Friday, November 27, 2009

Another elderly stray

It's hard to know what to do for the best when we get calls to pick up elderly "stray" cats. Callers naturally tend to assume that a thin, "poor" looking cat has got that way because he or she doesn't have a home or isn't being cared for. That's not necessarily true, and a very frail-looking animal may well have a devoted home only a few doors away and simply be a very old cat. On the other hand, if the cat really has got lost, and is very elderly their chances of survival are obviously much worse than for a young, fit animal, so we would normally ask the caller to make enquries locally, but agree to collect if no owner is found.

Once we have the cat it's difficult for vets to make an effective assessment without any knowledge of previous history and we'll need to pay for blood tests as a minimum to check kidney function and whether or not the cat is hyperthyroid. Some conditions are treatable and the cat might be able to be placed in a home and live for years; others (such as the last stages of kidney failure) are hopeless and it's not fair to put put the cat in kennels and hope for the best.

If the vet's opinion is that the cat is suffering and ought to be put to sleep then as a welfare organisation we really cannot disregard their advice (bear in mind that this will not usually be "an RSPCA vet" but a normal private vet who is treating people's pets every day).

Just yesterday one of the Soham vets took in a very poorly looking stray for us and this morning they phoned to say he had a bleeding cancerous mass in his mouth and was in pain. In those circumstances it really isn't acceptable to delay in case an owner makes contact. The same day they took in another injured cat for us and he died overnight, so with hindsight it would have saved money to be used for other animals and been better for him if he'd been put to sleep at once. Sometimes these decisions have tragic consequences.

Old strays are another reason why we need more foster homes where we can give a higher standard of TLC than will ever be possible in a cattery environment. These are cats who are unlikely to be rehomed, but are still enjoying life and only ask for warmth, food, a litter tray and a comfortable bed.

If you might be willing to consider fostering animals for the branch, please email

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