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Park Cat Rescue
Just a few of the abandoned cats at RiverPark
Thrown away, abandoned and left behind, the Park Cats have 2 angels
PARK CAT RESCUE
This has been a trying month. My friend, Sherrell, alerted me to the Park cats and their plight. Not wanting to face another situation of animal suffering and neglect, I avoided the cats and the park for several weeks. When Sherrell described the hunger and lack of shelter the cats faced; I wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper, and researched laws pertaining to animal abandonment. I felt a strong desire to help, but wasn’t ready to actually see it first hand.
MY DEAR FRIEND LEADS ME A"STRAY"
Shortly thereafter, Sherrell and I went out for lunch and, on the way back to town, she said she wanted to check on the park cats. I did not want to deal with it but I also was not about to tell her, “no, I can’t do this..” We turned off the main street, onto the road leading to the entry to the Park.
She drove up to a small parking area next to a grassy, rolling expanse which was surrounded with flowering shrubs, iris, and other foliage, large trees and a meandering stream. The place was so pretty and inviting.
As we exited the car, Sherrell began calling out to the cats while shaking a bag of dry cat kibble. She also had several cans of cat food along with a container to serve the cats their meal.
Upon hearing her voice, cats started appearing from north, south, east and west. Gingerly they approached at first, but as she spoke, they ran up to an area where she had been leaving food. There were old males, young males, older females and kittens of all sizes and colors. I counted 15 the first visit.
CATS! CATS! EVERYWHERE....BUT NOT A BITE TO EAT
My first reaction was delight as they magically began emerging from bushes, behind rocks, out of hallowed, hardened logs and beneath the old wooden walkway that spans a meandering spring which is fed by seasonal rains. Much like the opening scene in the play CATS; these stealth felines approached. Soon, however, my mind began to race; the weather is cold; freezing at times, and the kittens were so young….there was no shelter from ice and freezing rain and howling wind.
How could this be? In the middle of the beautiful park were well over a dozen cats.
As I looked closer I saw that several of the grown males were injured with wounds most likely gotten through territorial fighting and the desire to dominate lesser males when an available female had come into season. The condition of one big guy, in particular, was alarming; his right ear a mangled, oozing, festering sore. Sherrell had told me of him and her attempts to apply some kind of antibiotic ointment to the ear. She was successful... once.
Another, a gorgeous long haired all white male had lost most of his fur and was limping noticeably.
There were several females of varying ages . I could not bear the thought of more kittens being born into such an unsafe and uncertain environment. Though on the surface the scene was idyllic; just below that surface was potential harm; unchecked illness, unwanted kittens, injury, disease, exposure to inclement weather and possibly a long, suffering death. And, it was very difficult to understand how people could witness without acting; the pending catastrophe of even more cats being born in the park as well as the injury and illness which seemed, to me, to be so obvious.
SERIOUSLY, NOW...WE MUST FIND A WAY TO HELP
Sherrell and I devised a plan. We’d use her Hav-a-Hart humane trap and begin to catch one cat at a time. We both took our own cats to the same Veterinarian Hospital so, we decided we’d take each cat, upon capture, to be tested, vaccinated and spayed or neutered with the intent to return the cat(s) to the park. She was preparing for a move out of state and Al and I have far too many kitties, already. We’d start a capture, spay/neuter & release program; the first of it’s kind here.
