Shot in the dark
max came home one night with a pellet in his cheek, having fallen foul of a would-be assassin
Owner: Barbara Lee from Killiney
Animal: Max, her four-year-old male, neutered cat
Background: Max was shot with an airgun while out in the garden
Max is a free-ranging cat. He lives in typical suburbia, with rows of houses each having their own enclosed back gardens. Max doesn't go far and always comes back if Barbara calls his name.
Max is a hunter, bringing back small rats as 'gifts'. Barbara would rather that he didn't bring these home, although she is relieved that he helps to control the rodent population in the area.
Barbara has always felt that Max lives a safe lifestyle: he stays in the local patchwork of back gardens, never venturing near the busy roads. Many of her neighbours keep cats, so Max enjoys a busy social life, and, up till now, he's never got into trouble.
A couple of weeks ago, Max came in through the cat flap soon after 11pm, looking for attention as he often does. Barbara petted him absent -mindedly, then she noticed that there was something strange sticking out of his cheek. She tried to examine him, but he was wriggling and it was difficult to see. It looked like some sort of rivet or metal stud. She didn't know what had happened, but Max didn't seem distressed. First thing the following morning, she took him to the vet.
When he was taken out of his carrier, the metal object was no longer visible: instead, there was a nasty wound on the side of his face. Barbara checked in the carrier cage, and there, on the floor, was the offending object: an airgun pellet. It had fallen out on the way to the vet.
Max had been lucky: if the pellet had hit him an inch to either side, it could have killed him or removed an eye. As it was, his face had been badly torn, needing an operation to suture the skin back into place. He responded well to treatment, but it could have been far worse.
Barbara has no idea who shot Max, but she's worried. She has made up a poster telling Max's story, putting it up in local shops. She reckons if the problem is publicised, people will be more watchful, and the perpetrator will be less likely to do it again.
Just as there are cat lovers, there are plenty of people who dislike cats. Wild bird enthusiasts get upset when they see cats catching garden birds. Gardeners get angry when cats dig up seed beds. And pigeon owners tell stories about cats attacking their racing birds. But, however much cats are disliked, there's no excuse for shooting them: it's cruel and illegal to do this. Barbara has informed the local gardai and investigations are under way.
If you don't like cats visiting your garden, there are kind and effective ways of keeping them out. You can buy plastic fence topping that makes it difficult for cats to climb over walls, or automatic motion-detecting water sprayers to squirt them as they walk past. If you're really upset, talk to the cat's owner about keeping the cat indoors. But whatever you do, don't harm the cats.