Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Flu from the cuckoo's nest

A local cat rescue asked us if we'd take some kittens from a feral colony they were clearing. The adults were to be neutered and returned, but we all felt that it would be great to give any kittens the chance of a life in a loving home.

Two tiny bundles arrived, about seven weeks old, and surprisingly friendly. But the little things were in a very poor state - cat flu, diarrhoea, lice, worms and fleas. About the only thing they didn't have was ear mites, and luckily the adults tested negative for feline aids (FiV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which means that the kittens will likely be negative too.

Sylvia and Graham, as we named the kittens, went straight off to our vets where they were given antibiotics and cream for their eyes. The photos were taken two days after they'd come to us, and they look much better in the photos than they did on arrival, so you can imagine how ill they looked. Slowly but surely we hope to nurse them back to full health, and then neuter and rehome them.

But all this raises the sad question of why two kittens should have been allowed to get into this state. We believe that the colony of cats started from a single female who was dumped in an un-neutered state and just left to breed. Being a survivor she found a place to live where she could have kittens safely and where she could source food - either from hunting, or from scrounging. If she was friendly, it is even possible that she found herself a home eventually too, leaving her growing offspring behind to breed.

The colony is populated almost exclusively by tabby cats, a pretty good indication that there has been a fair bit of inbreeding going on, which of course can result in kittens with physical and mental disabilities, who would not survive long and who may suffer a great deal before their early death.

And even these two, who had survived for the first few difficult weeks of life, may have succumbed to cat flu, or been left blind or with impaired olfactory senses due to congested or scarred bronchial passages. Not to mention the lice, which would have driven them mad with itching (have you ever had nits? - that's how itchy it is!) and would probably have resulted in considerable fur loss, leaving them vulnerable to cold and heat - unable to insulate their bodies correctly.

All because an uncaring cat owner decided to dump an unwanted cat. If only she had been spayed, it would have saved countless cats being born to a wild, short and painful existence. Goodness only knows how many cats were born and died in this colony before cat rescues were alerted to their plight.

We celebrate the lives of Sylvia and Graham, and hope that they will have long happy lives secure in the love of their humans, but with so many unwanted cats, wouldn't it have been better in the long run to have had their ultimate great-grandmother spayed?