Four weeks ago on my parent's rural property on the outskirts of Goulburn my father caught a kitten in a trap. Bloodied, skin and bone, the creature was a heartbreaking sight.
From the start it was clear the kitten wasn't feral: although terrified and confused, she was not aggressive. She simply sat in the cage, paws placed under her body, and gazed out with large green eyes.
As the family 'cat whisperer' I received a call straight away. After moving the cage into the garage for the night, supplying food and water, and covering her with a blanket to calm her down, I made plans to take the kitten to the vet.
Later that night a decision to add a blanket led to her escape. Within a few seconds the kitten had leapt out of the cage, scrambled up a vertical brick wall, and squeezed through a gap above the roller door. Or at least that's what I thought.
Over the next few days strange occurrences plagued the garage: thumps, garbage strewn about the floor and an eerie feeling of being watched. This led to the discovery the kitten was living in a hollow cylinder at the top of the roller door.
After trying every conceivable method to free her, we managed to catch the stubborn kitty with the aid of a hose. The now wet kitten was toweled and placed into a crate with all the blankets, food and water she could ever need.
That first night the skinny creature gobbled up biscuits, and fell asleep warm and full for the first time in weeks.
The next day a trip to the vet was in order. I learnt the six-month-old female kitten had no microchip, was not spayed and was most likely a dumped pet. Too calm to be feral, she was too scared - with a willingness to defend herself - to be completely tame. The kitten had been fending for herself and work was needed to restore her trust in humanity.
I was told the kitten, now named Diana, was not pregnant. Despite her young age it wasn't impossible - cats reach sexual maturity from around four months old.
According to the vet I had three options. The first, surrender to an animal shelter, would likely end in euthanasia. With the large number of animals given to the pound on a daily basis, the vet said they simply did not have the resources for a problem kitten.
The second option - the veterinary clinic could euthanase her to end her suffering and ensure the cycle of feral and abandoned cats wouldn't continue this time.
Thirdly, I could foster her. Put in hard work and take the time to rehabilitate Diana, ready to be adopted into a loving home.
I made enquiries with private animal rehabilitation services but due to COVID-19 restrictions they were unable to take her in.
Despite already having two cats on my hands I took Diana home that afternoon. Keeping her in a separate room, in a large crate fully set up with everything she could ever need, Diana calmed down over the coming week.
Still flighty and distrustful, her wounds healed and she started to put on weight. After a while I could place my hand in the cage and gently pat her.
The situation looked positive and I planned to have Diana spayed and vaccinated now she was calmer.
That's when disaster struck.
Last Friday night, Diana unexpectedly went into labour. Due to her young age the kittens died and Diana had major complications. After multiple emergency calls to the vet and a sleepless night, I took her to the veterinary clinic early the next morning.
Bad news prevailed. Surgery was required and the already skittish cat was now utterly traumatised. Any progress I had made was gone, and she was worse than when I started. Rehabilitation was now off the table, and the intensive post-operative care needed would be impossible.
After a long discussion with the veterinarian I made the difficult decision to euthanise her. It was the kindest option but I remain utterly devastated.
The blame lies with the people who dumped this beautiful creature. I'll never understand why someone would abandon an animal. Many pets don't recover from this horrific experience.
If only Diana had been surrendered to an animal shelter before the abandonment, starvation and trauma caused her to distrust people. Spayed, vaccinated and healthy she would most likely be cuddled up on a warm lap in her forever home right now.
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