquitous, passenger cars pose the greatest risk to cats and that is especially the case for those that get trapped either inside their engines, on their undercarriages, or are spirited away to distant locales. (See Cat Defender posts of January 5, 2006 and December 11, 2014 entitled, respectively, "'Miracle' Cat Survives a Seventy Mile Trip Down the New Jersey Turnpike by Clinging to the Drive Shaft of an SUV" and "Uprooted from Home and Left Stranded Thousands of Miles Away, Spice Discovers to Her Horror That Not All the Ghouls and Goblins in This World Are Necessarily to Be Found on Halloween.")

Owners who allow their cats to ride buses by their lonesomes are playing Russian roulette with their lives but, as far as it is known, Macavity and Dodger were able to get away with doing so for a good number of years. (See Cat Defender posts of April 19, 2007 and January 25, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Bus-Hopping Macavity Earns High Praise from His Fellow Commuters for Being the 'Perfect Passenger'" and "The Innocence of the Lambs: Unaware of the Dangers That Threaten His Very Existence, Dodger Charms Commuters on the Bridport to Charmouth Line.")

It did not take long, however, for Casper's derring-do to catch up to him with tragic, irreversible consequences. (See Cat Defender post of January 30, 2010 entitled "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Taxi Driver While Crossing the Street in Order to Get to the Bus Stop.")

Trains are of a lesser concern but that certainly does not mean that they are not still quite dangerous for cats. For example, both Rascal and Diesel were subjected to perilous long hauls that took them far from their homes. (See Cat Defender posts of June 7, 2007 and November 15, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Rascal Hops on a Freight Train in South Bend and Unwittingly Winds Up in Chattanooga" and "Diesel Amazingly Survives a Harrowing Nine-Hundred-Mile Train Ride by Precariously Clinging to the Undercarriage of a Speeding Locomotive.")

A far more pressing concern are the sprawling networks of commuter trains that seem to just swallow up cats. (See Cat Defender posts of March 7, 2008 and January 31, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Georgia Is Found Safe and Sound after Spending a Harrowing Twenty-Five Days Lost in the Bowels of the New York City Subway System" and "A Northumbrian Shrink Lays Claim to the Title of Being the World's Most Irresponsible Cat Owner by Turning Loose Jasper to Roam the Perilous Tyne and Wear Metro for Weeks on End.")

An intrepid moggy named Percy, however, has not encountered any known difficulties while riding the miniature trains operated by the North Bay Railway in the Scarborough section of North Yorkshire. (See Cat Defender posts of November 14, 2009 and February 6, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Percy Takes the Train All by Himself in Order to Visit the Penguins at an Aquarium in Scarborough" and "Lovable and Adventurous Percy Is Still Very Much Alive and Safely Riding the Miniature Trains in Scarborough.")

Airlines are another huge concern in that they either lose or freeze to death countless cats each year that are cruelly relegated to flying in their cargo holds. (See Cat Defender post of April 7, 2009 entitled "A Pregnant Minskin Arrives in Oregon Frozen as Solid as a Block of Ice Following a Fatal Cross-Country Flight in the Cargo Hold of an Airliner.")

Cats even have been accidentally sent through the post and, presumably, other package delivery services as well. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2008 entitled "Janosch Survives Being Sent Through the Post from Bayern to the Rhineland.")

The Kittens Were All Tuckered Out after the Big Celebration on April 21st 

It is however cats such as Emily, China, Spice, Ginger, and Mandarin that become trapped inside the holds of cargo ships and are thus transported halfway around the world that receive the greatest amount of attention from the media. (See Cat Defender posts of December 9, 2005, May 17, 2007, July 16, 2007, August 11, 2008, and September 8, 2010 entitled, respectively, "An Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes an Unscheduled Trip to France in the Hold of a Cargo Ship," "A North Carolina Shelter Is Plotting to Kill a Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in the Cargo Hold of a Ship from China," "Accidentally Trapped in a Shipping Crate, a Calico Cat Named Spice Survives a Nineteen-Day Sea Voyage from Hawaii to San Bernardino," "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Laps Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire," and "Mandarin Survives a Long and Harrowing Sea Voyage from China to Canada Only to Wind Up in Hock to the Calgary Humane Society.")

