The position of this web site is that the A.S.P.C.A. writers who described animal hoarders were confusing symptoms of (1) animal hoarding, (2) poverty, and (3) general incompetence. These are three distinct things. This web site does not encourage anyone to fuss about hippie types who "appear to be in neglect" or poor (or anti-yuppie) people whose homes may have "deteriorated." That is their business. Unless you know someone well enough to know whether their unmown lawn indicates that they have a broken hip, that their yardman has a broken hip, that they've let the yardman go because they can't afford to pay him, that they're losing memory and/or consciousness of external reality, or that they're making an anti-yuppie statement, your default assumption should be that it's an anti-yuppie statement. If their problem has anything to do with money, your focus should be on paying them for something they make, do, or sell, rather than bothering your head about their personal choices. And if you personally don't clean with ammonia and might not recognize the odor, the fastest way to become familiar with it is to visit a Humane Society shelter or, if lucky enough not to live near one, a nursing home.
Compare a HSUS shelter with this list! Hmm...what about "Animals succumb to contagious disease before your horrified eyes"? "Dead animal lying in cage; volunteer tries to rush past while babbling about the cat the shelter most wants to get rid of"? "Animals obviously doped out of their minds"? I've seen those things, too.
They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
· Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
· There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with [body secretions].
· Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.
· Fleas and vermin are present.
· Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect himself.
· Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.
Here's one way HSUS' cat genocide policy has made things worse for many well-meaning but increasingly incompetent animal lovers and their friends: outdoor cats do not look like Raggedy Ann. It’s good for everyone to make arrangements for the care of their pets in case "anything happens"—“anything” here meaning not only the owner’s death, but also the owner’s disability or prolonged illness. It’s easier to read an article with animal images as gruesome as some of these if you can say truthfully, “If anything happens to me, and my cats don’t wait to be rescued by the friend who promised to rescue them (or if something has happened to that friend first), my cats won’t end up looking like that.” If unable to feed a cat, nobody should hesitate to ask for help, but it’s better to turn the cat loose than to leave it in a cage.
Here are two ways we can help known or suspected animal hoarders:
1. Legally protect cats' right to roam outdoors and stay at the top of the local food chain. This benefits humans because, if cats are not at the top of the food chain, rats will be. It benefits cats because the hoarders can trust neighbors not to harm the cats, who may be all they have in the way of friends.
2. If you know someone who might be a cat hoarder, offer to help clean litter boxes. (Except for medical reasons, no cat should have to spend enough time in a cage that the cage needs special cleaning--routine dusting should suffice.) If the person says things like "Poor dear Fluffy and Snuggles have to be in cages because they fight constantly," you can reasonably say, without being a busybody, "Wouldn't they be happier in separate homes? I could take Snuggles home with me and you could visit him/her at my house." If the individual is less than optimally competent in some ways, such as memory or mobility, but is not a true animal hoarder, s/he will be delighted by any help offered to resolve the problems of practical pet care--as distinct, of course, from busybodies barging in to put all the animals in a shelter!
As a friend you can make sure the animals get adequate food and exercise, without the built-in hazards of empowering a Nanny-State-like organization to meddle in anybody's domestic arrangements. We should never imagine that any agency, whether it's a government or an alleged nonprofit organization, can substitute for any individual, personal act of charity such as protecting animals from being unknowingly harmed by animal hoarders. Authorizing strangers to oversee any aspect of anyone's home life, no matter how much harm it might prevent in one case, ensures that more harm will be done in many other cases.
While reading the two Mudpie posts last night (I took them home to read after going offline) I was also thinking about Mimm, another calico cat in Vermont discussed at the Mudpie blog last week. Because Mimm has a "personal ad" page up on Petfinder, I'd e-mailed her foster humans to ask whether they'd ever received a legitimate reply from Petfinder--I used it once and got only spam and scam replies. They have not given up hope. Mimm is still up for adoption. She's ten years old and described by those who know and love her as what I'd summarize as a Cranky Yankee Cat, but doesn't she have a winning face? Wouldn't somebody out there want to live with a cat as cute as this?
"Heather," I said to the Queen of the Cat Sanctuary, whose coat shows distinct "calico" patches of orange, black, and cream below and is "heathered" or "tortoiseshell" above. "Would you want a cat who is twice your age to move in with us?"
