We considered the limits of our responsibility for a street cat and Bestia’s pain. … but throughout all our ethical considerations was the nagging feeling and the simple reality that Bestia was a living being in pain and that we should help.
“Once Jonathan said to go ahead and feed it, I should have known. Once I decided to set out a special bowl for him, I should have known. Once I named it Bestia to match our other two pets with B names, I should have known. I should have known that J and I are animal people and that we weren’t just feeding Bestia, we were acquiring our 3rd pet. It was just a random act of kindness. You see a street cat. You feed it. You end up naming it and taking it to the vet and spending hundreds to save it. hehe
If you are not born with empathy for animals, it is often after having your first pet as an adult that you develop said empathy. For us it was our dearly departed first pet as a couple, Jack (our gorgeous black Labrador). From there, we saved our cat Boots from the streets. She appeared in our driveway a few days after Jack passed and to this day, we consider her a reincarnation of him due to her similar habits. Then we acquired Beni our crazy Siberian Husky, so when we saw a street cat that seemed malnourished, we didn’t see the harm in giving it some of Boots extra food.
That was our arrangement for a few months. We’d leave food out and Bestia would eat without ever letting us pet him. J made it a part of his early morning routine and I’d cover lunch and dinner. It felt like we were just doing the right thing for a living being until one morning Bestia came for breakfast and was limping. I called J and we decided to give it a day; Boots had limped once and was fine the next day. The next day and Bestia still couldn’t support himself on one of his hind legs. This is where the decision making got tough and complicated and since Jonathan was working away, it included long phone conversations. We considered the limits of our responsibility for a street cat and Bestia’s pain. We’ve often seen in life a “if it don’t affect me, I ain’t gotta do sh*t about it” mentality. We’ve seen it in our lower income communities where most are barely making it themselves and animals are a burden. We’ve seen it in nice neighborhoods who don’t want to be bothered. We’ve seen it at our competitive jobs. We’ve seen it in tourists while traveling. We’ve seen it in our own friends. We’ve also seen that involving ourselves in external situations can bring more complications than one can foresee, but throughout all our ethical considerations was the nagging feeling and the simple reality that Bestia was a living being in pain and that we should help.
We had some funds saved up and J and I decided we could afford a set amount that could include meds and the like. The biggest hurdle was how I would trap a feral cat that wouldn’t even let me pet it despite us feeding it for months. I made the appointment a few hours before I had to be at work thinking I could trap him and take him and make it to the office. I bought a large kennel and some tuna to lure him. It was winter so I knew he’d be in the garage. I woke up and from inside my house I used the garage control and shut the garage door. I walked into the garage and saw Bestia’s big eyes and knew he knew. The challenge commenced.
I set the kennel and placed the tuna can inside and created a trail from under the car where Bestia was hiding to the kennel. I waited 15 minutes and nothing. This cat was not going to be trapped and wanted me to get to work late. As I looked at my watch and thought about the drive to the vet and then work, I went into “I just gotta get this done” mode and knocked over a cardboard box, grabbed a broom, and shooed him into the cardboard box. I quickly grabbed the kennel and placed it at the open end of the box but no matter how much I lifted the box to tilt it into the kennel, Bestia grabbed on and never fell in. I then started making holes like a mad woman so that I could push him towards the box. Make hole, shove broom, scoot Bestia, make new hole, and repeat. An entire hour of this and Bestia was in the kennel. I was sweaty and nervous but rushed him to the vet and my butt to work.
Even though we had named him Bestia, at our local vet we said it didn’t have a name; I think this was our way of detaching should things turn bad or beyond our financial means. The news we got were that he was overall healthy but that the xrays showed multiple fractures and seemed to imply surgery in the thousands and extensive therapy. Obviously, we did not have the thousands and I was left with a hurting cat in a kennel at nine at night. In tears at the parking lot of my vet, I had no idea where to go. I just kept looking at Bestia and trying to come up with a solution. My last resort was to head to the ER where they could at least place Ba splint until we figured things out. And that is how Bestia returned home: in a splint, medicated, and still in pain. I placed him in our master bathroom with a litter box, water, food, and his splinted hind leg. I barely slept that night and had no idea what the next few days would bring.
The next day was a workday and upon sharing the story about Bestia my sister-friend Maryam didn’t just ask me how she could help or offered me a hug; she used her time between classes as did I to call over 10 different Houston area organizations and hospitals with the hope that someone would help us and Bestia. That day was a complete bust for both of us, but we thought we’d keep calling from home and that is what I did. That night I made more calls and got the last number I had written down: Friends 4 Life. It was a bit late (I think they were about to close) so I was not sure someone would answer. As it rang my desperation increased so when someone finally answered, I couldn’t even put the sentence together and started to cry. Up to this point I had not been emotional about Bestia; I had kept my cool and was very rational about it all but when this last organization answered and I heard the woman’s voice, I lost it. In between my weeping I explained my situation and she calmed me down and asked me to fill out an intake form and that she’d inform Beth (who would be Bestia’s angel) about our situation.
