The backwards bystander effect

Last night, there was a cat meowing extremely loudly outside an apartment along Spadina. I, along with three others, stopped to figure out why. Having concluded that the cat had fallen/jumped off a story balcony based on a) an open door and b) another cat looking down from there, and c) the cat had a collar, we stopped to figure out how to proceed.

One of us tried to call the superintendent’s phone number and emergency number, but there was no answer. Another considered using some fruit she had to keep this indoors cat from wandering away; at this point, the cat had hidden under a nearby automobile and its loud meowing had become very frightened-sounding mews. I flirted with the thought of a cat-apult or otherwise returning the cat directly to its (presumed) home. One hears the stereotypical tale of firemen rescuing cats from trees; how many firemen have ever been asked to escalate a cat? We tried to figure out the safest place for the cat. Finally, after half an hour, a resident returned home and we asked her if she could help return the cat to its home, indicating where we thought that might be. She had a good way with the cat, so with the cat now in excellent hands, we were all much relieved. Had we been individual bystanders passing at separate times, we might have felt less able to help. Fortunately for this cat, there was a small group of bystanders and a very friendly resident. Thus concluded the most cockle-warming incident of my week.

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