Last week, a veterinarian in Texas allegedly wrote a social media post in which she suggested that the only good stray cat was a dead stray cat. And she illustrated that text with an (again, allegedly) image of her holding a cat by the end of an arrow she'd shot through his head.
As I read through the news coverage, I kept thinking about Troy, sound asleep on my desk. At one point in his life, he'd been a stray. What if he'd wandered into a hunter's yard? Would his body be dangling by the end of an arrow?
Those of us with cats have visceral reactions when we read about cruelty cases, but on Friday, I saw a few responses that just didn't seem helpful. Some people out there wanted to find this vet and harm her, even though she hasn't yet been proven guilty in a court of law. Others wanted to hurt the facility in which she worked, thinking that her colleagues must have condoned her behavior. Still others wanted to go after this woman's family, since they raised her to behave this way.
I'd like to point out that none of these responses will help the creatures we really care about. None of these reactions help cats.
So I get that people want to help. And I can think of 5 great ways to do just that.
1. Buy your local cat shelter a case of canned cat food.Animal shelters that accept cats are on the front lines of the cruelty protection fight. They take in cats no one wants, and they house them and feed them and care for them. That care can transform a "tom" into a beloved pet that can keep a family happy for years. You can help make that care easier by donating cat food. Even a case helps. Even a can helps.
2. Visit the cats in your shelter, and talk about them on social media.There are so many misconceptions out there about older cats, particularly cats that come with the "stray" label. People think these cats will be wild or sickly or somehow defective. In reality, these cats are indistinguishable from common house cats. They got separated from their people, and now they need new people. That's all. Visit just one or two in your shelter, and tell their stories. You just might convince someone to treat the stray in your neighborhood with a little more compassion.
3. Participate in a TNR program.Many people who don't like free-roaming cats dislike the rampant breeding that comes with a kitty colony. The spraying, the fighting and the yelling are too much for some to bear, and they respond by taking actions we cat lovers abhor. By participating in a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program, you can help. These programs allow communities to sterilize an entire colony of cats, so that group doesn't grow in size. That stable group is less fractious, and it's easier to care for the kitties that remain. Check out this website to find out more about TNRs in your area.
4. Spay and neuter your own cats.Just as participating in TNR programs reduces the size of cat communities close to your home, so does keeping your own pets sterile. Plus, cats that have been altered don't tend to roam, so if you do choose to let them outside, you won't lose them to the urge to wander. Cats that stay on your property are much less likely to become a nuisance to others, so altering really helps you to keep them safe.
5. Take in a cat in need.Strays are everywhere, and some are easy to care for (I do it myself). Create a safe place for kitty to rest (which can be as simple as a doghouse or as elaborate as an outbuilding), and provide fresh water and good food on a daily basis. If possible, trap that cat and have it altered and vaccinated. If not, keep working with the cat until it trusts you enough to hop into a carrier for a routine checkup.
I think it's important to speak out in these cat cruelty cases, so the global community knows that cats aren't considered expendable. But those of us who love cats are responsible for more than just cat-love talk. We also need to do our part to make the world a safer place for cats.
So go ahead: Get mad.
Then do something to help the cats in your community.
Your work might not change the world for all cats. But it'll change the world for some cats. And that's a worthwhile work.