Tag: Humane Society

Pope Benedict Asked Us To Be Compassionate Toward Cats And Other Animals

Long before he was the pontiff, when he was just a young man named Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict was known as a cat guy.

Growing up in the village of Hufschlag, about 55 miles southeast of Munich, Benedict’s family always had pet felines and he fed strays who spent time in their garden. During his years teaching theology to students at Bavaria’s University of Regensburg in the 1970s, then-professor Ratzinger was often seen followed by an entourage of cats — the little ones he fed and cared for — as he crossed campus.

“They knew him and loved him,” said Konrad Baumgartner, a fellow theologian at Regensburg.

His affinity for his four-legged friends never faded, even as he took on more responsibility and had more demands on his time. Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone, one of Benedict’s colleagues, said the German clergyman had a natural connection with animals.

“On his walk from Borgo Pío to the Vatican, he stopped to talk with the cats; don’t ask me in what language he spoke to them, but the cats were delighted,” Bertone recalled. “When the cardinal approached, the cats raised their heads and greeted him.”

The Pope and the Cat
Pope Benedict with one of his cats.

As pope, Benedict continued to care for strays, and had two cats of his own — one who’d been with him since before he was made the leader of the global church, and another he rescued off the streets of Rome.

Photos of Pope Benedict with cats are different than the typical shots showing him meeting with world leaders or waving to crowds. His expression and posture are more relaxed in the presence of felines, and he’s often smiling in the images that show him holding a cat.

But it wasn’t just personal for Benedict.

“Dominion” over animals

For centuries, some people — mostly outside Catholicism, but some Catholics too — have argued that animals exist for the use of mankind, that their purpose on this Earth is to serve as resources. Proponents of the view point to a handful of Old Testament quotes, including a famous quote from Genesis that says God gave man “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Genesis 9:3 attributes this quote to God: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.”

The Pope and the Cats
Pope Benedict was well known for his love of cats, from his childhood in Bavaria to his days as pope emeritus living in retirement.

Other verses detail precisely which animals they can eat and remain in His good graces, and many Christian sects see those lines as a clear indication that God intended for animals to serve the needs of men.

But the Old Testament also tells us we can take slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46), that parents can have their kids stoned to death for disobeying them (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), that when children make fun of others, it’s totally cool to call upon righteous bears to maul them to death (2 Kings 2:23-24), and that people with blindness, flat noses and other ugly “blemishes” should wait outside church with the rest of the rejects while the good-looking people pray. (Leviticus 21:17-24).

Don’t even get me started on Sampson and the Book of Numbers.

The point is, if you’re going to be a stickler for things supposedly okayed or forbidden in the Old Testament, animals are the very least of your problems, especially if you trim your beard, let your hair get too long, wear shirts made of two different materials, or have ever placed a bet on DraftKings.

“Animals are God’s creatures”

As we look back on the life of the late pope emeritus, it’s worth noting that Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, have rejected the view that animals are God’s version of scripted NPC automatons who exist so we can eat steak and wear leather jackets.

“Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures,” Pope Francis declared in 2015.

Benedict spoke out about the cruelty inflicted on animals, the incalculable suffering of animals in industrial farming circumstances, slaughtered by the billions for food after short, brutal lives in which no consideration is given to them as living, sentient creatures.

In a 2002 interview, Benedict called animals “companions in creation” and criticized the modern food industry for its “degrading of living creatures to a commodity.”

“Respecting the environment,” he said in a 2008 interview, “means not selfishly considering [animal and material] nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests.”

Francis made the church’s position absolutely clear with an encyclical — an official letter to members of the church — called Laudato Si. In it, he condemned the “ruthless exploitation” of animals as commodities and asserts they are individuals who are recognized by God. He urged Catholics to treat them well, to respect and protect wildlife and the environment they depend on.

Animal life has “intrinsic value,” Francis said, adding that Christians must reject the idea that animals are “potential resources to be exploited.”

