NOTE: If you're squeamish, you probably shouldn't read this posting...
I became an official nonprofit cat rescue about three years ago, and it's been quite an adventure. I've discovered I didn't know as much about our feline friends as I thought. Mostly, it's been very rewarding, although there are heartbreaking moments along the way.
Anyway, last week we got a call from a family that had just bought some property nearby and discovered a feral cat colony also lived there. Not being cat lovers, they asked us to trap and relocate the colony immediately, or else they were going to invite their friends over for some target practice. Eek! Needless to say, I swallowed my anger regarding their attitude and we got to work trapping about 25 cats and moving them into my barn for the time being. We found none of them were fixed and seven of them were obviously pregnant. OMG, if they each have five kittens, we're looking at a minimum of thirty-five! Over the years, we've taken many, many ferals to the low cost spay/neuter clinic, but have never taken cats that were already pregnant. This is the first time I've had to deal with the moral dilemma of 'Right to Life' versus my obligation and commitment to reduce overpopulation. Well, I stayed true to my commitment and scheduled all seven to be spayed and aborted on Monday of this week.
Well, when I went out to feed on Friday, I noticed one of the pregnant queens seemed to be in labor, as she was squatting, pushing, licking, and mewling in obvious pain. I brought her into the house and she proceeded to give birth to six kittens. It was obvious they weren't full term because they were pink and hairless and tiny, tiny. But they were breathing, and then they started crying. I watched the mother struggle to get them to nurse, but they didn't seem to have the suckling instinct. It was obvious they wouldn't survive for long. Well, I spent the next 24 hours listening to their cries while mom tried and tried to help them. We watched them expire one by one. It was heartbreaking.
I took that mom with all the others to the clinic on Monday morning. I was exhausted, but trying not to dwell on what was about to happen. When I picked the cats up that afternoon, the total count of fetuses "saved from being born" (the clinic's terminology) came to forty-three. In fact, the mom that had miscarried on Friday still had seven more inside her! Driving home, I couldn't stop imagining all those adorable babies that I had sacrificed, and I was suddenly overcome with shame and guilt and profound sadness. I had to pull to the side of the road and let myself cry and cry. I felt like a murderer, and I haven't been able to shake the feeling ever since. All those beautiful babies! What have I done?
Also, none of my research warned me that those female cats were going to search for their missing babes. They're looking everywhere, calling and calling.
This is killing me. I wish I would have let the pregnancies go to term. I love the babies, always have. I love to bottle feed them and watch them play. And we never have difficulty finding homes for them. I feel awful about what I've done. I don't want to be a rescue any longer. I need some feedback, pro and con, to help me sort this out.