Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Killer of Feral Cats Prompts Outcry


Someone's killing homeless cats here in Arlington, Texas.

Several local news sites this morning broke the big news:  Dozens of feral cats are being found dead at businesses along the railroad right-of-way through downtown Arlington.  Employees at these businesses - a range of small law firms, kitschy boutiques, printers, light industrial, and non-profit agencies - have been feeding these felines for years.  It's an effective, inexpensive way to control rodents, don't you know.

But somebody is believed to have now poisoned the cats, killing them in a most inhumane way:  Likely through antifreeze.  So gross, right?

So many beloved cats have died, a line of little white crosses now marches down part of Main Street in their honor.  Although it's doubtful any of the deceased were very religious.

Actually, animal abuse is against the law; even the abuse of non-domesticated cats.  And studies say that if a person is prone to abusing animals, that person's next step is their abuse of humans.  Either way you look at it, killing cats is not something people eagerly put on their resume.

At the same time, however, isn't it a bit odd that so many people are making such a fuss over this?  I mean, after all; a $5,000 GoFundMe account has been started to provide a reward for information leading to the cat killer's arrest and conviction.   Over $1,000 has been raised in just one week.

Is this a case of cat lovers with too much money on their hands?  Fortunately, this reward isn't coming out of public coffers.

Not that killing cats is an acceptable way to treat them.  But how many of these cat lovers mourn the rats being killed by the cats?  How many cat lovers use wasp spray, or roach repellent?  How many cat lovers want to force exterminators out of business for killing God's tiniest little creations en mass?

Is it because cats are cute?  Does cuteness somehow makes cats more valuable than, say, their fleas?  I mean, I don't like fleas.  When we've had pets in our family, I've readily killed their fleas.  So yes, I value dogs and cats far more than I do the pesky insects who bite them - and us.

But starting a $5,000 GoFundMe account?

It's not even like those cats were anybody's personal property.  They were feral cats!  Homeless.  Non-domesticated.  It would be one thing if somebody was going about a neighborhood killing cats a family had paid good money to purchase, spay/neuter, and otherwise maintain.

At least it's nice some people care about homeless kitties.

Back in the 1980's, I used to visit my aunt in Brooklyn every summer.  I remember getting up in the mornings, and looking out my aunt's big kitchen windows.  They looked out over a small concrete backyard belonging to her apartment building, where Mrs. Andriessen, who lived in my aunt's building, fed an array of stray and feral cats that haunted the block's various alleyways.

Mrs. Andriessen was older than my aunt, shorter, and stouter, and from watching her three stories up, I could tell it was a strain for her, setting the plates and bowls out for her feral brood.  My aunt would cluck that Mrs. Andriessen was becoming an old bag lady, feeding the cats and fussing over them like those poor souls who lives in squalor with their dozens of felines.  But Mrs. Andriessen wasn't poor, or even lonely, since she had family who lived nearby.  She simply had a thing about feeding the neighborhood's unwanted cats.  Even if she did look like the cat version of Mary Poppins' "tuppence-a-bag" Bird Woman.

Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she's calling to you:
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."


One summer, however, my aunt pointed out to me that there were only a couple of cats when Mrs. Andriessen came out to feed them.  "She doesn't know where all the cats have gone," my aunt said, somewhat intrigued herself at the mystery.  In an old urban neighborhood such as theirs, next to a city park, the rat population alone could feed hordes of stray and feral cats without Mrs. Andriessen's culinary contributions.

The day before, on my way from the airport to visit my aunt, I'd noticed a brand-new Chinese take-out restaurant at the corner of her block.

"Maybe the Chinese restaurant explains why Mrs. Andriessen's cats have disappeared," I offered.

"Oh, no!"  My aunt was horrified at the thought.  But then, as she considered it:  "Actually, the cat population only started to decline after they opened..."

Before long, all of the stray and feral cats were gone from the neighborhood.  Mrs. Andriessen would soon succumb to illnesses that would take her life, and people in the building wondered if her being deprived of one of her main sources of delight - feeding those cats every day - contributed to her decline.

Mom's pet project, as seen this afternoon
through our dirty patio door.
Back here in Texas, my Mom has become something of a Mrs. Andriessen.  Not long after we had to put down our beloved collie, Feliz, a black feral cat began haunting our backyard.  And not long after that, Mom decided that he needed some sustenance.  And ever since then - practically eight years or so - that mangy-looking black feral cat has been a regular presence.

He comes several times a day, and each time he shows up, Mom faithfully obliges him by putting out fresh kitty food, which he usually eats with relish.

(With "gusto," I should say.  Not literal relish, like on a hot dog).

Being a feral cat, he's not crazy about having human interaction.  Mom has been able to pet him, but only briefly, a couple of times in all these years.  Twice, he scratched Mom, prompting Dad, even with his dementia, to insist that Mom avoid any proximity to him.

That cat has obviously had a hard life.  He used to show up with open wounds and sores, with patches of his black fur missing, or an ear bleeding.  Oddly enough, he has a thin mark of white fur across his back, like somebody drew a white line in pencil.  We figure it must be a sort of residual mark from some scar he suffered when he was young; a scar across his skin that caused his hair to re-grow in a different color.

His most constant facial expression is a scowl.  He seems happiest when he's scowling, his eyelids slanted downward, his ears flattened, his whiskers in a frown.  He's certainly not cute, at least in the conventional sense of the term.

But he brightens Mom's day, even though we've never named him.  Considering his surly disposition, we figure he's probably happier not having a name.  Too much affection and attachment, don't you know.

All this to say that I understand the effect cats can have on people.

Still, if somebody poisoned Mom's nameless cat, we wouldn't call the police.  And we certainly wouldn't try to raise a $5,000 reward for the prosecution of whoever did it.

Shucks, a quick Google search found that a town in North Carolina is offering that much money for information leading to the arrest of two suspects who cops believe killed a 25-year-old man there on July 2 of this year.  Doesn't it say anything about our priorities when the going rate for capturing a small-town murderer is the same as capturing the killer of feral cats?

Talk about your tuppence a bag - for bagging those crooks!


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