As if speaking directly to people who use the aforementioned Old Testament quotes to support practices like factory farming, harvesting animals en masse for pelts and hunting for the “fun” of it, Francis said:

“We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

Both popes also noted that, in addition to the suffering we cause, when we exploit animals as are also behaving in a way beneath the dignity of humankind. It’s a stain on our collective identity as a species, a betrayal of our roles as wardens of the planet.

Let’s put aside the moral considerations for a moment. The continued existence of the complex ecosystems on our planet — and indeed of humanity itself — depends on the many roles animals play, from carrying seeds to pollinating plants, limiting the growth of flora that would otherwise dominate and destroy other plants, rerouting water systems by creating dams, controlling the populations of creatures that would otherwise multiply unchecked, and the thousands of other roles they play in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

Benedict left this Earth on Dec. 31, 2022, at a time when we have killed off almost 70 percent of all wildlife in the entire world. It’s not just a matter of living on a lonely planet, or tucking future children into bed while telling them that, no, they can’t see elephants or tigers because the last of them are dead. Removing keystone species, extirpating entire genera while rendering vast stretches of the planet uninhabitable, purging the oceans of life as they accumulate literal continents of plastic waste, means we’re marching toward a cascade failure most of us won’t even see coming as we argue about carbon credits, politicize common sense, tinker with viruses and edit genomes.

It’s long past time we recognize the fact that we share this planet with billions of other minds and start living in a way that respects them. If we can save them, perhaps we can save ourselves too.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The 1.6 million square kilometer Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which weighs more than 80,000 metric tons.

Found Frozen To The Ground In Record Storm, Michigan Cat Is Recovering At Clinic

Elliot the cat was near death when Kelli Vanderlaan found him literally frozen to the concrete in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, during one of the coldest, most severe storms to sweep the US in decades.

Initially unsure whether the white and gray stray was still alive, as his eyes were frozen shut, Vanderlaan wriggled him free and took him to the Big Lake Community Animal Clinic in Muskegon, Michigan. Although barely able to move and unable to vocalize, Elliot seemed to be grateful for the car’s heat.

“You could tell that he was obviously frozen, so he needed warmth and touch and everything, I think he was pretty happy when I got him into the truck,” Vanderlaan told the local ABC affiliate, WZZM.

Elliot the Cat
Staff at Big Lake Community Animal Clinic have been nursing Elliot the Cat back to health. Credit: WZZM

Once Vanderlaan and the stray arrived at Big Lake, staff there immediately began gently raising the little guy’s temperature, wrapping him in warm blankets and giving him fluids.

“We weren’t sure what he’s been through,” said Alexis Robertson, executive director of the local Humane Society. “He’s definitely been out there for a while trying to take care of himself, just trying to survive, but it was at a critical point where he was ready to pass.”

After giving Elliot a veterinary exam, cleaning his eyes and making sure he was snug, the staff at Big Lake Community Animal Clinic monitored him closely overnight. His organs had been dangerously close to shutting down when he was brought in, and he still wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Elliot, who was named after the storm that swept the region over the holidays, has continued to improve in the days since. He’s since been able to stand on his own and has regained his appetite, the clinic’s staff wrote on Facebook.

“We are so happy to say he is doing much better and was monitored during the night,” staffers wrote. “He reaches out his paw to the vet tech that has been caring for him overnight, showing her just how happy he is that he is being helped. He still has a long way to go, but we won’t give up.”

Elliot, who was described as an “older” cat who’s been fending for himself, will come out of the ordeal with his life much improved. After surviving the storm — which plunged temperatures well into the single digits, set record lows across much of the midwest and claimed the lives of at least 56 people across the country — Elliot will be put up for adoption, and the clinic has already received inquiries from people who want to open their home to the little survivor. If his will to live and his gratitude toward his rescuers are any indication, the little guy has a lot of love to give.

