I had plenty of worries when I sent my first-grader son to the bus stop the first day of school, but feral cat scratches wasn’t even on my radar of potential problems.
He’s my first child to go off to a full day of school, so it took a lot of courage for me to let him walk out the door by himself that first day, go off and wait at a bus stop full of older kids, get on a bus with a driver I didn’t know, and head off to school without me. He had assured me that he would be fine without having me walk him down to the bus stop every day, and I knew he was right. Especially, since I could still sort of see the bus stop from the window in my front room. For a month, every morning after I’d kissed him goodbye, I’d close the door and then rush to the window to make sure he got to the bus stop okay, and wasn’t harassed by any of the older children.
After several weeks, though, I was reassured. He always walked on the sidewalk, played nicely with the other children, and stood obediently in line to board the bus when it arrived. The routine settled in, and I soon stopped watching him after he left the house.
The other day, though, I noticed he had some scratches on the back of his hand when he got home. When I asked him about it, he said that a cat scratched him that morning at the bus stop. Even though it didn’t look very serious, I cleaned up his hand with some antibiotic cream. The next day, I happened to run into my neighbor whose driveway was the bus stop. “I didn’t know you got a cat,” I said, hoping to gently broach the subject of the cat that scratched my son’s hand. Surprised, she responded, “What are you talking about? I don’t have a cat.”
I explained what had happened, and got even more concerned when my son came home with yet another cat scratch on his arm that day. I called my neighbor up, and we decided we’d both watch what was going on at the bus stop the next morning.
What we saw shocked us. When the children arrived at the bus stop, several feral cats came running up to them. These weren’t tiny kittens, but full-fledged mangy stray cats. The children flocked around them, picking them up, petting them, and feeding them some bits from their lunch boxes. My neighbor and I must have realized the danger at the same time, because we both ran out our front doors at the same time, calling out to the kids and shooing the cats away.
I’ve contacted the parents of each one of the children at our bus stop so they can inspect their children for scratches or bites, and my son has now had to endure a series of shots from our pediatrician. Feral cat scratches could transmit all kinds of infections or illnesses, and I won’t take any chances.
Needless to say, we’ve contacted someone to get rid of the feral cats, and I walk my son down to the bus stop every morning, much to his dismay.