1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Sad Dilemma

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Monday, 6 September 2010

A Sad Dilemma

I sometimes have difficulty with the real world.  Feral cats are a real nuisance in Australia and New Zealand and, I'm told, in rural France as well.  I have the realism to know that they have to be destroyed and, living in rural areas as I do I realise that a farmer and a shotgun are the most efficient method both from the point of view of the cat and the farmer.  Risking a scratch from a feral cat can mean risking a necrotising sore (as an acquaintance who nearly lost an arm knows).  So feeding feral cats is definitely not an option.

Friends in France were therefore rather discomfited to find a litter of kittens with their mother in one of the outbuildings adjacent to their house.  It was thought that there were four kittens.  Earlier this week the mother appeared to have disappeared with all but two of the kittens who appeared to be very frail.  Given her attitude (defensively aggressive when approached) the assumption had been made that when she had moved the stronger kittens to somewhere she considered safe and left the others to die.   However yesterday morning I thought the remaining kittens looked better and when I saw the mother  leaving the outbuilding and hunting a little later I realised that she must have been feeding them.

This morning all became clear when we saw the mother and six kittens on next door's farm.  I photographed them but didn't want to get too close and upset her.  Unfortunately I didn't realise that the automatic focusing had focused on foliage in front of her.



The point of the photos is, of course, that they present a picture that appeals to the heart which can lead to the head being overruled.  What is even more strange and heart-rending is what happened at lunchtime.  The mother conquored her fear or antipathy towards us and made her way towards the table where we were lunching in the open.  She was thin and obviously struggling to feed her litter.  She was begging for food.  Food she was never going to get.  I left the table and she walked at my heels to the edge of the property hoping or anticipating that I was going to feed her.  I have rarely felt so torn for an animal.  She is a feral cat who was prepared to do almost anything to ensure her kittens survived.

I had a beautiful meal tonight - fillet steak in a cream and Almagnac sauce with all the trimmings.

Somehow I don't feel quite so good about today.

11 comments:

  1. You are definitely made of sterner stuff than I am. I think you know what I would have done. My heart would have over-ruled my head and half my steak would have been taken to the cat and her kittens. Think how brave she was to approach the table - even if it were her last meal at least she would have enjoyed it.

    I know you will say "what a stupid thing to do" but then as you know, my heart is bigger than my brain!!

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  2. And I wouldn't want you any other way. That's why you're Spesh.

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  3. Splesh - Please don't think too badly of us. In a couple of wseks we will be gone.Any cat or kitten we had fed would be left unfed and uncared for throughout what could be a very bitter French winter.

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  4. This is an excellent post. It makes me think long and hard about what I would do in the same situation. I admit we have an overabundance of feral cats in our area, but it's not until I see the kittens that I ever feel the slightest bit of guilt about them.

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  5. I read or heard somewhere that babies of all kind (human and animal) are "designed" proportion-wise etc to appeal to our feelings and make us want to take care of them...

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  6. There is a similar situation when numbers of, say sparrows, are artificially inflated by humans feeding them in the holiday locations and season, only to have them crashing down in the lean times when we all go home.

    Excellent, thought-provoking post!

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  7. Never gets any easier....
    When we see human suffering we always feel worst about the babies and children too...
    Just hate to think of them dying by starvation!

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  8. Oh, of course, I would have fed her too :)

    The baby doesn't look very ill like, momma must be doing something to keep them as healthy as she can.

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  9. Hmmm...and on another thought...here where we live, there are people to call when animals are found in an abandoned setting. I wonder if all countries care for the animals in that way.

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  10. Yes, Heather. I think (and I'm definitely no expert on these matters) she was thin and emaciated because she was giving all to the kittens milk and not having enough left to replenish her own body. Doubtless she'll survive. Her kittens will doubtless have the usual chances.

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  11. Katherine you make a very important point and it's one I think of often. I feed 'my' birds generously during their breeding season. Too generously perhaps because they often have three broods and don't have to forage too far. During the winter when natural food is less plentiful for them (although it's not really in too short supply on Lewis because, amongst other reasons, there are few pesticides etc used and the weather is not too severe) Pat feed them for me although obviously less regularly because she lives on the other side of the valley. I often feel that it should really be the other way round but I'm only on Lewis in its summer so it's that or nothing.

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