|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Urbanna has a problem with feral cats. They live in the ravines that spread through the village like tentacles, offering perfect, wild cover for cat colonies. If one walks through the village at night, one is treated to a variety of cats out on an evening prowl.
The county also has a cat problem. Go by any dumpster and you will see feral cats foraging for food. Animal lovers like Diane Gravatt, Kris Scherrer, Christi LeBoeuf, Cate Ogden and many others have done much in attempts to control cat populations by trapping feral cats one at a time and taking them to the Gloucester spay and neuter clinic. These good souls personally finance this work. The hope is that one day fast-growing cat colonies will begin to wane. I support this hope but am inclined to put it in the “pie in the sky” category.
I’m not wild about cats. In my mind they tempt good dogs to go bad. And they kill millions of birds each year. Hard to forgive both traits. Although I love all animals (with a furry tail, my only qualification for dispensing love), I don’t take to cats. This sentiment is probably based on a vicious cat bite I received as a child while trying to save it from a dog attack. The cat sank his fangs into my outstretched hand to save him. I still have the scar.
Nonetheless, a few months ago I heard mewing in shrubs in front of my house on Kent Street and I peered inside the bushes and found a kitten no larger than my fist, shivering in the cold. No sooner had I picked her up when I heard another mew from another shrub. You know the story. I took a bowl of milk to the poor little kittens and that was the start of trouble. (Later I found a third kitten that was dead, and also heard from a neighbor who had saved a fourth kitten from the same litter.)
That first night I worried the owl who lives in one of the tall pine trees would get the kittens. I kept the porch light on all night long hoping to protect them from the terrors of the night as they hid in branches off my patio evergreen tree. The next night Chip hung a basket in the tree with a kitchen tray propped overhead for rain cover and the kittens quickly moved into this refuge. I would look out at various times during the day and see them huddled in their basket, their sweet little heads peering out at the big world.
They came to me for bowls of food but quickly bolted if I tried to pick them up. My cocker spaniel “Dandy” was the first to befriend them and they soon were cuddling him as if he were a substitute mom. Darned if I didn’t start to love those little girls.
I tried to find homes for them but quickly learned giving someone a kitten is an impossible trick. I finally gave up. One day a big, bad mean orange Tom cat came into the kittens’ domain and scared them into moving to the back yard. Chip set up the portable dog kennel with an indoor lightbulb for heat, covered it under a snug waterproof tarp, and they moved right in. The kittens soon grew into cats and, wouldn’t you know it, a male cat started “hanging around” with no good intentions. There was nothing else to do but borrow a cat trap from the animal shelter, trap the cats one at a time, and take them to the clinic in Gloucester and have them spayed.
Truth be told, no one in this world sets out to get a cat. The cats get us. Getting a cat is, like breathing, a natural part of life. I didn’t want cats but my strict religion demands “thou shalt not turn your back on a starving cat.”
Our Middlesex Animal Shelter is designed to care for homeless dogs but has little facility to care for cats. Thus the problem of dealing with feral cats falls on citizens. Yet, few people want to trap feral cats and pay for them to be spayed or neutered, let alone care for them. So what to do about the cats?
Should we think about adding a “cat annex” to the shelter? Funds might be raised from the private sector for such a project so that taxpayers wouldn’t need to carry any extra burden.
Not so long ago a group that called itself “Dog Friends” rose to the occasion to help homeless dogs at the shelter by building a beautiful new dog park. Could we also help homeless cats?
In the meantime, a third female cat, possibly the mother of my cats, has shown up at my back door looking for supper. I think she’s pregnant. Holy cats!