Yesterday, we took 5 kittens to the vet. There were 2 Tabbies, a smaller, younger one, and a larger guy. There was a Tabby and white. A Black and White, and a Black. These little creatures were nearly all that remained of group of 20 kittens we had discovered during the course of a TNR job. We had trapped these 5 waifs the night before. Well, trap isn’t the right word, we picked them up off the ground from around the empty food bowls that lay strewn by the back door of the house. These 5 kittens really did not have the strength left to resist because of the hunger induced illnesses that had ravaged their small bodies. Gaunt, bony, ragged, matted fur, big eyes in small pinched faces, runny noses, these unfortunate animals were a picture poster for deprivation and neglect.
We brought them home following their capture and put them into the overnight cages. Generous quantities of food, warm dry bedding, and fresh water, were provided for them, yet they cowered at the back of the cages, big eyes staring, terrified, at their human captors. The smallest Tabby caught our eye. In a better place, perhaps on another planet where empathy with all living things is the norm, this little guy would have been a stunner. But this was here and he was dying slowly, and badly, because of sheer human indifference.
In the morning we collected our kittens and transferred them into transport cages. There had been an outbreak of diarrhoea during the night and the holding cages were destroyed in faeces. They had to be scoured clean before we left because of fears of cross infecting our own cats, big, sleek, over fed monsters, who preened around the house, as well as our foster kittens and a couple of patients we were nursing. We loaded our kittens into the car and set off for the vet.
We arrived at the veterinary practice and were greeted warmly by our friend, Leslie, a veterinary nurse with years of experience in dealing with cats and who has, herself, saved hundreds of kittens from death. We informed leslie that we had a group of VERY sick kittens and she immediately understood the inference. Kevin, the vet, was summoned. The situation was explained. A quick surgical exam was conducted and sentence was passed. With extreme speed all 5 kittens were put to sleep. The last kitten to be PTS was the little Tabby. He sat and stared out of his cage, eyes still frightened by these strange surroundings, wondering where his companions had vanished to, and waited his turn. He was damned by the fact of his birth. He was damned by a society that cared for nothing outside of itself. He was damned because those onto whose property he was born, despite their obvious wealth and material possessions, didn’t consider a tiny, frightened, Tabby Kitten, worth a bowl of the cheapest food.
It is a tribute to the humanity and the competency of the vet Kevin, and nurse Leslie who comforted each and every kitten as the fatal dosage was administered, that the little creatures suffered no great trauma in their dying. There were 4 of us in that surgery and not one of us wanted to be there. As each kitten was injected one of us held them in our arms, holding and cradling while awaiting the end to come. They all went quickly, the starving bodies unable to resist the powerful drug for even a minute. Then all 5 bodies were laid out in a row while we inspected them for any signs of life. There were none. Kevin showed us the signs on their bodies where the constant diarrhoea has stripped the fur away from their legs and burnt the very flesh beneath.
When we started this TNR job there were 20 kittens alive. These were the survivors of the 50-60 that would have initially born before the lady called us to deal with her ’cat problem’. We had our plans in place to deal with these survivors when the lady of the house rang us to say she was going on holidays and she didn’t ‘want us around’ while she was away. Of course no cat was fed while she was off sunning herself. 11 more kittens died in the interim from deprivation. By the time we resumed there were 9 kittens left. Now there are 4 remaining survivors and they are in our care where they will be fed, doctored, made well, and rehomed.
We brought the pathetic corpses back to the lady to show her. She glanced briefly, then quickly averted her head. She called ‘one of the boys’ to come and remove the dead kittens in a potato bag. Maggie placed a little bunch of fuchsia into the bag. A mark of respect but also a sign of her anger and despair at the sheer, utter futility, of some people’s existence.
We have to move on. There are TNR projects everywhere that need our attention and fast! But we left with the images of this last one, in particular the Little Tabby for whom we could offer nothing. A scared little kitten, one of the estimated hundreds of thousands, who die through human indifference and neglect every year in Ireland.
That little Tabby, his anxious little face staring out through the bars of his cage as his companions were put to sleep, will haunt me for a long time to come.
God Damn that women for having put us in that position.