A woman from my church left town rather quickly, for reasons I won’t go into, and left behind five cats. Since I have experience with cats and connections to shelters, I volunteered to help figure out what to do about the situation. They were scheduled to be euthanized last week, an understandable response by some people in the congregation wanting to help. I intervened, however, in order to see if there was another option since the cats could have some more years ahead of them.
The situation is that the cats are aged 5, 6, and three over the age of 10. The six year old is currently living with us, can be an indoor cat, and we’ll find her a permanent home. She is very friendly and the shelter we work with kindly paid for her health care.
I’ve struggled a lot about what to do with the others. At first, I thought that the kindest thing to do would be to euthanize them, given that they cannot be indoor cats and they are older. They’ve always lived outside, and are quite skiddish, although not wild. But, of course, after I saw them, and spoke with someone else who is involved in caring for them, it seemed perhaps easiest to euthanize them, but not really necessary.
It has raised issues for me about how much energy can/should be put into caring for abandoned animals, and what is a reasonable cost for health care for animals that are abandoned and older. Given that so many humans lack in basic needs, how much is justifiable to spend on non-human animals? But, this argument carried to its logical conclusion would mean that we would spend no money on animals because ALL the money spent on animals could be used to meet unmet human needs – food, health care, shelter.
I posted to the UFETA (Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and it sparked quite a debate about the best thing to do in such a situation – some claiming that the most compassionate thing to do is to euthanize them, and others insisting that just because an animal is older and abandoned doesn’t diminish the worth of his or her life and that I should take pains to make sure they are cared for. Many suggested getting in touch with shelters for help and funding, not realizing that every single shelter is overburdened with animals and underfunded. It isn’t like you can just call people up and – viola! – you get the resources you need. This has been a huge effort thus far and it isn’t like I can just dedicate days to caring for abandoned cats.
I’m still not sure it is the best answer, but someone from church volunteered their barn as a place where the kitties can live out their remaining years. Our shelter will provide a little insulated kitty hut and food for them. However, they all need check-ups to make sure they are not in pain or carrying disease. I don’t want people to feel at all pressured, but if you feel so inclined to help the little guys out, you can make a paypal donation to my paypal account (email elizabeth199 at gmail dot com if you want the paypal email). Although I can’t imagine getting more than what the cost is to get basic shots and check-ups for four cats, if that would happen, I would just donate the rest to the shelter we voluneer for.
I welcome feedback/wisdom on how to proceed with the kitties, and also thoughts on the broader ethical issue of how to use scarce resources of time and money. I know I could dedicate my whole life to caring for abandoned cats in just the Boston area – as many volunteers from our shelter do – and only make a dent. There seems to be such a black hole of need for time and resources for all causes. I suppose we can all just do all we can do…
Much peace, Elizabeth