We put my mother’s 16-year-old cat, Hazel, to sleep on Saturday. It was rough. We’re going to miss her.
The emotions I have had since range from a deep guttural sadness to a quiet desperation.
Moments before we put Hazel down, I caught sight of one of the many “cutesy” signs the vet had hanging in the waiting area. It featured a dog holding a sign that read: “I like cats. They taste like chicken.”
There is a time and a place for a sign like that, maybe. That place is not a veterinary clinic and the time isn’t seconds before putting a cat to sleep.
But that sign set me off.
After we put Hazel down, I spent an unhealthy amount of time irrationally trying to figure out how I can personally put an end to all animal suffering, specifically when it comes to the abuse of felines. It’s not that Hazel was abused – quite the opposite. Hazel had a great life, she was pampered with human food, cradled with love, scritched. Hazel was happy.
Seeing her leave this world knocked the wind out of me. While she lived a great, easygoing 16 years other cats were abused or ignored. I’ve always known this, but somehow since Saturday it has crippled me. The weight of it is suffocating. (I am not going to link to any hideous fodder filled with stories of animal abuse. Just know that here in New York, we have a fair share of horror.)
What can I do? What can we do?
I love animals, but cats hold a special place in my heart. Yet for many people and for whatever reason cats seem to be the easiest animal to hate. I read recently that while there is an even number of cat lovers to dog lovers out there, for whatever reason people who hate cats, really, really hate them. People who aren’t fond of dogs simply ignore them. Cats are abused more often, neglected, and for whatever reason truly despised by more people.
That said, I think it’s OK that my loyalty lies with the felines.
I thought about starting The Murray Fund, where every last cent goes to cats in need. But then I get overwhelmed by the possibilities. There are just SO MANY animal groups out there who need attention.
Where would The Murray Fund go? Would it go to the group responsible for keeping him alive when he was a kitten? Should it change every month? Would I even collect anything?
The idealist in me wishes I had the power to spay and neuter every stray and feral cat alive. I’d make sure that every shelter cat be given a warm home, and I’d mercilessly destroy anyone who knowingly and deliberately abuses or tortures another living creature. I know that doesn’t make me a very good human, but I’m tired of being afraid to speak my mind.
I’m writing today out of that quiet desperation I mentioned earlier. What can I do to make sleeping easier?
I can’t even deal with all the hate and abuse out in the world anymore — I lunge for the remote when even a hint of an animal abuse story comes across the screen and I change the channel on commercials for animal rights groups (even those I support and contribute to!) because I can’t take any more. I contribute to Women for Women International. This isn’t a plug for them, although it is an awesome organization. I think you could organize The Murray Fund in a similar way. I contribute monthly and sponsor a woman for a year. When she graduates from their program, I am assigned to a new woman, sometimes in the same area, sometimes in an entirely different country of need. If you could organize sponsors who were willing to contribute regularly, whatever the sum of money, you could rotate the shelters and animal rescue organizations who benefitted from your funds. I don’t know if you were really serious about a fund or not, but the minute I read it I loved it. My cats are rescues, too, and every day I am amazed that anyone could have given them up and treated them the way they were treated — but I also know it’s their loss. I get all the love and kneading and hilarity, just like you do with Murray. Good luck figuring it all out!
I am very, very serious. There are few things I am consistently passionate about, this is one of those things. Also, I love this organization you speak of! Plug away. I learn from it. (So do others.)
I think my next step is researching non profits, etc. I don’t want to benefit from this at all (except for being able to rest my head easier). I can’t stress that enough. I think I finally understand what it’s like to be overcome by something.
And I hear you when you say you turn the channel. I can barely bring myself to visit a favorite Web site called Gothamist because of the number of horrific stories they cover surrounding animal (specifically cats) abuse. I am glad they are covering such stories, because I think it sheds light on how common and horrible it is, but I can’t shake them from my head.
Anyway… rambling. Truly emotional about it.
Michelle, you know I’m not usually preachy about this, but the #1 easiest way to have a positive impact on animals is to be vegetarian and not use products that contain animal ingredients, or ingredients that were tested on animals.
