Thoughts On the “Expendability” of Animals, Especially Cats
I am an animal lover. You show me almost any mammal with a calm demeanor and longing eyes, and my heart goes pitter-patter. I am also a hunter, which, to many people, flies in the face of my opening statement. But I hunt only for that which I plan to eat, and I am adamant about limiting the suffering of whichever of God’s creatures I am hunting.
Several reports recently about cats being “dropped off” at farms or residences reminded me of the perceived expendability of felines in rural communities. That’s not to say that unwanted cats are not also cast out of homes in residential parts of Rome, Dushore, Montrose, Tunkhannock, and Towanda on a regular basis. But, as a child, I was led to believe that taking “extra” cats for a ride and letting them out of the car near a barn was the right thing to do. After all, it was better than shooting them or tying them in a burlap bag full of rocks and throwing them into the river, wasn’t it? Well, you got me there. Yes, it is better than cruelly ending their lives by drowning them, but abandoning an animal in the countryside that has been hand fed or is at least accustomed to eating out of a dish on the back porch is not the right thing to do.
When my cousin considered taking four cats that recently found their way to her back door to an animal shelter, her son suggested that they would simply be put to death there. While the administrators of almost every animal shelter I’ve ever dealt with as a writer insist that they want to be known as a “no-kill” facility, the sad truth is that they are overburdened with the number of felines they receive each month. There are not enough adoptions to keep up with the influx of cats, and shelters are limited by both space and funding. So, yes, Virginia, those kittens that followed you home yesterday may very well be euthanized within a few months if a kind soul doesn’t fall in love with them through the bars of the cages they share with other hapless furry friends.
I am partial to cats because they suit my personality. Although I consider myself to be social, I have never been one to run with the pack. I preferred personal fitness over team sports, and I’ve been known to wander off and pursue interests that don’t appeal to anybody else. I like to be around people, but I don’t require much attention. I have been known to sneak away and bury myself in research books or my music collection, neither of which I have had much of an opportunity to do lately. Therefore I envy my cats for being able to disappear on me for hours, only to find them snuggled deeply in a pile of laundry or in the back of a closet they have managed to pry open.
Please don’t paint me as a dog-hater, as I am not. I have absolutely fallen in love with several dogs cared for by family members and friends. I am simply on-the-go too often to be responsible for a canine’s immediate needs. I can set my cats up with a clean litter box and overfilled food and water dishes for two days if I need too. They’re a little moody when I return but otherwise OK.
Pets have an ability to love unconditionally. Their unique personalities endear them to us, and it’s easy to understand why they become an integral part of our families. As medical techniques advance, it becomes harder to let go of each one, as their shorter lives come to an end. I’m not going to take on the argument as to whether or not an animal lover should spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to extend the life of a pet that is well beyond its normal life expectancy.
But I do believe that the undeniably tangent heart and soul of domesticated animals is reason enough to extend to them the respect that they deserve. They are not expendable nor are they dispensable. Granted, cats can easily create an overpopulation problem in any neighborhood, which can be prevented by our proactivity. To quote Bob Barker, “Please have your pet spayed or neutered.” As for the stray and feral cats that are roaming around town, starting a TNR program (trap, neuter, release) would be a great community service project for a high school student or anyone else, for that matter.
If you must take a pet to a shelter, donate as much money as you can to assist in the ongoing care of the animal as to not add to the burden that these organizations already incur. Consider fostering sheltered animals to maintain their sociability so that they may be adopted permanently. And, if you decide that you are ready to take a new pet into your home, please consider adopting over purchasing an animal that was loved once and needs to be loved again.
Unfortunately, online sources are not always up to date when it comes to animal shelters and organizations in our coverage area. Two places to start, however, are the Bradford County Humane Society (570-888-2114), which is based in Ulster, and True Friends Animal Welfare Shelter (570-280-6726), which serves Susquehanna and Wyoming counties and is based in Montrose. The Ulster facility is open Monday to Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Montrose shelter is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.