The dog attack happened in February 2012. The cat we had had for almost five months came to the front door of our block limping, feet covered in soil. There was a little blood. At first, not realising what had gone on, I wondered why the fur on his stomach was loose. I couldn’t work it out – why was…? oh. That’s why. The cat was badly injured. The cat was supremely injured. The cat had – oh fuck – his stomach – minutes to live.
Colin the cat had been so-named by a family a few roads away from us, who had found him one day sitting under a car. They duly put up posters asking the owners to come forward but no one did, so they kept Colin. When they moved to Australia we took Colin on – it was our 7 year old son’s first pet. “I won’t be lonely again!” he trilled, as Colin arrived in an old micro-scooter box. The family gave us a pack of litter and some Iams. They told us Colin’s story – adding that they had heard from a neighbour that if no one claims a cat, it’s bound to have been bred for dog-fighting.
Colin’s stomach was lacerated during the attack and the skin had to be removed and reconstructed (revealing some quite revolting insides that I did have the misfortune to spot at one time. Have you ever seen a cat’s intestine? Whoa, mother). The vets nearly amputated his dislocated right leg until it suddenly got better. Since February he’s had MRSA, pseudomonas aeruginosa (which apparently was worse than MRSA), been on five types of antibiotics, various sorts of pain relief and still wears an Elizabethan Collar (EC). The existence of MRSA proved Colin was attacked by a dog, say the vets, as it would have been passed through the dog’s mouth.
Have you ever given a cat medicine? Hahahahahahahahah. I spent a day looking up “techniques” on youtube; Colin and I were at war for several weeks until he resigned himself to it. The one time Colin did get better – September 2012 – we cheered. The antibiotics and daily care had worked – no superbugs, skin healed – the collar came off and the meds stopped. We (the grown ups) drank heartily in celebration. My seven year old son went to school with an A4 print-out of the “well” Colin to put on his classroom wall. Within three weeks, Colin was back at the vets (the wonderful RSCPA Harmsworth hospital) with a stomach that – well – let’s say you wouldn’t want to meet it on a dark night.
So far, a story of an ill cat. We are unlucky, yes but there we go. “It’s just a cat,” a friend told me. “Just swap it for a nice new one.”
My point is this: if dogs can attack cats, they can attack other dogs. They can and do attack babies and small children sometimes. If dog owners aren’t responsible – they don’t care or simply think it’s “funny” their dog is the Cock of the North, then we have a problem. London has seen a substantial rise in the amount of dog attacks in the last year alone. When I was a child, people still had aggressive dogs – Rottweilers used to scare the daylights out of me – but having a pet wasn’t a badge of honour like it is now. I had a cat who used to go outside all day, every day. He lived to 16.I love Gospel Oak – I’ve been here for over a decade – but do you want to live in a neighbourhood where you can’t let your cat out because it might get savaged? Where you feel nervous because the local Fido is a fuck-off Staffy eyeing you up as some sort of snack? Is this the sort of community we are happy to be part of? The owners of the dog that attacked our cat must have at least heard it, but just walked on by. Colin’s attack is symptomatic of an territorial world-view, what’s mine is mine. Man, I’m no hippy but this mindset alarms me. And I know Staffies can be all right with the right care – this is a problem with the owners, not the dogs themselves.
Colin is still ill; he is on medication and visits the Harmsworth every ten days or so. The vets say that only an CT scan will reveal what’s stopping him getting better. We don’t have the money for that – but I’m trying everything I can to find a way to get it to happen.
In himself, Colin’s pretty lively. Apart from the collar and the skin unhealed, he’s like any mad tomcat who likes climbing on the bookshelf and chasing spiders. He’s dealing with it. He’s a medical mystery. A fighter.
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