Every Christmas, the staff at the Bronx Zoo transform the grounds into a “winter wonderland,” an LED-illuminated forest of festive fun that begins at sundown.
The good: Young kids will enjoy themselves. The bad: All the animal exhibits are closed, with the tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants brought into their indoor enclosures before dark to shelter from the frigid New York winter.
On Friday night the only animal on duty was Quincy, a 16-year-old Eurasian eagle owl. The impressively-plumed Quincy gamely hung out and remained calm despite a small crowd of guests pointing cameras at him, occasionally repeating a vocalization that sounded more like Buddy’s high-pitched greeting than a call you’d expect from an owl.
Hooting, which is what most of us associate with the nocturnal birds, is more closely associated with territorial displays and mating calls, Quincy’s handler explained.
After taking my brother’s kids to Winter Wonderland, we stopped for a look at Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. The owner, 61-year-old Roy Aletti, describes himself as a “maniac” when it comes to holiday decorating.
As you can see, his design philosophy can be summed up as “Buy as much shit as you can and cover every inch of your lawn.” The kids love it.
As you can see, he’s a dog. Specifically some sort of chihuahua-terrier bastard mix. I try not to hold it against him, but he’s not so smart.
Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know dogs think they’re territorial like us cats? In their very small brains they think “I’ve got my own territory to defend! I know! I’ll be very loud and tell any potential intruders I’m standing right here just waiting for an ass kicking! Bark bark!”
Intruders in kitty territory don’t even know they’re being watched. They think the coast is clear and they drop their guard, oblivious to the ninja cat already sailing through the air, razor claws extended, ready to dispense a little feline-style justice!
Cosmo is visiting New York with his dad, Brother of Big Buddy. BoBB is a pretty cool guy. He understands who runs things around here and he pays tribute to me by rubbing my head.
Cosmo himself is easy to bully. All I have to do is flash my terrifying fangs and show off my huge muscles, and he whimpers and runs away. Then I eat all the snacks.
Earlier this week New York became the first state in the US to ban cat declawing, which is a major victory not only for the many people who have been pushing for a ban for years, but especially for the potentially millions of cats who won’t be mutilated for the sake of someone’s couch or drapes.
It’s a time to celebrate, revel in a rare legislative victory for animal welfare, and look ahead toward similar proposals in other states. If more states follow New York, it could pave the way to a national ban.
Innocent, sentient creatures won’t be harmed as they have been for a long time. What could be better than that?
Here come the cat-haters
The thing is, legislation like this brings out the crazies and lots people who think protecting the innocent is a zero-sum game. In their world, helping animals and helping humans are mutually exclusive things instead of two goals that should be part of any coherent moral belief system.
Just because people are suffering in some parts of the world doesn’t mean we can’t help animals, just as helping animals doesn’t preclude us from helping people.
Declawing bans don’t take resources away from starving children in Somalia or America’s urban poor. Compassion for animals doesn’t somehow detract for compassion for people. In fact, all the research points to the opposite: That the way a person treats animals is a strong indicator of how they treat other human beings.
Animal abuse and violence crime
That’s why there’s a link between animal abuse and violent crime against people. Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violence against fellow humans, research shows. Criminologists have been aware of this link for many years, and smart investigators know to keep tabs on animal abusers because they often “graduate” to hurting humans.
That was the case with Luka Magnotta, a notorious animal abuser who, among other crimes, filmed himself feeding a young kitten to a python. Magnotta went on to kill a man with an ice pick, a crime that could have been prevented had detectives in Canada taken Magnotta’s animal abuse more seriously. Animal life has intrinsic value, and Magnotta should have been imprisoned for killing the kitten.
Cats scratch. Get over it.
Then there are the declawing advocates, the people who inexplicably argue that it’s okay to brutally mutilate living, feeling creatures in order to protect inanimate objects like couches and drapes.
One thing should be absolutely clear to anyone looking to adopt a cat: Scratching is completely natural behavior, and it’s your responsibility as caretaker to make sure you provide adequate scratching posts, as well as redirect your cat to those posts and vertical scratchers.
If you can’t or won’t accept that responsibility, you should not adopt a cat.
Of course there are people who will insist declawing has no negative effects on cats. They’re wrong. That’s not a matter of opinion, it’s fact: A 2017 study, the most comprehensive of its kind, detailed a long list of negative effects that result from declawing.
Declawing is NOT a manicure
Declawing, which is the amputation of a cat’s feet up to the first knuckle — and not “kitty manicure” — causes lifelong pain in cats. Because cats are digitigrade animals, meaning they walk with their weight on their toes, the act of walking itself becomes painful. That leads to cats altering their gaits to limit the pain, which in turn leads to poor posture, which ultimately leads to early-onset arthritis and other physical problems, according to the 2017 study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
It’s a cascade of physical problems that leads to misery.
