“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

If I may please take a moment to talk about something close to my heart.

WARNING: What I’m about to talk about is very sad, and involves neglected animals and animal death.

Earlier this year I made the decision to do some volunteering for Cats Protection. I do donate on a regular basis and always spare a couple of pouches of cat food for the donations box at my local supermarket whenever I go beast-food shopping for my cat Petra. However, I was feeling a little bit disillusioned with life in general and wanted to do something to make it worthwhile, so I volunteered to be a socialiser for Cats Protection. This is basically where you turn up at your local cat shelter and cuddle, play with, and generally be around the cats and kittens. They spend a lot of their time alone in their pens whilst they’re in the shelter and some are not used to humans (for example strays, mistreated cats, feral kittens etc.) It’s good for them to be paid some attention and given some love whilst waiting to be taken away to their forever-home.

I had barely been volunteering for two weeks before the saddest kitten I have ever seen turned up in the shelter. HIs name was Lewis.

Little Lewis

Lewis was abandoned by his mother when he was weeny, and so he’d been hand-reared up until the point he arrived in my local shelter. He’d been placed in a pen with a bunch of other kittens and their mum in the hopes that he’d learn socialising skills and be taken in. Because he was hand-reared and so tiny, he didn’t know how to wash himself, and so he smelled very bad and was covered in his own faeces.

I’ll never forget the first time I spotted him huddled and terrified in a collapsed cat tunnel, keeping out of the way and staying quiet. I hadn’t even noticed he was there until the owner of the shelter pointed him out to me, and I’d been in the pen for about half an hour by that time. I scooped him out and he was so shivery and smelly. Once the lady left, I couldn’t stop myself from crying, I was so upset. I stroked him gently and hugged him against my chest. I tried to encourage the other kittens to get used to his scent (which was pungent, because he was so dirty) by stroking them both and putting little Lewis next to them whilst they were asleep. All he wanted to do was cuddle up and get warm, and he kept trying to suckle (much to the kittens’ annoyance); he just wanted the mum he never had.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 22.59.01I was so shaken by the whole experience that the next day when I went out for a meal with my boyfriend, I burst into tears in public just talking to him about it. I even resolved – with some emotional support from my boyfriend – that I would take little Lewis in myself when he eventually went up for adoption. I wanted to rename him Fitz, after FitzChivalry Farseer from Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice; the scruffy dirty stable boy that nobody wanted. I was hoping things would be OK. I was hoping that when I arrived the following week, Lewis would be clean and frolicking around with the other kittens.

When I turned up, I was told that the other kittens had bullied Lewis so much that he had had to be taken indoors, also because it was cold and he had no other bodies to snuggle up with. I wasn’t allowed to see him because socialisers aren’t allowed in the house, but was assured that he’d been given a bath and was clean. He kept defecating in his bedding and urinating on the sofas, but nevertheless I still held out hope.

That was about a month ago now.

When I arrived at the shelter today, I was told that Lewis was dead.

He died earlier this morning. The lady at the shelter told me that he was due to be put to sleep anyway; he wouldn’t stop soiling himself and the vet said he wasn’t getting any better. There was nothing they could do. He had something majorly wrong with his insides (they’re not sure what) but they think that was why his mother abandoned him; she knew that there was no hope. The lady at the shelter said she let him out of his pen everyday and gave him lots of cuddles and playtime. He died warm and safe, and if he was suffering, he isn’t anymore. Cats Protection did everything they could.

This evening when I got in, I had cereal for dinner, watched an episode of The Muppets and consumed half my weight in chocolate biscuits. Lewis has been my first Cats Protection heartbreak, but I know he’s not going to be the last. And the truth is, as upsetting as this whole episode has been for me, I know in my heart of hearts that there is no one better than myself to give these cats and kittens the love, understanding and affection that they need during their time at the shelter.

Lewis was a hopeless case, but there are just so many cats in shelters who by all logical reason shouldn’t be there. Perfectly healthy, beautifully clean and gorgeously affectionate, more and more come in everyday. The saddest thing? About 95% of the cats I’ve helped to socialise have all been either fully black, or black and white.

27 October is National Black Cat Day. On average it takes 13% longer for a black cat to find a home than any other coloured cat. There are a number of reasons for this, from superstitions about them being unlucky to them not taking as nice pictures (yes, really!).

National Black Cat Day

So please spare a thought today for all the cats in Cats Protection shelters, whether they be abandoned dirty sick little kittens like Lewis, gorgeous healthy black and white strays like Luna here, or the long-overlooked black cats as Hallowe’en approaches. Are you thinking of buying a kitten, or do you have space in your life for a little furry friend? Please consider adopting from your local shelter. It doesn’t even have to be Cats Protection, and remember that when you adopt rather than buy, you save not only the life of the cat you adopt, but also the life of the cat that takes its place.

Thanks for letting me ramble. Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Cats Protection

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