This story has many beginnings, all dependent on what degree of fantasy the reader is inclined to accept and from whom. It does however, arrive at the same ending.
Once upon a time, a stray cat found its way to the doorstep of someone who thought that a little food would make everything better for the poor creature. Soon there are two cats and then three, and before long cute kittens. What was once a single needy cat has become a population of 10, 20 and more. All with the same desperate needs as those of the original visitor.
What started as an innocent act of compassion grew to become a problem too large to be fixed with a bowl of milk and a plate of food. If only the world were such that all the stray cats had homes where they were cared for and loved — one in which those who suggest they have concern for the well-being of these pitiful creatures, contributed the full measure of compassion and care. Not just the feel good effort of feeding them, then going back to their lives with a sense that they have made the world a better place. One in which they truly accepted the entire bundle of responsibilities that reflect an honest concern for the well-being and plight of these unfortunates.
It is simply not enough to have compassion without commitment. Feeding stray and homeless animals without addressing the health and reproductive elements that affect their lives and the environment they inhabit is animal cruelty of the worst kind because it is all too often misinterpreted as virtue.
The reality is that the availability of food affords the unimpeded growth of additional homeless and uncared for cats. This drama of life and death doesn’t play out in a vacuum. There are often humans, their pets, wild birds and other natural wildlife in these neighborhoods that must accommodate these growing populations who collectively become part of the collateral damage. Even an act of kindness requires the acceptance of responsibility. The compassionate hearts, in their effort to do something — anything — end up making the world of these animals and all around them, worse than before.
It comes as no surprise when the worlds of those who like to be referred to as “caregivers” collide with those residents of the area (most of whom are responsible pet owners). As the unrestricted cat population grows and its members need space to wander, hunt, sun themselves and fertilize without boundaries, what was once a single cat in apparent need is now lost in the anonymity of the many.
As any cat owner is aware, cats have numerous unique characteristics, one of which is the sharpening of their claws. It is the price one is willing to pay when it is your pet and your furniture. It becomes quite a different thing when the claw sharpener is the convertible car top or boat cover or outdoor furniture cushions used for that purpose.
People who are cat owners and true cat lovers clean up after their pets and define the acceptable locations for the litter box and these are generally not decks, sidewalks or gardens. When a resident finds that a visiting grandson can’t find sufficient space to bounce a basketball in the driveway without coming into contact with cat pooh and the paint on his car is peeling from cat regurgitation and other deposits, these trespassers can rightfully be considered pests and treated accordingly.
Surely it wasn’t the intent of the feral cat “caretaker” to have the experiment go wrong, but from the very beginning the compassionate thing to do was to get them fixed and checked out by a vet. Then you can invite them to their family, instead of making a neighborhood assume the responsibility they themselves shunned.
When emotions and hysteria are the fuel of a debate, logic is sucked from the equation. This provides the breeding ground for other forms of infestation, the uninformed, those in search of a cause and those in search of an economic opportunity. At that point, the “then do something — anything gang,” in search of a purpose or relevance, throws their energy and resources at the wrong target.
Instead of chasing headlines by harassing the police or the neighbor who was protecting his property, they should be more concerned with the well-being of the poor cats. They, after all, are the real victims of animal abuse, by the very people who only feed them and neglect all their other needs. From the numerous opinions of concern, voiced and printed, I would expect that some in that number are truly honest and sincere.
To them, I extend an invitation to come to Pitts Bayshore Drive with a trap and their good intent and give one or more of these cats or kittens a good and loving home. Possibly, Alley Cat Allies and their legal council will find time between their harassing efforts to lend a hand as well. Just about anybody here will be happy to direct you to locations where you can expect the most promising results.
Possibly, this story can have a happy ending, and the Walton County Police Department can deal with important matters without distraction.
Drew Dahl is a Freeport resident.