I knew the place well. As a child I played there. Bumbling around like all small kids do, inventing games,or just exploring the back gardens and alleyways. Finding dead cats and kittens was a common occurrence. Usually the adult cats would be found in hedges where they had crawled into to die. The kittens would be found in bags, dumped in the nearby river. Cats were more numerous ‘back then’. They were a largely despised species, victims of religious superstition and good old indifference. Fit only to act as pest controllers but never to be fed or cared for. The endless litters of kittens usually met with the same fate. Taken from their mothers before their eyes opened, placed in a strong paper bag, string tied around the top, and hurled into the river. As kids, hunting Minnows in the water, we would come across the partially decomposed little corpses, still entombed in their rotting bags. I suppose, in people’s minds, cats and kittens, were as common as the air and as cheap.
Maggie took the call. A man feeding a colony of ferals spotted a new cat hiding in nearby bushes. The cat wouldn’t come out and appeared fearful of both him and the other cats. The man couldn’t be sure but it appeared to him that the cat had something wrong with one of its legs. An injury of some sort. A plan was concocted and eventually the little cat was coaxed out of hiding and brought to the vet for an assessment. The ‘injured’ leg was, in fact, an amputation. The front, right side, leg, had been surgically removed at some stage leaving an awkward looking stump. The cat looked reasonably well fed and was friendly. Obviously the animal had been cared for by somebody. The initial assessment was of a stray that had wandered from her home and had gotten lost. Upon closer examination the little female cat was found to have the most appalling case of infected, ear polyps, the vet had ever seen. Polyps are lumps that grow in the inner ear canals of felines, especially older cats, and this poor mite had them in spades. The polyps had become infected and were agonising for the little female cat as she constantly tore at them with her claws. Every now and then she would vigorously shake her head from side to side and a spray of blood and pus would shoot out. Maggie named the cat, ‘Lily’ and we brought her home for temporary sanctuary until her owners could be located.
Lily was installed in two, very large, dog cages, on our kitchen table. We had nowhere else to put her. We made Lily as comfortable as possible in the cages. She was given a cardboard box, lined with soft, warm, vet bed, to sleep in, within the cages. This gave her a place of refuge away from the attentions of our own nosey cats. Lily retired into her box and remained there, day and night. Within 24 hours, The walls and roof, of Lily’s box were coated in a spray of blood and pus from her constant head shaking. We made efforts to locate Lily’s owners. The posts went up on CCN and Munster Lost and Found. No response. It was a very busy time for us. We were dealing with a case of a feral colony that was suffering the effects of malnutrition. We were preoccupied with this and not able to give Lily the attention she needed. When, one evening, we finally got the chance to sit down with Lily and have a good look at her, we immediately noticed the telltale indentations around her neck. Lily had worn a collar for a long time.
We examined her ears. We looked at her general demeanour. We saw how she hid away from everything and everyone. A brief discussion ensued and the conclusion was unanimous. Lily appeared to have been dumped because her carers grew tired of the veterinary cost of looking after her and treating her infected ears. We needed to deal with Lily’s ears. The infected polyps were causing her pain and discomfort. The constant pain from her ears, coupled with the amputated front leg, was inhibiting her from integrating into any household, let alone one as full of cats as ours. Our own vets felt unable to deal with the surgery required to fix the problem so we called upon the skills of Sinead Falvey, down in Cloyne veterinary practice, to assist. Sinead examined Lily thoroughly. We stood in Sinead’s surgery and watched as the vet’s skilful and sensitive fingers felt all over Lily’s little body. Sinead didn’t miss a thing. Lily’s ears were examined and a solution offered. Sinead would operate to remove the polyps. This would involve removing part of the ear canal as well. The operation was carried out and the polyps were removed. Behind the polyps in one of Lily’s ears was an unusual mass. Sinead Thinks this mass might be cancerous. The polyps have been there a long time. The mass has had the time to grow inwards towards Lily’s skull. Sinead took a biopsy and has sent it off to the lab. It will take about a week to get the results back.
So we wait. This weekend, Lily will return home to us. She will be placed in her box within her cage. We will feed and care for her as if she was our own cat. Next week word will come back from the lab. It will be either, Benign, or, Malignant. If it is the latter, Lily will, yet again, make the journey from west cork all the ways down to Cloyne. And in Sinead’s surgery, Lily will drift off to sleep; never to wake up again to a world where a 12 year old cat, once accustomed to a home and care, was set adrift to fend for herself, partially crippled and in pain, lost, frightened, and bewildered, wondering what her ‘crime’ was, and desperately trying to make sense of it all. A little tabby too afraid to to push her way into a feral feeder even though she was starving. And this is Christmas, for God’s sake. Where was the love and fellowship for Lily when she most needed it?
I had thought that times had changed. I had believed that people no longer drowned kittens or treated cats like rubbish, fit only to be thrown out when there usefulness was over. I had hoped people had grown more sensitive to the suffering of another species. I had hoped in vain.
2014 has been a particularly rough year. We had hoped to end it with a good luck story. But Lily happened. Sometimes all we can do is reach out that final hand to stop the suffering of a wounded cat or kitten. We want them all to live. We want people to understand that cats feel the same things we do. Hurt, pain, abandonment, are emotions common to humans and cats. What does Lily feel today as she lies in her bed in Sinead’s surgery? There is the obvious discomfort from the operation but hopefully there is also the relief from the removal of the infected polyps. Lily is on pain relief medication. Sinead will see to it that Lily is as comfortable as possible. But what of Lily’s internal emotions? Can she make sense of the past few weeks. Lily had a home where she was comfortable. Those that cared for her cared enough to amputate a badly damaged limb. She had been fed and cosseted. Someone loved her once. But that all ended and Lily was abandoned. How does Lily process that? Now, put yourself in Lily’s mind. How would you feel if those you loved and trusted took you from your home one night to a strange place, put you on the ground, and drove away. There, in the dark and the biting cold, unable to properly move because you lost your front limb, and in agony from a terrible infection in both your ears, bewildered, confused, and alone, you must begin the fight for survival with all the odds stacked against you.
Please help Lily this Christmas time. The Cost of Lilly operation to take her pain away is over €300. Please help us to raise the money by donating on the links below.
Donate here. Every donation will help.