Last week, during the warm weather, one of the cats picked up a flea, which bit me. (Cat fleas can't live on human blood, but they don't know this.) The cat has sneezed a few times too many to suit me, since then, and I've had this cough. Not a cold, no cold-and-flu-type symptoms, but only a cough. I don't think it's airborne among humans. It's a bore, though, when it wakes me up in the middle of the night. The cough woke me last night.
Well, you know how it is, if and when you do manage to wake up completely at three o'clock in the morning. You can stay in bed, telling yourself that bed rest will help your body fight the cough, but you're not going back to sleep until the ninety-minute sleep cycle runs its course at 4:30.
So I was lying in bed. It was a quiet night; the space heater wasn't running much, and it wasn't raining.
It must have been around 3:45 or 3:50 when I heard the motor on the road below the house. It stopped well below my property. If it had crossed the property line I would have seen the vehicle's lights.
The owner of the property outside which it stopped is a cousin I'll call John Doe, who has many friends in town. Many of these friends fancy themselves to be Mountain Men. Going entirely by the mess they leave behind, I'd call them Rednecks, but as long as they stay on his property they're JD's problem. I watched and listened for any indication that they were straying onto my property. There were none.
But when I went out to feed the cats in the morning, my cat Ivy was missing. Or was she? I heard a "meow" that sounded like hers from up in the orchard. Why was she calling from the orchard? Well, the "meow" came closer, so the cat wasn't calling me to rescue her or someone else, so I stayed in the yard and watched...and it wasn't Ivy.
It wasn't our Imp, dearly loved and sorely missed, either. The kitten Imp went missing on a day when no other animal's tracks were noticeable on the road, but the tracks of a poacher who's known for cruelty to wild animals were.
It might just possibly have been a cat related to my cat family. It had the mild form of the Manx gene, like our Irene, and a patch of a different color on its nose, like most of Patchnose's descendants.
It looked quite a bit like our Imp. About the size Imp was when we last saw her, it must have been a late autumn kitten. Its solid black coat showed only a few random white hairs, rather than the undercoat of pearly white that made Imp special, and it had long white boots and gauntlets. And Imp had a full-length tail, whereas this kitten had half a tail.
It was tame and friendly. It had obviously been a pet--probably an indoor pet, none too pleased to have been banished into the woods on a freezing cold night.
And its left eye was clogged. Most members of the Patchnose family had that ugly symptom of a minor disease, at or before that age. They've inherited only partial immunity; the kittens get it from their mothers and suffer the symptoms for a few weeks after being weaned. When I know where a kitten got the disease, and know that it's a virus with effects on kittens comparable to mononucleosis in humans, I don't worry about it. Humans don't get it, and cats don't die from it. When I see similar symptoms in a strange cat I wonder whether it's the mild virus my cats have passed on down the line for years, or maybe distemper, which isn't quite analogous to AIDS for cats but close to it, or FIV, which is comparable to AIDS.
Either way, here's this cute little girl cat, three or four months old--old enough that, having the Manx gene, she ought to have been spayed before meeting my male kittens, because social cats bond with their mates. She's obviously not feeling very good, and last night, the first freeze we've had in two weeks, was probably also the first night or part of a night she's spent outdoors. And I had to wonder whether some little girl human has been crying for her cute, fluffy, friendly Christmas kitten all day.
And I also have to wonder whether my adult cats have been vaccinated against whatever disease this kitten has, or whether my half-grown kittens have any resistance to it.
And although luckily I did have enough kibble to feed her, away from my cats, I don't have enough prepaid phone minutes to post a photo of this kitten.
Cat Sanctuaries exist to offer food and shelter to any cat in need. This cat obviously deserved a better home than she's lost...but how the [BLOODY BLUE BLAZES] did scumbag imagine he or she "knew" that I could afford to feed another cat? Or have the appropriate tests and vaccinations done? Or get her spayed, as I believe all Manx cats should be? Where did scumbag get the idea that I was even at home?
The way to surrender a cat, even to a natural free-range Cat Sanctuary, is to ask the human or humans in advance. Y'might, f'rinstance, find out whether they have a place to keep a sick kitten warm--which I don't, currently. Adult cats and spring kittens are fine in the earth-temperature cellar, but little kittens need warmth even when they're not fighting a virus. And it's also a good idea to bring along at least a few days' supply of whatever the cat's been eating.
Really. As Sisawat says: grrrrrowl. May the next animal scumbag meets bite scumbag right where it will hurt worst.
(This terribly cute picture of a healthy adult cat came from Morguefile and does not look like our new kitten.)
As of September, Inky is still living at the Cat Sanctuary. I don't think she's truly social; she's had kittens, none of whom lived long enough to eat solid food; she gets along reasonably well with the resident cats and humans, but I think everyone might be happy if she and Tickle were adopted together while they're still adolescents. As with all Cat Sanctuary cats, there's no adoption fee, although so far the cats have gladly accepted all donations of cat food (and I've gladly accepted all offers to help with transportation and veterinary care). Adopters do have to convince me that they're offering the cats a good home. Children, seniors, other animals, low income, and/or a belief that animals should live a natural outdoor life, are not problems with the Cat Sanctuary, though, as they are with the Humane Cat Genocide Society. With some cats, including Tickle, I'd have reservations about adopters who want an indoor pet to share an apartment...I think Inky could be happy sharing an apartment with the right sort of human, or humans.)