Some time ago, I caught the tail-end of a TV news shot about two kittens that had been born within the walls of a ghetto apartment. I flipped the channel on in time to see the animal control officers put the kittens in a cage to carry them away to certain death.
I wondered at the time where the mother cat was; was it owned by the residents, or "just another stray"? My heart reached out to her, knowing that the latter was likely the case, and that she was undoubtedly starving, flea-ridden and doomed to death, yet she searched out a "safe place" in which to give birth to yet another litter. The fact that there were only two kittens was proof positive of my assumptions.
On the other hand, if she was "owned" by the family, their willingness to see the kittens carried away spoke of another sad story. Too many people, out of ignorance, poverty, or just plain laziness, never even consider getting their pets neutered or spayed. The animals are allowed to run loose, and when the inevitable happens and another litter is born, often mothers and kittens are whisked away to the nearest shelter. Alternatively, often as not, the owner will dump them in the nearest park, hoping that some Good Samaritan will happen along and take responsibility, where the owner couldn't or wouldn't; or he will dump them off outside the closest veterinary office, certain that they will find care and a new home there.
The other scenario comes when a house is in foreclosure. Some owners trash the before vacating it by court owner. Others, forced to move, perhaps to an apartment that does not allow pets, leave their cats behind, assuming that either the bank or a new owner will take care of them. And surely, they must think, the mother cat will take care of her kittens. Elizabeth Weintraub, About.com Guide to HomeBuying, wrote an excellent, sensitive article on that subject, Abandoned Foreclosure Pets.
Soon we will celebrate Mothers Day in the United States. Millions of people will spend a fortune on candy, flowers, and other gifts to honor the women who gave birth to them. My own dear Mother passed on several years ago, and it is always a sad occasion for me, even though I am the current recipient of honor by my own kids. You see, I know that thousands of unwanted kittens will be born on that day, and thousands more will be euthanized, or die of neglect in some wayside alley. Thousands of mother cats will watch their kittens die from disease, if indeed the mother cat survives the birth experience.
For myself, I am going to honor the occasion by making a cash donation to a local spay & neuter organization or foster care group, to help spay or neuter just one more of the cats or kittens to help quell the massive cat overpopulation problem. I hope all my readers will consider doing something similar, to honor the thousands of cats who die every year in the cause of motherhood.