Suffering Sucks

The tragic story of a nameless, homeless, ordinary black cat

Suffering is my most hated enemy.  I don’t mean just for me; I mean for all conscious creatures.  Suffering is everywhere.  Some of it we know about; most of it we don’t.  Somewhere at one time or another, people and animals are enduring horrible suffering, and often no one even knows about it or no one is helping.  Suffering can be worse than dying.  When suffering is intense and there is no hope that it will ever end, then death is not an enemy; death becomes a friend.

I’m not a gloom-and-doom kind of guy.  I see all the beautiful and wonderful things in the world too.  But suffering holds a special loathsome place in my heart, and after what I just saw, it is weighing especially heavily on my mind right now.

On the last day of the year, I rescued a very sweet cat out of a tree.  Everything about it was good:  the cat was super-sweet and cooperative, the family was very supportive and appreciative, and the rescue was very easy.  I was just packing up from that very rewarding rescue when my phone rang.  The woman at the other end of the line told me that she found a cat stuck in her crepe myrtle tree, and its leg appeared to be broken.  She thought that maybe he had fallen in the tree and broken his leg then.  She did not know the cat or if it belonged to anyone or not.  While the case sounded urgent, it did not sound like an emergency.  She said she had called Animal Control and they told her to call me.  I told her I would finish packing up and call her back for more information in five minutes, and I did just that.

When I talked to her the second time, I got more important information.  This time she told me that the cat was wedged between two branches and could not move.  He had been in that position since at least 10:00 that morning which was almost five hours earlier.  Now this sounded like an emergency, and the cat would likely need veterinary attention.  I told her to call Animal Control back and tell them about that so that they know that the cat is suffering and in need of immediate attention.  In the meantime, I hurried on my way to the site.  She called them, but they told her that they could not do anything until the cat is out of the tree.

When I arrived at the site, I was horrified by what I saw.  The solid black cat was draped over the fork of the tree by his belly with no place to put his feet.  All his weight was on his belly which was wedged between two branches that diverged vertically at only a 15 degree angle.  He was at the bottom of the fork which squeezed his belly so tight that he was only one and half inches wide at best.  Poop had been squeezed out of his rear end.  He was alive but exhausted.  His back legs were not broken, but were dangling lifelessly.

He was only six feet high, so he could easily be reached by hand.  It would take two people to get him out.  I borrowed the woman’s ladder and stood up on it to get in a good position where I could spread the two branches apart.  I secured the rescue-pole noose around the cat’s body and handed the pole to the woman telling her to lift him up when I spread the branches.  She was afraid of the cat and hesitant to cooperate.  She went to see if her next door neighbor was home to see if he would do it instead.  No one was home.  This time I told her that she just had to do it.  This was an emergency and she was just going to have to find the courage to do it.  I spread the branches and she did indeed find the courage and strength to lift the cat upward out of the hold of the branches.  I took the pole from her and lowered the cat gently to the ground.  As I did so, I could see that his hind legs were paralyzed.  I placed him in my net, released the noose and removed the pole.  He never fought or struggled while we handled him.

He needed immediate veterinary care, and I wanted to first find the owner if there was one.  I scanned him for a microchip, but, not surprisingly, he did not have one.  The woman did not know if the cat belonged to anyone, but she knew about a neighbor in the next block who could possibly be the owner.  She pointed out the house to me, and I went over there and rang the doorbell.  The woman there told me that she feeds a black cat, but it is not hers.  She regarded it as a homeless cat.  When I told her that I may need to turn the cat over to Animal Control where he would likely be euthanized, she did not appear to be very concerned.

I decided to take him to the LSU veterinary emergency clinic for an evaluation.  If the damage was something from which the cat could recover, then I would pay the bill myself.  If not, then they would have to euthanize him.  The cat looked so lifeless by the time I arrived, that for a moment I thought he had died.  The doctor there took him to examine him and came back very quickly with the news that the damage was much too extensive and euthanasia was the only option.

So this is when his suffering finally ended.

If someone had simply recognized the seriousness of the cat’s situation, he could have been rescued much sooner. If someone had helped this cat out of the tree much sooner, he could have survived it just fine.  But because no one understood his plight, and no one could get to him quickly, he suffered several helpless hours of agony and died, all because his feet slipped on the smooth bark of a crepe myrtle tree.

I didn’t know this cat, but I hurt for him.  I cried for him and for all the suffering he helplessly endured and for all the suffering he represented:  the suffering that other cats and other animals and other people have all endured, both now and in the past, often alone and with no one to know or help or care.  Suffering sucks!

This is why I do what I do.  In the overall universe of suffering, a cat stuck in tree is such a small thing in comparison.  But rescuing cats out of trees is the one thing for which I feel best suited, and there are so few people who will do it.  This is the way in which I feel I can help reduce suffering in this world.  Through the simple act of bringing a cat to the ground, I can put an end to the suffering of both the cat and the people who care about him.  If everyone could find their own special way to reduce suffering, the world would be a much better place.  This is why I do it.