A friend of mine often says that no good deed goes unpunished.
I always laughed at this but this time around, as I am living it, all of a sudden it isn’t funny anymore.
Last night, I had to call the police for the first time of my adult life.
At 46 years old, I am being bullied by my next door neighbours.
Yesterday morning, I was woken up by my neighbour screaming angrily at my bedroom window. Not how one expects to start a Sunday morning. Only half awake, I managed to get that he was threatening to send any cat he found in his backyard to the pound. What the hell?, I thought.
I decided to get up and go to the window to see what the heck was going on. Jay -my orange tabby, followed me. I had a glimpse of the neighbour as he was turning around the farthest corner of his house with a cat carrier in his hands and then disappearing on the other side of the house for a moment. When he came back onto the deck, he saw me and Jay still at the window, being quite perplexed by his behaviour.
He looked at me then looked at Jay and said (yelled, rather): “Ah there’s that fucking red cat again. If I catch that fucking cat in my backyard, I’ll take him to the pound.” Then he turned around and went inside the house.
It was 7 am on Sunday, May the third.
At that point, I didn’t feel threatened.
But I feel the cats are.
I guess it is time to rewind a bit.
When I first moved here, I noticed a bunch of cats gathered at their backyard, which is side by side with mine. I have a lovely backyard and often I take my morning coffee there. And my afternoon coffee. It brings me peace. Or it used to, anyway.
Since I was trying desperately to find Satchie, I had borrowed a live trap from a friend of a friend who by pure chance lives just a few blocks from me.
Now, you need to know Windsor has a huge cat overpopulation problem. HUGE.
This friend of a friend has been humanely trapping stray and fixing them out of his own pocket. He needed the trap back so he came to pick it up. He saw the colony gathered in the backyard next door (if you were here, you’d see that even if one is trying hard not to pry, because of the way it is all set, I am some 10 feet above them, way above the fence and it is nearly impossible not to see anything that moves on their deck. We were not snooping, I promise you). He asked me if I knew if the cats were fixed. I said I had no idea since I had just moved in and didn’t know the neighbours.
He said try and find out. If they aren’t, then I can help with that.
One day, as I came back from a doctor’s appointment, there was a beautiful squirrel sitting on a tree in the sidewalk in front of their house. Me being me, I started talking to the squirrel, unaware I was being watched. A woman came out, smiled at me and said: ” I thought I was the only one who talked to the squirrels”. We had a very nice but short conversation, and introduced ourselves. Her husband came out to say hello as well. I told them about my missing Satchie and they seemed very sympathetic. That was back in January.
We kept a nice, civil, neighbourly relationship. We bonded by our mutual love of cats, birds and squirrels.
I continue to sit outside for short periods of time at a time with my coffee since winter was being particularly harsh. Because of it, I also got acquainted with the feral cats and the cats got acquainted with me. I used to talked to them and they were not too afraid of me.
One day late January I finally asked the neighbours if the cats were fixed. They said no. I told them I knew people that did Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and that they had offered to neuter/spay the colony. Then asked the neighbors if they would be ok with it. They gave me a big yes and said they were worried the colony was getting too big for them to afford to feed them all.
Awesome, I said. I’ll talk to them and will back to you.
I was so happy!
I talk to the guy with the trap. He said, it is too cold out, let’s wait till it gets warmer. Which is quite reasonably and one has to keep and eye on the trap and take it inside the minute a cat gets in. Otherwise the cat will die of hypothermia.
February rolled in, deciding to be unseasonably cold. We had to keep waiting.
Then by mid February, we discovered one of the females was pregnant. Crap.
At that point, my new friend with the trap was out of town, then got sick, then his father died. I decided we couldn’t wait any longer as the kittens most likely would die if they were born in that terrible cold. I decided to reach out through Facebook.
A group heard my plea and we tried to set a time that would work for everybody, the person doing the trapping, the neighbours, me. At that point, as I was explaining this to the neighbours because we needed their permission to set the traps in their backyard, they even told me I did not need to let them know or ask for permission again. Just help yourself into the yard and set the traps, they said. Awesome, I said.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work, and there were some delays. The person doing the trapping was only available on March 17, St Patrick’s Day. The ONLY day that week I couldn’t be home because I had my intake appointment at the Canadian Mental Health Association. It’s ok, the person helping said, we’ll do it on Wednesday instead. What if the babies are born on Tuesday, I said. Well, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, they said.
