Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Taking Care of Kitty...

This column originally appeared in the Mansfield News in December 2005. It received a third place award from the New England Presss Association in the Serious Columnist category.

A short time ago I came across a letter from a man who had encountered difficulty trying to adopt a cat to give to his elderly mother. This made me stop and ponder the strange and wonderful world we live in.

The man had been greeted warmly at his local cat shelter and shown many lovely animals. He picked one out for Mom, happy she would have a pet and companion. He began the adoption process, and ran into immediate trouble.

When filling out the necessary paperwork, the gentleman ran across a question concerning how the cat would be housed. He answered the cat would be kept indoors primarily, but also allowed unfettered access to the outside.

At this point, the adoption process ground to a swift halt.

It seems many shelters these days have strict rules regarding how their adoptee kittens are to be kept. Many will not allow adoptions to people who do not pledge to keep the pets indoors, away from dangerous automobiles, coyotes and other natural predators.

His reaction to this was somewhat similar to my own: You have GOT to be kidding me.

I understand the need to care for and protect animals. I understand the need to have them spayed and vaccinated. I totally approve of the care in which they are doled out to their adopted homes.

But now cats can’t be trusted outside the home itself? Good grief, have we become that anal as a society? We are talking cats here – not kids. They are animals, for goodness sake. They were meant to live outside, not necessarily in warm, comfortable homes with wall-to-wall carpeting and kitty toys in little wicker baskets.

I love cats. I have had many of them over my life. Some lived to ripe old ages, others met untimely ends. I treated my cats well, and considered them part of the family.

But keep them strictly inside? I never felt the need to do that. I lived in homes with yards where they loved to wander, chase squirrels, and often torment the neighbor’s dogs. I had no need to implant microchips in them, or tuck little roadmaps in their collars. They always seemed to find their own way home.

Yes, cats can be snatched away by coyotes or predators. And yes, many a Buick has ended the life of a sweet little kitten. But for crying out loud – they are cats. They are living animals, not robots created to keep us company or give us a cuddle toy at night.

Where will this end? Will shelters insist on every kitten having its own room? Will agreements have to be signed, committing one spouse or the other to pay for kitty college in the event the cat wishes to better itself?

It is not my intent to demean or belittle in any way the good work done by the many cat shelters and organizations throughout the country. They are run by sincere, caring people who seek the best for the animals they love.

But insisting cats be kept inside is patently absurd, unless of course it is an older cat that has never been outside before. Do we somehow feel the need to regulate everything that happens in this country?

Fears of roving bands of wild cats are just plain silly. While feral cats sometimes cause problems, let us remember that not every cat who spends considerable time outside is wild. Some of them just like it out there.

Now that the kids have moved out, maybe it is time for a new cat. After all, I have two empty bedrooms. But then, there’s no cable in one of them…I’ll never be approved.

No comments: