I received a flyer in the mail today from a local pet store, advertising the importance of “holistic health” and inviting people to come in for advice on how to better care for the health of their pets.  How ironic.  I was just at this very pet store yesterday to pick up some kitty litter.  The had a number of little kittens running about, the oldest of which was no more than 12 weeks old.  They were super cute and of course I had to stop and play with them and ask their history.

It seems, according to the woman working there, that these poor little dears suffered the horrible fate of having been “born outside.”  But not worry, she said, that’s all been taken care of now.  They were rescued by someone who brought them in to a vet clinic.  That clinic, being the great caretakers of stray kittens that they are, promptly spayed and neutered them, gave them a full set of vaccines, doused them with Revolution and switched them to their prescription brand of kibble.  

I was dumbfounded.   I’m not suggesting that these kittens should have been left to grow up as strays in the heart of the city, but all I could think of was the damage inflicted upon them in the name of “saving them.”  I mean, if they had survived as strays, likely they had decent immune systems.  Those well functioning albeit still developing immune systems, however, were just put through such an onslaught that these kittens will be extremely lucky to have anything left of them now.  At just a few weeks of age they had their reproductive organs ripped out (these are essential to proper development) and likely the same day that they were put under anesthetic (very immune suppressive) were “fully vaccinated” (which means probably 5 moderated live viruses injected into them at once, perhaps plus rabies – something that would never happen in nature; vaccines should be given one at a time, spaced out 3-4 weeks apart, and never be administered within 30 days of surgery).  Then they were doused with a neuroxin and switched from a presumably at least partially species appropriate diet (wild caught food) to some of the worst kibble out there. 

I delicately raised the issue with the store owner, asking her if she didn’t think this was a lot to do to a kitten of that age.  She didn’t have a clue what I was asking, or chose to ignore it.  In the next breath, however, she went on to lament how her 3 year old cat – adopted through this same system – is in end stage renal failure (kidneys clear the body of toxins).  Apparently crystals (which are typically caused by kibble) have backed up into the kidneys and he’s only got a little time left to live.  How sad.  She was sad too, exclaiming that her beloved pet’s impending death at age 3 was obviously because “he was born outside.”  The effect of what was done to him since that time has clearly never crossed her mind.

If they are so incapable of surviving without our “help” why is it that a city the size of Toronto (for example) has a stray cat population of nearly half a million?  Clearly many of these “born outside” cats are living past the age of three to reproduce at this level, without the help of all the drugs and chemicals these kittens were administered.  

I get that we have a huge overpopulation of stray cats and that people feel the need to prevent more litters through early spay and neuter.  And I get that most rescue groups don’t have the time and space to do this more gently (for more of my thoughts on this topic, read this)  But I think if they knew what they were actually doing, if they really understood and learned to open their eyes and see the harm they were inflicting, they would find a better way.  They would have to, for they would recoil in horror at what they were doing.  But they don’t see, or maybe it’s that they won’t see.  Like this woman who ignored my question and change the topic.  I feel so sad for her cat, and for those kittens.  Hopefully their immune systems were strong enough to begin with that they will survive having been ‘rescued’ and live beyond age three.