In memory of

Mr Ginger, victim of indifference

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.

To Mr Ginger, 24/11/12
In memory of


Rest in peace Rocky.

I don’t know where you came from, nor what you went through, but you looked like you had been wandering all alone for some time.  When I went looking for you after Susan’s phone call, I found you resting in front of a house as if you were waiting for someone; however, this wasn’t your home and you looked so lonely.  You came straight to me when I called you and followed me back to Susan’s house.  You seemed to remember that she was the lady who gave you food the day before.  You were hungry, but had difficulties to eat.  Your fur was so matted that you had begun pulling it.  We put you in the pet carrier and I brought you to Sinead at the Cloyne Veterinary Clinic.

This morning, I came to see you as Sinead was going to sedate you to have a proper look at you.  Your mouth was in a bad state; you had bad gingivitis.  Before proceeding any further, Sinead tested you.  You tested positive to both FelLV and FIV.  No wonder you looked so miserable; you were probably suffering and slowly dying.  We relieved your pain.  It was a very sad moment, but we knew it was the nost humane thing to do for you.

I’m sorry you were so sick and we couldn’t help you more.  Susan, Sinead, Amy and I did what we could, but this wasn’t to be.  I hope you felt a bit loved in your last few days.

What pains me the most is that Rocky had probably once been a beloved pet.  He was wearing a collar that had become too big for him because he was so thin.  Rocky had probably been wandering for quite a while as the condition of his coat was the result of months and months of matting.  Until Susan moved where he was found, Rocky had gone unnoticed and had been badly fed.  We don’t know his history nor how he got there.  He had only been in that estate for a couple of weeks and we can only suppose that he got lost and went from place to place looking for a bit of food and love.  If it weren’t for Susan, Rocky would have probably been left dying on his own and in pain.

Rocky is now buried in a lovely spot facing the sea.  He has joined other companions, who, like him, would have been left rotting on the side of a road or in that quiet corner that they would have chosen to die, all alone…

Animal Welfare In memory of

We are just normal people…

Sometimes, I think people believe we have super powers.  This is a misconception.  The people involved in animal welfare are just normal people, like you.  We are normal people, who care and have decided to act to make this world a little bit better.  We won’t completely change the world, but we might help to achieve a small progress and the animals who cross our path will be offered a chance at a better life.  Sometimes, this is not possible, so we relieve their pain.

We are like you.  Most of us have a job or other commitments and we have little money.  We can’t really accomplish miracles, we are not gods.  However, we believe that we can’t ignore what is going on around us and we are trying to take responsibility and care for our planet, which has been destroyed for centuries by human greed, and its fruits.  One can ignore or one can take responsibility.  It is not the easy path to take, but it is a choice we have made.

We are not the only ones.  There are other people out there who care and will get out of their way to improve this planet and it inhabitants.  They are not motivated by the cuteness, but are just compassionate.

These last few weeks have been particularly difficult for people involved in animal welfare.  Emails and calls about dumped animals have become banal.  We are either asked to take people’s pets or the public ring us about the poor souls that have been thrown on the side of the road.  Kitten season is upon us and we know well this is going to get tougher.

However, every so often, we meet people out of the ordinary, people who have decided to take responsibility.  These people could be you, they could be anybody.  Tonight, I would like to tell you about one of them.

Last week, we received the usual call about a feral cat in a garden; except that the call wasn’t that usual in the end.  Martina had been feeding a few cats (along with the many other animals she has rescued), but noticed that one of them had deteriorated rapidly, losing a lot of hair.  She wasn’t asking us to take her away, just to help her to trap her feral so that she could be seen by a vet.  Catching Pumpkin was very tricky and other cats were trapped before her.  Maggie spent two entire days using whatever inventive device could come to her mind, but Pumpkin would have none of it.  The chicken would tempt her, but a soon as she saw Maggie, she would go away.  Each time we saw Pumpkin, her condition was worse and she would break our hearts.  Martina managed to trap her though and she rang us this afternoon to announce the good news, or what had to become the fatal news.  Deep inside, we all knew that we might not be able to save Pumpkin, but we could help her…

Martina said good-bye to Pumpkin this evening, knowing that she might never see her again; she explained to Pumpkin that whatever would happen in the next few hours would be for her own good, that we would try to do what was best for her.  It was a difficult decision to make…

Pumpkin left us tonight; yet, she had been watched over by her guardian, a compassionate human being who had taken the responsibility of looking after her, feeding and caring for her and her companions.  Hadn’t Martina been there, she would have died alone and in pain.

I petted Pumpkin tonight, after she had been sedated – this was probably the first time she was touched by a human as she was so skittish.  She was looking around with her frightened, but beautiful eyes.  Inside, I thought that it could have been a lot worse if someone, Martina, hadn’t taken responsibility.  Tomorrow, Martina’s wish will be respected and Pumpkin will be buried in a beautiful spot facing the sea; she won’t be rotting on the side of the road or in a dark corner.  She will be given all the dignity she deserves because someone cared.

Martina is just a normal person; she is like you – and so are we…

Animal stories In memory of

Mr Ford

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.
Mr Ford: the embodiment of unnecessary and avoidable suffering
In memory of

Little Tom

Little Tom was a feral cat who was disregarded by humans all his life.  Nobody would look at him, nobody would care for him.  He was lonely, starving and cold.  Today, he just had enough with this world of indifference and decided to give up on life.

As I was at the Cloyne Veterinary Clinic this morning, a lady walked in asking Sinead if she could help as there was a cat on the carpark who wasn’t moving.  Was it a coincidence that I was there at this particular moment?  I went to the carpark and immediately spotted him, in the middle of the carpark.  A car would have actually had to swing to the left to avoid him.  A woman passed by and prodded him with her foot; she kept walking.  I bent down and wrapped the towel over him.  He didn’t move.  He didn’t struggle when I picked him up, but pushed a terrible cry of pain.  I held him close to me and brought him to Sinead.


I knew he was sick and I could sense his chances at a better life were slim, but we had to try.  Sinead examined him.  His gums were paled, his temperature was low, he was dehydrated and so skinny…  He was so skinny we could nearly circle his spine and his legs felt like they weren’t attached to his body anymore.  Sinead brought in a hot water bottle and put a drip on him; I petted him, trying to give him as much comfort as I could.

When Sinead carried him upstairs, Little Tom pushed another cry, a cry of death Sinead thought.  She made a bed for him and we put him there.  The little Shona , who was rescued only yesterday,was looking at us from the bottom cage asking for attention.

When I left, I didn’t know if I would see Little Tom again.  Sinead told me that she would try but that his body seemed shut down.

At 4 pm, Sinead rang me (thank you Sinead for giving him a chance, for doing all you could and for your compassion).  Little Tom’s situation wasn’t improving; if anything, it was getting worse.  He had given up on life and had decided he had fought enough and that his time had come.  He was put to sleep.

Little Tom probably lived a miserable life, but he was loved and received affection for the last four hours of his life.  However, this is not enough.  There is no reason why Little Tom shouldn’t have received a bit more compassion during his life.  He didn’t deserve it.

Please people, look around you and don’t ignore your ferals.  Offer them a bit of food, a warm shelter and whatever love you have to spare.

The look of hope

Shona was saved, Little Tom didn’t have her chance.  How many more like Little Tom will die this winter?

Their lives depend on you.