Friday, August 27, 2010

Cats, Kittens, Bite, and Scratches

I write a lot of things. The past two days I have written a lot of things on Facebook about cats!
I am so angry and though I struggle with the fact that this person that allowed this to happen is a family member, I also struggle with the fact that this person is....well family. Makes sense to those thinkers out there and I know you are a thinker.
What has happened with these cats is so wrong on so many levels, I can barely grasp it all.
So first, there were two cats.....la de da....rainbows, sunshine, sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight, those cats had kittens. We, as a family, told him to get the kittens to a shelter. At the time we had cats that were just under a year old that we adopted and we knew that people love kittens. Who doesn't love a kitten? Well, my dad, but that's because he's a guy that looks ahead and knows kittens turn into cats, which he doesn't like as much as kittens, but most people that like cats, like them to be kittens first. Moving on....months later, we see him again and he still has all the kittens. We remind him that kittens turn to cats and hope that he remembers the sky rockets in flight and knows what could happen next. He is of the oh so mature age of forty three, after all, so it's not too much to ask for personal responsibility, right? No, evidently it is too much to ask.
More months go by. I'm not sure how many, but I can guess our two cats that are well loved and given lot of care and affection, have gone through countless bags of food, have had more belly rubs that I have toes, and have enjoyed a few moon cycles from the comfortable spot they share on Arwen's bed.
His lease is not renewed. In my thinking mind, I'm sure this would have meant eviction if the lease were not up for renewal. The story goes, the neighbors complained of a smell. Maintenance entered the apartment and was shocked to find at least eight cats running around a little six hundred square foot apartment. I've rented apartments. I'm lucky to not have to rent an apartment at this stage in my life, but I spent many years throwing money away so someone else could gain from my choice of habitat.
Of those years, I'm sure I never crossed a lease that allowed more that two cats. Once in Charlottesville, VA, I had three cats, but I picked one up while still living in Richmond from the neighbors before they moved out because they felt leaving her outside with some leftovers from dinner was acceptable. I broke the rules of my lease and allowed her to live in my apartment where I liked to fatten my kitties with Meow Mix and Friskies from a can. I continued to break the rules of my lease when I moved to Charlottesville. But I also didn't think three was excessive. Little Amy needed a good home without leftovers and I was able to give that to her. Emily hated me for it, but Saliers didn't care as long as he got most of what was left in the can of food.
Eight cats is a big issue! Eight cats cannot be cared for by one person that works double shifts and has little time to rub those tummies and ears. Eight cats means sixteen ears. That's a lot of rubbing; more time that I'd be will to commit, and I'm sure most of you would agree!
So when the lease wasn't 'renewed,' he moved into his mothers house while he got back on his feet. With his eight cats. Only without telling anyone, the eight cats, or at least two of them heard about those skyrockets, and sometime during one of those double shifts, they went into flight and wham, bam, thank you, ma'am, there were three more....at least! So when he moved into his mother's house, he didn't bring eight cats with him, he brought eleven. Telling people like your mother, with whom you are about to share space, that you are bringing your stereo but won't keep the music loud, and your TV, but will share the remote, and oh about those eleven cats (!) is a important in my book. I think it's right up there with can I sleep at your house tonight while mine is being repainted, but oh by the way, I'll be using your toothbrush, and did I tell you I spend from 5pm in the afternoon until morning nude, but I don't actually go to bed until midnight. And I like to do yoga in front of the TV while watching my favorite show at 8pm. Nude. Important stuff, right? You might change your mind about me coming over. Luckily, many of you have been here after 5pm and know I like to stay clothed and like to talk about how much I enjoy yoga but don't actually do it...ever. But now I’ll understand why I won't be allowed to stay the night at your house and I feel so lucky my house doesn't need paint just yet.
So now he and his eleven cats are in his mother's house. And she thinks there are a few. Five cats, maybe….? Six even….she has no idea there are eleven!
A few weeks go by and by the grace of not being actually evicted, he is allowed to rent a new apartment. Jeff helps him move, Jeff watches him scratch the tailgate on his brand new truck! It’s easy for forty-three year old children to not pay attention to little things like to drag a dresser across the tail gate or to pick it up and carry it. They move all of his things – except the cats!
The cats are left in a four hundred square foot finished basement. A couple of weeks go by and we get the frantic call from Jeff’s mother. She has no idea how many cats are in her basement, but she knows he left them there and they are tearing up her home. She has lost a couch, an oriental rug, a chair; her floors are ruined, he walls have been sprayed, and these cats were sharing three litter boxes. Eleven cats, three litter boxes, no one around to care for them….you do the math.
So Jeff goes in to rescue the cats, and I spend my day calling shelter, humane societies, and foster homes for cats and find a place for them to go. Jeff comes home with two to take to a friend’s house to be barn cats, takes two to a Humane Society, and is questioned for animal abuse because he has been beat to hell just trying to capture these cats.
If you have cats, take a moment and think about how hard it is to capture your cat if it’s time to go to the vet. Not easy, huh? It took him two weeks to catch these cats to take them to his mom’s house. Jeff gets there thinking he’s going to get five cats out of the house. After catching them the first night, we both go back, with our children, to get the last two. Only there are five that we can find.
After some time Jeff tries to figure out why some are so much smaller and why those are so mean. It took two days and lots of war wounds, but he figured out his brother’s secret: there was a new litter a few months ago. These ‘new’ kittens are completely feral! Completely! They are not used to humans, have no desire to become friendly with humans and feel their place in the world in inside the wall under the stairs. Tonight Jeff confronted his brother about this new litter and he finally admitted to knowing there was a new littler four months ago.
We told Jeff’s mom there are eleven cats total. I don’t think she’s all that surprised.

We still have a long way to go, two more to catch and get to a shelter, wounds to heal, keep an eye on, traps to return, and we need to find someone that will clean that house for her.
Here are a few things I’m am having a hard time wrapping my mind around. What kind of person thinks it’s OK to keep eleven cats? Why weren’t they given away when they were kittens? How lazy can one person become? And why? I was given an excuse tonight that he works thirteen hour days and didn’t have time to take them to a shelter. Are you kidding me? I’ll wait while you find the seat of your chair again……. I know….you don’t even have to say it.
The next thing I can get my mind around is consequence. We work so hard at teaching our children consequences for their actions in hopes that things like this won’t happen when they are eight years old or forty three years old. Why? What? Whoa! And these cats! These cats that have only known one another are being ripped apart after they have spent so much time creating their pride, if you will. The new kittens will have little opportunity at any life at all. They are aggressive and angry. They are mean. They attacked Jeff and one attacked a lady at the Human Society. I would bet money she will be put down after her ten day rabies watch is over. Or she can become coyote food. Either way, she never had a chance. How could he take away the chance for a life for these kittens? For at least four of these kittens, he has taken away their chance to be domestic well loved cats. And for the rest, he’s just sad we took them away from him, but has yet to show me he cares what actually happens to the cats.
Where is the consequence? He was allowed to take the original two cats to his new apartment and move on with his life. Jeff has lost days of work, time with his family, money for traps and fees to surrender the animals to the shelter, and sleep over all of this. I have lost too much time, I have put my children at risk by taking them over there, and I have spent so much emotion on this I am beat.
I don’t know where to go from here, but I am so saddened by this. They were beautiful cats and wilder than those big cats I have seen at the zoo. Where is the consequence? Who treats their mother like this? Where is the respect for life? Where do we go from here?