Fall has long been my favorite season, but in recent years it’s become, in one respect, my most dreaded one.
That’s because this time of year I start to see homeless critters – mainly cats – desperately seeking a bit of food, any sign of human affection and some kind of cubby hole where they can curl up to try to survive the long cold nights.
Where I live, in a mobile-home park near Rice, there is a rampant cat problem just about every fall and winter. It’s more accurate to call it a “people problem” because it’s people – irresponsible, thoughtless, cruel people – who cause the “cat problem.”
These are the people who acquire cute little kittens, then later tire of them as the kittens become full-grown cats. At a certain stage, the cats, not so “cute” anymore to the thoughtless owners, become outdoor animals for a number of reasons. In some cases, their owners move and the poor cats are left behind to fend for themselves. In other cases, the owners are too lazy to keep and maintain litter boxes or to feed the cats. In still other cases, foolish people think once kittens grow into cats, they should “graduate” to life in the outdoors because, after all – they mistakenly think – cats “are made to be outside.”
Three years ago, one family at the end of my street moved out and left all of their cats behind – nearly a dozen of them. Luckily, that was the record-warm winter, but still those cats suffered terribly. The good neighbors and I live-trapped some. I found a few of them “homes” on a friend’s farm property. A few we took to the humane society. Others managed to find little niches here and there where they must have shivered non-stop miserably, growing hungrier, through the cruel long winter. The neighbors and I had constant discussions and worry sessions about what to do with the cats, how to help them. As night fell, we would squirm with worry, thinking about those creatures out in the cold night, helpless and unsheltered, with no place to call home and no good way for us to help them.
That spring, naturally, there was a litter of kittens traipsing through the backyard one day. My neighbors, the animal-loving Richard and Marty Dubbins, helped me catch them. We brought three to the humane society; Marty kept two (Punky and Sugar) and I kept one (Lucy). We were happy; the kittens we saved were happy. But, at the same time, we knew the cat problem – excuse me – people problem would continue the next winter. And it did. More cats, more worries.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people had to pass a mental test before they were allowed to have pets? I know a couple people in this neighborhood who shouldn’t have so much as a goldfish in their irresponsible possession. However, as they say, wish in one hand, dream in the other. If incompetent people don’t need mental tests before they have children, they certainly will never be tested for pet competency.
A huge factor in the irresponsibility of these pet owners is they wouldn’t get their dogs and cats spayed or neutered even if the procedure were offered free. Likewise, most of them don’t have their pets vaccinated or take care of any other health maintenance for the animals. These people seem to blithely breeze and bump their way through life, devil may care, will ‘o’ the wisp, while living on some form or another of public assistance. Sad to say, their pets become their victims, and later, those cast-off pets become our problems.
All this past summer long, three cats have been prowling our yards, seeking food and human affection. They are friendly, approachable cats, sweet as can be, but they are homeless because the woman and her children who owned them have given them up to the outdoor world, knowing full well we the soft-hearted neighbors would try to take care of them. A neighbor woman found one of them a home in Princeton. The other two we’ll have to find homes for soon, before temps dip to freezing and snows begin to fly.
There’s nothing more heart-rending than to hear, on a winter’s night, a meowing cat beneath the howling of the wind, a cat in the snow desperate for warmth and shelter. In your toasty house with your own pets curled up warm, fed and content, there is nothing you can do to help that poor critter except to hope it goes into the blanket-lined box you’d placed on the deck.
The people who push their pets into the outdoors ought to be ashamed of themselves, but of course that won’t happen. Shame and responsibility are alien notions to such stone-hearted blockheads.