Friday, March 3, 2017

A Cat Autopsy and Animal CSI: What I Learned from Animals

Losing a pet can be traumatic, but when one pet kills another it’s almost a Cain and Abel scenario.

In my case, a sister-against-sister canine-versus-feline spat left me with one less mouth to feed and a mystery that had to be solved to see if the canine culprit could stay – or be sent to a shelter

One day in 1997, I came home from my job in Hailey, Idaho to a quiet house

This was not normal

Normal meant two dogs barking, eager to be let out for exercise and fun, and two cats in the window

Instead, no cats watched from the window and no sound greeted my ears as I turned the key, opened the door and eyed my beloved cat “Kitty Gurl” lying dead in the middle of the living room.

My Rhodesian Ridgeback Rosie shied away from me on my entry to the crime scene – living room, couch, coffee table, dead cat in the middle of the floor.

No blood showed anywhere.

I stood stunned for a moment taking the scene in.

My diminutive cat, all black except for a white chest, lay motionless.

I convicted Rosie of the crime. Her companion George, a sheepdog/Springer spaniel mix with a happy-go-lucky attitude, seemed eager to turn her in and testify as a witness.

My other cat – Thomas, the Grey tabby – was nowhere to be seen – probably afraid of becoming the next feline fatality.

As I investigated the crime scene without moving the body, I began to try and determine if this had been a pre-meditated murder or crime of passion.

Had Rosie been biding her time? Had she waited years to pounce on my stray cat taken in years earlier and before the big dog? Or had she killed the cat by accident?

Like most animals in my life, Kitty Gurl was given to me.

She’d been a stray roaming the parking lot at the newspaper I worked at, the Waco Tribune-Herald, and another reporter put the cat on my car. I could not resist and took the cat home.

At the time I lived alone with no pets in a one-bedroom apartment. Kitty Gurl earned her keep by munching anything insect and leaving rodents on the rug at the entrance.

She became my closest confidante.

As my fortune improved, so did her fortune.

I bought a house. She got a kitty condo.

Soon, she got another human to live with who brought along George.

Two more strays joined the menagerie – Thomas the tabby and Rosie, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy abandoned because she did not meet AKC standards for the breed.

From the beginning, there had been an uneasy truce between Rosie and Kitty Gurl as Rosie tried to show she led the pack.

Kitty Gurl, all of five pounds, suffered Rosie’s presence as a pup and then frequently fended off the full-grown 106-pound canine.

The cat kept her claws due to the fact she sharpened them on a scratching post and not furniture. With those sharp claws, she managed to keep the dog intimidated. George, did not care about pack leadership and was more into play as was Thomas, the male cat, who had his claws removed due to his lack of restraint in using them on furniture and screens.

The animals got along fine in wide-open quarters in a three-bedroom house.

After the move to Hailey, Idaho, and two-bedroom house, close quarters resulted in more tension and sometimes bloody encounters.

One, between George and Rosie, left me with a scarred forearm from Rosie’s bite when I reached between the two dogs to break up the fight.

Dad always said “never try to break up a fight between animals – throw water on them.”

Wish I’d listened to dad.

Instead, I wound up scarred.

Later, I found myself investigating an apparent fatal face off.

I wanted desperately to believe the feline’s murder was catslaughter – an accidental death.

Carefully, I picked up Kitty Gurl’s remains. The felt so light, airy and missing her aloof personality. I moved her onto a cookie sheet.

I took her body to the refrigerator and slipped her inside, making the appliance into a sort of a makeshift morgue.

Then I called the veterinarian.

I went straight to the point – I wanted him to perform an autopsy on Kitty Gurl.

He answered with no surprise in his voice, telling me it would cost about $100.

The vet knew all four of our animals. He said he figured sooner or later some mishap would come from keeping two large dogs and two feisty cats in a two-bedroom house.

He called me at work a day after I’d dropped my cat’s body off.

Autopsy results showed my cat died of a blunt trauma to the head and a skull fracture. Tiny puncture wounds around the neck indicated the cat had been picked up by the dog.

Using the location of the cat’s body near the coffee table, the vet and I were able to conclude Rosie had picked the cat up and shaken her. The cat’s head had struck the coffee table and the blow fractured the skull.

The vet theorized Rosie had probably been trying to warn the cat – otherwise a stronger bite to the neck would have finished the job.

Therefore, I could only conclude Rosie had no murderous intent toward the cat and the dog had been asserting her position in the pack.

Now the point of this story – other than the lengths some pet owners go to in order to prove a pet’s innocence or degree of culpability – is what did I learn?

This story came about when Bob at Middle-Zone Musings asked for it here He hosts a “What I learned from…” each month and this time out it was “What I learned from animals.”

Well, the first thing learned was that when there’s two or more animals living together one has to assert their dominance.

The second thing – keep two large dogs and two cats in a small house and havoc ensues.

Third – let it go long enough and ignore the warnings and it’s bad enough to clean up after messes made, but having to bury a pet just comes down to no fun at all.

Labels: A Cat Autopsy and Animal CSI: What I Learned from Animals

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