This evening, when walking along my small paver path between the garage and a tiny urban woods I created to pick some basil for dinner, I found a dead common shrew (Sorex araneus). I was so surprised. I don't recall ever having seen a shrew. But there it was, lying on the path, dead. How did it get there? How did it die? I picked it up and after carefully looking it over, I could only think to do what I always do - take photos.
Up close I could see that it was one of the cutest darn things.
Sometime during the early to mid-summer the neighbors who live kitty-corner behind me inquired if I had an orange cat. I did. They commented further that my cat had been coming around to their house because my cat liked their cat. Really? Quite a feat since my cat does not go outdoors. I said as much. Oh no, it must surely be my cat.
In addition, I found out that their cat was an un-neutered male and that, for my neighbors, this was because it was against their religion to neuter a cat. And, it wouldn't be fair to keep their cat indoors. My heart fell into my stomach.
Right about this time my yard and my pond were full of birds; robins teaching fledgings to hunt for food, a failed cardinal nest, blue jays, cedar waxwings and robins coming to the pond for bathing and, a real pleasure in my neighborhood, a carolina wren singing from another nearby neighbor's yard as if on territory.
I explained the situation with a heightened level of concern to my vet. Was there any recourse? No. And to another indoor cat friend who commiserated but, of course, could suggest nothing. Though I worried briefly when I hadn't heard it for a couple of days, the carolina wren continued to sing throughout the summer. In fact, I found it at my hummingbird feeder one afternoon and I heard it just the other evening when walking back from the post office.
I checked with friends at work. Was it true that, for religious observance, a cat could not be neutered? No. Their cats were neutered and indoor cats. Why? Because of the birds. Made me feel better.
In this final photo, though not easily seen, there is one perfectly round puncture wound just above the shrew's left lower leg. The white puncture scars are easily seen. A cat killed this common shrew. Was it my neighbor's cat? There are other outdoor cats in my neighborhood and it's impossible to know how many birds and other creatures they kill. But this time it was not the Carolina wren who paid the price. Rather, it was a tiny common shrew that I didn't even know I had.
I wish I could explain to my neighbors that all cats should be neutered and that all cats belong indoors. Unfortunately, this seems impossible.