As luck would have it, the babies were indeed born on St Patrick’s.
We were told by my neighbours when we were about to set the traps on Wednesday morning. Unknown to me, the neighbours had placed an insulated shelter under their porch for mama cat and her kittens. Being reassured the babies wouldn’t die of hypothermia we decided it was a terrible idea to try and trap any of the other cats and risking spooking mama cat causing her to move the kittens to an unknown location.
A few weeks went by and we decided it was safe to try and trap both mama and the other cats before the rest of the females got pregnant.
When we showed up at the neighbours’ door to let them know we were about to set the traps, they told us not to trap mama cat and her kittens. At this point I should mention I had a foster home lined up for her and her babies where they would be properly socialized and then placed in loving homes. All of this, the neighbours knew and approved of.
They insisted we should not bother mama cat and/or the kittens. We reminded them there was a house waiting for them, where mama and babies would be safe from predators, warm, well fed, and loved. They asked what would happen to mama cat after the kittens were weaned. She will be spayed and returned here, where she belongs, I reminded them.
They thought for a second and again refused to let us try and trap the mama.
Let me also add at this point that we are talking about free-roaming cats. They don’t “belong” to anyone. Sure, the neighbours had been feeding them for years, but that was about it. Cats were never vetted and worse, they were allowed to reproduce indiscriminately. Free-roaming colonies often have care-givers who first of all, make sure they are fixed, but also make sure they have enough food, fresh water and shelters for the cold months. If a cat seems to be sick, they trap them, have them vetted and then return them to the colony. That’s is. It is a labour of love, one that often goes unrecognized, appreciated or thanked. But no care-giver would consider themselves the “owner” of any of the cats. They will defend them, love them and care but will NEVER claim ownership of the cats.
Back to the story. We asked if we could try and trap any of the other cats. It was of paramount importance to me to be able to do so, as another female had become pregnant as well. They said “yes but do make sure you don’t spook mama cat”. We promised them we wouldn’t and left to set the traps, which we did in MY backyard, in order to stay true to our promise. All of the cats hang out in my backyard as well. They come and have chats with me even.
We set three traps and we less than an hour later, we had three cats in them. Two females and one male. As promised, they were taken to the clinic, fixed, and then returned to their territory, which is to say our backyards, all in the same day.
The next morning, as I was having my usual cup of coffee outside, the guy came out. I said good morning as usual. He turned around without replying. This is weird, I though. But didn’t want to read anything into it.
But! Same thing happened again the next day so I knew something was wrong.
I mentioned this to the person from the TNR group that had helped with the trapping. They suggested they could try and speak to the neighbours, explain again.
I thought it was a great idea. The neighbours were incredibly rude to this person.
A few more days went by and then I got a phone call for the Humane Society. They said they had two female cats in their custody and that they were ear tips (I heard). I got very excited because I thought they were talking about Satchie. That they had call me because they thought one of them could be Satchie. I was in Lansing when they called. In a moving car, with the Sid and the Sidlets. Add to that I am hard of hearing. I didn’t get much of the conversation but I told them I was in the States and that the earliest I could go there to see the cats was Saturday, when I’d be back in Windsor. Since that was longer than the three days before the cat becomes property of the Humane Society, I was concerned as to what would happen to them. The person on the phone assured me they would keep the cats until I was able to go see them. I hung up and all of us in the car started screaming, thinking it was good news.
Then I went through the conversation in my mind and realized nothing made sense. Why could the person dropping the cats at humane society would mention my name? The hopeful side of my mind said, maybe they saw one of your fliers and that’s how they know. Of course it didn’t occur to me at that point that my name does not appear anywhere in the flyers.
Then, I thought, but why would they mention the TNR group that helped with three cats of the colony? That doesn’t make any sense. The more I thought about it, it became obvious they had said “ear-tipped” and not ear tips. And they were talking about the female cats that had been spayed the previous weekend.
