An open letter to cat owners
I love animals. Just about all animals, especially dogs. I like cats too. But I don’t like irresponsible cat owners, and I don’t like their cats in my backyard, especially when they embark on a terror campaign against my dog and my garden and impede my enjoyment of my own space.
When your cat appears – every day, several times a day – daintily tiptoeing along the fence, swaying its tail proudly in a one-eyed salute, it sends my dog just a little crazy. And when it propels itself suddenly from under a bush, teeth barred and hissing at my sweet, shaken and suffering dog, she is driven into a frenzy. With shackles raised and heart racing, she suffers a brain explosion and momentarily forgets she is not allowed in garden beds. Completely disregarding 10 long years of diligent and, to this point, successful training, she races over flowers and darts behind hedges in a vain attempt to chase that teasing menace. Of course, she will never catch it (even if she did, she would badly lose any battle and wear the scars sorely), but the garden bears the brunt of the unsuccessful chase, while your cat smirks nastily, now safe back on top of the fence preparing for its next onslaught, likely to be only minutes away, as it continues its cruel day-long sport.
We have been cultivating rows of ridiculously slow-growing hedges for a decade, and countless hours (days, weeks, perhaps months) of my existence is spent gaily snipping and trimming and shaping. Imagine my joy when I observe patches of hedges slowly browning and shrivelling away after continually being pissed on, by YOUR CAT, in some feline territorial display, or possibly act of spite. I place objects in front of the ailing sections and cut back dead material hoping it will recover. Occasionally a patch is saved, but sometimes a whole plant is lost to the toxic virulent cat pee and a gaping hole in my hedge remains as evidence of the power of the feline poison. It’s akin to someone knocking out one of your front teeth. It just doesn’t look attractive.
And let me be clear about your cat’s defecation. I do not enjoy discovering and disposing of little cat turds from my yard. Even less do I enjoy discovering them underfoot or lurking surreptitiously in garden beds as I weed. And I am angry at the disease threats posed by these cat turds.
That is because, as all cat owners should be aware, cats are the primary host for toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease which can have significant health risks. Humans become infected through contact with cat poo or the soil it’s been in. It’s particularly dangerous for those with suppressed immune systems and pregnant women as it can cause birth defects. For those with small children and neighbourhood cats, be especially wary if you have a sandpit, because guess where wandering kitty-kats love to poo? Yep, in that same soft sand your toddlers love to play in.
Now Cat Owners, before you reciprocate with tales of ill-behaved and raucous dogs in your neighbourhood who bark incessantly at day and howl at night, that doesn’t cut it. Uncontrolled dogs annoy everyone (with the possible exception of their irresponsible owners) and there is no excuse for uncontrolled, dangerous dogs – ever. But other irresponsible pet owners and their ill-behaved pets don’t excuse your wandering cat.
I don’t even care if you do keep your cat in at night (thank you – that’s commendable and the wildlife much appreciates it, because make no mistake – your cat is also a finely tuned killing machine and night time is when it is particularly effective and dangerous) but it is still your responsibility during daylight hours. And it’s not enough to say it’s in cats’ natures to wander and impossible to keep them in. It’s not impossible – it’s your choice. You just need to accept it’s your responsibility to do so.
The RSPCA agrees it is entirely possible to keep cats contained successfully and healthily, but you need to embrace the challenge. You can’t rely on just asking your cat nicely to stay in the backyard – work out some serious strategies to keep it contained. Maybe that will be as simple as keeping an eye on your cat when it’s outside with you and taking it in with you when you go in, or maybe you need to build a suitable structure yourself, rather than expecting your neighbours to invest their weekends in vain attempts to cat proof their yard. Oh – I mean my yard.
I can’t lay all the blame on cat owners. Some I save for local legislators. Why is that cats are so often the only domestic animal that don’t need to be kept under the control of their owners? Why don’t cats need to be registered in most jurisdictions? Dog owners are required to have their dogs registered and restrained in public areas, unless designated an off-leash area. If I take my dog on a walk, I am expected to clean up after it (and I do), yet cats are allowed to pee and poo wherever they like. Same same but different.
In my home town of Canberra, there are now a number of suburbs where cats must be ‘contained’ at all times, and a couple more new suburbs will soon join the lists. Fabulous idea! While this is excellent news for the local wildlife, the non-cat owners of the neighbourhood must be equally delighted. Now the authorities just have to enforce the rules.
At the risk of sounding like a cat-hater, let me assure I’m not. I agree entirely cats can be gorgeous and cuddly and wonderfully loving. If I’m visiting your house, I will be the first to cuddle your cat and make silly, gooey noises to vie for its attention. I understand cats are great company and you love them a lot. I just don’t want your cats at my place.
Enough, cat owners – enough. Get a cat, keep it home with you. If I wanted the company of a kitty all day long, I’d get my own.
Oops – there he is back again!