This is a story from my best friend, who will be going by the name Ana on Catster. She has written several pieces about her life with cats and rescuing cats from all sorts of situations. She prefers to remain anonymous. All names have been changed, but I can verify that her stories are true.
As a cat person, and a friend to animals, there are frequently situations that arise where I make the choice to intervene on behalf of a cat I deem to be in jeopardy. It’s entirely possible that, in some situations, these cats have homes and simply vanish, whisked away, never to be seen again.
I’m going to outline some of the circumstances that can cause me to intervene (so much like stealing!) on behalf of a cat.
Traffic, either dense or high speed, has caused me to pick up dozens cats over the years. If I see a cat on a highway or in a dense urban setting, without tags, near traffic, I will always stop to investigate, at the very least. If the cat is in good condition, I will visit a dozen houses in the area looking for owners or information before absconding with the cat. I cannot leave a cat in clear danger, no matter how healthy they appear.
If it is snowing, hailing, raining, or even very cold and windy, I will always stop and check on any cat wandering loose. Generally, a cat will seek shelter in inclement weather; when I see a cat standing or lying exposed to the elements, it sets off alarm bells.
When you’re young and tiny, danger lurks everywhere. Any for small kitten, I will immediately pick up and also investigate the area for a mother and siblings, leaving behind humane traps whenever possible. Tiny kittens are unable to defend themselves. The simplest thing can mean death for a kitten: a dog off the leash, raccoons, cruel children, drains, sewer system equipment, the enticing safety of a warm car engine. If you have a kitten, it belongs indoors.
Likewise, a cat who appears geriatric will always get my attention. Old, brittle bones and slow reflexes do not make a good candidate for unsecured outdoor time. Elderly cats do best in a stable environment free of the dangers and challenges the outside world offers. Because elderly cats fare so poorly in shelter environments, they are often quickly euthanized, which makes it even more important that they stay inside.
Particularly when combined with other concerns, not having identification gives the impression that a cat has no real family or people who claim him. A cat who wanders a particular neighborhood, having no home, but several families who set out food and water, should be given the opportunity to have a family, and medical treatment.
I’ve been scolded by old women for taking away the “neighborhood cat.” The situation may be pleasant and enjoyable for the people who interact with the cat briefly, but for the cat, who has no security, no stable shelter, and no veterinary care, it is a fragile existence that could be shattered at any moment.
Any cat found to be without their claws, I immediately take. Unable to climb or fight, the declawed cat can never be outside unattended. Many a cat has suffered the tragic consequences of being left outdoors without their primary defense and escape mechanism. I’ve seen declawed cats horrifically mauled by other animals, often after being trapped and terrified for prolonged periods. It’s so sad, and so preventable. If I took your declawed cat, I’m not sorry.
During all of the stops I make for the aforementioned conditions, I check the overall physical condition of the cat. I check the gums and teeth, for anemia, rot and damage. I check the feet and toes for nail length, ticks, and injuries. I check the eyes and nose for signs of upper respiratory infection, drainage, pus, crust and inflammation. I check the coat for flea or tick infestation, the genital area for crusted feces, proglottids, or injury, and run my hands over the entire body and coat of the cat to check for pain, matting or irregularity.
Finally, I attempt to establish whether or not the animal has been altered. If I see an intact male cat, or obviously pregnant female, I am morally obligated to take them, no matter how healthy he or she appears. I have on several occasions taken intact male cats who had identification, had them neutered, then contacted the owner afterwards to return them. I’ve taken pregnant cats for termination and spay, returning them afterwards. If this seems presumptuous or rude to you, that’s possibly because you’ve never had to euthanize beautiful, healthy, domesticated kittens because there was no shelter space, no foster families, and no homes. So please, for the love of Pete, have your cat altered. Please. PLEASE.
As you can probably guess, cats have taken up the majority of my time and money since I was a teenager. It is an honor to help them, and provide them with a way off the streets and into loving homes. No doubt I’ve “stolen” at least a few cats.
Are you a cat thief? What circumstances cause you to intervene and take a wandering cat? Or leave one? Or, are you outraged at my behavior? Let me know in the comments!
Some further reading on rescuing cats on Catster: