A couple of years ago, my wife and I were out walking one evening, something we do rather regularly when the weather is reasonable. A few blocks from home, we heard the mewing of a cat. We stopped to try and determine where it might be coming from and in a matter of seconds the cat walked out from some bushes. I reached down and scratched it behind the ear a bit, then we went on our way.
Want to guess what happened next? Yep, kitty followed us all the way home. It didn’t have a collar but was obviously not an outdoor cat. He was very affectionate as well as hungry. I poured a little food into a dish for him and that was that.
You know what happens when you feed a stray cat? I mean, aside from Brian Setzer playing guitar in your driveway.
That’s right, boys and girls, Jimmy got a new cat. Now, don’t get me wrong, it all worked out. Vinnie is an absolutely beautiful Maine coon and is, hands down, the softest cat on the planet.
But, I also knew going in that if I fed the kitty, he wasn’t likely to leave. I knew that and accepted the responsibility.
[For those wondering, we did our due diligence in trying to locate the cat’s owner. We took Vinnie to our vet and found he was microchipped (and also learned his given name). Vet tried to contact the owner several times, leaving messages and such, but received no response. Apparently Vinnie was abandoned when the owner moved.]
Stray Cat Syndrome is this same principle applied to people. If you feed them, they aren’t likely to leave willingly. Look, I’m all about paying it forward and trying to help folks as best I can. The problem, though, is charity can lead to issues, especially if we’re talking about a time period after a major collapse.
I would hazard to guess that it will only be a matter of time before you’re approached by someone in need in the aftermath of a big event. Someone who for one reason or another has no food or water and might likely perish without help. If you have anything approaching a soul in your body, you’ll want to do something to assist, especially if there are children involved. But, if you start handing out food and drink, where do you stop, where do you draw the line? In other words, how do you prevent the strays from trying to become house cats?
Sure, the threat of violence might work and it may very well come to that point. But, perhaps you can get out ahead of the problem before it becomes an issue.
I know some of you reading this are of the opinion that you should never, under any circumstances, share your stuff with an unknown person. I’m not going to argue the point with you one way or the other. But, there are many folks reading this who will, for right or wrong, try to help those less fortunate. The remainder of this article is for them.
If you are compelled to lend a hand to those in need, do so with both eyes wide open and fully recognize the risks. Keep in mind, the person receiving the aid will remember you. And it might not be some sort of fond recollection like, “Yeah, we were really desperate and starving. Then this nice family blessed us with a meal and some supplies, just enough to get us to the next town.” More likely, it’ll be, “Yep, I know exactly where we can go to grab some food. The daughter is quite a looker, too.”
One way to avoid that from happening is to devise some way of donating anonymously. For example, instead of handing out goodies on your doorstep, direct those in need to the church in town. “I’ve been hearing how some of the folks in town are setting up care packages there.” Of course, it is you who might have positioned the supplies there but the person doesn’t need to know that. The idea here, of course, is to direct attention away from you and your family and toward a nameless and faceless entity that might provide some aid to those who need it.
Think of it like sending the stray cat to a shelter instead of feeding it on your patio.