Who is killing cats in Granada?

I live in a cozy Granada neighborhood that still feels quaintly colonial in its architecture and social behaviors. People pull their rocking chairs out onto the sidewalk in the late afternoon, drop by each other’s homes unannounced, know everyone else’s business, and look out for one another—even the resident gringo. It’s really quite nice.

But not all of my neighbors are good people. One of them is apparently a criminally insane dimwit who deserves to be locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables, if we are truly committed to acting colonially around here.

Starting about a month ago, someone on my city block started what can be described only as a social-cleansing campaign against the animal kingdom that lived on our interconnected rooftops. Gone are all the neighborhood roof cats—including my own adventurous feline, Nicaragua Dispatch mascot Bajopata. Gone also are the beautiful green parrots that used to scream from the patio trees and rooftops (one was found dead in my garden a few weeks ago and I haven’t heard from any of its friends since).

I was truly crestfallen when Bajopata suddenly disappeared after seven years of loyal friendship. It happened the night of Oct. 1—Monday, bloody Monday, as it were.

For those who are unfamiliar with the rooftops of Granada, each city block is a virtually self-contained ecosystem 20 feet above the street level. Since all the houses on the block share an interconnected roofline, the rooftops of Granada are a kitty-cat adventure playground, with almost a square kilometer of red-tile roaming room to explore.

One night, about five years ago, my wife and I were walking home from dinner along the quiet streets of my neighborhood, which echoed loudly with the sound of my boots. Bajopata apparently heard daddy approaching and ran to the roof’s edge and meowed to get our attention. We exchanged brief pleasantries in the street, and then I instructed her to get on home. She then proceeded to follow us along the roofline as we walked the remaining block. It was unutterably cute.

As an overprotective father, I was initially concerned about Bajopata mixing it up with the tougher-looking cats from the other side of the roofline. But, as a former street kitten, Bajo knew how to hold her own. And with her mother’s dashing good looks, her father’s wit and whiskers, and her feline charisma, Bajopata was a natural leader among the benighted roof cats—or at least I like to think so.

Still, I was concerned for her wellbeing. I sat her down to have “the talk.” When that didn’t work, I got her spayed. We bought her a collar and bell to distinguish her from the roof cats and to let the neighbors know that she was a pet, not a pest.

If you’re asking, ‘Why didn’t you just keep the cat indoors and off the roofs?’  Well, that’s like trying to stop water from running downhill. In Granada, all the homes have open-aired courtyards with enticingly close rooflines that are just a few pounces away. It is the irresistible Great Wide Open and the call of the wild wrapped into one. Short of putting Bajo in a cage or on a tether, both of which she would have protested loudly, I was going to have to get used to the idea of her roaming the rooftops at night.

After many years of watching Bajopata jump out the second-floor bedroom window every night and return home every morning, I was pretty confident that she could navigate the mean tiles of Granada. She would leave every evening around midnight for her quick cardiovascular workout, and be home and in bed before dawn, ready to scratch my feet lovingly if I attempted any unexpected sleep-tossing in the early morning hours.

On the morning of Oct. 2, she wasn’t there when I woke up. She hasn’t been there since. None of her roof-cat friends—gato negro, gato blanco, cabezon—have shown up either. I finally put her food dish away today.

A week before Bajo went missing, some unknown neighbor reportedly came looking for me to complain that roof cats were stealing her food. I wasn’t at home that day to discuss this matter with her, or to inquire about whether she had a sweet tooth for canned sliced veal and gravy. But either way, I wasn’t worried. Bajo was always well-fed at home; on most nights she ate better than I did. I doubted she was stealing food from the neighbors at 3 a.m.

But when she went missing, that mysterious visit from the unidentified neighbor was the first thing I thought of. I went door to door in my neighborhood to inquire about my cat’s possible whereabouts. When I talked to my neighbors, I was horrified to learn that others had also recently lost their cats under similar circumstances.  

