Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rescuerama: A Mystery in Progress – Part 3

“Hello?” asked a female voice through the phone. “You left a note on my door about a cat?”

Well, I’d left a note on the only front door of the duplex, which opened into a foyer between two apartments. “Yes—”

“I don’t have a cat. You’ve got the wrong address. I’ve lived here for a long time and I’ve never had a cat.”

Hmm. The cat isn’t very old; her lodging at this address couldn’t have predated the woman’s residence there. Was the microchip info a sham? Who adopts an animal and lies about their identity?

Oh, right. Students do. This is a university town and, as in many other university towns across the U.S., students miss their pets at home, pick out new pets at local shelters, then bend the truth a bit in order to get around restrictions for adopters. Later, each spring when students return to their parents’ homes for the summer break, they leave behind (read: abandon) their adopted pets. But that’s another story.

“—moved in two months ago and her cat is always getting into my side of the basement…” The woman on the phone was talking again and I was trying to make sense of it. Next I heard, “She let the cat out and told me she hoped it would find a new home.”

Excuse me? Did I hear that right? She didn’t WANT the cat anymore so she simply opened a door and nudged the cat OUTSIDE?

The woman on the phone warned that if I returned the cat to her neighbor, the “rehoming” process would just start again. She needn’t have worried. As far as I was concerned, her neighbor shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, get the cat back.

Now what? As I wrote earlier, the shelter the cat came from would take her in again. But my new focus was the woman who put her outside. Should I report her to animal control for endangering an animal? Should I report her to the animal shelter for reneging on her commitment to care for the feline?

Furious, I stewed over this for the better part of the evening. I wanted to scream at that woman just as I’d screamed at the fellow who slammed his pooch onto the ground, back first.

On the other hand, the cat in my arms was healthy and sweet and clean. She may not have known how to play with toys, or didn’t care to, but that’s hardly a sign of neglect. She couldn’t get enough of our affections, yet that doesn’t mean she’d been deprived of attention before. It appeared the only wrong move her guardian had made was sending her outdoors.

As I puzzled through the possibilities, the phone rang. It was the cat’s neighbor. Again.

“You’re not going to believe this—”

Try me, I thought.

“But my neighbor’s cat came back.”

Hunh? “Excuse me?”

“Her cat—his name is Piper—just came home, so the cat you have isn’t hers.”

“Oh.” Geez. Now what? I still had to find the guardian of the cat in my house AND I felt compelled to help poor Piper. “Please tell your neighbor to take Piper to a shelter. If she can’t or won’t do it, please tell her I’ll do it for her. But she should NOT put Piper outside again.”

“Yes, I’m going to have a talk with her after she gets her kids in bed.”

“Okay. Call if you need me. And thank you so much for letting me know about Piper.”

I was still angry. I know I’m bucking an age-old mythology* that cats want to be outside, that they can survive fine on their own. They do, and they can. But unless we—as the guardians responsible for keeping our cats safe and healthy—can protect our cats while they’re outside, we owe it to our cats to keep them inside.

So how did Djuna get outside? Was she put there or had she escaped? I wouldn’t know until I found her guardian, and that meant getting a name. We would have to return to the vet and beg for more information.

Until then, more lollygagging was in order.

to be continued…

* I’ve since learned from a retired animal cruelty investigator that letting a cat fend for itself outside is legal in the Bluegrass. (Not so for a dog, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it.) So apparently anyone can adopt a cat and then turn it outside to make its own way. No food, no water, no interaction, no medical care. We have responsibilities toward dogs but not cats? It may be legal, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

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