Cats that live through such grueling and death-defying ordeals are the exception to the rule, however, in that the number of them that perish under such circumstances, such as Malli, surely must be off the charts. (See Cat Defender posts of March 21, 2008 and April 25, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Malli Survives a Thirty-Two-Day Voyage from Johor Bahru to Cleveland Trapped Inside a Shipping Crate" and "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care.")

Cats that are shanghaied aboard freighters and ferries only rarely find their way back home but both Colin's and Poussey triumphed over simply outrageously bad luck. (See Cat Defender posts of May 31, 2007 and July 25, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen" and "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.")

Those cats that through sheer perseverance and luck are somehow able to triumph over the difficulties that they run into with the various forms of modern-day conveyance belong to a select club of less that one per cent; the remainder perish. The number of those survivors that in turn are successfully reunited with their original owners, usually via implanted microchips, is even smaller.

Accordingly, if there is one area in which WTV has been remiss in its otherwise superlative care of Schneewittchen and her kittens it has has been in its halfhearted efforts to locate her previous owner. Assuming that media reports are accurate, the only initiatives that it has undertaken in that regard have been on social media.

Individuals and groups that spend a lion's share of their time online and on their mobile telephones are prone to committing the faux pas of assuming that the remainder of the world behaves in a similar fashion and that simply is not true. On the contrary, a fair portion of people still have real jobs that they work, families and cats that they take care of, and lives of their own to lead and as a result they have little time and use for social media. They accordingly still receive the bulk of their news and information from traditional media and by mundlich.

WTV accordingly should have found out from the trucking company which German city Schneewittchen was picked up in and thereafter to have contacted local rescue groups, the media, and veterinarians. That chore could have been expeditiously and economically facilitated by sending out e-mail letters containing photographs of her.

Based solely upon her appearance, demeanor, and good health, her previous owner likely is distraught over losing such a lovely cat. Furthermore, that individual could still be futilely beating the bushes for her while she is hundreds of miles away.

Despite its shortcomings in that regard, WTV has set an example as to how that all rescue groups should treat homeless cats and their kittens. The first and foremost tenet of any halfway just and humane policy toward them consists in recognizing their inalienable right to exist.

Schneewittchen and Her Kittens Together for One of the Last Times

The second objective is to provide them with the safety, shelter, sustenance, and veterinary care that they require in order to live. Finally, the third requirement consists of securing good homes for them.

"Aktuell stehen die Gesundheit und das Wachstum der Tiere im Vordergrund," the organization told the Kleine Zeitung on March 22nd. (See "Sechs Junge für einen blinden Katzen-Passagier.")

What that means is unclear but some rescue groups forcibly wean kittens at about eight weeks. Ideally, they never should be separated from their mothers.

Rather, the decision as to when to wean them should be left exclusively to their mothers. In fact, it is not uncommon for some mothers to allow their offspring to nurse for as long as a year.

Even once the weaning has been completed, some kittens remain steadfastly at their mothers' sides for the remainder of their lives. For instance, they continue to groom each other, sleep together, share parenting chores, and are practically inseparable.

It therefore would be best if WTV had both the patience and resources to sit back and allow nature to take its course but that is not about to happen. If it has not done so already, it is sure to sterilize, vaccinate, and microchip Schneewittchen and each of her kittens.

That in turn will mean the end of Schneewittchen's line. Soon after that she and her still, as far as it is known, unnamed kittens will be parceled out to various homes where they are destined never see each other again.

Perhaps such a sad dénouement is unavoidable under the circumstances but there can be little denying that extinguishing such a noble and healthy genetic line is a crying shame. The same likewise can be said for breaking up such a happy family. The only concession that WTV has been willing to make in that regard so far has been to announces April 22nd on its Facebook page that it is planning to adopt out the kittens in pairs.

The very best that therefore can be wished for them is that WTV will do its due diligence and place each of them in loving homes. Who knows but there might even be a fairy prince in Schneewittchen's future. If not, perhaps she and her six kittens would be willing to accept the guardianship of seven kindhearted and benevolent dwarves, that is, if there are any of them still to be found in this old, jaded, and worn-out world.

Photos: Wiener Tierschutzverein.