I also learned through the Granada gossip grapevine that one of my neighbors was apparently putting poison on her roof to try to kill the pigeons. Perhaps the parrots had been collateral damage, but was this also the woman killing cats to protect her food stash? I have no way of knowing. The way Granada’s gossip mill works is that the more clarifying questions you ask, the more convoluted and confusing the story becomes. Each attempt to extract more details brings you further into the abyss of ambiguity.

So I started talking to my friends. And that’s when I learned the mysterious cat disappearances are more widespread than I imagined.

My cat-loving friends who live on the next block —one rooftop ecosystem removed from mine—told me they also lost their cat at the same time Bajo and her roof cat coterie disappeared. Their neighbors, too, were suddenly complaining of missing cats. My friends and I put up lost cat signs, like hopeful 8-year-old kids. No one called. Now my friends, who have been renting the same house for years, are looking for a new house in a neighborhood with intermittent rooflines because they are convinced their other cats will also disappear if they don’t take drastic protective actions.

I tell this woeful tale not to organize a lynch mob (although I do have pitchforks and torches if needed), but to caution other cat owners. Even if you have adopted a stray kitten, it is not necessary out of danger once it’s off the mean streets of Granada. On the rooftops of the city, cats are just as vulnerable to wrongdoing by knuckle-dragging idiots who shuffle around their homes and fret about pigeons and wonder who is stealing their tuna fish.

Those who engage in cat cleansing should be held to account for their actions. At the very least, they should be forced to wear a giant collar with a bell so we can hear them coming. But until cats are treated like something other than pests, cat lovers need to be aware where their fluffy friends are pawing about at night.

It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your kittens are? I have no idea where mine is.

  • Giovanna

    This is so sad, I’m sorry to hear that you and other cat lovers were robbed of your beloved friends. What a despicable, nasty, hijo(a) de puta, whoever the murderer is. It’s outrageous that so many people here think of cats as pests. I had a neighbor who told me once he put new-born kittens in a plastic bag and tossed them in the “arroyo”. At first I thought it was just a horrible “dark humor” joke, but I was wrong. I couldn’t believe he was actually telling me that story, it made me sick. I came to realize that most Nicas in my old neighborhood hated cats, and the ones who didn’t just thought of them as a way to keep mice away. Many times I heard questions like: “Pero por que tenes DOS gatos?”, and remarks like: “un solo gato ya es suficiente para asustar a los ratones.” I’m so glad I currently live in a house with no courtyard, so no roof getaway. Of course I miss the indoor/outdoor living, but the peace of mind I have now is priceless. Poor kitties. RIP. :(

  • http://www.la-esperanza-granada.org pauline jackson

    Sorry about the cat, but great article.

  • http://www.retirenicaragua.wordpress.com Debbie Goehring

    Tim, as a recent kitten adoptee,( Is that even a word?) I am so sorry for your loss. Our three kittens were rescued by Donna Tabor and fostered by Kit Cooper. Black Jack and Queenie were the sole survivors of a litter thrown in the dump in Granada. Ocho was thrown over a wall. Fortunately, we live on Ometepe Island and our kittens don’t have a dangerous roof top ecosystem to maneuver. I really feel for you. It’s such a dilemma. The concept of having ‘pets’ in Nicaragua is not understood. I honestly don’t know if it will ever be understood. Education is the key. Maybe through the work of Donna’s clinic..poco a poco, we can save more animals from suffering cruelty and abuse at the hands of the ignorant.

  • Aurora

    Sorry to hear about your kitty, I have a neighbor who killed all the cats in my neighborhood. Then they are asking why everything is so wrong to kill a defenseless animal have consequences in their life. They have to pay such a terrible crime :-(

  • Sally

    If a cat was stealing my food, which they do, I don’t blame anyone for taking action. Althought the appropraite thing to do would have been to talk to you. If you want a cat fine, but don’t think it’s okay to let in stroll into other people’s homes.

