Agonising: Charlie was found badly burned and vets say it is consistent with someone pouring hot liquid over him. *Photo by James Whittaker
Agonising: Charlie was found badly burned and vets say it is consistent with someone pouring hot liquid over him. *Photo by James Whittaker
A cat found burned and abandoned in the laundry room of an empty home has been rescued by the SPCA.

The tiny tabby had been scalded with a hot liquid, causing burns that seared its neck and back and exposed the flesh.

The cat, which was found by a real estate agent showing a home in Paget, appears to have been the victim of a deliberate attempt to injure it. It may have been the victim, says the SPCA’s director Kim Sherlaw, of a changing national attitude towards cats.

No longer viewed as cute, cuddly companions, they are increasingly being seen as pests rather than pets.

Ms Sherlaw believes the large number of feral cats in Bermuda has contributed to this image change, with some islanders seeing them as a pest on a par with rats and chickens.

The scavenging behaviour of wild cats, which live in colonies in neighbourhoods and parks, often feeding from trash cans, is causing problems for their domestic cousins.

Ms Sherlaw said: “Bermuda has an outdoor cat culture based on the temperate climate.

“Sometimes when people own a cat and can no longer cope with it they abandon it because they feel it can fend for itself in the wild.

“In this case the cat may have ended up on someone’s property and they have shooed it away with a pan of boiling water or a cup of coffee.”

Problem

Vets at Ettrick Animal Hospital said the injuries were consistent with someone deliberately pouring hot liquid on it.

The cat, which SPCA volunteers have called Charlie, has been treated and is available for adoption.

Charlie’s case is extreme. But Ms Sherlaw believes the incident speaks to a wider problem.

She said: “The value of cats as a companion animal has been diminished.

“We get frequent calls from people asking, ‘How can I get these cats off my property?’ They are seen as a nuisance.”

The SPCA receives at least one report every week of cats being abandoned into the wild.

Charlie, a seven-year-old tabby, is just one of 50 cats looking for homes.

Ms Sherlaw said: “This outside cat culture makes it difficult for us to promote adoptions. If people see them as a nuisance they are less likely to want them as pets.”

Bermuda has an estimated 500 wild cats.

The Bermuda Feline Association Bureau has a programme of neutering them but always returns them to the wild.

The charity estimates there were up to 10,000 cats living wild when it started the Trap, Neuter, Return scheme.

Val Sherwood of the BFAB said feral cats have a right to live and are a good form of pest control.

She added: “Our cat population has always played a vital role in rodent control. These backdoor cats are what the U.S. is now calling green cats.”

The organization’s ‘right to life’ philosophy differs from the SPCA’s priority of promoting responsible pet ownership.

Ms Sherlaw believes cats live in fear, suffer from injuries, starvation and diseases that go unnoticed when they exist in the wild without proper guardianship and accountability.  

She supports microchipping and spaying/neutering of all cats and a system of licensing for owners similar to the requirements for dog owners.

Cat fanciers and breeders would be required to apply for a proper licence and would follow established guidelines for approved breeding.

Such a system would provide valuable data on the cat population and takes a proactive step toward curbing the number of unwanted and abandoned litters annually.

Neutered

Ms Sherwood added that educating people about cats, their breeding habits and the importance of getting them neutered is also important.

She said: “How a nation treats its animals says a lot about the people of the country and I know that someone will come forward and a wonderful home will be found for Charlie.

“To continue to teach the loving care of animals in our community is so important and the cats themselves have so much loving companionship to give to us.”