A rescuer was trapping cats in a town along the river yesterday in preparation for a mobile spay/neuter clinic there. A total stranger saw what she was doing and handed her this tiny, fragile kitten, its eyes sealed shut, its skin puckering with dehydration. He had found it the day before, had not seen a mother cat around so took it in and tried to feed it all he could think of, which was cow’s milk. He knew he couldn’t care for it properly but was truly concerned for the kitten and was glad to find someone who could, and also offered to take the kitten back when it was old enough for him to care for it.
It’s hard to tell how old this kitten is. She wasn’t sure if he was old enough for his eyes to be open under the crust that had formed over them, but after warm compresses cleared it away he opened one eye and then the other, and though they were swollen and irritated they were intact and functional so she lightly applied an ointment. He appeared maybe the size of a two-week-old kitten but he has large ears pulling upright, one little tooth, and after I had the chance to feed him a bit when I visited he walked around on his blanket on my lap and gave himself a righteous bath before curling in a ball and stretching his toes, all of which made him seem older, three weeks, even four, a huge leap in age for a developing kitten. His tabby stripes are clear, his white paws and blaze neatly defined though is paws are as delicate as a newborn’s and his tail barely thicker than a heavy strand of worsted yarn. His skin felt solid and elastic. He has a huge spirit for survival.
The town in question is an urban area that has experienced decades of deep poverty, one of those that relied on the steel mills in Pittsburgh for employment but found no jobs at all to replace those lost when all the mills closed in the 1970s and 80s, and following that manufacturing and retail moved far away to the suburbs. Cats are everywhere among abandoned buildings and overgrown back yards, hence the TNR project to get some of the colonies under control. People who live there may not care for their pets, or they may simply not have the means, other people feed the neighborhood cats along with their own families. This effort gets a rough idea of how many cats are there, where they are, and starts reducing populations immediately with targeting females with kittens and after that any cat that appears to be intact, and it also connects people who live there with low cost services for their own pets and help for colony caretakers.
Those who regularly volunteer for these trapping efforts, from those who canvas the neighborhoods and return calls to those who go there for the day to set up traps and then participate in the clinic, obviously care for the welfare of the cats who are in need, and do their best to make their lives better, even if they are still to live outdoors. And caring too for the rescuers, veterinarians and technicians who spend days watching traps and in surgery and recovery and releasing cats, and for the people in the community who do their best to care for the cats in their neighborhoods, both their own and those who were abandoned or born outdoors. It’s a mission borne of compassion for a species we love and those who love them.
Some people see these cats and their kittens as vermin and feel no relation to them at all, while others see no difference between the cats who live in their houses and those who live outdoors. Where most people would turn their backs or not even notice an abandoned kitten the man who took it in and did his best to care for it though he had little showed compassion as well, not wanting to see another living being suffer. Now he can do more because he has the support of the rescuer and others who will be working in his area. Everyone can find a middle ground of giving and receiving.
There are the ripples of compassion from activities like this that can go far beyond caring for community cats, but starting with a feisty abandoned kitten and a few unwanted litters of kittens and their mothers, providing health care to the cats the cat population is reduced and the community of cats can be healthier without the burden of continuously reproducing. Providing information and assistance to people helps them with their own pets and other cats they care for, and hopefully that will spread to others they know and a network of people is created to spread those compassionate efforts.
And we can use that circle of caring for abandoned cats and kittens and other animals, in view of more and more violent events humans have perpetrated on each other, to help us find the same compassion for ourselves and for each other. We need to see each other as the individuals we are and find that middle ground of compassion where we can each give and receive among all. We too have a big spirit for survival. It’s often said that growing up with a pet will teach children compassion for other living things, and perhaps caring for the abandoned and homeless animals can work with adults as well. It all starts with compassion.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!