    • Giovanna

      So, for you, the killing of stray cats is correct? Because if your “standard” for “taking action” is talking to the owner beforehand, what happens when there aren’t any owners? Actually, I’m curious about when talking to the cat owner, what would you say?! Would you actually have the guts to threaten them? “Hi neighbor, I just wanted to let you know that if you don’t keep your cat inside, I’ll poison her?” Maybe you’d want to consider a more humane approach to the stealing food issue: JUST SPRINKLE THE CATS WITH SOME WATER, whenever you see them, and they will run away as fast as they can!!! Geez. Unbelievable.

      • Giovanna

        Or maybe you could go further and try to be a little generous as to spend a few Cords a month on cheap cat food, to feed the starving animals. They get hungry just as humans, you know?!

  • Mack

    Granada like many other cities in Nicaragua suffers for the infestation of street dogs and cats, both of these species are dangerous to human life, they both carry a larva that can be transmitted to human with severe consequences.

    Animals have a place in this world, however, mistakenly speaking and interpreted by the american culture who constantly bringing to this country their erroneous living practices, believe animals and humans must share a life together, to the extreme to share food, sleeping and kissing animals. We, Nicaraguans do not accept or believe as a regular practice to share intimacy in our life private quarters with these animals.

    Street dogs and cats eating trash should a health concern and their propagation need to be controlled, unfortunately if the city authorities don’t take action, leaves the problem in the hands of citizens and any action to lower the number of undesired animals is entirely justifiable.

    • donna tabor

      Mack, I’m don’t know who appointed you Master of the Universe, but please don’t even attempt to speak for me and the countless others who respect animals. As founder of Granada’s animal health clinic, Casa Lupita, I can attest that many Nicaraguans do love and care for their animals. Your statement is totally out of line and in disrespect of those who have brought their cats and dogs to our clinic to be sterilized (a great benefit to our community at large) or to find help for their health problems.

      Sally, if a cat is stealing your food, the cat is no doubt HUNGRY! Try feeding it instead of considering it a thief.

      For those who have problems with feral cats on their rooftops, please contact me at 852 0210. You can borrow our Have-A-Heart cat trap to capture it and bring it to our clinic for sterilization. After its surgery,we will try to re-locate it for you so that it is not a bother to you again.

      Consider that the stray cat problem has been caused by humans who are too lazy to have cats sterilized. . Bring them to Casa Lupita for this simple surgery. Call me to schedule an appointment.

      • Mack

        Don’t need to take this personal!

        Their is nothing disrespectful in Mack’s statements, you are incorrect.

        Animals lovers don’t necessary need to share foods or become in close contacts, animals do carry transmittable parasites to humans with severe consequences, this man is right on target with his comments.

        For the record and your clear conscience. Insulting this man by calling him “Master of the Universe” does not make you in any way shape or form more intelligent or better informed much less correct my dear, his statements are not aimed to attempt to represent you, they’r simply true and correct facts.

        Street dogs and cats threats the health of humans carrying various deceases and they should not coexist in the same environment with humans, PERIOD!

        • Giovanna

          LOL, next time you try to pretend that you’re somebody else supporting “Mack’s” absurd statements, you should change your username. Pathetic. Donna is correct; people are too lazy to get help and sterilize these animals FREE OF COST, hence they keep on reproducing. And try to do some research before throwing misconstrued theories about animals parasites spreading to humans. Google it. And last but not least, not all Nicaraguans share your wicked ideas about pets!

        • Amy

          Mack, everybody has a right to his/her own opinion, but please keep in mind that in many countries (not just the US, but most countries in Europe, where I have lived, and many others) people choose to have pets as COMPANIONS, not just as mouse-catchers (cats) or house-protectors (dogs) – meaning they share their home with the animal. If all animals had such dangerous “larvae” then there would be hundreds of thousands of dead or ill human pet owners all across the world… and guess what! That’s not the case! I can assure you there are many, many healthy, happy pet owners out there who share their home with a cat or dog and are doing JUST FINE health-wise.

          Of course, if we’re talking about street dogs/cats that’s another story… I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking one of them into my home without having it checked and given vaccinations by the vet, thoroughly washed, made sure it’s free of spreadable diseases, etc. I’m an animal lover but I’m sensible too. But how about we as a society try to change the situation in Nicaragua so that there are not so many street animals roaming around? (Starting by getting our pets – or animals who “work” for us if you prefer – spayed and neutered.)

