Shannon Boisvert - Special to the Chronicle
Friday started just like every other day. I woke up, got the kids ready for school, fed the horses, and fed our big lazy orange barn cat Martin. I gave him a pat on the head and headed off to drive the kids to school and went to work.
I came home that afternoon and realized right away that there was no Martin sitting in the doorway, but thought he must be sleeping in his favourite spot on the hay. I went to throw some more feed for the horses and saw Martin lying still on the ground; he was already cold to the touch. He was gone. At some point between breakfast and lunch he had suddenly collapsed and died. He was completely healthy to my knowledge and I was even telling his previous owner that he had caught his first rat the other day.
Then it hit me, he probably caught the rat because it was slow and easy prey. He must have eaten a poisoned rat.
We don’t use poison on our farm. In the past, out of desperation when I was horrified to discover a rodent problem on the property, I called a pest control company which put out poisoned bait traps in secure containers so no pets could be harmed. I was assured at the store that the rodent poison in packages sold to the average consumer would have to be eaten in huge quantities by a pet so it was unlikely to harm a cat even if they ate a rodent that was poisoned.
Still, after using it for a short time I felt uneasy about it and cleaned all of it off our property and cancelled the contract with the pest control company. From that point on I stuck to snap traps and housing cats who needed homes in the barn.
People don’t realize that poisoned rodents may die 1-3 days later and in that time can travel distances as far as two footfall fields in one night. If a bird of prey or a predator or, say, someone’s cat that is just doing its job controlling the rodent population eats one, they can also die.
The hardest part of that day was not finding Martin passed away, it was breaking the news to my kids and breaking their hearts in the process. I hope that our pet’s sudden passing serves as a warning to everyone. Please do not use poison if you have a rodent problem. Black snap traps and electric traps work most of the time, and there are always rescues looking to rehome feral cats.