October 30, 2011
By Adam FergusonAs Midnight crossed the path of yet another unsuspecting victim, he sniggered to himself. How easy it was to terrify these humans into thinking they were facing certain doom! After all, he was a black cat; a panther, if you will; a demon in disguise. He did not even have to cross their path; he merely had to veer toward them and they all ran the other direction trying to avoid him. How liberating it felt to be on the prowl again! He had not felt like this since he was a young kitten; mostly because he had not been free since he was a young kitten. All those years he had spent cooped up with all the other cats. Sharing his food dish. Sharing his bathroom. Sleeping three and four in one bedroom; it was like a prison. He had no trees to climb. No prey to catch. No real territory to roam. Undoubtedly, his human captors had meant well. They provided food, already caught and ready to eat. But how fun was that? They also had provided shelter. Midnight never got rained on, unless he wanted to step out from under the roof. He had heard horror stories from two of the older cats in his ward. Both wore tiger stripes, and both had been captured as adults, after years on the lam. They had told Midnight about nights in the elements with no cover. The driving rain. The scorching sun. And days that turned into weeks with no meals except for insects. As far as they were concerned, a life sentence with three squares and no chance of parole was the cat's meow. Yet, Midnight had often suspected that merely providing food and shelter was not enough on his captors' part. Princess Puma, a recent addition to Midnight's colony, came from a home where she had been the only cat. As such, she had become accustomed to lavish attention from her owner. That is, until her owner died.Princess Puma had told all of her new roommates stories of fancy collars, fine furniture and gourmet cuisine. She spoke of house calls by her doctor when she received complete physical exams. She admitted that the “massage” by the doctor was usually followed by shots. But her owner had assured her that these shots would keep her from getting sick. She informed her peers that medication to prevent fleas existed. She even confided how she got her nails done every so often. Despite her snobbish ways and ivory tower opinions, Midnight would always listen intently to Princess' stories. Even though he was quite a bit younger than she was, it was clear that she had taken a special liking in him, as well. She was, in fact, a real cougar.Midnight's thoughts turned to Princess now. It was bizarre, but in his first few minutes of freedom, his mind raced toward her perception of captivity. One-on-one attention from a loving owner? Not that his owner did not love him; he most certainly did. Yet, trying to divvy that love among 16 other cats certainly made Midnight feel like his captor's time was limited. His own food dish and bathroom? Did such niceties truly exist? Health care? Midnight had never been examined by a doctor. Shots that might help prevent those darn colds he kept getting? That would be wonderful! Medication to prevent those pesky fleas? A dream come true!As Midnight absent-mindedly approached his next human, this one did not attempt to get out of the black cat's path. In fact, he yelled to other humans, “There he is! The missing black leopard!” Immediately several humans approached Midnight with long cylindrical tools pointed at him. Midnight had heard the two old tigers call these tools “guns” and knew this was not going to end well. He heard another human say, “He's the last one. The tigers were destroyed at the farm and the cougar was found hit along the highway.” The events of last week's wild animal massacre brought a sad situation to everybody's attention. Owning exotic pets is not illegal in this state; whether it should be or not is for other people to decide. Animal hoarding, however, is a disease. It begins with good intentions by people who love animals. It usually spirals out of control, to a point where the owner no longer knows how to stop collecting animals. What started out as one, two or three pets quickly becomes dozens. Because, “where else are the animals going to go”? Ultimately, too many animals are sharing not enough resources. Medical care is the first thing to go. Food and housing are always the last things.Dr. Adam Ferguson is a co-owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville.