Showing Kindness to Stray Cats, Feeling Demonized by Animal Rescue for it?

IN Morning Pages / Journal

There’s nothing worse for me than being misunderstood – or rather, my ‘intentions’ being misunderstood. I understand that I do ‘think differently‘ than others, and it’s always been a problem both in being understood and understanding the way that others think – something I work so hard on, but I’m feeling really depressed right now because I thought I was doing the right thing – the only thing – I didn’t see any other humane choices, and then today I get accusations from animal rescue – the only people on the planet that I thought would understand my predicament – when I asked if they could rescue the remaining cats they left behind last time, and they said that because I feed them and let them into my house – they are not strays. I am so confused that those who actually ‘care’ about the welfare of these strays are the ones being demonized, and not the people who think it’s better to ignore them?

A few years ago, I moved into this apartment block. One day, I was on my balcony when I saw a pregnant cat fall on it’s head – out of a big tall skip bin, whilst trying to scavenge food from a garbage bag. I raced over to see if it was ok, and it was scared of me, but I went inside and looked in my pantry, and found some Tuna with Springwater, and I put the food out for it. That felt like the right thing to do? Here I am questioning myself right now because of everything that has unfolded, but I always think I’m making the right choice out of whatever choices I have in that moment. The right thing to do in that moment is show a bit of kindness to a pregnant, starving, and potentially-injured cat.

The skip-bin the original pregnant mama-cat fell off of, along with a bag of rubbish tumbling down on top of her.

Years later, I would learn that another neighbour left it behind, but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t see much of it, until after it had it’s litter, and then I put food and water out for them. Pretty soon a bunch of other strays had found the stash I was leaving outside for the pregnant cat, and there were cats everywhere.

It’s not like I’m blind to see the problems of putting food out for them, but I also didn’t see another humane option.

I contacted RSPCA and animal rescue places only to be told that it was kitten season and they didn’t have anywhere to place them. I put photos of them up on Gumtree – only to have them delete it for breaking their terms of service. I posted in Facebook groups for ‘free to good home’ – only to find that noone wanted feral cats – they want human-friendly kittens.

This one showed up out of the blue a couple of weeks ago – can hardly breathe and is full of worms.

I asked others what to do, and they said to ‘friend up’ with the kittens so that at least they can be rescuable by the free ads (the hard part with ferals is that they are impossible to catch because they get spooked and run off whenever you go near them). I tried to earn their trust – but I obviously don’t have the Snow-White touch – it just didn’t seem possible to ‘friend up’ with them because they were too scared of humans because the older ferals were spooked by humans and the younger kittens were copying the older cats (when you go near one – and one gets spooked – it spooks the rest of them).

There were more than 20 cats and I wasn’t the only one contacting rescue places and the council – the landlord, the real estate agent, the motel owner next door, and other neighbours were trying to get someone to deal with the cats.

Finally a rescue place came, and took a few of them – some of the kittens and some of the cats, but left the rest behind, so the cycle begins again – more litters are born and you’re still dealing with ‘cats everywhere’.

Since animal rescue wasn’t coming back anytime soon because they were already inundated and ‘full’, the only solution I could think of was trying to find them homes from those free to good home groups – but they don’t want ‘spooked’ cats and it’s hard to capture them because they don’t trust humans – so they can’t just come in their cars and have their ‘pick of the litter’ – spooked cats are not easy to catch and none of these people had cat carriers or cages to transport or catch them (nor willing to get them and still wanted to ‘pick’ which one they wanted and still wanted them to be ‘friendly’).

This mama-cat hisses when you go near it, but is still comfortable enough to come inside, but hides around humans. It is the mother of the 2 black kittens below and assumed to be the mother of this new baby kitten that recently showed up (because she is feeding it)

I bought a cat carrier in the hopes of being able to ‘get them used to going in the carrier’ – getting them to trust the carrier – putting food in it, etc, but they never ‘fell for it’.

Again it was suggested that the only way to help them was to try and make them ‘friendly to humans’. Some people donated bedding and cat toys, and I worked in retail and bought some things when it was on sale or on the clearance tables, which I’ve tried to use to gain their trust, but I was only able to have success with one of them (that the animal rescue place took last time).

This trust came from the kitten – not because of anything I did – this particular kitten just seemed to have a natural curiosity, trust and affinity with humans and animals alike; unlike its brothers and sisters – this one wasn’t afraid for some reason, and it trusted all the neighbours too – it was friends with all the cats, kittens, and humans in the neighbourhood; yet kittens from the same litter or same family were still terrified.