          It seems you’re getting “street animals” mixed up with “pets”. Street animals can carry diseases, agreed. (But exterminating all of them isn’t the solution!) But as for companion animals, good pet owners take care of their own pets to ensure that they are NOT carrying diseases.

          I think part of the difference in opinion is cultural. I think some of it is due to the poverty here – in the US, Europe, etc, people have enough expendable income that they can spend it on a pet if they wish. Having pets has become a norm and part of the culture. In Nicaragua, many, many families barely can afford to feed themselves, and couldn’t even dream of having enough money to be able to have a cat or dog for company, pay for special food for it, vet visits, etc. I can totally understand that. So maybe that means the idea of keeping a pet “just because” hasn’t really become a norm here. No problem. Nobody is forcing anyone to keep a pet – if you’re not into it, then don’t get a pet. But don’t knock another person’s choice to have a pet. And it’s definitely nobody’s business to go around killing other people’s pets. If somebody’s pet is causing you a real problem, then you go talk to the person about it or try to resolve the issue in another way.

          I have a Nicaraguan companion, and I can say that there are some definite differences on our points of view about pets and their role in our lives. (Even though he likes animals and certainly doesn’t think like Mack.) I can agree that some people go a bit overboard with their pets. But you can find a happy medium. We have. Yes, having an animal can be useful for catching mice or protecting your home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take good care of it and show it affection and enjoy its company too.

    • Miranda

      First of all, Tim, I am sorry for your loss. And this is for Mack, who thinks we all (Nicaraguans) are and think like he does. If you had done your homework before writing here about “the american culture and their (?) erroneous living practices”, you would know that cats get infected by the parasite after eating mice or birds and that the only way a person can get infected is lacking some basic hygiene standards. I totally disagree with you in that humans and animals shouldn’t share a life together. We, humans and animals (even animals who walk on two feet) are sharing a whole world together already! We MUST stop being so ignorant.

    • Ken Granacki

      Wow Mack, I am disappointed in your thinking. As a future Granada resident and a person who is building a home there now I hope that most other locals dont share your views. I currently am a Show dog breeder http://www.snowater.net and owner of a large pet care facility http://www.bendpetresort.net The animals share and are such an important part of my life that I cant even put into words their value to me. I currently have 9 dogs, 3 cats, 3 horses, 4 goats, and 2 parrots. They get the best food and vet care and plenty of love. People that own pets are proven in many studies to be happier and healthier people. I hope you see the light and someday you will be a loving pet owner yourself and become happy and enlighted. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of even one animal that was loved and owned. Donna and the folks that work with her are heroes to us that love pets. In the next couple of years when my home is ready with more rooms I have already been in discussion with 2 local veterinarians to come down with me to do volunteer work with Donna and her group. I hope the animal lovers in Granada unite and put an end to both unwanted breedings and the sensless killing of animals.
      Ken Granacki Bend Oregon..

      • Giovanna

        Very nicely put, Ken. I couldn’t manage to be as graceful with Mack; I was disgusted by his words. Bend is a beautiful town, Oregon is a gorgeous state. Good luck with your move!

  • Michelle Ortega

    Tim, I am so sorry for the loss of Bajo … people like that infuriate me! :(
    A few months ago we had a neighbor threaten that he was going to “get” my dog … and a few weeks later he did. Our dog was poisoned.

    Sally & Mack, it’s attitudes like yours that perpetuate the problem here. :( No one has the right to dispose of, poison or otherwise of another living thing! If there is an animal bothering you or your home – there ARE other options. Get in contact with Donna Tabor.

