Saturday, 6 August 2016
THE COMPELLING CASE AGAINST CITY CATS
I don’t really expect to be believed when I maintain, before launching into my diatribe, that I am a cat lover At one time I was the obsessed owner of three cats – Hector, Harriet and Heidi, all of them adored not only by me but by four other family members. With us it was never just cats, however, and I recall with affection two goats (Gert & Cindy), a variety of rabbits of which I can only clearly remember Enid and Edna, half a dozen guinea pigs (names forgotten), two rats (Blanche and Beryl) and a mouse called Gabriella. Where the rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mouse were concerned the children did most of the owning. When The Husband and I moved from the suburbs into the city four years ago we fully intended that we should once again become cat owners, at least I did. We particularly chose that our future residence should be animal friendly. Of the several units available at the time in this particular complex, I even made sure we acquired the one with the cat door already fixed and fitted. We had always been cat people rather than dog people though with no particular antipathy towards dogs evidenced by the fact that over the years we had welcomed and cared for Puddles, the Poodle – Purdy, the Doberman – Jake, the Irish Wolfhound and Hereward the Deerhound. This was all back in the days when not only were we multiple animal owners, but I, at least, had a twenty a day smoking habit, dropped cigarette ends in city streets and out of car windows and liberally blew smoke over the children, including at least one newborn. Had I been a serious dog owner rather than an occasional dog minder, I would undoubtedly have been of the variety that paused indulgently whilst my canine crapped on public walkways and would have viewed cleaning it up with a certain amount of horror. I mean – clean it up? are you serious??? But I digress rather so I’ll get to the point. Over the past several years of city living I am saddened to have to admit that I now believe cats not to be suited to New Zealand style city living where we are tentatively embarking upon residing side by side in much smaller spaces than most of us were previously accustomed to. I am increasingly convinced that the city cat has to become a wholly indoor animal like his relatives in London, Paris and New York, where pet cats have lived inside for almost a century. You might well argue that similar parameters should apply to city dogs and you might be right. But although the behavior of dogs can irritate and intrude with barking, over-enthusiastic greetings, and doggy excrement here and there, generally speaking their overall conduct, and that of their owners, can be modified with civil interaction and patience. This is currently proving not to be the case where cats are concerned. There is an underlying mantra associated with cat owners. They will invariably maintain that their pet spends most of the time inside anyway and will never be a nuisance to others. And of course they will be fifty per cent correct because he spends all night curled up on the bed alongside them. It is quite another matter when the owner leaves the place for whatever fills their day because then any self-respecting feline with access to the outside world will venture forth and from that moment on the owner has absolutely no idea what he gets up to. Like it or not a cat with access to the outside world becomes co-owned by the neighbours. If you are a neighbour who is courageous enough to object to cat droppings in your herb garden or paw marks all over your courtyard walls you might get a nominal apology but privately you will be thought of, and possibly referred to as a `fusspot’ or `worryguts’’. I know this because I thought the same myself once upon a time of those around me who dared to complain about my delightful feline friends. I figured it was the nature of cats, to extend territory and generally speaking this included urinating and defecating in a number of enticing looking places nearby. As for marks on walls – well, honestly what do they expect? After all it’s a cat – cats can’t help their behavior. Anybody who didn’t like it should get a life. What nit-picking whingers they were! The sad fact is that the pro-cat contingent, in fact cat owners in general, have through recent decades developed an extraordinary sense of entitlement as far as their pets are concerned. And you have to believe me when I say this because I was once one of them. My animals roamed the neighbourhood with impunity, toileting where they would in various places, desecrating the gardens of others and causing mayhem to the bird life of Kohimarama. I will admit (though a little fearfully) that Hector in particular was known to bring home baby Tuis and deposit them at my feet. Shocking yes – but somehow or other I managed to justify it. After all he was a cat wasn’t he? How on earth was he supposed to tell one bird from another? The good news is that attitudes regarding cats are being forced onto the cusp of a major change. It is not so long ago that all of us gave our pet dogs license to soil pavements and gardens and if anybody disliked walking through it, well they should be more vigilant. Things are dramatically different now and dogs on walks are accompanied by owners bearing plastic poo-bags. Only rarely do we witness, as I do from my kitchen window occasionally, a reprobate minus plastic furtively shielding an animal busy in bushes whilst they glance left and right to assess who, if anyone, observes. Overall we no longer accept that dogs have a set-in-concrete Canine Right to defecate on our streets. A mere decade or two back we bowed to the rights of smokers, on public transport, in bars and restaurants and certainly in open public places. The idea that anyone could be offended by second hand smoke was simply a joke. The change came worldwide with extraordinary rapidity and we feel quite differently now. The smoker’s right to smoke is no longer sacrosanct. It would be true to say that at present the Inviolable Rights of Cats and their Outraged Owners are only minimally wavering as letters to the editor and talkback lines will testify. They know they are morally superior because they are defending the rights of helpless animals to basic freedoms. It is surely unthinkable to suggest cruelty should be heaped upon vulnerable creatures by regulating for them to remain inside their owners’ homes. There is a basic astonishment that anyone calling themselves a human being could possibly think otherwise. Those, like myself who dare to oppose their views are still seen as somewhat akin to wife beaters and pedophiles. It is becoming increasing possible, however, that in the not too distant future, those of us suggesting restrictions on city cats may no longer be greeted with sharp intakes of breath and mutterings that query whether we also support bull fighting and bear baiting. I am still, despite all this, a Cat Person, but I cannot help hoping that day is not too far away.