What would possess someone to dump a tiny kitten in a garbage bag and abandon it in a dumpster like some half-eaten fast food?
That’s mostly a rhetorical question, because whoever did this will never be caught.
Nor will the vast majority of other abusers who abandon animals at the side of the road or drop them off in some remote field under the mistaken impression they will be able to fend for themselves.
But leaving a kitten trussed up in a bag inside a dumpster?
That’s practically a death sentence — and a particularly heinous act of animal cruelty.
“We get dumped kittens all the time,” said Linda Cohen, a Nipomo resident and volunteer trapper with Feline Network of the Central Coast. “But I’ve never had a kitten in a garbage bag in a dumpster.”
Luckily, someone at a nearby business heard his cries, hauled him out of the garbage and contacted Cohen for help.
The tuxedo kitten — estimated to be between 5 and 6 weeks old — was found near an automotive business in Santa Maria. While that’s outside Feline Network’s usual service area, an exception was made since Santa Maria has such a heavy caseload right now. (Santa Maria and Nipomo are hot spots for kitten overpopulation, according to rescue volunteers.)
Sylvia Torres, a volunteer foster “mom,” offered to take the kitten into her home, where he joined a litter of other foster kittens around the same age.
Oscar — the name the kitten was given at his foster home — got medical care, a flea treatment and lots of TLC.
When he was old enough, he was offered for adoption, which is how he came to live at my house.
He even came with his own blanket and toys. (Thanks, Feline Network!)
Along with photos and developmental updates — those include deconstructing jigsaw puzzles and attacking the robot vacuum — I’ve been sharing his harrowing history with family and friends.
Here are some of their responses:
“That’s (expletive) up.”
”What type of person does that?”
Why is a good question — one that’s been on my mind as well.
“Either cruelty or desperation,” speculated Lynette Crane, another Feline Network volunteer who coordinates cases in South County. “Those are the two (reasons) that hit me.”
Cohen has another theory about this type of mistreatment: It could be a form of partner abuse. One member of a couple gets angry and takes it out on the partner’s pet.
Or it could be callousness and indifference.
“I think there are some people, sadly, in society who view animals as disposable,” SLO County Animal Services Manager Eric Anderson said.
Back in the day, he said, it wasn’t unheard of for people to drown unwanted litters of puppies and kittens because they presumably had no other option.
That’s no longer the case.
“There’s a million things to do besides throw it away,” said Cohen.
The internet is one place to start.
It has information on over a dozen shelters and rescue organizations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties that take in unwanted animals, foster them and put them up for adoption. (Click here for a directory of organizations.)
While some nonprofit groups may run out of capacity, county-run shelters are obligated to accept unwanted animals, and most have night kennels for emergency drop-offs. Not a great option, but it’s better than throwing a kitten or puppy or bunny in a dumpster.
Ideally, more animals would be spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted litters in the first place.
There’s help for that as well; several nonprofits in San Luis Obispo County offer low-cost spay and neuter clinics or provide vouchers, including the Feline Network, Woods Humane Society and C.A.R.E 4 Paws, a Santa Barbara organization that recently expanded into San Luis County.
One last thing: If you’re looking for a kitten — or are interested in becoming a foster — now’s the time, because the need is huge in some areas of the Central Coast.
One example: Over a recent two-month period, Animal Services in Northern Santa Barbara County took in 70 litters of kittens — and no, that’s not a typo. Many of those kittens are available for adoption or will be soon.
In other words, there are lots of little Oscars out there, and no matter how the got their start — in a dumpster, in a box left on the side of the road or in a vacant field — each one deserves a good home.