I have the same “I wish I could save them all” feeling, but being vegetarian at least makes me feel like I’m doing SOMETHING.
I sleep well at night -well, except for the cats and the toddler waking me up ;)- knowing that I’m doing my part to prevent animal suffering. Not to mention the health benefits.
Here’s another idea for you- you are a great photographer- you could volunteer your services to local shelters and rescue organizations- sometimes a great picture is what captures people’s attention and results in a donation. I have donated several of my pictures to animal shelters for use on their web sites.
Either way, the fact that you are even thinking about this is awesome. Most people develop a relationship with their pets and never think about all of the other animals out there.
As you know (I think), I have my cat news blog World Wide Whiskers. When I started the blog in sept, I set up a google alert for the word “cat” that I get every day and go through for interesting stories. It is HORRIFYING how many links are about cat abuse. It’s really opened my eyes. I’ve made it a policy not to post about cat abuse unless the story is notable in some other way (like the guy who put his cat in a bong mistakenly thinking it would calm the cat down) because I don’t want my blog to upset people the way I get upset.
I think the murray fund would be a great idea. whatever you decide to do, make sure you keep us updated because i know i (and lots of other people) would like to be involved.
Erica: I am often completely appalled by how some cats are treated right here in Brooklyn. Like I said, I won’t give the details, which will haunt me until I’m dead and gone.
Torrie: I sleep pretty well when it comes to how I treat cats (animals), but the stories I read about others? Well, they are getting worse and worse (or maybe I’m getting weaker?)
I realize I can’t control everything, but I don’t understand why abuse and torture can’t be at the very least stifled either through education or elimination. (heh)
Nothing I do will amount to perfection (or anything close to perfection), but donating money to groups like ECC, whose main goal is to lessen the number of feral cats being born, will maybe help lessen the number of cats being abused as well.
I have no idea. But I do know that sitting back and just feeling awful about it does me no good and it definitely doesn’t do anything for these creatures being burned alive, tortured, or beaten to death.
I love the idea of “The Murray Fund” and no matter where the funds go, they will be helping! I obtained my cats via an organization called Arizona Rescue–they go to local animal shelters and adopt cats and dogs on “death row” in order to give them a second (or third? fourth?) chance at a happy life. The animals are given medical care, a comfy place to live and play and oodles of love until a proper, permanent home can be found. It’s similar to what Beth mentioned–donations are accepted and there’s also an opportunity to sponsor a specific cat or dog. Anyway, I don’t mean this to be a big push for AZ Rescue but they do great things and the world could only be better with more organizations like them.
Firstly I am so sorry about Hazel. That is so tough. Please send on all sympathies to your mother for her loss!
Your writing could not be more timely. I was raised with dogs, but always loved cats (my mom is one of those haters you mentioned, though). I have been trying to do something for the feral cats in our neighborhood – I want to spay and neuter them all – but we can’t afford it. It keeps me up at night. My neighbors don’t see a problem. Cats here in Ireland, from my experience, are neglected.
I share your concern. My husband would say I am almost obsessed. But, we took in three feral kittens and within a few months, two of them turned into the softest, sweetest creatures I have ever met (the third is making loads of progress!). It breaks my heart to think that there other cats out there that are just not given a chance.
I would donate to the Murray Foundation in honor of our two feral kittens that we lost to feline leukemia. I feel the need to honor them somehow, and my husband has nixed my idea of a tattoo….
I am so sorry about Hazel. That is terrible.
Giving even more to Empty Cages is a good way to start. Their TNR efforts as you know are SO valuable. And as Em gets older maybe you can help volunteer to talk about animals in his schools, talk to people you know, etc.
But the best way, the easiest way, to stop hurting animals is to stop eating them. It’s not just cats and dogs who are “burned alive, tortured, or beaten to death” every single moment of the day, and food animals suffer simply because people like how they taste, or are scared of finding other ways to eat them. It’s no surprise that the head of ECC is vegan.
Oops that last line should be “scared of finding other ways in which to eat.” Not other ways in which to eat animals!