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A Tragic but Satisfying Tale

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I have been reading all the chat on this particular forum with special interest, since I have been trapped by the wonderful, beautiful, and dignified stray and ferel cats of the northern Negev Desert to take up this crazy business of rescuing cats. We live in a place where there is almost no possibility of finding open water, and where, in many seasons of the year, wild food (rats, mice, small snakes, etc.) is extremely scarce. Cats are normally born in the hundreds around my village, and died by an estimated 80% before they are 6 months old -- many of dehydration and starvation as kittens, or by disease, dogs or cars when they are a little older.

When I first came here, the various regional councils solved their overpopulation of unowned dogs and cats by putting out poison. Several years ago, a strong law was passed against the use of poison except under exception circumstances (a rabies epiidemic, for example). The hitch was that you had to go to the police and get them to investigate and then charge the persons responsible. Of course, in our particular area, our governance is determined by the size of large extended families, and the police jobs are often given to members of whichever family is running the regional council. The people working for the regional council are also related in some what to the ruling families, so no policeman is going to investigate a cousin, however distant, for poisoning cats.

In January, I brought the human society veterinarian truck to my village to trap and spay ferel and stray cats -- all my 18 cats at that time had all been fixed or were too young. I helped, and we did only a dozen or so cats -- not at all what I expected from the numbers I had seen just a few weeks before, but it was winter and raining and cold, so we figured the truck could come back when the weather was better and the cats weren't hiding.

Two weeks later, suddenly most of the spayed and neutered cats disappeared, and several bodies of cats unknown to me showed up in the vacant area next to my house. One of my neighbors told me that the Moatza had had the cats poisoned. When I foolishly said that it was now very much against the law, they backed down and said cats were always disappearing. Other neighbors, now alerted to my unorthodox views on poisoning, mentioned that there had been too many cats anyway... You have all heard this kind of story.

About a two months ago, it seemed like even the new cats that had wandered into the village had somehow disappeared. I asked people again if they knew what had happened, and again I got this sort of giggly answer about how there had been too many cats, and they were glad they were gone. You must understand that my neighbors speak Hebrew but very little English, and I speak very, very poor Hebrew and am basically an English-speaker. So communication is possible, but difficult.

A few weeks ago the rat and mouse population, not to mention snakes, suddenly exploded. Warm weather, lots of grain-grasses left over from a good rainy winter, and NO CATS caused hoards of mice and rats to invade the houses and yards of many of my neighbors. Then I heard that all of the villages in this part of our regional area were having the same problem -- and that their cats also had disappeared. My own cats gifted me with no fewer than 21 dead mice (one under the covers of my bed!) in the space of a week. There were so many kills that they didn't even bother to try to eat them. I found 8 dead mice and one rat in the road in front of my house on one morning alone. We were also getting a plague of the big water-type cockroaches -- something I have almost never seen in my house since the cats came to live with me.

I have told my neighbors about the black plague -- how the Christian Church of the Dark Ages decided that cats were familiars of the Devil and Witches, and torturned, burned, and killed all the cats they could lay their hands on throughout Europe for a number of years. And how the rats multiplied and carried fleas and the plague killed over a third of the entire population of Europe and England in its first wave. Because there were no cats. I told my neighbors that they had interfered with nature's balance and that they had permitted the murder of one of God's special guardians of public health.

As bitter as I was, I really laid into them, and I hope they repeat it to their neighbors and think of what they have done when the mice invade their clothes closets and the rats hiss at their toddlers..

But really, I laughed a lot, too. If ever there was a true and immediate punishment for cruelty and stupidity, this is a case in point. In all of this new year, I have lost two of my 3-year-old cats who just failed to come home. I suppose they were caught in the poisoning. My youngest ones are still very stay-at-home types, and so far they have not been touched by it all. But I foresee that in order to control the mice and rats, the poisoners will get to work again. And a poisoned rat will poison anything that tries to eat it. So I suppose we will lose most of the few cats still remaining.

I do not believe in death, and I have no doubt that there will be afterlives for our remarkable cats, but I do believe in suffering, and poison causes such terrible pain. You cannot avoid becoming somewhat fatalistic when you have large colonies of cats, since the mortality rate is very high due to endemic illnesses before you can even get them vaccinated, the dogs that are allowed to run free in packs, and the craziness of the local drivers. But there was no need for this massacre. And there was no need for a plague of mice and rats.

Sad and laughing at the same time... Catherine
post #2 of 6
That is soooo sad! Those poor cats! I don't see how people could be so cruel! That really makes me mad!Well anyway, it's good for people to hear stories like that. It teaches compassion!
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
The problem is that the people who are here and anyone who would care to hear about cat poisonings don't need to have one more miserable story told to them -- they are already sensitive to the cruel and uncalled-for deaths of God's creatures. And the ones who do the poisoning couldn't care less.

