This week has been defined by its ever shifting dilemmas:
Last weekend saw a high of us having Jack safe and indoors. In contrast, Thursday night brought a sleepless night of Jango back and forth to the litter tray with cystitis and Sooty vomiting every hour or so – a particularly acute issue since he sleeps on my pillow.
Taking Jack indoors didn’t feel particularly like an ethical dilemma … he’s been visiting our garden as a stray for several years, is visibly neglected and at that point appeared to have a wound on his arm and was shaking. If anything it felt like we were in the wrong for NOT taking him in before … a cat rescue taking in cats from all over the county and beyond, but not helping the stray in the yard. The practicalities and his rare appearances had made it impossible before as his visits can be months apart. The chances of this co inciding with us having a rescue room free … something which happens for usually less than 24 hours every few weeks.
However, we were depriving him of his liberty and planning to take him to be neutered. Facebook groups throw up many vehement comments about neutering ……. “how would you feel if you weren’t allowed to have children?” Let’s not even go there just now. We can live with that charge. Jack is a cat not a human daddy, biologically driven to reproduce, but with little desire to see it through from taking paternity leave to paying university fees and beyond. Gorgeous as any baby Jacklets might be …. there really are too many already born kits out there needing homes.
What did make it more complicated though was a response to my post in a local forum about Jack saying that they thought he ‘belonged’ to an elderly man who was struggling to take care of himself, never mind the cat. Ah! So he could be ‘owned’ by someone who may be very attached to him, though clearly wasn’t caring for him adequately. So which is more important? The human’s attachment or the cat’s care? In an ideal situation, perhaps our rescue could help support the man in caring for Jack, but what if he just demanded him back and refused help? That got resolved by the lovely people on the allotments tracing the old guy and finding that Jack did not belong to him.
So Jack goes off to be neutered and health checked and the wound on his arm is found to be a mixture of torn claw and some sort of non-specific pink stain. He’s ok, chipped so if he’s found to not be ok he can find his way back to us. Is it ok to still deprive him of his liberty and keep him in the rescue room? Equally, is it ok to put him back outside given that he doesn’t have someone specifically to care for him? Is it better to put him back outside in the area he knows or to try to find somewhere else – unfamiliar but with someone who will look out for him? How on earth to weigh these factors up?
Hmm … so we decide to just let things settle, wait a while, see how it pans out with Jack being indoors, if we might be able to get a very local home for him where he can revert to living out on the allotments if he chooses to. Jack sits on the windowsill all day most days, hisses when we come in to the room but calms down once he realises who it is, and enjoys being brushed and stroked.
However, then Wednesday evening Jango, one of our resident boys, doesn’t seem right, and Thursday night is on and off the litter tray with what we believe is stress induced cystitis all night. Is it fair to put our residents through this distress in order to help a stray cat? Hugely protective of Jango, painfully responsible for Jack. Which is more important? Will it get better as the tom cat smell subsides after neutering? Could Jang’s problem become more acute? And, as a bit of an afterthought … what about my needs to sleep and the impact on my patients in my day job when I’ve had no sleep?
Friday Jango goes to the vet and his bladder starts to settle a bit. Jack continues to hiss when we go into his room. Wouldn’t it be easier just to put him back on the allotments? He’s neutered now which will be better for his health in several ways, we know he’s not unwell, his arm is now fine, and he’s chipped to us so if he’s found unwell at some point we can be contacted and review things. Seriously, what can be the long term plan for a scruffy old tom cat? Is he “bed blocking”? Will it take so long to get him sorted that so many other needy cats are unable to have the rescue place? Wouldn’t he rather have his freedom again? And the weather is getting a little warmer…. we checked the forecast.
Saturday lunchtime we go into Jack’s room to try to think it through. Mostly its about thinking whether it would be better to put him in the carrier and take him to the allotments, or to open his bedroom door, and our front door, and shoo him out. He hisses and yowls his greeting as usual. Then something unusual happens: Jack shuffles down from his place on the windowsill, and straight onto my lap …… and for the first time whilst here, starts to purr…… his hand up on my shoulder and face rubbing against mine. Someone made of sterner stuff may be able to brush this aside and carry on with Plan A …… I however melted like putty in his paws …… so we’re now trying to work out Plan B.