A call came in today. There’s a cat in The Cat Hospital with a string attached to one of his teeth and his back legs are a bit weak. We went to the hospital to investigate…
A local mechanic had spotted the cat hanging around his garage and had become concerned about his condition. He went to the cat hospital, borrowed a trap and caught the cat, which he immediately brought back to The Cat Hospital. A humane act by a humane man. The cat was examined by the duty vet.
When Maggie and Jim arrived, they named the cat ‘Mr Ford’ to give the creature a dignity and an identity other than ‘cat’. Mr Ford didn’t have a piece of string wrapped around his teeth. He had a large fragment of netting, the kind used to wrap meat joints, embedded around, and under, his carnassal tooth. It had been lodged there a while because of the ulcers that formed around it due to the constant friction of the netting rubbing against his gum. Mr Ford was walking with fleas. He had intestinal parasites. He had an appalling case of Lice. His hip was broken but was beginning to heal so the injury had happened some time in the past. He had nerve damage too. His bladder was massively swollen and the vet expressed doubt that he could urinate. He tested positive for FIV, the feline equivalent of AIDS, and it was at an advanced stage. He was extremely dehydrated and close to complete organ failure because of the absence of fluids. Lesley had to pump intravenous liquids into him just so that they could examine him.
Let me put all these symptoms into a coherent story. Mr Ford was born into a feral colony, so he was born with intestinal parasites. The fleas and, later, the lice, would have been a direct consequence of his birth and the poor conditions in which most ferals are forced to live. He would have had to survive cat flu as a tiny kitten, an illness that kills thousands of newborn kittens in this country every season, and would have been forced to struggle for his share of food. His food ration would have been determined by his ability to fight off weaker kittens and defend himself against bigger ones as well as the adult cats in the colony. This struggle for survival with its sporadic availability of food supplies kills off quite a few little ones as starving kittens cannot fight for their share of food. Mr Ford survived this stage of his development and would have been driven away from the colony by his mother, a normal developmental stage, to fend for himself. Somewhere along the path of his journey Mr Ford got in a fight with another cat. He was bitten during the course of the fight, which was probably over a female and mating rights, Mr Ford was unneutered, and became infected with FIV. As this disease progressed, helped along by insufficient food, poor shelter from the elements, etc, Mr Ford began to grow weaker. The opportunistic parasites, both internal and external, would have hastened this process, and the lice would have begun to literally eat the coat off his back. Then Mr Ford was hit by a car. His hindquarters took the brunt of the impact and he broke his hip. The shattered bones further damaged nerves along his back and the blunt force of the car strike probably damaged his bladder seriously so he could not urinate properly. All he could manage was a constant seepage which left his hindquarters constantly wet. Because he could no longer walk on his back legs he dragged himself along the ground using his front paws. The abrasions and torn flesh on his hind feet are testament to that. Because he could no longer hunt due to the shattered hip he began to starve. Somewhere, along this path of Golgotha, Mr Ford found a net bag that had contained somebody’s Xmas ham and the smell of the meat drove him to root through the bag thus ensnaring the netting around his teeth. He obviously dragged himself around for about another 7-10 days with this bag stuck in his mouth, now utterly unable to eat. Then he was spotted by a humane human being who rang The Cat Hospital. Two veterinary professionals and two animal welfare volunteers gathered around Mr Ford who lay on the examination table, eyes glazed from the painkillers and sedatives that had been administered. The vet outlined the diagnosis and then the prognosis. There was an intense discussion and several frantic phone calls were made but to no avail. If we can do nothing else for the cat, we will not let him die alone. That was the mantra of Anne Fitzgerald; it was ours today. A sedated Mr Ford was put to sleep by directly injecting his heart with a lethal dose of barbiturates as the vet could find no vein capable of taking an injection.
This writer would like to say that Mr Ford’s death made him angry today. But it didn’t. For weeks now we are taking cats to various vets to have them put to sleep for a variety of illnesses and conditions that are so easily avoidable or that would never happen to household pets. All this writer could register today was fatigue made worse by the certain knowledge that in 6-8 weeks time the floodgates will once again open as the kitten season, and this country’s utter apathy to animal welfare, come to fruition.
I know Facebook followers like to write things like ‘RIP Mr Ford’ as a mark of their sorrow at the passing of another animal. This time I’d like you to do something else. Support the animal rescue of your choice either by donating some money (€5-€10) or by volunteering to work with one. Foster some kittens. Adopt a rescue animal or two. Write or email your local TD and ask them what support they are going to give animal rescues or animal welfare legislation. Don’t force the rescue people to stand in veterinary surgeries watching as yet another needless death occurs in front of their eyes. Make a difference. Get involved. This is a solvable situation.