My neighborhood is stuffed to the brim with outdoor felines; some of whom are strays, some of whom are not. One such cat belongs to my downstairs neighbors. They remind me of The Herdmans, the out-of-control family featured in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. They aren't ill-intentioned people; they simply don't seem to have enough money or space or time to care for their animals (they have at least two dogs who live in their small apartment, in addition to the cat).
This cat is a striking, female, "true" Calico with bright green eyes. She is a total sweetheart and very affectionate. So much so, that when she hears me arrive in my manual, she will come to meet me and then follow me up the three flights of fire-escape stairs to my apartment. In warm weather, she will put her little paws up on my back screen door and meow at me to let her in. Of course, I do not allow her free entry because I don't want to infringe on the rights of her actual owners, as neglectful as they may seem to be.
Tonight, Little Miss Calico (LMC) followed me up to my apartment, as is her wont. As she began to climb the last staircase, the cat who lives next door to me (a large, orange, indoor/outdoor tomcat) uttered a low growl and moved to guard the top of the flight. I warned LMC to head back downstairs so that she could avoid a fight. She kind of looked up at me and then defiantly moved toward the tom's food dish. I tried again to dissuade her, but she continued to pay me no heed, so I went inside and left my door ajar, in anticipation of the fight.
Sure enough, I hear two cats angrily yowling not long thereafter. I immediately rush outside, but my next door neighbor is already out trying to corral the cats away from each other. My neighbor tells me that she thinks that, if LMC were spayed, this might not be so much of an issue. She explains that she would keep the cat herself during her recovery period but that the tomcat won't have it. She asks if I would be willing to care for LMC while the stitches heal. I tell her that is fine by me, but won't the owners care? She responds that she has kept LMC for several days at a time in her apartment during rainy weather (prior to the tomcat living there) and LMC's owners didn't seem to care or notice her absence. So we exchanged phone numbers and my neighbor will contact me after the appointment is set.
I'm worried about this arrangement. It really isn't my place to collude with the neighbor and have this family's cat spayed. However, the neighbor lady in question is the real caretaker of this animal. If not for my next door neighbor, LMC would be skin and bones (which is the state she was in prior to my neighbor leaving extra food outside for her). It is my feeling that if we don't take care of LMC, who will? I'd like to ask my downstairs neighbors for their permission, but they are intimidating folk. They've been nothing but polite to me, but I've heard some of their skirmishes with others and I do NOT want to be on their bad sides. In short, they seem to be some bad motherfuckers.
What to do??? My instinct tells me to do what is best for the cat's safety and to throw caution to the wind, but I'm afraid of the repercussions. I also fear that I might be doing something unethical. Any thoughts?