Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Kooky cat owners not helping cause

Ray Spring doesn't seem to like cats much. They're ecological vandals, according to Ray, decimating New Zealand's native bird population and shredding native trees with their vicious claws.

They're also dirty little things, Ray reckons. They get into good, honest pet-free neighbours' gardens and poop everywhere turning a garden of Eden into a toxic wasteland.

Ray concedes that doing away with cats altogether is probably a bit radical - so instead he's suggested that cats be restricted to one per household and that all cats be microchipped so that rogue cats can be identified and their owners can be made accountable for their actions.

Ray doesn't have much time for middle-aged single women either - he says they're the main culprits when it comes to cat lovers. Lonely because their man has deserted them and the children have left home, these women fill the emotional void in their lives by pouring their love and affection into their cats. Ray didn't say these sorts of women should be done away with but the implication seemed to be that these pathetic creatures should buck up their ideas.

Initially Ray didn't get a lot of support when he was interviewed on the radio but gradually as time went on, callers to talkback seemed to swing round in favour of cat control. Not everybody was as radical as the organic gardener who suggested that if people want to keep cats they should put netting round their entire backyard. Like a huge aviary. This man also thought that the desire to keep a pet of any sort showed emotional weakness and said if middle-aged ladies were keeping cats for company it was because their families were failing them.

Another suggested we adopt the Canadian solution which was to keep cats locked indoors at all times. Cats in some states are only allowed out on leads - rather like dogs. Cats found roaming at any time of the day or night are destroyed. That may sound a little draconian for New Zealand but imagine the possibilities for accessorising your cat if it were decreed that it must be kept on leads. Fur Urban Pet Accessories in Kingsland would have to open all over the country! New mines would have to be discovered to keep pace with the demand for bejewelled collars and diamante leashes.

But back to Ray. I thought his remarks about women were one-dimensional stereotyping at best; bordering on misogyny at worst. But as more and more middle-aged single women phoned me with stories of their pussies I began to wonder. Lovely women, don't get me wrong, but just a little - obsessive.

Jody told me she had made a swing for her little boy. A canvas one with two holes for his hind legs and a smaller one for his wee tail. She sewed bells on to the front of it, so he could bat them with his paws and make a tinkling sound.

She hangs the swing between the kitchen and the lounge so he can see her while she's preparing dinner. Apparently he loves it. If he hasn't had his swing for the day, he'll nudge it to let her know he's ready for playtime. Really. This is what she told me.

Admittedly, Jody was at the more colourful end of the callers but most of them were adamant that their little pussies wouldn't touch a fantail/tui/woodpigeon - they either knew better or were too well fed to be bothered chasing food on the fly. They might have inadvertently helped Ray's case when they leaped to the defence of their little furry friends.

I don't know whether the damage domesticated cats do is sufficiently serious to warrant draconian legislation that would see cats locked up at night but I do know that the comfort and happiness many people derive from their pets means the cats deserve a fair hearing.

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