Cascadia's Moggy Blog

Fitting a Cat into a Too Small Box

Iver (one of last year's foster kittens), at just 8 weeks old, can already demonstrate this advanced technic. Yes, his complete lack of a tail may be an unfair advantage. But just look at how proud he is!

Step 1: Tuck in your tail - if you have one!

 

Step II: Bask in the glory of achievement.

 

Step III: Make your statement: "I may not always use catnip, but when I do, it's Cascadia Catnip."

What is an "M" Cat?

 

Mitchie is a classic "M" cat, so-called because of the M-shape formed by the stripes on her forehead between her eyes. Tabbies come in several patterns (Mitch happens to be a mackerel tabby, which means she has alternating grey and black, tiger-like stripes) and nearly all are naturally branded with the classic tabby "M".

What does the "M" stand for? This is a question that has plagued poets and ponderers alike, ever since the first domestic cats came in from the wilderness to help early man defend his grain stores from ravaging rodents. But I, Angeline, know the secret. How did I figure it out? Simple. I asked Mitch. "Mitch," I said, "What does that 'M' on your forehead stand for?"

Her reply?

"Meow."

 

Meet Mark

Mark is one of a litter of four foster kittens that we are caring for on behalf of our local Humane Society. A good Samaritan found them where some heartless person had discarded them—in a mud puddle, shivering and disoriented, with no sign of a mother cat anywhere. The person who found them in this pathetic condition gathered them up and took them to the Humane Society.

The Humane Society vet didn’t expect them to live since their body temperatures had fallen so low. But under her expert care they revived. After a week of treatment it was clear they were going to live. At that time she called us to take them home into foster care. They were just under a pound each. We are to keep them until they have attained the two-pound mark; at that point they will return to the Humane Society for their surgeries and to go onto the adoption floor to find their forever homes.

We went through a volunteer orientation, an interview, and a training session earlier this summer in order to qualify as kitten foster parents. This is the first litter of kittens we’ve had the honor of raising. We’ve received lots of supplies and endless gratitude from the staff at the Humane Society.

But honestly? We would probably pay money to have the opportunity to live with kittens like these and watch them play and grow day by day. There is probably nothing cuter in the world than a litter of kittens throwing themselves on and off of the furniture—and each other—while they grow more confident by the hour. The only problem is that it would be grievously irresponsible to bring even a single litter of kittens into a world where there are already far more cats than there are caring homes to take them in. Fostering homeless kittens seems like the perfect solution—for the kittens, yes, but also, to be honest, for ourselves.

Yesterday I plucked Mark’s little brother Grant off of the couch while he was sleepy and subdued, and deposited him onto the tray of my kitchen food scale. Grant is the runt of the litter, but even he has attained that long-legged look of the adult cat he will eventually become. The needle on the scale confirmed both my hope and my fear: Grant tipped the scale at just over two pounds. The day has come. It’s time for the kittens to return to the Humane Society and their futures.

Good-bye, little guys—thanks for all the fun and, of course, all of the memories!

Hey, if You Can't Abuse an Animal Abuser, Who Can You Abuse?

The story first came to my attention on Facebook, delivered with a heaping side order of vilification and outrage. Justifiably so, or at least it seemed. After all, there was no misinterpreting the event: a woman had taken four pitbull puppies and drowned them in a toilet tank. She'd been charged with four counts of animal cruelty and was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. "This makes me sick," declared the person who shared the news story. "If you can't afford dogs, you shouldn't have them," chimed in another. "If she can do this to puppies, what's to stop her from deciding to kill a person next?" It seemed there was no room for nuance or even the possibility of mitigating circumstances. The internet was eager to assume her guilt (according to the story she admitted the act but pled not guilty to the cruelty charges) and use it as de facto evidence, not just of crime, but of evil.

For me, this brought to mind Jon Katz's comments about the owner of Simon, a badly neglected donkey who was delivered to Katz near the point of death. Simon's condition was so horrendous that it certainly amounted to cruelty. Under Katz's care, Simon made a remarkable recovery, although he will always bear the physical scars resulting from that awful period when he was left alone to die.

