Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The ripple effect of compassion

I have written here often about the work of TinyKittens in rescuing feral cats. This week we have witnessed a heartbreaking story, but one that also demonstrates how a compassionate action can have a ripple effect that creates positive change in the world.

Skye is a feral cat who was in the forest. She was going blind from an eye infection, and was pregnant. Shelly trapped her and brought her to TinyKittens HQ. Without human help, Skye would have found it increasingly difficult to find food and survive in the forest, let alone care for kittens, as her vision declined. Shelly worried at first about how she would able to give eye drops to a feral cat, but Skye became socialized and friendly within days and cooperated with her treatment. The vet, Dr. Ferguson, was able to bring in her portable ultrasound device to check on the kittens. Skye spent a few weeks in a bathroom, and enjoyed sleeping in the sink.

Soon it was time for the kittens to be born, but Skye had difficulty with the labour, and Shelly took her to the vet for a caesarean. Four healthy kittens were born, and Skye enjoyed nursing them and caring for them. After a while, the kittens from two other feral mothers, Savina and Neelix, were added to Skye's brood. This was because she is friendly with humans and can teach the kittens to trust and love humans, instead of them learning from their mothers to be afraid or even aggressive. Skye loved having 11 kittens, and nursed and washed them all.

Last week a stomach virus started making Skye and the kittens ill. One night Skye collapsed and was rushed to the emergency vet. She spent two days in hospital, close to death at first, getting urgent care and undergoing various tests, and eventually recovered. She has since had a few more visits to the emergency vet and to Dr. Ferguson, with more tests and expert evaluations. The diagnosis is that she has a heart disease and may only have a few months to live. At present she is back in her bathroom, and can have supervised visits from the kittens when she is dressed in a protective garment to prevent them from nursing, as her medications would pass to the kittens in her milk and endanger them. It is fortunate that this happened at a stage when the kittens are eating and are not dependent on nursing.

This is very painful for all those who have watched her on the Livestream. We watched a cat born in the forest become a gentle and loving indoor cat, friendly with humans and an adoring mother to her own four kittens and seven others. She has overcome partial blindness, a dramatic C-section birth, and has survived the first symptoms of a dangerous heart problem. We were all hoping for her to be adopted into a loving home and have a full, happy life. Now it seems that she will have a much shorter life, and will require regular medication and constant supervision. We hope a suitable home will be found to give her the love and care she needs, despite the short duration of her expected future.

With all the pain of this story, what I have found inspiring and uplifting is the way it has had a ripple effect. From the moment Skye was rushed to the emergency hospital, viewers from all over the world started donating money. So far, I believe over $10,000 Canadian has been raised for Skye. I hope that all her hospital costs are covered by the donations.

Another form of ripple effect stems from the very fact that Shelly chose to try to save her. It is very rare for people to invest so much in feral cats, who have usually been assumed to be unadoptable and resistant to socialization if rescued as adults. Shelly's work has shown that ferals are individuals, and some of them can be fully socialized and become loving pets just like cats born to pets and socialized from birth. So Shelly wanted to give Skye every chance possible for a good life, even when she was close to death. For Shelly, and for those inspired by her, euthanasia is only an option if the cat would have a life of incurable suffering. If there is a chance of recovery and a stable period of good health, it is worth fighting for. The tests conducted on Skye had rarely been done on feral cats, and Dr. Ferguson said that this is in itself a contribution to science. New things will be learned from Skye's case that can be applied to other cats in the future, and her survival might encourage other people to try to save cats in similar conditions rather than give up and euthanise them. This is also true in the case of Cassidy, who is at the forefront of veterinary implant research.

So we see that people who have followed Skye's story have made a personal effort to help her, and that Shelly's compassion for feral cats is helping to advance medical science, which may save the lives of other cats in the future. One of the ultimate aims of what TinyKittens is doing is to educate the public about feral cats so that more people understand that they are worthy of our compassion and help. Some people may be inspired to get involved in local TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs, or local feeding stations, or perhaps even to try rescuing and fostering those feral cats who may have the potential for socialization. Instead of treating feral cats as wild animals who deserve to live on the margins, we should call them community cats and provide them with appropriate care.

Compassion can be contagious and can spread and ripple out when people see what caring can achieve.

Watch Skye and her kittens (currently in separate rooms) on TinyKittens Livestream.
Donate to Skye.
Learn about the feral program.

1 comment:

Lee Ann Lepore said...

Absolutely beautiful and inspiring blog. I have since TNR 8 cats at my Mom's house and 1 at mine - and adopted her kittens out. Shelly is absolutely a wonderful human being. I have learned so much as being part of the Tiny Kitten Community.