The only one that friended everyone – including other neighbours and took care of the whole cat family. This one was born full of heart.

But even when the other cats saw that I was able to pet this cat and be friendly with it, and that I was not going to hurt them, they didn’t trust. They will sit still and seem friendly – until I get too close and then they get spooked and freak out.

During the years here dealing with the cats, there were really hot days and really freezing cold and wet days. Again I felt sorry for them and set up places on the balcony they can get away from the weather.

There were like about 30 cats again at one stage, maybe less – but just felt like they were everywhere – it was completely overwhelming and at least 4 of them were pregnant, scared to death of what would happen when there’s another 4 litters – I posted on a facebook group and several rescue places banded together and came and rescued a lot of them, so it’s not like they weren’t helping at all – it’s just that they just never took them all so the cycle repeats itself over and over and it just never ends. The last time they came, they left one pregnant mama cat and about 5 others – boys and kittens. They said they would be back and were going to get the males sterilized through some programme and release them back out here as there was nowhere to place them due to a crazy kitten season. They never came back but I also noticed they seemed a little ‘off’ towards me. One boy got attacked by a dog and died a few minutes later and they came and got his body to take to the crematorium. Some just vanished, there one day – not the next; assumed run-over or dead. And now there is 5 still here – of which one mama-cat has had 2 litters which just vanish – 5 there one day – 3 missing the next.

They look like normal house cats in this photo but that’s because I’m zoomed in, sitting far away on the couch – if I move – they run. These are the 2 remaining kittens from the mama-cat’s first litter – they are still very young despite looking like grown adults in comparison to the new baby.

I get that noone sees things the same as me, I really do. My whole life I’ve been misunderstood for seeing things differently. But I’ve never been offered a solution that makes sense to me – I’ve never seen any other alternative than what I’m doing. How do I just ‘stop’ feeding them? I just can’t get into that mentality – I know other people think it’s as easy as that. How does that solve the problem? So I just let them die? I don’t get it. I can’t understand that mentality, I just can’t get on the same page. I just don’t think that way – even though I don’t want cats – I also don’t want to / can’t be cruel?

No, I don’t want pets, no I don’t want to keep feeding them, yes, I contacted animal rescue, no, they didn’t take them all. Yes I tried to friend them for the free to good home groups and failed in that area. So what are my choices here?

I didn’t want to be cruel to them – but I can’t adopt all these cats – I don’t want them to die – I care about doing ‘the right thing’ – whatever the ‘right thing is’. But I don’t know what the ‘right thing’ to do is in this situation – I apparently haven’t since day dot because I thought I was doing the right thing. But apparently feeding them is ‘not the right thing to do’, and trying to gain their trust by putting bedding everywhere and allowing them to come inside is ‘not the right thing to do’… but I can’t lift myself into that perspective when it’s happening to me?

I see it as a problem if I feed them – and cruel if I don’t. Guilty if I do, Guilty if I don’t. Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t.

I see it as a problem if allow them inside, but my windows are wired-shut – the only way to get ventilation in the apartment is to open the door that leads out to the balcony – and I was worried about it at first and tried to discourage it. It wasn’t an invitation for pet-ownership but rather the kinder and easier choice to not spend everyday trying to chase them outside, and I hoped it may lead to the added benefit of getting them to trust humans so they can get a home (which didn’t pan out because they never got over their fear of humans, but it was a ‘hope’, it was something to try).

This tiny cat bed outside would fit almost every cat and kitten in it somehow.

How is ‘not feeding them’ the right thing to do? And how can you not feed them? Sorry I just don’t get it. And if animal-rescue won’t help, and the people in the ‘free to good home’ groups don’t want them – what exactly are my alternatives and choices?

When someone says, just don’t feed them – I look at them like they are from another planet because it’s so easy to say isn’t it… when it’s happening to ‘someone else’ – easy solution: just don’t feed them and they are no longer your problem. This mentality comes from this throw-away, un-caring, and disconnected society we live in.

If I don’t feed them, they may find some mice or find another neighbour or find a bin to scavenge, and sure it’s the ‘easy’ solution – well you may define it as an easy solution. It’s not as easy for me to think of that as anything but cruel and heartless.

I can’t – just can’t see it the same way as however they are seeing it – that seems immensely inhumane? I would feel guilty not doing it, and I feel guilty doing it – wtf.