As Katz blogged about the experience of acquiring Simon and nurturing him back to health, he noted that the comments he received were full of concern and sympathy and even outrage—for Simon's situation. But not one commenter showed any measure of the same compassion for the person who originally owned Simon—a person whose life had gone so wrong in some unknown way that he was unable to exercise the good judgment and custodianship we expect from people who take on the ownership of animals. What sort of calamity could have befallen this person, who undoubtedly acquired Simon with honorable intensions, that caused him to shut down completely even in the face of his donkey's obvious suffering? Where was the compassion for the human in this situation?

With these thoughts in mind, I clicked through to read the full report about the woman who drowned those puppies. She had admitted to the act. Was there any way to understand her actions as anything other than evil?

According to the story, the woman had moved into an apartment with her young son. Her dog then had six puppies. The landlord told her that was too many animals—she'd have to get rid of the puppies or face eviction. She managed to give away two of the pups. When the landlord visited, she took the remaining four puppies into the bathroom. When she came out, she had drowned the puppies. These are the facts as reported by the newspaper.

To me, this spare story suggests a picture of financial desperation. The woman had moved into a rental with her young son. There is apparently no husband or partner present. She is caring for this child on her own, perhaps with no financial assistance. Does she have an income? Probably, if she's paying rent and taking care of her child, but that implies she probably pays for some form of child care while she works.

Her dollars must be stretched—why else wouldn't she have had her dog spayed? Most people want to avoid unplanned litters, especially of pitbull puppies. Yes, there are programs to help indigent people spay their animals (even these aren't free), but that option might have required her to lose time—and income—from work, where single parents are often on shaky ground in terms of attendance. Perhaps she had intended to fix her dog, but her circumstances changed (after all, she had moved recently) and she hoped she had time to postpone the procedure—and those hopes weren't realized.

Why didn't she just take the puppies to the animal shelter? Maybe she tried. I don't know about the situation in her town, but if she lived in my hometown, she would have been greeted with good news: if she resided within the city limits, the "surrender" fee would have been only $85—per animal. Instead of $120 for those outside the city limits! She would have been looking at $340 for the four homeless pups. Money she probably didn't have.

And why was the landlord on the scene? Was he delivering her notice of eviction? Did the pressure of his presence in the apartment drive the woman to a desperate but immediate solution?

Even if true (and I'm not saying any of this is—it's highly creative conjecture) does it mean that her actions were in any way justified? No, of course not. She made a horribly bad decision and she should face the consequences.

But let's look at those consequences. So far (before there's been any trial or conviction) they mean that she's being held in jail. Her child? Probably in foster care. If she was employed, she'll probably lose her job because of the arrest and resulting absences from work. She'll almost certainly be evicted from her apartment. When she's out of jail, she'll probably be unemployed (and far less employable), probably homeless, separated from her child and with no obvious plan or timeline to be reunited with him as a parent. It might be dramatic to suggest that the consequences have already destroyed her life, but I would imagine that she probably feels something close to this as she wonders how the legal case will play out.

But yes, four helpless puppies are dead. How do you balance the value of their lives against the value of the two human lives (one an innocent child's) that have been tragically disrupted too as a result of this situation? This, sadly, is an equation that I lack any wisdom to balance. But I would suggest one thing: when we take to social media to condemn people—yes, even animal abusers—we are indulging in the same sort of self-righteous indignation that allowed our long-ago ancestors to lock their neighbors in stocks and abuse them as public sport in the name of justice. It obviously doesn't do the fallible people at the heart of these stories any good. It doesn’t do the neglected donkeys or drowned puppies any good. And, for those of us who can't resist indulging in the mud-slinging, it turns us into exactly the sorts of brutes and bullies that we claim outraged us in the first place. We owe some measure of empathy to the humans in these situations too, especially when we don't know all the facts. That human obligation should not be offset—ever—even by the death of an animal.

 

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New Poetry from Margaret Elizabeth Bednar

Domesticated

Imperially
she owns the tufted
Redgrave chair,

flicks not a whisker
as she saunters past three dogs
who diligently avoid eye contact -

no contest
the early morning sunspot
belongs to her.

A world encased
about her protectively,
yet she's drawn to the kill -

chatters and stalks,
tense behind glass.  "Domesticated"
or so we tell ourselves

 

Margaret Elizabeth Bednar is a poet, blogger, and mother of six from North Carolina. She shares her home with several animals including her cat Gabriella, featured in the photograph here (yes, that's actually a photograph!). You can read more of her poetry at Art Happens 365. Thanks, Margaret, for sharing your talents--and Gabriella--with us here!

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