Coping with an animal collector
When love turns to obsession, it’s the animals that lose out.
Some people collect stamps, mounting them in lovely folders arranged according to their personal preference, perhaps page by page according to geography, colour, or subject matter.
Some people collect barbed wire samples (truly!), short lengths of twisty metal with barbs and razor edges tacked in parallel rows, clipped to polished wooden display boards.
Some people collect teaspoons. Records. Salt and pepper shakers. Ornamental pigs.
Some people collect cats. Tall, short, long-haired, smooth-haired, bobtail, fluffy tail, grey, ginger, black, white, black and white, tortoiseshell, Siamese, Burmese, Persian, Maine Coone, hunting cats, swimming cats. Moggies.
They keep going until every available horizontal surface in their house is decorated with a living, furry ornament.
There are people who prefer dogs and end up with half a dozen running riot inside, as many outdoors tied to kennels, old cars and under trees.
There are horse collectors, paddock bling in a variety of colours, cavorting around in a herd.
There is nothing wrong with collecting things, although you do have to wonder just how much care and attention an individual pet can be given when so many others have to share the space, strokes or even food.
But it’s the compulsive collectors who set off alarm bells for the Vet. There is just no way one elderly lady can groom and exercise 53 dogs. A bachelor living in a caravan cannot adequately house 42 cats. The unemployed, solo woman on half a hectare cannot feed and exercise 15 horses, especially when half of them are uncut colts.
No matter how much they love them, or how good-hearted their intentions, one has to be realistic.
The Vet was working pretty hard to convince Marjory Cutforth that he would help her find homes for some of the 50- odd cats she was living with in a wool shed. We needed to treat them for a weird range of problems that cats in a normal population density never suffer from: fungal issues with their feet, abscesses from fighting, snuffles throughout the kittens, eye infections. It was just not a healthy environment, stuffed so full of felines.
She was adamant. She couldn’t possibly give any of them away – no-one else would look after them properly.
We started working our way through the cats, spaying and neutering, but it was hard to keep ahead of the flow of kittens, some born within the group, and extras that Marjory just happened to find. Even at a reduced price, the outlay for so many operations would have taken care of any pension surplus she had for umpteen years.
And then, to make things even worse, she started diversifying into dogs. There was no room in the shed for them so they got tied to an old water tank outside.
“What do you want dogs for Marjory?” we asked her.
There is no way one elderly lady can care for
“Oh, I am going to breed them. Good money for cross-bred puppies you know.”
We had seen some crazy prices for small mongrels advertised on Trade Me, but Marjory’s were not in the cute and adorable bracket.
It was just too much for the Vet. The thought of those miscellaneous hounds having a love fest and more miscellaneous puppies didn’t bear thinking about. It was time to call in the SPCA and social workers.
Now in the Far North, the SPCA struggles for funding, along with every other region, and probably more so as any affluent charitable souls have so many other worthy causes to support. It means the first wave of investigation and checking of a situation is generally done by volunteers, and they might have had to travel 100km or more to get on site, navigating down winding back roads, unmetalled tracks to an inhospitable reception. Brave people.
It would have been pretty easy to assess the situation at Marjory’s just from the smell alone, even if the volunteer hadn’t been invited in for a cup of tea and a chat. It would have been easy to see the dozens of cats slinking out of the limelight, and the dogs would have kept up a steady ruckus. It might not be much of a home, but it was theirs and they would guard it with as much noise and lunging at the chain as they could manage.
It was easy to imagine the report writing that would go on as soon as the volunteer got back to base. But there are legal procedures and proper ways to go about things, especially if none of the animals are actually starving, or in pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, procedures like this also take time, to safeguard against any rash decision-making.
When the powers that be finally managed to mobilise enough helpers and trained personnel to physically remove a zillion animals and house them while their fate was decided, what did they find? Nothing. No animals. No cats. No dogs. They had all vanished, disappeared into the morning mist off the harbour. Goneburgers. Trucked out.
One has to admire the determination and sheer bloody-mindedness that enables a person to catch and cage so many cats. To cart them to a truck or van or whatever she managed to call into service. To load dogs as well into a confined space without them eating each other, or her. To shift the whole caboodle out.
To where? To what sort of situation? Better or worse?
Who knows. But no doubt the next vet will get suspicious, no doubt the new neighbours will wonder why there is so much barking go on, and the local storekeepers will get wise to where all the extra dog and cat rations are going. Then, perhaps, the cavalry will be called again, get a chance to catch up with Marjory and the situation can be remedied.
Think of them all, cats, dogs, kittens, puppies and their misguided carer. Think of them next time you go past the SPCA ‘donate a tin of dog food’ bin at the supermarket. They just might suddenly have a huge influx of animals to deal with, and your donation will be gratefully received. n
What did they find? Nothing.