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A Little Tabby Speaks for the Feral Cats of the World

Date: Nov 1, 2010

A Little Tabby Speaks for the Feral Cats of the World

A true story by Marcelle Gray.

The setting is a small business on the outskirts of town. Although it could have been anywhere in America.

Feral (unsocialized) cats have the lowest priority. If you don't see them, they don't exist.

"Touch me", she said. "It's so easy to leave me all alone with the memory of my days in the sun. If you touch me you'll understand ..." (Words from the musical, "Cats" - Memory)

I touched her. I understood. And it broke my heart.

Today she let me touch her. Her little body was trembling with fear, but I could not miss the very soft purring underneath the thick coat of fur. The encounter was very quick and in no time she ran back, keeping a safe distance once again, watching me pour the fresh food and water into the bowls.

Step, step, step ... her little feet kneading at the ground as if it was a wool blanket under her feet instead of the sandy soil. My task done, I stopped to talk to her for a moment. She looked at me and meowed, her feet still kneading at the ground. She was close enough that I could hear her, still purring softly.

A little tabby ... kind of cute but so tiny. Probably just out of kittenhood.

I was ignorant of the problem of feral cats when I arrived at the premises several months earlier. I am a city woman. I was shocked to find out about three dozen cats roaming around, looking for food after the place was quiet and all of the customers were gone. I started to feed the cats, not really knowing how to deal with this overwhelming situation.

These animals, obviously homeless, had no one to look after them. They were no one's responsibility. A nuisance, according to most humans around. Some looked healthy enough, but others were in need of treatment. Different stages of growth, different colors. I began feeding them and leaving water for them at night before I left the premises. Some cats were friendly enough, and most had likely been someone's pet at one time. I began the task of taming them, well enough to get them into a carrier and taking them in to be fixed.

The little tabby was special to me somehow. She had been quietly studying me from a distance for a long time, wanting to come closer but afraid to. I needed lots of patience with her before I could get her into a carrier.

We were almost there, when all of a sudden the cats disappeared. I came in one Monday morning and all of the cats were gone. The place totally deserted! No feline in sight! The food dish hardly touched. I filled the bowls again that night and the food was still there when I came back in on Tuesday morning.

It was eerie! Even the old black and white cat that everyone talked to and petted was gone. He had been someone's pet, abandoned to fend for himself.

I asked around, and someone said that the cats had been shot over the weekend. "Population control", he added.  I felt sick!

Wednesday morning there was blood on the side of the water bowl. Someone could be still alive and wounded.  The place was tense. I did my work, tears rolling down my face, and anger in my heart. I wanted some answers. I wanted to know the truth. What happened? The thought of the little tabby kept coming to my mind. Where was she? Where were they all? Was she alive and too afraid to come out? Did they think I had betrayed them?

A few tense hours passed. Everyone was quiet and anxious at work.

And then I heard it, a very faint meow outside the door. I rushed out and there she was, the little tabby. She had her face in the bowl of food as if trying to eat. When she heard me, she looked up and let out a very weak meow again.  Then I saw her face. Part of her mouth had been blown away. She was barely alive. Her body had the smell of decaying flesh. It was a miracle that she made it to the bowl of food where she knew I would find her. It is as if she heard my prayers and wanted to give me the evidence I needed. Her little body was riddled with bullets.

I rolled her in a towel and carried her to the nearest veterinarian, and held her in my arms while she was gently put down. I heard her last words, a very soft purr, no doubt she said, "Help us, please." Her heart stopped beating and she was gone. And I alone cried for the little tabby. The little tabby without a name, without a home. The little tabby deserted by society.

At my request, the veterinarian took x-rays, clearly showing the evidence. Bullet fragments from a .22 rifle. With this evidence, still in my closet today, the little tabby's prayers were answered. Abandoned and feral cats arriving at the premises were never shot at again as a way to control the population. A promise was made and kept.

Folks, this is America! These animals need our help! Trap, spay, neuter, and release is the only humane answer to control the feral cat over-population. These innocent animals need our compassion.

Some of you might think that the above story is an isolated incident. It is not! This is a way of life in some rural and not so rural areas in America. A lot of people with the power to correct this know about it, but still turn their backs on these innocent animals. They are "only" feral cats, and no one is there to speak for them.

Please spread the Little Tabby's message to all. Let her death and that of others not be in vain.

"Little Tabby" video was nominated for two WAVE awards at a ceremony in Denver in October 2008. Information is available at Alliance for Community Media, www.svn.net/elle/tabby.htm.