Should followers of Jesus care about animal welfare?

“I have no patience for the bleeding hearts who rescue stupid animals when there are so many human beings in the world that need help.”

Those words on my Facebook page caught my attention during what I’ve come to call “my cat summer.” A family of cats – mama and three kittens, mere snippets of God’s creation – had taken refuge under a dilapidated bus and in a hole behind my workplace downtown. For the entire season, I tried to earn their trust.

That comment made me think about the money spent on cat food for cats I didn’t own. About the people I’d roped in to help, the hours I’d surrendered to the effort. On many days off, I brought food and sat beside the bus or the hole, talking softly; trying to get the tiny wild creatures to trust me enough to accept my help. (Certifiably crazy, I imagined others saying, chuckling at me from behind their car windows as they passed.)

Following the successful capture of Inky, the first and smallest kitten, which I fostered at home for several days, I journalled my thoughts:

“Why do I worry so much about these cats? Would my friends, my family, my readers feel I’ve crossed a line? Do I worry about the Sudanese kids forced to flee the slaughter in their home country? Of course. The innocents killed by ISIS soldiers? Certainly. The starving in third-world countries? Absolutely. Can I help them all? No. Am I concerned about them all? Yes. I hate all those situations, and I don’t equate human life with this tiny distracting ball of fur and purr. Nevertheless, this is the lost one that has come to me. This life has need of my aid. It’s a rescue I am able to make; the one starfish that got thrown into the puddle of my compassion. If the hurting of the world showed up behind my office, living under a bus, I would do whatever I could. Feed them. Find them help. And, as I have with Inky, I know I would love them and have a difficult time letting go.”

I knew that because I’ve experienced it. God has blessed our family often through the friendships we’ve shared with people needing encouragement. People seeking an emotional, sometimes physical “umbrella” during life’s uncertain seasons or messy downpours, at least until things became more stable. We remain richer for those relationships. But he’s also brought blessings through the animals we’ve helped rescue, from squirrels to cats and dogs, even one downed bald eagle.

By summer’s end each cat had been captured and surrendered to the care of a shelter organization I trusted to make good decisions about their care. The underbelly of the bus is empty now. The hole is covered over. I miss them.

Call me a bleeding heart. I don’t mind. I know this guy, see. His heart bled for compassion for his beloved creation. You and me. I’m happy to be his rescued, rescuing follower.

“The righteous care for the health of their animals. Proverbs 12:10”