Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The luckiest FORMER barn cat

We've recently acquired a new family member: a 9 or 10-week-old kitten.  We weren't intending to get a third cat, and the only reason we did was because of this little one's sad story.  I really am a sucker for animals in need...

Anyway, a few weeks ago boarders at my barn started seeing a kitten.  I heard about it only in passing, and didn't think anything about it until two weeks ago, when I found a kitten in bad shape in a horse's stall.  I'd heard it mewing as I walked around the corner, and when the mewing intensified, I instinctively started looking around -- and spotted the kitten right behind the horse's hoof, struggling to get up.

Although the kitten was moving around when I first found it, something was obviously wrong (since it couldn't get up), and once I picked it up it quickly went downhill.  Its eyes were crossed and weren't blinking, its heartbeat and respiration were extremely slow, and its only response to me holding it was to open its mouth like it was trying to cry when I moved it around.  Other than that, it was like a rag doll.

I could find no obvious injury to it, though, so I took the kitten to an emergency vet near my house.  They put it on an IV and gave it some drugs to try to help stabilize its heartbeat, and although it did start breathing a little more easily, it wasn't really responding to the care.  By this point, its eyes were fully dilated and unresponsive to light, and the vet suspected head trauma (I think the horse may have started to step on its head while it was napping in the shavings, and got off when the poor thing started crying).  As much as it upset me to have to make the decision, I told the vet to go ahead and euthanize -- I didn't want (and wasn't really able) to spend a small fortune on more aggressive emergency care, not knowing whether the kitten would even make it.

But the next day, friends at the barn spotted another kitten -- and then I started hearing reports of people seeing the momma cat, too.  Since we had never had cats at the barn, it became obvious that someone had dropped off the momma along with a few of her kittens (probably keeping a couple for themselves, knowing how selfish people like that can be).  I decided to catch the kitten that was left, and hopefully the momma cat too, before anything bad happened to them.

We were going on vacation soon, but I was able to catch the kitten a little over a week ago, right before we left.  My mom took care of her while we were gone.  Unfortunately, no one has seen the momma cat since, and I suspect she either left or became coyote food (or both).  Our barn is right on the edge of an open space park and we frequently see coyotes there.

The kitten was a little skittish at first, but as quickly as she has become accustomed to, and even eager for, human interaction, it's clear that they weren't feral cats, but owned cats that someone dumped.  I have no doubt that someone dumped the momma and her kittens at the barn, thinking that they would live happily ever after as barn cats.  Evidently they didn't stop to consider what a hard life barn cats live, especially when they are strays, rather than cats that are fed in the barn and taught to stay close.  House-raised kittens don't know enough about horses to stay out from under their feet, not to mention they and their mother were at constant risk of being eaten by coyotes or the owl that lives on the property (probably the fate of the momma and one other kitten that hasn't been seen since they first appeared).

I hate it when people say "But that's natural for cats" or something to that effect.  That is the biggest bunch of BS, especially when it comes from horse owners: people who fence their horses in, feed them hay and grain, trim their feet, deworm them, give them shots, blanket them, and more often than not, provide them with a stall and soft bedding -- not to mention put a bit in their mouths and ride around on their backs!  How much of that is natural?  The "natural" reasoning, in my opinion, is nothing more than an excuse meant to justify someone's own selfish desires (such as having a cat around to catch mice) or reluctance to take care of an animal's needs.

This lucky little kitten will live the comfortable life of an indoor cat, just like my other two, who -- for the record -- are perfectly happy with that arrangement.  I only wish that her previous owners had done the right thing and found homes for their unwanted cat and kittens, so that the rest of them didn't have to die in order for this little one to find a home.



At October 31, 2012 at 3:32 PM, Blogger Camryn said...

Same thing happened here this spring. Found homes for all kittens but the one we kept along with Momma. Got her and baby both spayed. Momma did get bitten by something early on. My Vet actually mentioned after patching her up that most barn cats don't get vet care.

At October 31, 2012 at 8:34 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

No, they don't. Sadly, though, a LOT of cats don't get vet care, barns cats OR house cats... which is why so many people end up with unwanted litters of kittens. But that is another rant entirely.

At October 31, 2012 at 11:05 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

Not nice! But what a gorgeous looking kitten - I love the photo :)

There are a lot of irresponsible pet 'owners' out there!! Good on you for taking this young one in :)

At November 2, 2012 at 11:31 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Christine, thanks, I think she is adorable! She has a lot of personality and is a very pretty kitty. I will try to post some more photos soon... They are all iPhone photos, alas, but I do get some pretty cute ones!


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