The three kittens Heather Cusack adopted in September from Southold Animal Shelter had been found in the backyard of a Riverhead home. They were very young, tiny and without their mother.
The male, whom she named Prince, was the more adventurous one among the siblings, females named Fiona and Cake.
Prince was gray and wise, Ms. Cusack said. And affectionate, patient and sweet. The siblings would curl up together in a wicker basket to sleep.
At her Cutchogue home on Alvah’s Lane, Ms. Cusack would let the kittens outside at times during the day where they could enjoy the sprawling yard, though they mostly lived indoors.
Prince in particular loved the outdoors.
One night last month, Ms. Cusack was calling for Prince to come in as night approached. She got no response.
She grabbed a flashlight and walked out into the yard when she heard a cat meowing. She spotted a big, hefty cat that she hadn’t noticed before. Prince was following right behind the other cat.
She could tell something was wrong with Prince. He seemed to be pulling himself along, unable to use his back legs properly and was bleeding.
Ms. Cusack’s first assumption was that Prince had gotten into a fight with the other cat. She scooped him up and brought him inside. Her veterinarian advised her to take Prince directly to an emergency vet in Riverhead, East End Veterinary Center.
The coronavirus outbreak forced procedures to be altered at the emergency vet. So Ms. Cusack waited in her car to receive paperwork to fill out and then handed over Prince to be taken inside for an examination. The vet cleaned Prince’s wound and gave him medication for pain and Ms. Cusack opted to bring her to Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital the next morning for further examination.
An X-ray revealed a startling revelation. It appeared Prince had a BB in his spine.
“They had like five people looking at it, they couldn’t believe what they saw,” she said.
A vet soon clarified that it was a pellet from a pellet gun, which can do more damage compared to a BB.
The pellet’s position at Prince’s spine meant operating to remove it would likely result in the cat being permanently unable to walk.
They decided to euthanize Prince, who was about 8 months old.
Now three weeks later, Ms. Cusack has been left still searching for answers for how her kitten could have been shot so close to her property. The North Fork Animal Welfare League is offering a $250 reward for any information and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is investigating. She also filed a report with Southold Town police at her brother’s insistence. A friend helped her create a flyer that was posted around town.
She doesn’t wish to pursue criminal charges, she said, although perhaps the person responsible could help with the vet bills, she said.
Mostly, she’s seeking answers. She said she likes to believe the best in people and that perhaps the shooting was not intentional.
“Maybe somebody was just trying to scare him away or could he have been going in somebody’s garbage or maybe they thought it was a raccoon,” she said. “What do people do with pellet guns? Are they shooting rabbits, squirrels, birds? I don’t know.”
Ms. Cusack said after she posted what happened on Facebook, the NFAWL reached out and said they wanted to offer a reward.
“Their biggest thing is animal abuse,” she said.
So far, the reward has not brought in any new information, she said. But she also heard from the Bob Platin of the Suffolk SPCA who sought information on the case.
Ms. Cusack said she knows there “are way more important things going on right now than my cat,” but she hopes to raise awareness for animal cruelty.
Her two remaining cats stay mostly indoors now as she awaits any answers.
Prince, meanwhile, was buried in the backyard under an apple tree he loved to climb.