I got to Windsor on Friday evening to another message from Humane Society reminding me to go pick up the cats on Saturday. Hmmmm
Saturday finally came, and I called them. My fears were confirmed. My neighbours had trapped the two females and had taken them to HS, telling them a bunch of lies to justify their act. They said they had trapped them because their original care-giver (and 80 year old man) was too ill to care for them anymore and the person that was now feeding them (me) was away and there was no one to take care of them. Right.
The people at HS recognized the cats as fixed ferals. Since the neighbours had volunteered my name and the name of the TNR group, they called me, because they know that it is inhumane to take cats away from their colony and transplant them somewhere else.
Also, adult feral cats can rarely be socialized and adopted. It takes a very patient person, and lots of work. It is not impossible of course but it takes a great investment of time and love and even so, sometimes nothing works.
That is why they called me. Since the neighbours were stupid enough to acknowledge me as the current colony care-giver, Humane Society was returning them to me. They called my neighbours to let them know the cats were coming back. The naighbours said they didn’t want them back. Humane Society people told them there was nothing they (the neighbours) could do about it and that they were being told just as a courtesy.
But then just a few days later, they also took mama cat and her five kittens to Humane Society.
Humane Society again called me to let me know they were spaying mama cat and returning her to me. Which they did. I also offered to foster the kittens. Since mama was coming back to me anyway, it made sense that I kept them together until the kittens well old enough to be weaned and I am particularly good at socializing kittens. Everybody knows kittens get adopted very easily. But what most people don’t realize is that a good number of adopted cats are returned to the shelter after a while because reasons. A properly socialized kitten has much, much better changes of not being returned.
Back to the present time.
Or yesterday, rather.
The neighbours seem to have taken offense of the fact the cats have been returned. Apparently for them, it is a grave injury that the cats are back after they went through all that trouble to trap them and take them to the Humane Society.
Also, for whatever reason, they seem to hold me personally responsible for the offense. Never mind it was the Humane Society’s decision to release them to me. I even had to give permission for a friend to pick them up for me as I don’t have a car. They would not be released to anyone but me, the rightful colony care-giver.
Of course, since they have been feeding the colony for years, now the cats, despite of hanging out in my backyard, still go to theirs when it is time for food according to the schedule the neigbours themselves settled.
Why the change in their behaviour, I have no idea. Mental illness has come to mind. I don’t know and I don’t care.
I am past the compassionate, sympathetic stage.
They threatened MY cat. Then they threatened ME.
The male cat that was fixed along the two females and who sleep in my backyard every night, is already missing. I was fearing for the other cats in the colony already but now I also fear for my own cats. I didn’t think the neighbours would dare touch a house cat but obviously I was wrong.
I am afraid they will trap the cats, any cat and dump them somewhere else, now that they know they will always be returned to me if they take them to the Humane Society.
But all the way up to Sunday evening, while I was very concerned about the cats, I was not concerned about myself.
The harassing continued all day long, yes.
But all this time I ignored him/them. Never replied, never said anything back. Sid and I could hear them yelling at my window. They never got anything from either one of us.
Then when we were getting ready for bed something very disturbing happened. I was brushing my teeth and happened to look out the window. The neighbour was there in the dark, looking at me and pointing his index finger at me. That scared the crap of me.
Just imagine, you are brushing your teeth and you see the shape of a guy outside your window, silently pointing at you. For a split second, it made the hairs in the back of my neck stand up.
Then I realized it was my lovely neighbour and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Despite the rage, I did keep my cool. I took the brush out of my mouth, looked him in the eye and calmly said “what”.
You are in trouble, he said.
Again, calmly I said, no YOU are in trouble. I am calling the police right now. Then turned away, finished brushing my teeth and called the police.
But holy cow that was creepy.
I was threatened by my next door neighbour. I didn’t feel safe.
This bullying thing is amazing you know? The way it works, I mean.
I know karate and I am well acquainted with self-defense techniques. I am younger than my bullying neighbours and even though the guy is easily 6′ tall or maybe taller, I am still confident I can take him down if I have to.
And yet, today, I was afraid of taking the garbage out.
This is garbage. And not the kind I had to take to the curb….