It is never easy to have a cat euthanised, but sometimes, it is even harder than at others. There may be many reasons for that, our own emotions or lives may affect the way we react. However, we should live our emotions aside when making the decision of euthanising a cat. It is not about us, it is about the welfare of the cat and the quality of life we have to offer. Furthermore, in the short span of time we spend with the cat, we may somehow create a relationship with that cat, create some ties or bond with the cat in a way that is difficult to explain. This tie will make euthanasia more difficult.
When we received the call about Mr Ginger, I knew exactly which cat was being talked about. I had trapped a mother and her kittens in that area before and had seen the ginger cat crossing the road a few times. The description of Mr Ginger’s condition rang the alarm bell and I had a fair idea of what would be the outcome of this call-out. What I hadn’t anticipated is that the cat would come to me – I could nearly touch him – and look at me in a way that made my heart sink. Yet, it took a little while to trap Mr Ginger. He was wary of the drop cage and would move away each time I would pick it up in an attempt to place it over him. He would not go in the trap either. He would be attracted by the tin of food, but could not eat any of the food I put out for him. Finally, the milk got him into the trap and I just had to release the door gently while standing next to the trap.
What made it worse was that Mr Ginger still wore his collar, the collar he was wearing when he was a loved pet and his owner passed away a year or two ago. I thought of Mr Ginger and what had happened in his life. From being fed and petted regularly to becoming just a wandering stray that nobody cared enough about to offer him a loving home. Mr Ginger must have had to learn to scavenge for food and fight to defend his territory against other toms. In the process, he must have contracted a disease that affected his immune system. This disease made him more prone to the severe cat flu he suffered from when he was noticed by the caller, who found him hiding in his mother’s shed and so miserable that he deemed necessary to call for help since he could not catch the cat himself.
As I drove to the vet, I was thinking about Mr Ginger’s life for the past couple of years, about the indifference he had been confronted to since his owner had passed away. It is that indifference that is the most unbearable…
We could say that he was lucky as he would have otherwise died of dehydration. He had symptoms of cat flu and veterinary examination revealed that his kidneys were abnormally big. We did not test him, but Sinead, the vet, suspected that it could have been caused by one of the two dreaded infectious diseases, FIV or FeLV. How long would it have been before Mr Ginger actually met peace? For how long would he have been suffering before being relieved by death? Luckily, he was noticed and was saved from more suffering, but many are not. Many just keep meeting indifference.
People involved in animal welfare often ask themselves the question “why do we do it?” We all have a different answer to this question, a very personal answer. We get motivated by all kind of reasons, which are sometimes difficult to pinpoint. Yesterday, I found it particularly difficult to do what I had to do with Mr Ginger. I knew it was the right decision; for his own welfare, but also for the welfare of other cats. Looking back on the day, I realise that I felt painfully revolted by the indifference he had been victim of until then. Yet, it is probably because of this indifference that I’ll keep going and, maybe, improve this world in a little way.