On a Sunday evening in late July, my wife got a phone call from a relative in another part of the state. An injured cat had been found and they didn’t know what to do. No vets or shelters would be open on a Sunday night and the emergency centers (if there were any for animals in the area) would be very expensive. In addition to not knowing what to do, the relative had no money to offer either an emergency vet or a regular vet.
The details were a little sketchy. The cat was supposedly about a year old. Both front legs seemed badly injured. The leg injuries were gruesome and this was causing a bit of panic to set in. My wife and I were able to determine that the cat was not in immediate distress. The wounds look like they were not new. The animal was very thin and was covered with fleas. With the information we had, we advised making the animal as comfortable as possible overnight and taking it to a shelter in the morning. We looked online and found a nearby shelter.
I followed up with the shelter a few days later after we didn’t hear anything from the relative other than that the cat had been surrendered. The young cat was actually an elderly female cat in poor health. She had severe injuries to both legs and severe oral disease. It was determined that she was in kidney failure. No chip was found and no owner came forward. The cat was euthanized after a four-day hold.
My wife and I struggled with the decision to take the poor animal to the shelter. We were worried that the cat might be quickly euthanized because it would be too expensive to care for. Given those involved and the logistics, however, it really seemed to be the best option. My wife made an appointment at our vet and prepared to make the long drive to pick up the cat if it was not taken to get some medical attention the next morning.
I contacted the shelter and asked their opinion about this situation. They said that even with taking the cat directly to a vet instead of a shelter, the outcome would have been the same for this animal. I found it startling when I was told that the shelter commonly sees dogs and cats at this level of medical breakdown.
I asked Nancy at the CCC what she would do if she were faced with our situation.
For me personally, I do a lot of rescue, so I would take the cat home and assess. Given the condition described, I’m sure I would have had her put down too. I’d take her to my vet and go that route, mainly because shelters are quicker to euthanize cats with needs. If a cat has a broken leg, and you take it to a local public shelter, chances are they will euthanize. I won’t kill a cat for having a broken leg, and have paid out of pocket for care. If someone cannot afford to care for a cat, or does not want to take on the whole process, it is certainly the kindest thing to do to take to a shelter. It is better that the cat not be lingering and suffering.
One of the reasons we started the CCC in our area was so a rescuer can connect with a mentor for advice about such situations. If the rescuers are members of the CCC, they can apply for financial assistance. In non-emergency situations, they can request an exam by our contract vet and can access the virtual vet at any time. We have so many ways to help cut costs. There is financial reimbursement for some medical expenses related to free roaming cat rescues, and some medication options that are free of charge with the okay of the vet. Our goal is to make rescue affordable. The only reason I’d go to a full-priced clinic is if I had an emergency where it was obvious to me that the cat was not going to survive, and I wanted to give a humane death.
Please see this link for a list of groups that assist with veterinary bills.