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Native Writes: The dilemma of too many pets

Posted: Friday, Apr 26th, 2013

Last week, I kept my promise to the grandkids that when I retired, I would get a kitten.

I didnít fully retire, but I fully became a kittenís person. People donít own cats, cats own people.

His coloring is unique. Black and white spotted, he has a mask, so the grandkids named him Zorro.

The name fits him. So far, he has ďkilledĒ my slippers, slain the throw rug, climbed up my leg and effectively kept me from reading the newspaper.

With an innocent look on his face, he sat back and yawned after he was picked up and moved to another spot in the house.

The strategy involved in the newspaper caper is amazing. First, he climbs onto my lap, then he chews at the edge of the paper before bounding onto the paper, turning onto his back and stretching out to his full length. I observe that he is still about a month away from the once in a lifetime trip to the vet.

Zorro will not be an outdoor cat and he isnít interested in going out. He stays about a foot away from me whenever I am up and moving around the house, and then he sleeps wherever he wants to. At night, itís as close to me as he can manage.

But he isnít afraid to show emotions. I think all cats are expressive.

A cat belonging to my youngest son ignored him for several weeks after his mandatory trip to the vet, and sat down every so often to look at and lick the spot where evidence of his maleness once hung.

It is my belief that, unless one is a professional breeder, there is no excuse not to have a pet spayed or neutered.†

I have to send kudos to Donna Ditmore and her crew, who are working to capture, vaccinate and spay or neuter all feral cats in the area. Cats, though equipped with sharp claws than can rip the skin of an enemy, are vulnerable due to their size.

While my kitty is spoiled, safe and in need of nothing, there are kittens and cats starving to death, being eaten by coyotes in the rural areas and on the edge of town, or falling prey to stray dogs, running in packs before someone tips off the dog catcher.

People seem to be selective about what makes them unhappy. Feral cats covered with fleas, stray dogs limping from injuries suffered at the hands of humans, the wheels of cars or other wild canines, and the stiff remains of a defenseless animal lying alongside the road should be proof enough.

Talking about my kitten with a friend who lives in a very rural area, I asked what happens to cats who are dropped off at rural homes by people who either donít like them or donít want to be bothered by them. Kittens and puppies outgrow the ďcuteĒ stage rather quickly and their uncommitted humans ditch them. My friend said outdoor cats donít live very long in her neck of the woods. She can hear coyotes howling at night, and I can hear the same mournful sound, even though I live in town.

Itís especially bad as the school year draws to a close. The little canine fur ball who was so much fun in an off-campus, collegiate apartment grows into an awkward adolescent who needs more food, more care and a larger place to play, so he or she becomes a stray, dumped out in the rural area.

The same thing happens with kittens and cats.†

Beloved and pampered for a while, they find themselves alone alongside a country road, foraging for food or becoming dinner for another animal.

Dogs face the same dangers, and they are not alone.

I have recently been made aware of pet horses who are being turned out onto the vast prairies to fend for themselves, not knowing how to do it and eventually falling prey to the dangers of nature or the aggressiveness of predators.

And I wonder what would happen to the heartless humans who put them there, should they be stranded in the wild.

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