"Is there any more chicken?" Heather nonverbally replied.
"What do you think of this picture?" I said.
"Nobody I know," Heather said.
"That's a living cat who's the same age as your great-grandmother, if your great-grandmother is still alive," I said, having lost touch with Polly over the years.
"I never knew her, either," Heather said. "You know I'm starting to acquire a taste for sunflower seeds."
"You look as if you could use some pumpkin seeds," I said.
"Yes, I could! Have you got any?" Heather is not one of those cats who really like squashes. (I used to live with a cat who was so keen on squashes that she even ate cucumbers and cantaloupe.) She is, however, familiar with pumpkin seeds, which Grandma Bonnie Peters used to use in Veggie Burgers. After GBP closed her Test Kitchen and stopped manufacturing the burgers, she had a lot of raw pumpkin seeds left. For years she sent packets of ground pumpkinseed meal to all the pet owners she knew. Pumpkin seeds freeze so well that even a year ago the last few batches of thawed-out seeds tasted about as good as the slow-moving snack-packs of pumpkin seeds I used to buy in the city. They're nutritious (for cats, dogs, or humans) and also a painless natural treatment for intestinal worms.
"I wish I had."
"You shouldn't lead people on that way," Heather said with a withering look.
"Some cats," I said, "not only don't get pumpkin seeds on demand, or even regular kibble on demand, but are kept in cages so they can't even catch a cricket."
"Some cats should make better use of their teeth and claws." Heather flexed the six claws on her left fore paw.
"Some cats have lost their claws...and even their teeth, like poor Raggedy Ann."
"Oh well, she can't have long to live anyway, can she?" Heather began cleaning traces of chicken broth off her fur.
"Would you want to be e-friends with other calico cats, Heather?"
"You and I are friends." Heather plopped onto my lap and licked my finger. "Now you rub behind my ear, and I lick your finger, and so on, until all the chicken broth is gone. That's what friends are for. They share food, and then they help each other wash the last traces of food off. What are e-friends for?"
"Sometimes e-friends buy things for each other. Sometimes we help each other find the things we want, and the things our cat friends want."
"What's this Mimm going to help us find?"
"Who knows? Maybe we're going to help her find a home of her own."
"Fine with me," Heather purred. "Is it a good long way from here?"
"Well, Mimm is in Vermont. There are thousands, maybe millions, of places that might be good for her, between Vermont and here."
"Excellent. Now rub behind the other ear."
"Or someone might want to rescue this extraordinary-looking calico cat in Atlanta."
"A little lower down," Heather directed.
"There are people who might want to find out whether another cat could be as polychromatic and as polydactylous as you are, and, if so, whether that cat could be as delightful to know as you are."
"Do you think that's possible?"
"Probably not for me, because I know you. For other humans who don't know you, who knows?" I had to wait until I was online again today to find this polydactyl languishing in a shelter in North Carolina.
Will that "Tickles" cat understand words, adopt kittens, rear kittens communally with another cat, hunt as a team with other cats, or help some human figure out some quirk in the human's computer? Is she a peacemaker, something North Carolina obviously needs now? Is her personality permanently damaged by her regrettable shelter experience? There's only one way to find out, Gentle Readers.
This polydactyl "tortie" is absolutely not up for adoption.
|Heather as a year-old kitten|
"Why are you so interested in all those other animals that don't even live near us?" Heather asked, loosening a flake of chicken from her white bib.
"Well, recently I e-met a nice dog whose human wanted to do something nice for you cats. Can't say for sure yet, but I think Barkley's human may have done something nice for all of you. If Barnie isn't very ill, there might be enough money for her medicine, for worm treatments all round, and maybe even enough to make sure poor little Inky won't have a lot of sickly Manx kittens next spring, as well! Barkley's human wants to be an e-friend to animals that don't even live near her."
"Sounds like the nice kind of human...like Adayahi?"
"Well...if torties, calicos, and polydactyls are considered special breeds or types of cats, then veterans, like Adayahi and +LB Johnson , are a special breed or type of human. The rest of us thank them just for being veterans."
"I thank Adayahi for bringing in cat food, but...oh well, whatever," Heather purred. "I think I'll go and wash young Violet's face now. That's what friends are for."
|Irene's one surviving kitten, now about twice this size, is not up for adoption either...but I saw a similarly cute face on Petfinder! Check it out!|