One recent morning, well before sunrise, my cat Squeaky woke me up. The back door leading out on to my lanai is right next to the window near my bed, and I could hear Squeaky fiddling with the cat latch at the bottom of the door. Sometimes it takes her a few times before she pushes the latch open and climbs through, happy to be back in the warm house. Usually she then jumps on my bed, climbs on top of my chest, and starts purring.
And as she did that, I felt absolutely enraged.
Now, I wasn’t angry at Squeaky for waking me – falling back asleep isn’t a problem – or for jumping on the bed. I like that. In fact, I love Squeaky because she’s one of those cats that absolutely craves affection, and I’m always happy to have another opportunity to pet her and provide her with that loving, even if it does come about just as I’m trying to get some sleep after a long, exhausting day.
No, what bothered me is that for a moment, I had this vision in my head of Squeaky being alone in the house, and there is no cat latch to let her go outside. Instead, she’s simply stuck in there.
Considering that on this particular night temperatures dropped down into the 30s, you might ask, What’s the big deal? What was haunting me at that moment, as Squeaky purred wildly to be sitting on me, is I couldn’t help but think about a press release I’d received the previous day from Niki Whisler, who is Osceola County’s Public Safety public information officer. It caught my attention; it also happened to infuriate me. It involved Osceola County Animal Control’s investigation of the death of an abandoned cat.
According to the news release, it started on Dec. 1, when Animal Control got a call about a cat inside a vacant home in Poinciana. An Animal Control Officer was sent to the house, and was able to see through the windows that the poor cat was roaming around alone in the house.
The officer made several attempts to determine if the cat’s owner was inside the home, unsuccessfully, so the officer left the property and began the process of getting a search warrant to legally enter the residence.
That search warrant was issued, but it took several days for the officer to track down the owner of the property and then to get the property manager to let the officer into the home. When the animal control officer finally got inside, the cat was dead.
At the same time, the officer noticed there was still food and water in the cat’s bowls and that its litter box was full, indicating that the cat had been eating.
The cat was transported to a local animal lab to have a necropsy performed, and the examiner determined the nine-year-old cat had died from kidney failure and feline hepatitis, not starvation.
There are a lot of reasons to be angry about this report. Osceola County’s budget has been decimated by the collapse in the housing market and the resulting drop in home values and property tax receipts, and the county could hardly afford to pay for valuable resources to be spent like this when the owner of the home could simply have made arrangements for the pet to be taken care of.
A counter argument could be that if the cat still had food in its dish, it probably hadn’t been abandoned. But if that’s the case, why was the home vacant? And how long had the cat been lying there dead before the officer found it? Possibly up to three days, it seems. Perhaps the cat’s life could have been prolonged, even for a little while, if the officer had gotten into the house on the first day, when it was still alive.
When Squeaky came into my life, she was a stray that wandered onto my back porch and discovered the food I’d left outside for my own cats. Feeling bad for this hungry-looking stray, I gave her some canned cat food, then hoped she would disappear by morning, because boy was she cute, and I’m a total sucker for cats like that.
When I went to bed that first night, Squeaky was still outside on my back porch, watching me through the window.
When I got up the following morning, I went to the back door, opened it, and … there she was, still lying there. As soon as she saw me, she sat up and cried.
So I picked this cat up in my arms, and I cradled her, and I began gently scratching her belly. Sometimes a stray will get scared when touched by a stranger and run. But this one didn’t. Instead, Squeaky began purring wildly, then curled up in my arms like a baby.
That was it. I was hopelessly in love with this cat. With her soft, squeaking cry for affection, I decided to call her Squeaky.
She had also been fixed, so it was clear Squeaky had belonged to someone else at some point. That was five years ago, and no one has ever tried to claim her, so I can only come to the inescapable conclusion that Squeaky had been abandoned by someone. At least they didn’t lock her alone in the house and drive off.
I’ve heard a lot of stories like this, of people who pack up and move, and simply toss their cats aside, leaving them behind. Those cats are left to fend for themselves, hoping they find a Mike Freeman willing to put food out for them. Since I can’t adopt every stray I see, Squeaky become one of the lucky ones that got taken in permanently.
And as she sat there on top of me that frigid morning, trying to get warm and looking, as usual, for a little affection, I couldn’t help have that ugly flash in my mind of what she would have done if Squeaky had found herself alone in this house, unable to get out, totally abandoned.
Why do we do such a cruel thing?
Contact Mike Freeman at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.