MACDOUGALLS – Family members are feeling grief and confusion after their beloved pet cat, Smokey, had to be euthanized because it had been shot, likely on Friday evening, Nov. 13.
MacKenzie Chant, 18, says that some of the family had chosen to spend an evening at their retreat in MacDougalls to enjoy the unusually warm weather and Smokey was used to accompanying them there. Although they try to keep the cat inside, he does get out and he got out that night around suppertime.
Not long afterwards Tara, Mackenzie’s stepmother, heard gunshots but thought little of it since rabbit hunting is commonplace in the area. Although the cat was a family pet, he was particularly attached to Tara.
“He didn’t come back like he normally does. He always comes back,” says MacKenzie. “That night he still hadn’t come back. She was out calling for him, put his food and litter by the door, but he didn’t come back.”
By the next morning Smokey still hadn’t come home and MacKenzie hopped in the car with her boyfriend and little sister Avery, 4, to head to up to MacDougalls and help search. They plunged into the thick woods near the cabin while calling for Smokey, but to no avail.
“He has a collar on with a bell, so you could always hear him coming,” says MacKenzie. “That’s when I found rabbit snares so I started to get really worried that he was caught in one.”
Tara then took a turn walking up and down the road calling for the cat while MacKenzie stayed with Avery. After still no sign of Smokey, the family began packing up to return home. They had work commitments and other obligations, but relatives would keep an eye on the cabin and check every half hour in case Smokey returned. Tara started to put MacKenzie’s dog in the truck and that’s when she heard a loud meow coming from nearby, between their cabin and the neighbour’s next to a small pump house.
“She found him led there, bleeding, so she picked him up and ran him back to the cabin,” recounts MacKenzie.
The family used a wet rag to gently clean the blood off the cat, who led on the sofa without moving. Although Smokey was being co-operative, they soon noticed something wasn’t quite right.
“He didn’t make any noise. He was very alert, but he had his right paw kind of tucked up under him, but we were touching it and squeezing it but he wasn’t meowing. He wasn’t in pain from it but he couldn’t move it on his own.”
On Saturday morning they took Smokey to MaczKenie’s mother’s house. She’s a dedicated volunteer with a local cat rescue group with a lot of experience with cats, and that’s when they got a good look at the hole in Smokey’s shoulder.
“It was kind of in his upper shoulder blade, right on his neck, and it was just a deep, deep hole and it looked like there was something white in it,” says MacKenzie.
Not knowing how severe the injury was, and fearing the white object was a piece of bone or wood, Smokey was taken home to Tara’s and kept comfortable. He was given some medication to prevent infection and Tara managed to prompt him to drink a bit of water, but the cat refused to eat. Tara reached out to friends Loretta and Eugene Battiste in the Codroy Valley, who are experienced cat rescuers, and on Sunday morning transported him up to the Battistes.
“We would have brought him in on the weekend if we could,” admits MacKenzie. “It’s like $500 I think just to walk in the door.”
The harsh reality for pet owners is that rushing an injured animal to a vet on the weekend is prohibitively expensive, assuming emergency care is even available. On Monday morning, Nov. 16, the Battistes took Smokey in to the vet who ran tests and x-rays that showed the young cat’s shoulder had been completely shattered. That came as no surprise to the Chant family, who had expected that was likely the case, and by then had decided to go ahead with an emergency leg amputation if necessary.
“But the bullet also shattered and travelled down into his stomach,” says MacKenzie. “It travelled down into his internal organs.”
There was nothing that could be done to save Smokey, so Tara and Avery held and stroked their little cat as the veterinarian ended his suffering.
“We just figured it was a pellet gun,” says MacKenzie. “They said it was more than that, like a small hunting rifle.”
MacKenzie is hoping that it was an accident, but isn’t entirely convinced that was the case. Cats and rabbits move differently, and rabbit hunters tend to claim their prey, not leave it there without checking on it. In addition, Smokey was wearing a bell collar with his name and a contact number on it. The collar was missing by the time Tara found him. MacKenzie notes that the collar was left loose in case he got snagged on a branch so that he could squirm out if that happened.
If it was an accident, why has no one stepped forward to claim responsibility and apologize? At least then, says MacKenzie, the family would have some answers and some closure, and wouldn’t be left to worry this might happen to someone else’s pet. She says that not knowing is only making things harder.
“He’s been up there all summer, going outside. Everyone knew him. He was loved on that road,” says MacKenzie.
Even though she’s heard other troubling stories, MacKenzie is unsure if the family will reach out to the RCMP. Tara is devastated and Avery is a bit too young to understand that Smokey is never coming home. Her voice catches as she chokes back tears while talking about them playing together.
“It’s so scary. We never thought this would happen to him.”