I spoke to a friend of mine on a nearby Moshav (a collective agricultural village -- something between private ownership and a kibbutz) and casually asked how the rat population was. He said they have a real plague of rats, mice, and snakes, as well as ticks and fleas. Talk about judgements! It sounds like the plagues of Egypt. Fortunately I still have MY cats, and I haven't seen a live rat, mouse, or snake anywhere in my garden. Just a solitary hedgehog youngster going about its business that I rescued from the dogs -- the cats were too clever to even approach it, although they distributed themselves about in a distant semi-circle and watched with interest to see if the dogs would be dumb enough to try to grab it in their mouths. Not that they dared to touch it because of its little quills, but I thought it might have a better chance to survive elsewhere, so I took it out to the cemetary grounds where there are several large stands of trees and bushes that get regular watering and a wide patch of uncultivated desert all around. That means plenty of insects. Hedgehogs can get their water from the insects they eat, so they survive quite reasonably on the fringes of the desert. It is a real pity that dogs and cats can't supply their need for water that way.

My friend (the one in the nearby moshav) is a large animal vet, and he ends up with a lot of my naive questions about animal problems. He said that hedgehogs will also eat cat and dog food if the kibbles are very small, and he told me about the water in insects, which I didn't realize was sufficient for a hedgehog to manage on. I had given the hedgehog a large jar lid full of water in the cat carrier I put it in, and he polished it off right away. So now I know two new things about my little desert neighbors and made one new observation.

Peace, Catherine
post #4 of 6
Yeah it's always neat to learn interesting stuff! I really feel for you to have to sit back and watch this cruelty. It does seem like "someone" is punishing everyone for poisoning those innocent kitties.
By the way, I may need a lesson in Geography but where on earth do you live?
post #5 of 6
Chloe, the Negev is a desert in Israel. I don't suppose many people know that - it's hardly a toursit attraction

Catherine, you make the Negev area sound like the Wild West - with local sherrifs taking the law into their hands

I do believe it's possible to fight the poisonings. Actually if you think it's the Moatza (local autority), it should be even easier. Maybe I can help with writing some letters in Hebrew. There is a police officer in Tel Aviv who's in charge of animal abuse cases all over the country. I contacted them once about a neighbor who threatened the cats in our building's yard (a well taken care of colony of fixed cats). They were very helpful - never asked for no forms or anything. They just phoned that person the very same day and warned him that he should stay away from the cats. After that call from the police he never said (or did) anything yet.

There is also someone in the Ministry of Environment (Echut Hasviva) that is in charge of animal abuse cases. They're usually very helpful as well.

Have you tried contacting the Israeli cat Welfare Society? They have a represantative in Arad (is that near you?) who has carried out a wonderful battle against poisoning in Arad and actually made them go for an NTR program. I can put you in contact with her - she's also a native speaker of English. In fact, most of the people (okay, ladies) who do animal rescue in Israel seem to be Anglo-Saxon in origin, so you should have no communication difficulties there.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Dear Anne, My vet friend of a few days ago (whom I called about other things), offered an alternative reason for the poisonings. He doesn't subscribe to either one or the other, but here was his suggestion. At least once a week, the pest control truck comes around and sprays the garbage cans inside and out, and also sprays the sidewalks -- even those going up to the front doorways of houses, unless, as I do, the homeowner objects. I have always asked them not to because I have always had animals, and I didn't really take their assurances that the pesticides would not hurt dogs and cats. But in January, we started to lose cats. It is possible that the Moatza pest control man is using a stronger pesticide -- the ones for the ants CAN be (and perhaps are here) organophospates. Benny tells me that maybe they upped the strength because the warm weather has encourage millions of mosquitoes, flies, and ant to propagate. We had no proper winter, and everything is a bit skewed in terms of when the animals and insects are going to breed. For example, the flies have been breeding almost continuously since May, when normally down here they begin in late summer (you can tell because the bite in a serious search for blood to help in their egg production). So perhaps if the pest controller saw that he wasn't making much headway and tried some new product or upped the strength on the one he is using, he might have inadvertantly killed all the cats -- contrary to what my near neighbors said about it being deliberate.

The problem is that 50 or 60 cats are missing from my village alone, and the other problem is that I saw only the one body, and it was already dessicated.. The other problem is that I am living in this community, but I am not a part of it, so I am not close to people who would know really what happened. When I wrote to Rivi in Arad, she said I would need a body for autopsy. So far, I haven't found any since I have been able to run around again. It is true that an appeal to an outside police station might help, but if they use my name locally, I may be in for unhappiness between myself and my animals and the police who belong to the major families. It DOES remind me of the great southwest -- I grew up in Texas, and the police situation here is quite a bit like it was there back in the 40s and 50s.

However, whatever the true story -- and I have to admit that Benny has a plausible explanation -- I have to remember that when I get upset about how animals are treated here, I may have a repeat of what happened last winter -- when someone deliberately and with no real cause poisoned one of my dogs by handing her food through the fence. Fortunately I was able to save her, but it was real touch and go. That poison was a rat poison.

The moatza vet, who is a friendly sort, but doesn't speak English (and hardly speaks Hebrew), swears that he does not know of any deliberate poisoning.

So what do I take to the humane society? How can blame be fixed and who will tell us the truth? Meanwhile, one of my cats came home after three days away. She has lost so much weight she looks emaciated, and all she wants to do is sit in my lap. She is accepting only canned cat food that is made for sick animals, and every so often acts as if the food makes her nauseous. I suspect she go mildly poisoned, but I can't rule out sickness. Where is proof? I don't have any.

Most of our cat population is simply gone.

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