On a spiritual level, I looked for guidance. What is the right thing to do when you feel completely out of options and noone willing to help. The only answer that felt right was – do what you can, today – in every moment we have a choice to do what we feel is the ‘right’ thing to do. They may not survive out there, they might not live long in that weather, they may not get rescued, but what I can do is make sure that I have food out that day. That felt like the right thing to do given I could think of nothing else that felt right? It’s not like I’m a billionaire with lots of money either – I’m struggling financially, but in this moment, today, do I have enough to feed them? I can do that today. That feels like the ‘right’ thing to do when I don’t see other options.

Whenever I asked others what their advice was – they would say, animal rescue, stop feeding them, call the council, shoot them (wtf), or help them become human-friendly so that those ‘free to good home’ people would be more willing to take them and so that they are easier to capture.

Please tell me – what other options I’m missing?

When I’m awake, I have my door open all the time (windows fixed-shut), and the cats are free to come and go. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown months (almost 6 months isolated out here), it was kind of comforting to know that I had some kind of purpose and even though they weren’t friendly, in a ‘pet’ way – it felt like I was doing an act of kindness to allow them to come in – it’s not like they were menacing – they come in, they find a spot to sleep and just sleep – they aren’t bothering me by doing that so I haven’t ‘scared’ them out.

I did discourage it at the start (before I gave in and decided to try and help them trust humans more so that they can be rescued) and at one stage, had invested in mesh coverings like fly-wire doors to be able to ventilate the house and stop them from coming inside, and put my plants in the way to discourage access to the balcony, but the mesh was cheap and useless to stop them, and the plant thing only eventuated into killing my plants as they climbed directly onto the plants to get access, and eventually I succumbed to just allowing them because they weren’t really bothering me, I’m just sitting on my computer doing my research and all they are doing is getting out of the elements for a while and sleeping, and also because I was also hoping that would help with the trust-building to make them more appealing to the ‘free to good home’ people.

When I stand up or move though – they get spooked and run outside, and if I close the door while they are still inside, they freak out.

There are five left now – all female (I think) that could get pregnant and have more litters. Two are adults – one from the original first litter from the bin-mama-cat that has always been terrified of humans and still is, and a sister to that cat – which is the mama cat that has had a couple of litters. There are 2 black twin kittens from her first litter (she had 5 or 6 kittens and I have no idea what happened to the rest of the litter), and there’s so much hope that they are able to find a home because they are still young-enough that if they should find a home, away from the spooked-older cats, there’s hope that they will learn to trust humans (and they do seem braver than the older cats), and a new white fluffy baby kitten that is not more than a few weeks old. So 5 altogether – 2 cats, 2 twin black kittens, and a new younger kitten.

The kitten is from a litter I’ve never seen so I have no idea if the mama-cat had a litter or just had one. But this one has come inside about 3 times in the past fortnight and it is not in a healthy place at all. She is making noises when she breathes that sounds like asthma, but today I realized she is infested with worms, so I have no idea if she’s going to make it.

So even though I felt resistance from the animal rescue the last time they were out here – assumedly because I have all the cat stuff setup on the balcony – and I knew that they were inundated with the last kitten season, and given they had already taken so many, I have been extremely hesitant to remind them they left some behind because I didn’t want to be a burden, or deal with that change-of-energy I felt from them last time, and it’s been COVID lockdowns since then, etc. – the world has turned on its head since the last time they were out here – but seeing this new kitten in such a bad state, I decided to get over my anxiety and reach out to them again.

After contacting them this morning, I now realize why I had that resistance. My intuition was right – they don’t like me and they are not on the same page with what I’m doing at all. She said they are not strays because I feed them and allow them inside, and to take the kitten to the vet. This might be easier if it was a pet – but these are still strays. Yes, I put food out for them – out of kindness, yes, I allow them inside – because it’s just easier when I have the door always open to the outside, not out of ‘adoption or ownership’ or whatever other term you want to place on it. I feed because it’s cruel not to, I allowed inside because it was easier and I thought it might help in gaining trust in humans. They don’t have names, they don’t have ‘friendship or affinity with me’, I am just someone who is not chasing them out into the cold when I’m awake and providing a free meal a day.

Can I see it from their point of view? I can see ‘why’ they think these are pets, and I think that gut-wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach is because I think the cats might think they are pets too (to the best of their knowledge), but this is not my point of view. I never saw them as ‘mine’, rather as a ‘caretaker, doing what I can in this shit situation, until they can be rescued’. Attempting to try and make them a little more comfortable around humans so that they can find homes. When I sit here, I literally can not see what other options I had? And although there is merit to them thinking they are ‘not strays’, but it’s like – I didn’t see another option – I see myself as putting some kindness there without the intention of adopting or owning – there is so many of them, I just saw myself as just doing what anyone who still had a heart would do, given the impossible situation.