  • Thalia Drori

    Well Mack, before you talk about “erroneous living practices of Americans,” you might want to take a look at the unsanitary practices of Nicaragua: You dump sewage in Lake Cocibolca where people swim and fish, you dump garbage and chemicals in the lake and casually toss your garbage on the street, you drink water that contains parasites, you spit on the street. These practices lead to parasites, tuberculosis and cholera in humans and all are illegal in the United States. Studies show that at least 35 percent of Nicaraguans are walking around with parasites borne in your water. You can blame dogs and cats if you’d like (brought here by the Spanish, FYI) or you can look in the mirror and start making some changes in your country. Also, next time you post something, you might want to make sure you have science behind your claims, so that you can back them up. And finally, I must agree with the previous posts: to say that Nicaraguans don’t love their animals, just because you don’t, flies in the face of my experience here. My neighbors come to me all of the time asking for help with their animals, whether it is medical, or because they have a lost cat, or because they want to adopt an animal. Again, check your facts please!

    • Mack

      I like your style Mack, you are posting something with strong facts and reasonable arguments, and as mentioned by this Thalia, you have science behind your claims, so that you’r well back up.

      No questions these americans are filthy people, I had witness these folks kissing dogs and cats, most likely they believe “is cool” and agree with you FILTHY is correct. They come here to teach or kids these lousy and dirty habits .

      Street dogs and cats threats the health of humans carrying various deceases and they should not coexist in the same environment with humans, I researched your statements with regards to the easy way humans can become contaminated with the visceral larva migrans and I must tell you, you’r absolutely correct 100% without a doubt.

      Thank you for your kind and informative comments!

      • Giovanna

        Jajajaja, que estupido!!! So Mack likes his own style; that’s GREAT buddy!!!
        Pero te olvidaste de cambiar tu nombre, una vez mas!!! Quien es el ignorante, entonces?

  • Mack

    Your sarcastic comments don’t mean nothing! You’ll can keep them because are resuLting from Pure and Just ignorance to the most extreme from uneducated people in the subject who’s living practices for their entire life has been leaking cats and dogs as something normal, accepted by the culture.

    To all these animal supporters who’s knowledge do not exits, get a little or somehow informed, research, learn and then formulate your opinion….READ ALL ABOUT!

    Visceral larva migrans is caused by worms (parasites) that infect the intestines of dogs and cats. The dog parasite is called Toxocara canis and the cat parasite is called Toxocara cati .
    Eggs produced by these worms are in the feces of the infected animals. The feces mix with soil, allowing the infection to spread to humans. Humans DO get sick if they eat food that grew in the infected animal’s saliva and cat hair.
    After a person swallows contaminated food or touches his / hers lips, the worm eggs break open in the gastrointestinal tract and are carried throughout the body to various organs, such as the lungs, liver, and eyes. The brain, heart, and other organs can also be affected.

    Consequences:
    Blindness or decreased visual acuity (worsened eyesight), encephalitis (infection of the brain) heart arrhythmias, respiratory distress and several other.

    Prevention
    Prevention includes de-worming dogs and cats, preventing dogs and cats from defecating in public areas, and keeping children away from areas where dogs and cats may defecate. It is very important to carefully wash your hands after touching / holding an animal, any animal!

    The contamination of the Cocibolca lake is an unrelated subject that belongs to the city officials to construct appropriate sewage systems, people contaminate in the absence of facilities.

    Bottom line, their is nothing disrespectful in any of my statements, is a very serious health problems with unattended domestic animals and the clinic of this Master of the Universe in Granada can do only so much. Perhaps I directed my comments to the american culture to elegant as “erroneous practices” by coexisting with animals by sharing kisses and sleeping time, so allow me to re-phrase and rather than calling erroneous, about FILTHY PRACTICES.

    Loose, infected trash eating dogs and cats must be eliminated and disposed by all means, no human health is worth the risk and I’m determinate to share and convince my believes to others to eliminate as many of these creates as possible.

    • Granadino

      WRONG MACK! I’m from Granada and we do not kill animals, where do you think we live? do you really thing Nicaraguenses kill animals and is normal?? Do u even know where GRANADA is?