Because cats are famously stoic, doing everything they can not to show pain — they are prey animals as well as predators, after all — it may not be obvious, but declawing hurts them. A lot.
While people may think they’re solving a problem by declawing their cats, they’re creating new ones. Declawed cats are several times more likely to bite because they no longer have their claws for defense. They’re five times more likely to stop using the litter box, because the simple act of standing on litter granules is painful on their raw toe stumps. They’re more likely to be aggressive and ill-tempered.
Insult to injury
Those are all prime reasons why people surrender cats to shelters, causing another type of cascade: One in which a negligent owner has his or her cats declawed, then surrenders the cats because they’re acting out. Declawed cats are twice as likely to be surrendered to shelters as cats who are not declawed.
That directly contradicts claims by proponents of declawing, who say declawed cats are more likely to be adopted. In fact, declawed cats are more likely to end up without homes.
It’s 2019. The information is out there for anyone to look up, and ignorance is no longer an excuse. Declawing is wrong.
Here’s to hoping New York is just the first of many states to ban the barbaric practice.
Buddy tells me he’s not happy that his blog — which is supposed to be about all things Buddy, after all — has been taken over by snow monkeys and the bright lights of Tokyo.
Thus we interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue to check in with His Grace and see how he’s doing.
Yesterday was my brother’s birthday so we FaceTimed with mom back in New York — morning for her, evening for us. Of course I asked if Bud was driving her crazy (she says he isn’t) and called out to him.
He made his way toward the direction of the sound, the iPad, and appeared confused.
“He’s looking for you,” mom said.
She picked him up and showed him the screen, and Buddy started vocalizing with a unique mix of meows and mews. He blinked at me and I blinked back. He kept talking.
But did he really recognize me in the screen? What would serve as a signal?
That’s when I did the slow one-eyed blink, and he returned it immediately! It’s anecdotal, but I think I can safely say my cat most definitely recognized me on a screen from halfway around the world. He doesn’t do the one-eyed blink unless it’s deliberate, and only as a way of communicating to me.
Now if I could translate those meows and mews I think they might mean something like this:
“Where are you?! The fact that you’re having fun without me is not cool! This servant has been…adequate…but I demand you return to the Kingdom of Buddy immediately and resume your minionly duties! I need my chin scratched, and your mom won’t let me groom her hair. Unacceptable!”
Sorry, little dude. You’re just gonna have to make do without me for a little while yet. And hey, you should appreciate mom. She’s treating you well!
Note: Welcome Japanese readers! I didn’t realize I’d see a flood of new traffic from Japan after enabling location-tagged posting, so this is a pleasant surprise. Yes, this is normally a blog about a cat, but at the moment I’m in your beautiful country and enjoying every minute of it. I hope I’m doing justice to Tokyo and the surrounding areas, and if I’ve gotten anything wrong, please don’t hesitate to correct me. Cheers!
When I heard a brave cat fought off a coyote, I thought to myself “That’s gotta be Buddy!” Sure enough, there you were on social media, describing the haymakers you landed on that foul canid: In the video we can see you execute a vicious right hook, followed by a dazzling spin move, then a series of rapid-fire jabs to the coyote’s face.
We can’t see what happens when you chase the coyote behind the car, but I’m going to go ahead and assume it was all sorts of badassery.
You, sir, are a hero to all cats!
Impressed in Idaho
Dear Impressed in Idaho,
Oh, it was nothing really. Just another day. I eat coyotes for breakfast, you know.
You lying sack of shit! That video is from Altadena, California, and you live in New York! Also, the tabby in the video has white paws and a white behind. You’re all gray. Stop lying!
– BS Caller in Boston
Dear BS Caller,
Nuh-uh. It was me. You can tell by the huge muscles and the acrobatic moves.
Stop lying, dude. We all know you run screaming at the sight of a vacuum and freak out when you hear a garbage truck. If you saw a coyote up close you’d crap yourself.
– No-Nonsense in New Jersey
Nuh-uh. I bravely stand up to vacuums all the time. Look at how ripped I am!
Come meet me tonight at midnight near the railroad tracks and we’ll see once and for all whether you’re as tough as you say. I’ll even tie one paw behind my back. All I need is one to smack you back to your Big Buddy. My cousin Boris has an iPhone, he’ll record the whole thing.
Put up or shut up.
– Sam the Coyote
Dear Sam the Dirty Dog,
My schedule is full tonight, tomorrow, the rest of the week and for the next several months. I have napping and eating to do. Also I can’t just appear on any video, you know. There are all sorts of rights issues that need to be worked out. It’s out of my hands. Ask my lawyers. But I’m totally not scared and would fight you if I could.
– Buddy the Beast
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.