Max is a free-ranging cat, coming and going as he likes through a cat flap. He lives in typical suburbia, with rows of semi-detached houses each having their own enclosed back gardens. Max enjoys spending time in Barbara’s garden. He jumps up onto the back wall, visiting a few of the neighbours, but he doesn’t go far, and will always come back if Barbara goes out and calls his name.
Like many cats, Max is a hunter, bringing back small rats as “gifts” for Barbara. She would rather that he didn’t bring these home with him, although she is relieved that he helps to control the rodent population in the area. He occasionally catches garden birds too, which Barbara finds difficult: she enjoys watching the birds in her garden and it’s upsetting when Max kills them.
Barbara has always felt that Max lives a safe lifestyle: he stays in the local patchwork of back gardens, never venturing near the danger of busy roads. Many of her neighbours keep cats, so Max enjoys a busy social life, and up till now, he’s never got into trouble of any kind.
A couple of weeks ago, Barbara was watching television in the evening. Max came in through the cat flap soon after 11pm, looking for attention as he often does. Barbara petted him absent mindedly; he seemed OK at first. Then she noticed that there was something strange sticking out of his cheek. She tried to examine him close up, but he was wriggling, and it was difficult to see. It looked like some sort of rivet or metal stud. She didn’t know what had happened, but Max didn’t seem to be distressed or upset. The first thing the following morning, she took him to the vet.
When he was taken out of his carrier at the vet, the metal object was no longer visible: instead, there was just a nasty wound on the left side of his face. Barbara checked in the carrier cage, and there, on the floor, was the offending object: an airgun pellet. It had been embedded in the side of Max’s head, and had fallen out on the way to the vet.
Max had been lucky: if the pellet had hit him an inch to either side, it could have killed him or removed an eye. As it was, the side of his face had been badly torn, needing an operation to suture the skin back into place. He responded well to treatment, with the wound healing well. But it could have been far worse.
Barbara has no idea who shot Max, but she’s worried. If somebody did this once, they could easily do it again. She has made up a poster telling Max’s story, putting it up in local shops. She reckons if the problem is publicised, people will be more watchful, and the perpetrator will be less likely to do it again.
Just as there are cat lovers, there are plenty of people who dislike cats. Wild bird enthusiasts get upset when they see cats catching garden birds. Gardeners get angry when cats dig up seed beds. And pigeon owners tell stories about cats attacking their racing birds. But however much cats are disliked, there’s no excuse for shooting them: it’s cruel and illegal to do this. Barbara has informed the local police,and investigations are under way.
If you don’t like cats visiting your garden, there are kind and effective ways of keeping them out. You can buy plastic fence topping that makes it difficult for cats to climb over walls, or automatic motion-detecting water sprayers to squirt them as they walk past. If you’re really upset, talk to the cat’s owner about keeping the cat indoors. But whatever you do, don’t harm the cats.
- Cats suffer and feel pain, just like humans
- It’s illegal to use air guns to shoot cats
- If anyone sees this happening, please inform the Gardai