Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Letter to the Cat Killers

Last Tuesday was National Night Out, where police departments everywhere encourage people to organize block parties. Police liaisons come to visit and talk about safety and crime prevention, neighbors meet one another, and folks can volunteer for a neighborhood watch.

So we went, met many neighbors we know by sight but seldom talk to, got to tour a house that someone just bought and is remodeling, and ate more cookies that were good for me.

During the conversation, someone brought up how many cats there are in the neighborhood. There are certainly a number of strays, and there is a wooded area where cats get abandoned from time to time. Several people in the neighborhood know that we've caught and spayed all the stray "girls" in the neighborhood, taken in kittens and starving dumped kitties, and have found homes for some.

The newish neighbors a few houses down said they'd been trapping strays and had caught "a lot." I mentioned that we were missing one stray, Bruiser, that we'd been taking care of and hoped to get neutered this summer. The guy of the house said quite cheerfully, "Oh, he met his end in our yard."

Gah. Shock. I was speechless.

His wife interrupted with, "Oh, um, he went to a better home."


When we came back from Indiana, there were signs up for a missing black cat who still hasn't been found. The owner was at this meeting, and she said that three of her neighbors were also missing their cats. All live in the vicinity of the cat-trappers, and all cats have gone missing about the same time.


I was too upset to say anything civil at the time, but I spent the last couple of days composing a letter in my head, and finally wrote it out this morning and taped it to their front door.

I was too shocked and upset to say anything worth saying when, at the neighborhood gathering, you told us that Bruiser, one of the strays we’d been caring for, had “met his end” in your yard. I’ve had to think long and carefully about how to word this to make this letter productive instead of merely angry.

We’ve had many strays come through our yard in the years we’ve been here. Whenever we can, we catch and spay or neuter them and give them any medical attention they need. We’ve taken in kittens, found a home for at least one abandoned cat, and keep on the lookout for others that need our help.

In the process we’ve gotten attached to several that have kept close to our yard. Some have gotten sick passed away. Some have simply disappeared.

We’d been working with Bruiser for some time now. He slept in a box or a bed on our deck in cold weather, and kept the rats and mice around the yard in check as well as chasing away any other toms that tried to move in. He’d just reached the point where he was beginning to trust us. We could scratch him behind the ear now and then. Since he was in our yard more and more, we were going to catch him this summer and get him fixed and get his injured face cleaned up.

Now he is dead. We will miss the old fellow very much.

There are two others in the neighborhood that we hope you will not mistake for cats worthy of execution. They are both spayed females, neither of whom can possibly contribute to the cat “problem” in the neighborhood, and who aren’t harming anyone at all.

One is a chubby tortoiseshell named Toast. She gave birth to kittens in our back yard two years ago. At that time we caught her, took in her kittens, and had her spayed. The vets clipped the tip of one ear to show that she has been “fixed.” Ever since that time she has stayed close to our yard and our closest neighbors’ yards. She is our outdoor pet now, and our neighbors enjoy her as well. We can pet her when we feed her, she wanders in and out of the house, and we take care of her medical needs.

The other is a very shy girl that we don’t have a picture off. Three years ago we trapped and spayed a young gray tabby with white on all four paws. We call her Little White Paws. She tends to hide in the far corners of people’s yards, but comes up to our deck for food. We also consider her to be ours. She also has a clipped ear to mark her as spayed.

Something else came up at the neighborhood gathering that concerned me very much. In addition to the black cat that disappeared that everyone is looking for, at least three other pet cats in the same area have vanished. They disappeared about the same time Bruiser vanished, meaning they went missing at the time you were trapping cats. Are you sure that every cat you trapped was a stray? Not every cat without a collar is homeless, unloved, and deserves to die. We hope you have not caused yourself a great deal of legal trouble.

If you don’t want cats in your yard, please consider installing cat-proof fencing (such as as a humane alternative to trapping and killing.

Folks, if you have a stray cat issue in your area, please consider TNR (trap, neuter, release) as a means of control. It's more humane and much more effective than trap-and-kill programs, especially if it's followed with feeding and care that will draw in other cats that can also be caught and fixed. If you don't like cats in your yard, fences that exclude cats, or motion-detector sprinklers, are more humane and cause far less heartache than trapping and "getting rid of" cats that just might belong to someone.


mb. said...

don't you wonder what the HELL gets into people? & where they are from that you would joke about it at a neighborhood gathering?

I am sorry for your loss. I know what it is to take care of an animal that belongs to the world & that does not mean you love them any less.

Katie said...

Oi. So not ok. I confess we're a little resentful at times of the neighborhood strays (and some not stray) that use our garden beds for litterboxes, but we would never *dream* of such behavior. We are cat people ourselves, and while we choose to be responsible about our cats (indoor-only, spayed, etc.) in ways that not everyone is, all we do is bitch a little about the cats that wander about. I actually have gotten to where I enjoy seeing them, and L certainly does (have I mentioned that her first official word was "cat"?).

Um, I don't mean to say that having cats who are outdoor cats is necessarily irresponsible, especially if you are caring for ferals the way you guys so generously do. *attempts to extract foot from mouth* Bottom line is: those neighbors suck.

Sue Remely said...

Amen. We have two indoor cats and one that comes in every night at 6 pm to dine. I am not sure, but think he has another home. Your neighbors are monsters.

Anonymous said...

That is just plain horrible. I can't believe that people would just kill a cat as if it were nothing and then talk about it to others as if they expect nothing to come out of it! It's so sickening for me to hear of things like this.

I really wish people were more caring towards animals.

Nalamienea said...

We have a pretty big problem with strays in our neighborhood too. Our problem is that we are so freaking rural in this area that there are no affordable means to spaying/ neutering cats. The last stray we took in cost $50, but that was the last trip out to our area that this non-profit will make. We took in one of her kittens and have kept him as an indoor pet. His neutering cost almost $150. Now, I'm a poor student barely making my bills and I can not afford to do this. But I can't bare to let them starve either. It's a vicious cycle that we cant' seem to find a viable solution to.
Right now there is one tom, one young female and two kittens of unknown sex who pray around in our back yard. We only feed them when they're at the door already so we know that we won't just attract whoever is walking by with the food. There's also a local ordinance that says if you feed 'em, they're yours, and you have to pay the local fee to register them. I can't afford that either.

I have no. idea. what to do about this. Any ideas at all would be helpful!

Silvia M. said...

I love cats and my heart aches after reading this story. I hope the other ones are okay. I don't know how people can be so horrible and heartless and be proud of it. (sigh)

Caffeine Girl said...

How can anyone hurt a cat????

Karen said...

Nalamienea, are there any shelters that offer spay/neuter assistance? One shelter in our area hands out discount certificates for ferals. The Humane Society just built a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. There's also the Feral Cat Coalition that runs free mobile spay/neuter clinics for ferals. Ask your local shelters and vets to see what resources are in your area.

mb. said...

sorry to double post but Nalamienea: if you google "operation Catnip" I thin you will find help in your area.

Or more specifically which might lead you to:

Angels of Assisi
Roanoke VA

Iron Needles said...

It turns my stomach when someone chooses to dismiss any creature as something less than a nuisance.

And some seem so readily able to do so with cats.

Deborah said...

I read your post and started shaking, I had to wait until I calmed down to leave a comment. I can't believe your neighbors are so casual to what constitute's murder and animal abuse. Maybe because the penalties are so minimum? if any? I'm not going to say any more it looks like it all has been said in a much more eloquent manner than I could manage.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. Just so sorry you had to say it.

pea said...

i don't know how i found this.
i am a quasi-knitter and i spay and neuter feral these two things always go together, I wonder?


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