From Cruelty to Kindness: Becoming a Compassionate Community

Content Warning: Animal injury, Animal Death

By: Linda Chitwood

He dragged himself back to the barn, his hind leg shattered and useless. He wasn’t hit by a car. The neutered, sweet cat had been shot. Decades ago, especially in rural areas, some citizens felt a bullet was their best option when domestic animals or wildlife moved across their property. But in 2023, we have animal welfare organizations, rescues, and public shelters spread across the country. In 2023, Americans are blessed to no longer face only cruel choices to control animals. We can choose kindness.

How can we shape a kinder nation now that we have these choices? How can we reduce cruelty to the least among us? 

First, when you see a stray domestic animal, reconsider all options before settling on a weapon. For free roaming, feral cats, or an unfamiliar cat frequenting the neighborhood, contact a local Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) group. If there is no group known in your area, visit the United Spay Alliance nationwide spay/neuter directory for a referral and more information on how to navigate a kinder course of action for the cat. Fixing ferals or free roaming community cats is the proven, economical, humane, and sustainable method to reduce unwanted cats. Spay/neuter stops the overpopulation and is the only effective long-term solution. Concerned about cats in your neighborhood? Choose kindness. 

Second, make sure your cats are fixed before they are five months old, and that your dogs are fixed too. Birth control surgery for pets improves not only their health, but their behavior too, because it reduces marking, spraying, fighting, and wandering. These are the issues most often stirring conflict between neighbors. When you fix your pet, you enjoy your pet more. Because fixing pets improves our community health and reduces the public funds required to mitigate the issue, the procedure also benefits all of us. Choose kindness.

Third, keep your pets in your home if possible; it eliminates injuries from cars and predators. Sadly though, because everyone who wants a housecat has one, please accept that for the foreseeable future we are going to see cats out and about in our community. Rural residents adopt cats to keep rodents and reptiles out of their barns — an effective choice — but others choose kindness and just give a homeless domestic animal a place to live out their lives. These creatures didn’t choose to be born; no cat can choose not to breed and litter. Only humans can choose that for them. Choose kindness.

Finally, you can find simple ideas on the internet for keeping cats out of your flower garden and off your vehicles. And if there is a stray tomcat hanging around your neighborhood looking to breed female cats, call a TNR group right away — males need to be fixed too. The group may be able to humanely trap and neuter him. Prevention of situations like this are exponentially more humane, compassionate, and economically enriching than reacting with gunfire. Most of us want to live in a community that is known for its kindness and generosity to all of creation. Think before you shoot, because it’s not just one bullet blasting through one cat; the aftereffects and results echo through your community. Choose kindness.  

This cat who’d been shot was neutered, so he’s not outside your window in the night screeching or fighting to breed. Shy with strangers, he wouldn’t come close enough to your house to get in your flowerbed or sit on your truck. If you’d said “scat” when you spotted him, he would have fled. Although the cat underwent a surgical pinning of his leg bone fragments, he is lame now and may suffer chronic pain and arthritis; he still could face amputation. And the resources expended on this one cat are no longer available to our community. That money would have fixed more cats, which could prevent future skirmishes. But kind people don’t like to see a sweet healthy young creature put to death because one person pulled a weapon on an 8-pound cat and shattered his leg. The activists working to reduce cat overpopulation across America, while closing in on their goal to stop litters of unwanted cats, are not there yet. So choose kindness. It just plain feels better to everyone than cruelty. 


Linda Chitwood is the founder,and former director of Homeless Animal Relief Project, which provides free or low-cost spay/neuter surgery for pets living with the poor in north Mississippi. The recipient of The Annie Lee Roberts Courage & Compassion Award from The Summerlee Foundation, Linda has over 25 years experience in addressing pet welfare challenges. She is the author of $5 For a Cat Head: True tales of animal welfare, with hands-on tips for helping animals.