“It’s the most heartfelt feeling in the world to see this cat come from basically nothing and being vocal and happy to be touched and fed, it’s just an amazing thing to watch,” Leah Wetmore, the clinic’s manager, told WZZM.

elliotcat_save
Kelli Vanderlaan was the Good Samaritan who saved Elliot’s live. Credit: WZZM

Sunday Cats: Woman Dumps Boyfriend After He Loses Senior Cat, Kitten Abuse Leads To Felony Charge

Although the story is more about her gradual acceptance that her boyfriend was inconsiderate — and didn’t put as much effort as she did into their relationship — Business Insider’s Anne Jarret writes about how his carelessness with her cat led her to end a two-year relationship.

Jarret describes how her boyfriend would do things like leave wet towels on her side of the bed, leave dishes around their home and show disregard for her sleep schedule when he knew she had to rise at 6 a.m. every morning as a teacher, but the final straw was his cavalier attitude toward losing her 15-year-old cat, who was on her last legs and needed meds to survive:

“Where’s the cat?” I asked my boyfriend as I walked into the kitchen. The sun had set, and it was time for us to give her a steroid to ease her pain.

“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. We searched, but we couldn’t find her anywhere. Then I saw the patio door was wide open.

Guerrilla, the dying 15-year-old cat, loved spending time outside on a leash and would beg us to take her exploring.

“I guess when I took the dogs out earlier I forgot to close the door,” he said. “I’m sorry.” My heart broke.

Unfortunately, Jarret never found her cat and didn’t get closure on her fate, which is a horrible thing for anyone who loves their feline, especially after spending 15 years together.

Prosecutors use 2019 federal statute to charge teen with cat abuse

A 17-year-old from Maine has been charged with a felony under 2019’s Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act after a video surfaced on Facebook showing him brutalizing a kitten.

The teenager is accused of picking up a stray cat by his tail and repeatedly slamming him into the ground on Nov. 4. The kitten, named Harlow by the local Humane Society staff, will “likely” lose an eye as a result of the head trauma the teenager inflicted, Humane Society shelter director Katie Lisnik told the Sun-Journal.

Despite that, Harlow doesn’t hate people and seems to crave affection.

“He just loves to cuddle,” Lisnik said. “He just wants to be on you.”

This story is heartbreaking and hard to even think about. How could anyone do such a thing to an innocent animal, much less a kitten less than a year old? And the fact that Harlow is so loving and trusting despite all he endured and suffered just underscored how innocent cats are, as animals who have the intelligence and emotional capacity of three- or four-year-old children.

Usually we don’t note stories like this on PITB because animal abuse is a difficult topic, it’s upsetting and stories like this are so numerous that reading all of them can even make misanthropes out of people who believe the best of humanity. But we’ve written quite a bit about law enforcement taking animal abuse seriously, and the need for animal cruelty laws with more teeth, and this is ultimately a hopeful case because the prosecutors are taking it seriously enough to invoke the bi-partisan PACT Act.

On the other hand, some laws clearly need to be amended. The suspect hasn’t been named in media reports and his identity will likely remained sealed because of youthful offender laws, which allow minors convicted of crimes to strike convictions from their permanent records before they turn 18 if they meet certain conditions set by the court. Usually they’re straightforward: Stay out of trouble, attend psychological counseling, check in regularly with a probation officer and complete community service.

That’s fine for offenses involving drugs, theft and other relatively minor stuff. But when crimes are associated with high recidivism and/or are strong indicators of future violent crime — as animal abuse has proven to be — convicts shouldn’t be allowed to apply for youthful offender status. This kid shouldn’t be allowed to own pets or interact with animals, and this kind of crime shouldn’t be stricken from his record because if, for example, he attacks a woman he’s dating when he’s 19, it shows a pattern of violent behavior that strongly correlates to escalating violence.

At a time when school shootings are common and people commit senseless crimes like pushing strangers off subway platforms into the paths of oncoming trains, law enforcement could use all the help and information it can get in identifying people with violent histories before they do more harm.

Sunday Cats: Expert Fails At Feline Facts, Aussie Karen Lures Cats From Home To Issue Roaming Fine

This is why we always say it’s better for cat servants to regulate themselves than allow the government to get involved.