As it turns out, we were successful in nabbing a cat a day, practically. We’d call our local Animal Hospital with the announcement that we had another cat. They were and are very open to our bringing in these strays without much notice or prior appointment. One by one, each cat we were able to grab - safely and with no harm done to the kitty - we hoped to save if nothing unexpected came up. 6 lives out of 10 were savable. The two older, injured males were beyond our help. The cat’s infected ear was actually an advanced case of cancer which had spread to many areas and he also tested positive for Feline HIV-Aids. The beautiful white guy was also Aids positive and had an aggressive skin disease which caused his fur to fall out. Both cats were quite feral so, there was no way we could give them the necessary antibiotics and interferon plus they were highly contagious and could spread the diseases readily. Considering all this, the difficult decision was made for humane euthanasia as, any efforts on our part to prolong life would only be short lived, at best. Feline Aids destroys the immune system, leaving the victim subject to all kinds of infection and illness. One pretty female was quite old, though pregnant, but with a horrible debilitating disease which was about to erupt full scale . (We trusted then, and continue to rely on our compassionate Veterinarian 100%). When she told us the loving decision was to end the suffering, we knew she had tried everything possible to avoid this but, in the end; it was the most humane decision. She, too, could not be saved. The 4th loss was a big, burly black male who also had Aids and had been beaten up so badly that there was no hope for him, either. Though heartbreaking, we had no other loving choice. (Their bodies rest beneath huge cedar trees on my farm).
HOPE AND A NEW HOME FOR THE LUCKY ONES
One small, pale yellow male was disease free and so, he was quickly vaccinated and neutered. Four females also tested negative and were given their shots and spayed.
All 6 “saved kitties” now live on the farm with Al, me and our other kitties. The 4 female kittens and small pale yellow male are litter mates; the fifth girl, who is extremely shy, has no ’relatives’ but is secure and well cared for, living in our large downstairs bathroom. Though I did not intend to keep the kitties; I could not imagine returning them to the park without a definite, established program designed to keep them safe, well fed and from having more kittens. They are: Kiwi, Rascal, Sugar, Spice, Little Boy and Heidi.
WHAT TO DO NEXT...STEPS TO SAVE ABANDONED CATS
I decided to write a letter to all the Veterinarians in the area as well as the City Commissioners, Mayor, Park Manager, local animal shelter, several individuals whom I knew would be interested and the organization that monitors the animals at the Park which also hosts a zoo. Their emphasis is on the zoo animals ( I must interject here that I do not support zoos. I do support aiding and saving endangered species but, not in the typical zoo "carnival like" atmosphere) but, I thought, why not include the park cats in their program? My detailed plan outlined how many clubs and organizations could work together to help the park cats while avoiding total responsibility to fall on any one group. This seemed the most manageable and acceptable after having accrued a sizable Veterinarian tab due to my personal responsibility towards the cats.
Following the letter, I made an appointment to speak before the Commissioners at their weekly meeting. I explained how many citizens would gladly volunteer to build an attractive shelter at the park, how children and adults, alike, enjoyed the capers and behavior of the cats and that, under no circumstances, should these animals be harmed or ‘eradicated’ in any way as they did not choose to be abandoned in the park. I continued w/a list of things which could be done to stop animal dumping in the park, citing a Kansas statute which carries a stiff $2,500 fine and up to a year in prison . I suggested the city post signs at key points as well as high tech surveillance equipment and 24 hour park personnel presence to supervise activities. Since the park has had an escalating problem of graffiti, garden destruction, window breaking, drinking and drug use; I felt a multifold purpose could be served by installing sophisticated equipment. Further, I invited all interested parties to participate, so that the onus would not fall on one entity and there would always be enough concerned individuals to maintain the safety and welfare of the park cats. I also assured wildlife enthusiasts that a well fed cat is a sated cat is a ‘cat who does not hunt.’ I stressed spaying and neutering as a preventative measure, along w/vaccinations for all cats seen in the park, as long as no harm comes to them in efforts to capture them. I offered my help at every step of the process.
I await further information. After speaking w/the Commissioners who, by the way, were very attentive and non judgmental; I look forward to hearing from several of the groups to which I pled for the cats’ wellbeing.
I hope the information here will help others who are trying to save animals and who may find many hurdles along the way. Sometimes, it takes approaching the issue from various angles; using all avenues available to achieve your goal. Don't give up the good fight.
I will keep everyone updated on these efforts. In the meantime, we continue to feed and attempt to nab the remaining cats we’re aware of who reside at the park in SE Kansas.