      CLASE PENDEJO

  • Miranda

    Stop writing such idiotic notions mixed with some information you copied and pasted from the internet, Mack! It’s pretty ironic that you are trying to “educate” the rest of us who posted against some people’s cruelty, so it’s clear that you should start educating yourself. AGAIN: If people learned how to be clean, there wouldn’t be any health problem from the human/animals interaction, to begin with. People like you should learn how to coexist with the rest of living beings on this planet.

  • Glenn

    Tim,

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, but I equally sorry to see some of the hate mail this has generated. I hope no one has a heart attack getting all worked up about this.

    Have you considered the possibility that your companion may be missing due to “natural causes?”

    I respect everyones right to comment and to be able to share their views. That is what makes this country great.

    If only some of that energy generated by contributors could only be directed to mosquito removal……..

  • Fido

    Que curioso! I’m sorry for the lost of your pet Mister. I do have a pet, a dog. A pet is a pet. No body like to lose a pet. But I wish you Americans didn’t try to change,(more of what you have done) my humble city. You all shoould be respecful of the Nicaraguan way, if you don’t like the way that the majority of Nicaguan live or behave, just go back to your country or move to another place. I respect people who choose to own cats as pet, but not everybody does. I personally hate them, in two different ocations different cats attacked, killed and ate my chocollito pets, the horrible trauma one of them endured after surviving the first attack, left with a broken wing a few months later was attacked again in his cage, dragged away over the patio walls to never see him again. My poor Chocollito zapoyol and a freeking cat killed and ate him like it was the jungle and my pet his pray. I don’t care much about the theory that cat transmit microbs that are transmited by cats to pregnant women and cause blindness their unborn baby. If you live in Grananda, ask to Fermin Iglesias about cats. I live in the USA, I own a healthy German Sheperd, she never goes out of the back yard, she protects the house from any threat, she has killed foxes, oposums, raccoons, rats…and yes, cats only when they enter my property, and no body complains or says anything. Why would granadinos have to change?

    • Giovanna

      Wow, you never walk your dog? German Shepherds need quite a bit of daily exercise, ask any veterinarian. She must be so bored and frustrated; anger builds up when a dog is kept confined. You’re clearly raising her to be a killer. Careful she doesn’t turn that anger against you or one of your family members.

  • Robert

    Mark, why are you so ignorant?? The solution is not killing this animals, but rather keeping the streets clean and training Granada citizens to keep their places clean!!

  • Mark Oshinskie

    Cats kill millions of songbirds.

  • Ana Anonima

    To Mack: you had to search the internet to find the answer to your fear of animal contamination? Read it again: “Prevention – It is very important to carefully WASH YOUR HANDS after touching / holding an animal, any animal! ”

    If you are interested in changing the health habits of Nicas, I would suggest you also do that after peeing on walls and in doorways, a noticable habit in Nicaragua, along with burning plastics that emit dioxins, and using trash to start cooking fires, two habits that contribute to the high rate of asthma here.

    To Tim: I am sorry for your loss. I know pets are not interchangable but after a suitable period of mourning, I know that Donna and Casa Lupita will be happy to place another unforgettable kitten (or two) with you, already sterilized, dewormed and checked out by a vet.

    To those who don’t want to feed any cats but your own, just don’t leave food out overnight. It’s an open invitation to “grazing” when you do. You shouldn’t be surprised when cats accept your invitation.

  • ells

    I’m so sorry, Tim to you and all those whose cats have gone missing. That’s devestating that this is the conclusion for Bajo’s and other cat’s disappearances. All our condolences to you and Ceci. :(

  • Raffles

    Anyone who has enjoyed the company of a dog or cat will sympathize with your loss. A friend is a friend whether it be human or animal. What a great time you appear to have enjoyed with Bajo and the article, as good writing does, brought back to us some of those feelings we’ve had for missing friends.

  • Emily

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I cannot imagine going through that. I am soon moving to Leon and bringing my kitties. My indoor patio has barb wired around it and I am hoping my cats don’t dare jump into it….I am scared for their safety out in the streets! I have heard horror stories of cats being killed with rat poison because they are going about “stealing food.” I hope that was not the fate of you kitty!