A Karen in Australia issued a $280 fine to a homeowner for allegedly allowing his cats to roam — after she lured the kitties onto the street herself.

The entire bizarre spectacle was captured on security cameras at the home of Julie and Steven Stephens, a couple in Toowoomba, about 80 miles west of Brisbane. The uniformed Karen, who is employed by the Queensland council, totes a clipboard in one hand as she walks up the Stephens’ driveway in broad daylight.

As one of the curious cats approaches, Karen reaches for a pen in her pocket and starts scribbling on her clipboard, apparently eager to get started on the paperwork, before slowly backpeddling so the kitty will continue to follow her. When the cat reaches the sidewalk, the unnamed woman scoops it up and walks to her government-issued vehicle parked in front of the Stephens’ home.

Steven Stephens was watching the episode unfold via his camera system and bolted outside to stop the government employee from taking his cat, he told Yahoo News Australia.

The Karen wasn’t able to “impound” the cat, but she wrote Stephens a hefty fine for “allowing his cat to roam,” and promised she’d be back to inflict more misery.

“She said she would be back in two weeks with the police to take all but two of our dogs,” Mr Stephens said.

Queensland cat story
A municipal employee from the Queensland council is seen luring a cat away from its home in this still shot from surveillance video. Credit: Steven Stephens

We’re unable to embed the video, but you can watch it at Yahoo News Australia.

Unbelievably, Toowoomba Regional Council “CEO” Brian Pidgeon doubled down and quoted the relevant section of law on pet roaming when a local newspaper asked him about the incident. Pidgeon did acknowledge his employee was accused of luring the Stephens’ cat, but said he couldn’t talk about that because he’s conducting an “internal investigation,” which is bureaucrat-speak for figuring a way to worm his way out of the situation. There is, after all, clear video showing the Karen luring the cat away. There is nothing ambiguous about what happened.

Stephens admitted he and his wife have “too many” dogs according to local law, which has set arbitrary limits on animal custodianship, but said there are good reasons for that. The dogs sooth his wife, he said.

“A few years ago she had a severe car accident, her partner at the time died, she has a metal plate in her head and now has severe depression and anxiety,” Stephens said. “The dogs help with her anxiety.”

The family has been so rattled by the incident, and apparently has so little faith in their local government to treat them fairly, that they told Yahoo News they’re looking to sell their home and move to “a larger parcel of land in the bush.”

That in itself is an extraordinary admission, indicating they don’t expect basic courtesy, honesty or professionalism from the local authorities.

Now imagine how this would have played out if the Stephens family did not have security cameras. The council worker would have said their cats wandered off the family’s property of their own accord, and that would have been it. The Stephens would be forced to pay the fines, have a legal battle on their hands to get their cats back, and would be fretting over the impending confiscation of their dogs.

I know I sound like a broken record with regard to how local governments, guided by bunk “research” studies, impose themselves on pet caretakers, especially those of us who have cats. That’s why it’s important not to give them any reason to interfere — and to make sure everything is recorded, as the Stephens family wisely did.

Who knows what the government Karen’s motivations were. Was she trying to meet a quota? Does she dislike animals? Does she enjoy flexing the little bit of power she has, or inflicting misery on others? By preempting legislation on cat ownership and roaming, we can avoid putting ourselves at the mercy of such people in the first place, which is in the best interest of cat caretakers, and most importantly cats themselves.

Feline fact fail

I’m sure Nigel Barber, PhD., is a nice guy. I don’t mean to give him any grief. But when you present yourself as an expert on a topic and you write an authoritative column on a trusted site that has millions of readers, you really should make sure you’re not spreading misinformation or providing a picture of a situation that is decades behind the current science.

In a column for Psychology Today titled “Does Your Cat Love You?“, Barber rattles off a list of cliches, half-truths and outright falsehoods about cats, the kind of thing you might have expected 20 or 30 years ago before a wealth of research helped us dispel incorrect assumptions about felis catus.

close up of person cuddling cat
Credit: Sevra Karakuu/pexels

After mucking up the domestication timeline, Barber says cats are “fearful of people,” “tend to withdraw from strangers,” and paints an outdated picture of aloof animals who technically don’t need human care to thrive. He also says cats attack people, including their caretakers, without warning or provocation.

