Tag Archives: Stray Cats

Shelter

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I may have mentioned it before, but I love Illustration Friday, a site where illustrators respond to a weekly prompt based on a theme. It’s a great place to see a lot of creative responses to the motif, and to post your own theme-related work. This week’s prompt is SHELTER, which fits perfectly with some of my other recent posts. Like this Friday Art Cat on Katzenworld, this previous post about Los Gatos de Panama, and this one about a little kitty who lives in a culvert.

Cat under an umbrella, watercolor painting

Rainy cat.

Here’s a watercolor sketch that was inspired by a rainstorm and my cat, Miss Bean, who is wary of any water that falls from the sky. For me, it’s not only a portrait of my own cat who was a stray, but also a symbol for all the cats, and other homeless animals who need protection, food, medicine and shelter.

Too Many To Count

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Too Many To Count

Panama City is sprawling and modern with amazing architecture, stunning tropical vistas, and a lot of history. Panama City also has an alarmingly high stray animal population. With lazy, unkempt dogs visible in every part of the city, I knew there had to be stray cats, but where?

I’d seen a single, sneaky cat in an alley near a grocery, one under a car near the fish market, and a couple of scrappy cats in the old part of the city. But, it wasn’t until our final night that I found the lair.

Alley cat, cat under car, cat on wall

Grocery, fish market, and apartment dumpster cats in Casco Viejo, Panama City.

We were strolling in the linear park along the Pacific Ocean looking for raspa when I saw a petite, mewing white and calico kitty perched on the seawall, along with at least 20 of her friends! There were feral cats sneaking in the bushes, lurking on the rocks behind the wall, and many just out in the open. They were looking for handouts, endeavoring to be approachable in hopes that someone would toss an edible morsel. Some of the cats were people-friendly and would scruff on someone’s leg or take a pet on the head. Most were dubious, and darted a safe distance away upon being approached.

Cat on the sea

A collection of the sweet, feral cats I bonded with at the marina in Panama City.

I discovered that these cats are part of a managed colony run by kind people at an enormous city marina. When I asked the night guard how many cats he thought lived at the marina, he laughed. Too many to count.

Too many to count. That basically encapsulates the stray population, in general. Too many dogs. Too many cats. A problem that humans created, and are now trying to manage through education and sterilization, while struggling to provide basic food and care for the uncountable.

Watercolor sketch of cats

Drawings in my sketchbook of just a few of the feral cats I met. 

And yet, help comes. Of all of the cats I encountered, I could tell they were being fed, as evidenced by piles dry cat food scattered on the pavement. Almost all had a clipped ear, the sign of having been spayed or neutered. A cat here or there needed serious personal grooming, but mostly they seemed adjusted to their lives in the tropics, resting on a seawall, enjoying the cool ocean breeze.

Life in a Culvert

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I should have named my cats Lucky, Fortunate, and Charmed. All three were rescued from stray-dom, and now live a dry, protected, well-fed, and healthy existence. They receive regular scruffing and head pets if they so choose. There is no chance that, as they lay in a sun puddle by the window, anything dire will happen.  My cats even have an outdoor room built just for them so they can go out to watch the birds and roll in the dirt, despite the sideways looks from some of my neighbors.

Cat at a gas station.

Hello! I live in a drainage culvert.

So, when I encounter stray cats like this sweet, little black kitty, I feel sadness and shame. Sadness because I can tell she’s not getting the health care she needs, or the best nutrition, or shelter from the heat or rain. As far as I know, she’s the only kitty who lives in this culvert, at this gas station, in this wealthy, gated neighborhood area in San Antonio, Texas. Shame because my cats live the feline equivalent life of the 1%.

Black kitty could be considered lucky among the feral and stray cats. I asked the gas station attendant who tended to her, and was told that she gets plenty of food and water from the kind people who work there, and from people in the nearby neighborhood. That’s good. There are many, many people who care about animals. This black kitty is a true feral. She would not respond with purring to a scruff on the head, even if you could approach any closer than about 8 feet.

I can’t possibly help every kitty in the world.  I understand that change comes one kitty at a time. I also know that this black kitty’s story plays out in thousands of culverts, parking lots and abandoned buildings all over the country, and that not every kitty is faring as well as this San Antonio gas station kitty. I try not to be overwhelmed, and give my support where I can.

Here’s a scruff for all kitties, everywhere.