‘Mama Cat’ saga illustrates problem of stray animals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2000

I remember &uot;Mama Cat&uot; well. She had an unpleasant face. A streak of orange — the only orange fur on her body — crossed it and somehow managed to make her appear as if she were actually scowling — even if she wasn’t.

Of course, &uot;Mama Cat&uot; did scowl … often.

She also hissed, spat, screamed and scratched at anyone who came within three feet of her.

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She was, to be polite, not a cuddly little kitten.

&uot;Mama Cat&uot; was a wild cat who took up residence in the crawl space under our former house. When she arrived, she was obviously pregnant.

Someone took pity on the wayward wild cat, fed her a couple of times and before I knew it we had a litter of wild kittens in that crawl space.

I still remember the morning I discovered them. I could hear their crying underneath the floor of the bathroom … pitiful mews that never seemed to stop.

Regretfully, &uot;Mama Cat&uot; moved those kittens away before I caught them — or her.

But she returned a couple of months later, obviously pregnant again. And the cycle repeated itself.

After she gave birth to the second litter of kittens under my bathroom floor, I was resolved to catch her.

A veteran stray, &uot;Mama Cat&uot; was impossible to catch … and vicious to anyone who tried. It took weeks and a raccoon trap borrowed from a friend’s grandfather to corral &uot;Mama Cat&uot; and her kittens — save the one who had shown some inkling of interest in people and was dubbed suitable for taming.

Catching those cats was pure hell … a memorably miserable experience.

But not nearly as miserable as the feeling that crept up when I had to deliver them to the Natchez-Adams County&160;Humane Society Shelter.

I was miserable not because I felt guilty about what was undeniably &uot;Mama Cat’s&uot; grim fate — she was without a doubt a wild, vicious stray that I suspect could never be tamed.

I was miserable because I knew better. I knew I should’ve caught that cat the first time she showed up at our house.

And I should’ve caught those wild kittens she birthed … kittens who by then were probably well on their way to wild existences and, undoubtedly, a life of giving birth to more kittens.

There I was, the editor who’d penned untold editorials about the need for responsible pet ownership and even more about the woes of the overburdened Natchez-Adams County Humane Society Shelter and the owner of a pound pup — surrendering a wild &uot;Mama Cat&uot; and a litter of kittens, one-by-one from that raccoon trap to the gracious and gentle volunteers at the shelter.

I’ve been writing articles about the Humane Society and its effort for more than a dozen years now, and the message sadly never changes. The society and its volunteers have the thankless — and heart-wrenching — job of caring for those thousands of animals the rest of society just doesn’t have time, or money, or desire to care for.

And they do it every day.

The numbers are staggering — 2,272 animals were taken in at the Natchez-Adams County Shelter between Oct. 1, 1999, and Sept. 30 of this year.

Nationally, between 2 million and 3 million dogs are surrendered each year at shelters operated by affiliates of the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Euthanasia rates are equally as staggering — 67 percent at the Natchez shelter alone.

Sometimes, of course, the shelter is the best answer — or so I tell myself when I think of that wild &uot;Mama Cat.&uot;

For many people those, it’s just an easy solution. And that is a shame.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3539 or via e-mail at stacy.graning@natchezdemocrat.com.