Then there’s this nugget:

“As essentially wild predators, cats can be quite unpredictable. Many owners who are devoted to their cats complain that the cat often scratches them unexpectedly. One acquaintance had the cat declawed and found that the pet reverted to using its teeth on her!”

Can you believe it?!?! A woman had her cat declawed, and the cat bit her!

It’s not just that we know cats give off plenty of nonverbal warnings when they’re uncomfortable, or that declawing makes a cat much more likely to bite. Organizations like the Humane Society, SPCA, The Paw Project and others have been saying that for years.

It goes well beyond that — studies, including the most comprehensive study to date on the effects of declawing, have proven without a doubt that cats are much more likely to bite when they’re subjected to the cruel and painful declawing procedure. (See “Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats,” a 2017 paper in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.)

That’s because declawing a cat not only inflicts a lifetime of physical pain and psychological trauma, it robs felines of their primary defense mechanism, making them feel much more vulnerable. Without claws with which to warn off unwanted handling, the poor declawed cats have only one defensive weapon available to them — their teeth.

An evolutionary psychologist should understand that, and should also understand that scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats. It’s not right or wrong, it’s cats being cats. Mutilating innocent animals to protect inanimate objects like furniture is objectively wrong and cruel. When you adopt a cat, scratching comes as part of the package along with all the positives like unconditional love, amusing antics and calming purring.

There are ways to dissuade and train your cats to mostly avoid scratching furniture, but no one should expect their cats will never put a claw on their couches. If you don’t want your furniture scratched, don’t get a cat. End of.

‘Guard Cat’ Helps Stop Armed Robbery

Fred Everitt woke at 2:30 a.m. to his cat’s “loud guttural meows” coming from the kitchen.

The retiree didn’t think much of it until the cat, Bandit, came running into the bedroom, leaped onto Everitt and began tugging his comforter off. Then she clawed at his arms, trying to communicate how urgent the situation was.

“She had never done that before,” Everitt said. “I went, ‘What in the world is wrong with you?’”

Bandit was trying to alert her human to the presence of two men outside — one carrying a handgun, the other trying to pry the back door open with a crowbar.

Everitt, a 68-year-old retiree, said he ran to his bedroom and retrieved his own gun after getting a look at the men through his kitchen window, but by that point the would-be robbers had either been scared off by the noise Bandit was making — and the probability that someone was awake inside — or they split to find easier pickings.

Either way, Everitt credits Bandit for preventing an armed robbery and possibly saving his life. The incident happened on July 25.

“It did not turn into a confrontational situation, thank goodness,” Everitt said. “But I think it’s only because of the cat.”

Everitt welcomed the delightfully chonky Calico into his home four years ago after he went to the Tupelo Humane Society in Tupelo, Miss., about 115 miles southeast of Memphis, Tenn. He was writing a donation check when shelter staff introduced him to Bandit. Even though he hadn’t planned on adopting a cat, Bandit came home with him and she’s been his companion ever since.

He said he’s telling his story because it’s important for people to know pets can give back to their humans.

“I want to let people know that you not only save a life when you adopt a pet or rescue one,” Everitt told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “The tides could be turned. You never know when you save an animal if they’re going to save you.”

It’s nice to know some cats are just as good as dogs when it comes to alerting their humans to potential danger. Given Buddy’s long track record of hiding behind my legs and moaning nervously when something scary happens — and the fact that he literally slept through a mouse encounter in July — I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the Budster heroically raising hell to wake me up if armed men ever tried to break in.

It’s more likely he’d watch the burglars break in without raising the alarm, and satisfied that they have no interest in the turkey pate and treats in his Buddy Food Cabinet, return to my bed to stretch, yawn and go back to sleep.