The Heartbreak Of Animal Abandonment
Many of my columns are written from personal experiences, and today is one of those times. Most residents in my park have pets. When you drive into the entrance of my park, halfway down, the home on the left owns a beautiful domestic long-haired cat. Although they let her indoors, they also give her access to the outside. Of course, I do not approve of this. Cats allowed outdoors have shorter lifespans due to injury and disease. Not to mention they can be a neighborhood nuisance. This kitty always hangs in her yard. When I am walking the dogs or driving by, I typically stop to say hello, although I never did learn her name. Approximately a week ago I saw a moving van at this residence, and the family moved. I thought of little more than that I would miss my feline friend. As I am writing this, it is Mother’s Day, and the weather is wretched, damp and raining. I drove into my park, and as I made my way down the road I was alarmed to see this cat, drenched and sitting in the rain outside of her door. The family had left her behind! I had no idea. This was the first time I had seen her since their move. I immediately stopped my car and walked to her. The kitty was so happy to see me. I opened the door of the enclosed porch and looked inside. There was nothing to indicate that a cat even lived there. No food, no water. Nothing. Just some items left behind. In the meantime the kitty was crying at the door, begging me to let her inside. OMG, it just broke my heart. I promised her I would be back, got into my car and drove home. I began searching for any spare food/water bowls I might have. I managed to find two bowls and returned to kitty’s home with food in one and water in the other. The kitty was not in sight. When I called to her, she poked her head out from where she was hiding on the porch (I had left the door to the enclosed porch open so she could get out of the rain). I put the food and water down and took pictures of kitty to post on Facebook. She was so hungry that I could not even get her head out of the bowl to capture a picture of her beautiful face. Tonight she is out of the rain and has a full tummy. My next plan is to give her a soft sleeping spot. Lastly, I am on a quest to find this precious kitty, my friend, a forever home. In the meantime, she continues to wait for her family to come home, like a faithful dog. Common reasons why pets are left behind I do not know the personal reasons behind this family’s move. Finding alternative housing that will accept a pet can be a difficult task, especially when added to the burden of relocating an entire family from their familiar residence. Many landlords place limitations on number, size, breed and even species, causing the families to have to make difficult choices regarding their pets. Even if the new residence accepts the family cat or dog, there will often be large deposits required or additional fees. Families going through foreclosure are already under a great deal of financial stress, and this can increase the burden. Speaking of financial hardships, another common reason owners abandon their pets is directly due to the financial cost of taking care of their pets. Food, bed, and supplies can be costly additions to an already strained monthly budget. If the pet needs veterinary care, these expenses can be even more overwhelming and seem an impossible hurdle. Given this, owners will often think that to abandon their pet is the better or only choice. This is why I stress that adding a pet to the household should never be done impulsively. How abandonment impacts individual pets Humans often do not realize that animals, especially domesticated dogs, cats and other small animals, can feel a host of emotions similar to those experienced by people. Fear, pain, abandonment and longing are all things which pets are capable of experiencing. When pets are abandoned, they will often be confused about being left behind, removed from the only family or “pack” that they have ever known. Besides the emotional toll, pets can experience severe health impacts from abandonment. Although cats and dogs are capable of using basic hunting skills, many of these have become less developed due to domestication. At the very least, Fido or Fluffy has become highly inexperienced in bringing home their own food after years indoors where the only hunting needed is for a food dish. Many pets will starve or suffer adverse health effects from malnutrition due to abandonment. Finally, many owners won’t realize that by abandoning their pets they put them at risk of death. While this may seem obvious when pets are left on the streets, this is also the case even when owners attempt to find alternate homes through shelters. Due to extreme overcrowding, many shelters cannot keep surrendered pets or those brought in after found roaming, for more than a few days before euthanizing. An issue for the entire community In addition to the impact on animals, pet abandonment can also have a significant impact on local communities. As mentioned previously, overcrowding of animal shelters, rescues, and other humane organizations is an increasing problem. These facilities require a great deal of monetary and human resources in the form of volunteers. For low income or impoverished communities, even a small increase in the abandoned pet population can create a significant burden on already sparse resources. Abandoning pets, especially cats, can also cause a large impact on the local wildlife population. It’s an increasing concern of environmentalists that as the feral cat population increases, the indigenous small animal and songbird population in communities significantly decreases. Abandoning your pets creates an artificial and significant impact on these nuanced and balanced ecosystems. Roaming cats and dogs can also spread diseases to other animals, creating significant burdens on all pet owners. Where to find help Many times, local shelters will have vouchers available for discounted food or veterinary care or may be able to provide contacts for private organizations that are able to help. Additional resources such as fundraising, private adoption or temporary boarding can also contribute to keeping pets off the streets. If you or your family are in need of help, know that there are a host of people and resources available to help keep your cat, dog or other pet in the arms of their beloved families or another loving home. Dog bless. Resource: Simon Campbell/lifeasahuman.com Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.