I took a break from politics this week. Nothing, not Grace Poe’s (un)monumental announcement, nor Binay’s (un)expected drubbing at UP Los Baños, nor Roxas’s (un)surprising formal offer to Leni Robredo, could draw my focus. All my energy and attention were on a .25 kg ball of fluff who careened into our lives last week.
We were driving home on Marcos Highway late Sunday afternoon. It was raining. Suddenly the cars ahead braked hard. In the two middle lanes of that broad highway, a tiny kitten was going back and forth, lost and disoriented. A van drove over it but thankfully, the kitten stayed smack in the middle of the lane and survived.
Instinct took over: my husband barred the two lanes and redirected traffic while I jumped out and scooped up the little creature. As I did so, I heard someone say, “There you go.” I noticed then a man who had parked on the edge of the highway and was preparing to rescue it as well. (It’s nice to know there are still folks who care.) I was getting soaked so I ran back to the car and we went on our way.
Inside, I checked out the kitten. It was about a month old, a miniature cat. Its eyes were badly encrusted with catarrh and a section of its whiskers had been deliberately cut, some burned off with a cigarette. All its visual and directional equipment were impaired.
It was clear that someone had purposely left this wee being on the big thoroughfare to become roadkill.
We brought him to two veterinary clinics, but neither would take him in. We decided then to have him treated and adopt him ourselves.
I named him “Marky.” He is the seventh addition to our clowder.
They came to us as kittens – all of them strays we rescued from the street and garbage heap, from illness and starvation, from certain death.
Besides these seven whom we have taken into our home and now consider our “children,” we shelter several in our yard, and have also rescued a number who didn’t make it or whom we put up for adoption. The reality is, there are far too many of them for a single family to handle.
This ubiquity is one reason why conventional wisdom says they must be eliminated by any way possible. People like me, who give a hoot and make the effort to save them, are invariably seen as foolish bleeding hearts, with more sentiment than sense, and a nuisance to boot, because we contribute to the proliferation of these “pests.”
That is one view.
Mine is that these domesticated animals, who are intelligent, sentient, and emotive, are worthy of respect as God’s creatures. They deserve more than to be sent to their death, often cruelly, because they clutter up the landscape or because “they have no breed.” (For the record, local cats commonly known as “puspins” or “pusang Pinoy” belong to the breed called “domestic short hair.” )
I consider myself a cat-person, but by loving felines I have developed an affection for other wildlife. I see no need to be exclusive, though I have my preferences.
I seriously do not understand the “I don’t like cats, I’m a dog person” thing. I have had “dog people” callously tell me how “annoying” cats are, not realizing how annoying they were being themselves. Some even gleefully narrated how they engineered the death or dislocation of cats in their neighborhood, all the while knowing my predilections. I can only surmise the animosity they feel is not just for the cats but for me as well; they enjoyed my discomfiture too much.
For me, the reverse is true. My relationship with cats has made me understand dogs and their owners more, and I have learned to empathize with them. I imagine our affinity with animals should broaden, not limit, our perspective. I happily belong to a cat welfare group, many of whose members are devoted dog-lovers as well.
I don’t think I can call myself a full-fledged animal activist, though I admire the passion and courage of those who publicly fight for animal welfare. I do not know enough about the politics of the issue to consider myself one. I simply love cats, and this has made me want to protect other endangered animals as well. And I say what I can, and do what I can.
By “endangered” I do not mean only those on the official lists such as the Philippine flat-headed frog or the humphead parrotfish. I mean also those that abound in numbers like ordinary cats and dogs, whom the greater populace treat with ignorance or hubris, and regard as chattel – objects to be employed or discarded at will.
A growing number of us choose to rescue them, have them neutered by licensed veterinarians, and give them what we call loving “forever” homes. Many of us do this in spite of financial constraints. A bold few volunteer to go out daily merely to find abandoned or “at risk” cats and dogs and bring them to safety. And it makes a world of difference to the rescued. Even those in the worst condition will flourish with care and love.
We are trying to raise awareness about these matters, but it is an uphill battle. This is my contribution to the conversation.
There are several ways to deal with feline and canine overpopulation, not all ideal. There is a right way, however. I submit that the method we choose should exhibit our humanity, and must prove that we are in every way the higher and nobler specie. Anything less than this makes us indubitably, insupportably inferior.
A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.