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The Tale of TLC: "The Little Cat"

To whoever was responsible for bringing this cat into the world, I say shame on you, and shame on the countless others like you whose indifference and ignorance add daily to the load of animal suffering. This wretched creature was around nine months old when he died. The manner of his death, and what it tells us of his life, make me bitter and angry. If you are squeamish, you had better not read any further, because this is not a feel good story.

 


This picture shows you the pathetic remains of The Little Cat a few hours after his death, which occurred in the early morning of January 28th. I had first become aware of his existence a couple of weeks before, when he shot out of the back porch as I opened the door and ran for his life into the bitter cold. The back porch is fully enclosed save for a small cat hole giving access to and from the garden, and provides everything a cat needs to survive even in the depth of winter: a heated water bowl, a large dish of food and several baskets furnished with polar fleece pillows. In addition, there are two "condos", wooden boxes with lids, heavily insulated and filled with straw. Strays are uncommon in my neighbourhood, but over the years I have had a few come to my back door and avail themselves of the amenities. In most cases, these cats have eventually trusted me enough to allow me to care for them, and several have moved in with me and made excellent pets. I was hopeful that The Little Cat would come to trust me, and kept watching for him after my first sighting. On January 27th I was delighted to see him drinking from the heated bowl and leaving the porch without his previous panic. Late that same evening, I spotted him inside one of the condos, curled up, facing the opening and looking content. Afraid of spooking him, I moved quietly to close off the cat door, my purpose being to attempt to catch him the following day and take him to the animal hospital. He remained calm and I felt sure that he had taken the first steps toward becoming tame.

As soon as I looked into the condo the next morning, I knew the little guy was dead. He had curled up into sleep in his bed of straw and never woken up. When I lifted him out, I realized that he was emaciated, dirty and tiny, in fact probably still a kitten. Worried that he might have died of panleucopenia, I took him to the clinic and asked my vet to examine him and perform an autopsy. My vet confirmed that he was male, had adult teeth and was very malnourished and underdeveloped (even his testicles were abnormally small). He warned me that an autopsy might not tell us much because the body was not fresh, but I thought it would be worth doing anyway. Before handing TLC over for this final indignity, I took this picture so as to remember him. A moment later, my vet came back and told me that there was no point in examining his organs or taking biopsies, since the first cut of the knife had revealed the likely cause of his death: his abdomen was filled with a foul infestation of worms, countless long pale strings that had feasted for months on his body until he had just enough strength to crawl into the one comforting spot he had found, where he died before I could help him. Had I been able to catch him sooner, perhaps we could have saved him, but these are now vain musings.

What fills me with anger and sadness is the knowledge that The Little Cat's entire life was harsh, grim and ultimately pointless. He knew fear, starvation, cold and probably injuries, and his existence served
no purpose whatsoever, not even to feed a predator. He should not have been born, and yet our city is heavily populated with him and his kind, slinking shadows whom we do not want to acknowledge. I have told his story because he is the concrete illustration of what I wrote under "Cats in Montreal". We are the cause of this problem, it is right on our doorsteps. Surely it is not a wild flight of fancy to imagine that we could do something to correct it? It is an uphill struggle, and the key is awareness, so go out there and spread the word. If you have been at all moved by TLC's story, perhaps his life will not have been entirely without purpose. If you have been offended by his picture and the more unsavoury details of his demise, all I can say is be grateful I did not photograph the worms.


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