Out of everyone – I would’ve thought that cat rescue places would understand that some humans don’t have it in them to be cruel. I thought I was doing the right thing, I thought they would have the same compassion as I do; more even? But it looks like they just see it as me trying to ‘get rid of unwanted pets’ instead of trying to do to my part towards saving them and being less of a bastard-human.

My conflict here is that.. what is the definition here of pet. If they were pets, they would have names, they would have a microchip, they would get regular vet trips, they would have a litter box, they would be – I don’t know – they would feel like ‘pets’.

But from an outsider perspective? Does a cat become ‘your responsibility – your pet’ from the moment you decide to feed it? So all strays belong to someone that feed it? Is that how an outsider looks at this situation? Because this insider has never felt that way – I never saw them as a permanent pet-adoption but rather a rescue-mission, giving them a chance towards helping them have a ‘slightly’ better life than the wild life in the elements.

I show kindness instead of cruelty, and I expect that animal rescue places have the same – or even more – of a caring and compassionate heart for these little souls who have done nothing wrong except being born without a home.

I feel so sad and so misunderstood right now. I feel sad for being misunderstand. I feel attacked and demonized by the very people who I thought would understand. I feel guilty as well because the cats do rely on me. I slept for a while hoping that this dreadful feeling would subside and I could get some clarity on what I can do. I called my sister who understands my predicament and has followed this journey from the beginning and understands that I have just been trying to do what I feel is right, but the helpless feeling is still here.

That’s why I’m writing. Getting my thoughts out. Trying to understand. Trying to get clarity. These situations are so easy for ‘outsiders’ to solve. Don’t feed them, no longer your problem. I get their perspective in that it seems like the simplest solution – a good match to this throw-away heartless and severely disconnected culture this town has. I don’t have the ability to implement that particular solution, my ethics won’t allow me. That just seems so damn wrong, I thought they’d get real homes at the end of this?

I look at them and think they have so much potential to have a better life if they weren’t so influenced by each other to fear humans.

I don’t know what to do but tomorrow I’m calling the council because I don’t know how to help that little kitten and they all might find homes this way. I have contacted 2 animal rescue places, one who said that they aren’t strays because I have let them into my house and fed them, and the other said she’d get back to me – and I hope she does have a solution because the council may kill them.

Always the solution-seeker that is not able to come up with a particularly favourable solution for this dilemma. My soul is conflicted and I’m constantly having to try and figure out why I look at everything so differently than others, always second-guessing my choices because my choices are led from the intention of whatever I think is the best or right option in the moment. I don’t see how what I did was bad or that I had any better choice available.

I’m trying to figure out how they see what I did as bad – or what other options I had that were better?

I thought the animal rescue people would be on the same page as me and see what I’m doing as a good thing (and that they would do the same thing in the same circumstance), and to instead feel demonized by them is so confusing and upsetting to me.

It’s turned from what I thought was a beautiful, caring thing to do – something out of the kindness of my heart and soul – into something dirty and wrong and helplessness devours me. It’s gut-wrenching that it comes from the very people who I thought would be on the same page as me and I really thought this is something that they would do too, given the same situation. I don’t understand this disconnect.

I was even in a good place because of what I was doing – as in, it’s a shit situation but we’re making the best of it.

Maybe this is one of those shit situations that looks easier to resolve from the outside looking in. From the inside, I don’t see any other way this could’ve gone, other than the rescue grabbing all of them the first time so that they didn’t continue breeding, or if I hadn’t of left food out for the original mama cat.

I’m still trying to figure out the ‘lesson’ here – what I could’ve done earlier, better, what choices would’ve had a better outcome, what the better ‘right thing to do’ was…

How about instead of demonizing the one person who tried to help and focusing more on the 30 or so other residents here that have done nothing? I’m just finding it unbearably astonishing and sad that you try and do something right and that action is shat all over – the person who did what we all should be doing gets dealt the shame – instead of all others who think it’s best to to shut their eyes and make it someone else’s problem so they can smugly finger-point blame elsewhere instead of being coming and offering to be part of the solution.

Update: Monday 24th May – A different animal rescue came last Thursday and managed to rescue 4 of them (only the black & white one – which has evaded every rescue to date remains). Phew. So glad they are going to get homes xo

Penny (PennyButler.com)
Penny (PennyButler.com)

Truth-seeker, ever-questioning, ever-learning, ever-researching, ever delving further and deeper, ever trying to 'figure it out'. This site is a legacy of sorts, a place to collect thoughts, notes, book summaries, & random points of interests.