From there things moved fast. Beth reached out. I sent her Bestia’s medical records. My awesome sister-friend Maryam started a GoFundMe. We got a set date to send Bestia to Friends 4 Life. Soon it was a Friday afternoon and Maryam went with me to my house to once again broom Bestia into the kennel to take him to Friends 4 Life. Once we arrived Beth received us, and it was the strangest thing to say goodbye to Bestia. While I knew I was dropping him off somewhere he would be helped, I felt I had failed him for not being able to get him the surgery he needed. I had not cried over an animal since the passing of my lab back in 2016 so I wasn’t sure why I suddenly felt overwhelmed and cried as I left Bestia. Part of me also cried because during the time we were finding help for him, some online trolls suggested that what was best for Bestia was euthanasia and so I cried for not being sure about the right choice for this tiny creature.
I knew that a part of surrendering animals to shelters involves letting go of any rights you have over the pet. I asked Beth about this, but she was willing to let me be informed about Bestia’s prognosis and progress. The following weeks I’d get updates about Bestia remaining in his splint, having it removed, having the leg amputated, it is healing, and finally what his future would hold. He was unhappy at Friends 4 Life since he was very feral, so Beth offered two options: returning to his community or finding a farm for him. I never thought that it would be possible to have him back in his hood and that idea truly caught me off guard. Additionally, online trolls suggested that we were torturing him to a bad life. It was all so much to consider but we decided we would love to continue to feed him as our community cat.
The day I picked up Bestia and released him was another emotional day. I wondered if he’d be dead quickly due to not having 1 hind leg. I wondered if he would even enjoy life as a tripod cat. I wondered if I had done the right thing. I opened his kennel and he wobbled/ran away. Away for about 3 days. 3 days I worried and questioned myself.
On the 4th day and in the morning Bestia was at our door meowing. I figured he was hungry and would eat and leave. Yeah right. Since that day (a few months ago), he has not left our home. He is officially a part of the Turi pack. He plays with Boots. He comes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He is even now running. The first time I saw him run, my heart fluttered. He has flourished and has completely adapted to being a tripod. He has his own bed in our garage for when the weather is extreme. He is loved and fed.
It’s amazing the way animals adapt and sometimes as humans we forget that. Yes, Bestia is just an animal and a street animal at that but Bestia also reminded me of how amazing and fickle people can be. The support from Maryam, friends and the donors of our GoFundMe filled me and Beth’s work at Friends 4 Life inspired me. The trolls’ lack of power over what ended up being Bestia’s future reminded me how little power trolls actually have over our lives if we have the tools to overcome them. And while J and I are regular donors to various causes, there is something about getting your hands dirty beyond clicking ‘Yes donate’ that fills you. That is the conundrum of service; in some ways we do it to help others, but we do it because it also feels good.
I know it’s an insignificant thing in the big picture of all that is going on: homelessness in Houston, children in cages at the border, international crisis, etc. but the tiny ray of hope that helping a stray cat gave us can hopefully be multiplied into new ways J and I can help those crisis beyond donations and voting. It is these small wins that can inspire us to more.
Every time I see Bestia running across our front yard from my office window, I think about all those cheesy things that gives us hope when life sucks; he is one of them. I’ll take this small victory because sometimes life sucks and we need some cheesiness and tripod feral cats purring at our door.
Thank you to J, Maryam, Beth, Friends 4 Life and all those that helped Bestia.”
Our Feline Manager, Beth, reached out to Luziris, Bestia’s helper, and asked “It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you, I was just curious how Bestia is doing?”
“Hi Beth!! To be honest, I was waiting to finish getting Bestia to come inside our home so that I could report a complete success, but alas, he still doesn’t want to be inside.
Bestia has adapted 100% to his new life. When I released him, he disappeared for 3 days and I was really sad but then he came back and has not left since!! We leave our garage slightly open for him to be able to inside of it when it’s too hot or too cold. He has his own water dispenser and plate at our entrance and he really loves to be with my husband and get cuddles from him (see attached video). With me, he is more skittish, but I figure that is because I trapped him to begin with.
He also gets along with our indoor/outdoor cat Boots (see the pic of them). She is the Alpha but they still get along well. We installed a cat door for Boots that opens with her microchip; it’s the door from our garage to our home, and Bestia sits at the door (the door is clear) and looks for her and meows at us so I think he will come in eventually.
Our biggest test was a few weeks ago when we left for 15 days on vacation. Boots stayed inside and we had someone come feed her and clean her litter but Bestia stayed outside. Our neighbors chipped in to help keep his food filled and water cool and he survived and never left us.
Every now and then I write stories so I hope to be able to write about our (including y’all’s) journey with Bestia. He is a happy outdoor/garage cat (he uses my husband roll mat for working on the car as his bed – see pic) and I am forever grateful that you all decided Bestia was worth saving.”