According to the ASPCA and the American Humane Society, June is Adopt a Cat Month. As an avid animal lover and having been raised by animal lovers, we have had many special stray and shelter cats in our lives. While many of them are gone now, a few of them are still with us.
Throughout my college career, I had begun to make the decision that I would try to apply for veterinary school. Some of the requirements included working with a veterinarian and volunteering as much as you could in any animal-related environments. During that period, a few cats would show up at my parents' farm from time to time. They were either dropped off, or they had wandered from the next farm down.
I made it my goal to capture every cat I could, spay or neuter them and then release them back. Now, about 15 years later, my parents still have one of these kitties. Appropriately her name is "Barn Kitty," a very special, sweet cat who keeps their barn critter-free even in her older age.
Breezy, an adopted cat, and Mikenna, one of Dr. Frost’s children, share a tender moment.
I had also volunteered at the Jamestown SPCA. That summer, we brought home about five cats and I still have one special kitty named Breezy. My parents had acquired her as a kitten and they tried to make her a barn cat also. She wanted nothing to do with the outdoors and was constantly getting stuck in trees and into trouble. Once she had herself stuck in a tree about 100 feet tall. After two days in the tree, my younger brother had to scale the tree, put her in a backpack and bring her down. Not too long after that, she somehow managed to get herself caught up in our barbed wire fencing. She was hanging upside down by the skin on her abdomen. The injury required extensive surgery on her belly and took weeks to heal. From then on she became an indoor cat. She went to veterinary school with me and now lives very happily upstairs in our bedroom!
Two of my other cats at home were "drop-offs." Nothing gets me angrier than people who just drive their unwanted cats out into the country and leave them, sometimes even in the dead of winter. People should be educated and prepared before attempting to adopt a kitten. When the cat starts going through adolescence or when the cat becomes sick or injured, they realize they cannot care for the cat. Unfortunately, many of these people cannot afford to care for the kitty or they do not want to pay to have them spayed or neutered, so they end up either outside my door or someone else's.
"Popcorn," our avid hunter, was left outside our door with a broken leg. She was only a couple months old when she came hobbling into our house, jumped up on the couch and started eating popcorn with the kids. Now, you wouldn't know she ever had an injury and she can jump and run like any other cat!
Rose was our other drop-off left in our garage. She also followed my kids inside and loves to rotate around from bed to bed each night sleeping right next to their heads.
Not all cats are as lucky as these two when they are dropped off. Over the winter, a litter of adolescent feral kitties were dropped on our road. One was immediately hit by a car, and the other two had to fend for themselves living in a drainage pipe and eating out of our dumpster this winter. I have attempted to capture these guys but have not been able to get close to them. This is no life for a cat trying to survive through the winters in our area.
Please, please, please, before acquiring a pet, do some research on what is involved in caring for it including the financial costs involved. Figure out what the cost of food, litter and proper veterinary care are going to run. I always tell people that a free cat is never a free cat! You must be prepared to take on care of the cat and be responsible for its care. Once you are prepared, consider adopting a cat from one of our local shelters. There are many cats looking for a forever home.
Dr. Rebekah Frost is a veterinarian at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org