Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Help one or save five?

I was speaking to someone today who is trying to help a woman who has too many cats in her flat. The HDB has been called in, and apparently there have been many complaints. The woman who contacted me, who is trying to help, mentioned that the place DOES smell. The cats, she said, are in fairly good condition, though she couldn't recall if any were over-grooming. She mentioned the woman is constantly getting dumped on and that the woman cannot turn the cats away when they need help.

You know the saying - the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Someone once said to me, everyone who does rescue work has good intentions or they wouldn't do it. It doesn't mean that the good intentions don't lead to the cats suffering however.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, finds it difficult when faced with the dilemma. What do you do when there is a small kitten that needs help? Or an injured cat? What happens if you are already stretched to capacity?

Instead of good intentions, I think it's time we have to be pragmatic. What is the best thing to do for the cats? Not the newcomer alone - but ALL the cats.

When you take in that one new kitten, bear in mind that unless you have good quarantine facilities that you immediately increase the chances of all the other cats catching disease. I know of a person with 'good intentions' who took in kittens that needed nursing and all the cats in her home catching FIP. Did most of the cats die? Yes.

I know of another woman who kept taking in kittens because of her good intentions. She felt bad they were on the street. Where did many of them end up? Buried in her garden. Yet she was convinced she was saving the cats.

Hoarders don't start out with 100 cats. They started out with arguably the best of intentions and ONE cat.

At the end of the day, it IS a numbers game. Save one, or kill five? Because no matter what the intentions are, there will come a point when there are too many cats and there will be not enough money. This means the cats are less likely to get proper medical attention, food, and attention. It also means that they are far more likely to be stressed. Disease obviously spreads faster in an enclosed environment where the cats are already stressed.

More importantly - not every cat needs to go into a home. They live perfectly well on the streets unless they have an underlying condition that prevents them from doing so. Arguably, I'd say many of them stand a better chance of living healthily on the street. They're also happier. Would you rather live in a cage or out on the street where you have freedom of movement?

For almost all of us, money is limited - and the best thing that can be done is to spend as much of it as possible on sterilisation. Again it's a numbers game. A caregiver I know got dumped on so much that she went around and sterilised all the home cats that weren't sterilised. This was of course after she had already finished all the community cats. End result - far, far less dumping. That's cheaper in the long run then taking in, housing, nursing and feeding all the new kittens that get dumped.

More importantly - it's not about feeling good, or even feeling less guilty. It's not about you feeling sorry for the cat. In fact, I would say that emotion should have very little part to play in all of this. What's most important is to consider what is the best step to take for the largest number of cats to ensure their welfare. You can't save every single cat - but you can try and help as many of them as you can and that means ensuring they live the best quality of life that they can.


Anonymous said...

I sent 4 cats (from hoarder's cage) for boarding. 2 got adopted. I have been paying boarding for remaining 2 cats for past 4 yrs.
On reflection, the cost of upkeep for 2 cats/4 yrs could have paid for sterilisation of 100-150 community cats during same period.
Sterilisation of 100 cats wld definitely reduce the feline population in that area & kittens wld be spared the misery of being born on the streets. Boarding 2 cats does not make the slightest dent to the feline population there.
If i had look at the big picture - instead of how many cats "saved" then, there may be fewer cats left to be "saved" presently.

Anonymous said...

Dawn, I can't agree with you more. In a perfect world there would be sufficient resources to take care of every defenceless or suffering animal out there but unfortunately, life does not work out that way. Much as we all hate to see a little kitten out there alone and having to fend for itself, the chances of it surviving are much better as long as someone is there to take care of it, even if its in the outdoors. Resources can then be evenly distributed amongst the stray kitties. But hey, thats just me. I'm sure there are others who disagree.

Dawn said...

Anonymous at 3:32 that's a very good point - which is that the money can be channelled to help so many more cats.

It's hard to look beyond the cat before you - it really is. On the other hand, as Anonymous 1t 6:11 said, it's about scarce resources. I agree that people may have different opinions, and they are all fully entitled to them. I am sure there are people who won't be convinced by what I've written, but I hope that those who are on the cusp of making that decision might pause and think about it. It's a long, long road to go down as Anonymous at 3:32 said.

I know someone who literally took in cats because a 'private shelter' closed down. She's still got the cats 10 years down the road, except now they're mostly sick and dying. It's taken a lot of time, money and effort - fortunately which she has. How many people though can make that sort of committment?