Hiss.. HISS!!! That’s the cat at my place, telling me in all her crudeness that I’m infringing her territory – in my living room. She isn’t our pet, so we just refer to her as THE CAT. A stray, she showed up one day pregnant and ready to deliver. I suspect that someone spread the word in the local cat community that our house doubles as a cat maternity ward. In a span of about two years, this was in fact the third time a ginger cat showed up at our house, pregnant and ready to deliver.
Human or feline, it’s seems safer to never mess with a pregnant lady. And so we played host to three births at our house. The first two times the cat had one kitten and left with her child after a few weeks. So this time around, we hoped for the same deal. Instead we got 3 kittens and a cat that wouldn’t leave. As with all children, kittens have a way of making you go against your best judgement. Besides it seemed cruel to throw out 3 unprepared kittens into the big bad world. And so we began to feed them, give them the space they required (I have to admit that there was a part of me that couldn’t help but feel a sense of betrayal to the memory of my late dog). After a few weeks, the best we could do is convince the family to move from our house to the garage.
I may sound cold and callous in my account, but I’ve actually been crazy about animals since I was a kid. But just like with people, I take time to bond with them. Nevertheless, I’m always observing in awe from a distance, and defending their rights as best as I can.
Several times over the past few years I’ve wished I had a dog again for a pet. A lot of my neighbours have dogs – mostly pedigrees. To add to my yearning, I noticed a growing population of stray mongrels in my neighbourhood. I never summoned the courage to get one, given my erratic schedules. The sight of owners and dog walkers parading their beautiful pets on a leash was making me a tad jealous.
However, the sight of a pet dog with collar and leash – head held high, walking obediently beside the owner; while a stray dog or cat a few feet away making his own rules, is something else.
It’s nothing remarkable, a fairly common sight. But as a person longing for a pet, it was an epiphany that changed my perception. It felt like something kicked me off the ‘humane’ high horse and made me rethink the concept of a ‘pet’. I wouldn’t be surprised if other species on the planet voted ‘exaggerated self importance‘ as the most insufferable human quality.
Most, if not all of us already know and agree that being cruel to animals is bad. But how much good, is too good? The line appears blurry to me. Animals lovers like to wear their superhero cape and swoop in for the rescue. Sure, it helps at shelters that kill strays, just for not having a home. But the real question is – do they actually have no home?
As intelligent, human folk capable of rational thought, we decide that stray dogs, cats and every other non homo sapien is a pest and a general nuisance (we that think that of our own species, but that’s a whole other discussion!). They are removed from neighbourhoods in an attempt to ‘clean’ it up and make it ‘safe’.
A tad blinded by their love, animal enthusiasts on the other hand take responsibility for their four legged friends and lock them away at home, set boundaries and dictate terms. Sort of like booking them in one of those luxury prisons. Sure the little guys are safe from predators, but what about their freedom?
My brother and I have adopted stray dogs and kittens several times in our childhood. In retrospect, in our quest to be heroes I wonder how many families we inadvertantly uprooted!
Moreover, we can’t help extend human attributes onto other species. We respect pedigree horses, cows, dogs, cats – only the purest breed is worth anything. A pure bred Cockerspaniel mating with a Daschund, scandalous! What would their puppies look like? What would they be worth?! In effect we created a caste system for other animals, put a price on their head and parade them around in beauty pageants. But can you blame us for wanting to spice up their simple, boring lives?
As a peace loving vegetarian, I’m far from innocent – projecting my own beliefs onto animals. Similar to me, vegetarianism was imbibed into my dog since he was a pup. He accepted, didn’t complain and grew up to be a healthy dog. However, this was not the case with THE CAT. She lapped up all the vegetarian food we gave her, as did her kittens. But she is a hunter by nature, and would occasionally catch a rat or a innocent pigeon. I’ll admit it’s still hard for me to accept, despite knowing about the food chain, and the circle of life. But I feel delicate to upset the balance of nature. Though its really tempting.
The mouse in my yard and I, were both born on earth. I doubt either of us had a choice in the matter of birth, let alone selecting our species. The strays have taught me to stop longing for a pet, the notion seems selfish. For a while now, I’ve been consciously feeding stray dogs – especially new mothers and their puppies. There are several groups that provide medical assistance for the injured, and raise money for vaccinations before they’re returned to the neighbourhood. I’m not sure how much thought people put into this matter, but I have seen a lot of people do this. Since we’re depleting a steady food supply for other creatures, it makes sense for us to share some of our food. The beautiful thing is that when it comes to cats and dogs, if you pay attention you can see them give back. Stray dogs often presume the role of watch dogs, barking their heads off in case of suspicious activity in the neighbourhood. Cats on the other hand take care of the rat problem.
We didn’t like to entertain pigeon murder at our place, so our compromise was to put the cat family in the garage. They’re free to walk in and out as they please. They occasionally have a menacing tom cat as a visitor. But who am I to judge?
Popular opinion is that its cruel to put a bird in a cage. I completely agree. I only think it makes sense to extend the same logic to a fish in a bowl, and a horse in a stable. If we really do care about animals, perhaps we shouldn’t act like overbearing, smothering parents.
It’s time to move over, and make some space for our fellow earthlings. If it helps, you can just pretend you didn’t see that scary spider behind the cupboard. She likes her privacy.