Tag: SPCA

NYT Columnist: ‘If I owned a gun, I swear I would have shot that cat’

What would you do if you encountered a hungry, injured feral cat hiding under a car near your home?

If your first thought is to help the poor little one, enlist the aid of a local rescue and get the cat some much-needed veterinary attention and food in its belly, congratulations: You’re a human being with a conscience.

One New York Times columnist, however, thinks the solution is to indulge in a fantasy about murdering the innocent animal, of using a weapon she doesn’t own and soundly disapproves of to wipe it from existence.

When Margaret Renkl saw the “ragged, battle-scarred tom, thin but not emaciated, with one eye that didn’t open all the way,” her first thought was to kill it, not help it.

“If I owned a gun, I swear I would have shot that cat,” Renkl wrote in her Aug. 3 column, titled “Death of a Cat. “I would have chased that hissing cat out from under the car without a thought and shot it as it fled.”

Imagine: An effete, 60-something, morally self-satisfied woman playing Charles Bronson, standing over the corpse of a cat and slipping a still-smoking pistol into its holster before heading back inside to tweet-lecture the unwashed masses on civil rights, COVID etiquette and respect for wildlife.

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A feral cat. (Credit)

The staff of the New York Times really seems to be working overtime to prove it’s tone-deaf and hypocritical: It wasn’t so long ago that a Times columnist tut-tutted those who disapprove of breeding and selling $20,000 designer cats while millions of homeless animals are euthanized annually.

Times columnist Alexandra Marvar even went so far as to praise people who use their wealth and connections to flout laws against poaching illegal wildlife, reminiscing about the days when “wild cat companions were were associated glamour, class and creativity.”

“Salvador Dalí brought his ocelot to the St. Regis. Tippi Hedren lounged with her lions in her Los Angeles living room. Josephine Baker’s cheetah, collared in diamonds, strolled the Champs-Élysées. In their time, these wild creatures made chic pets,” Marvar wrote.

While Marvar romanticizes wild animal “ownership,” the reality is sadly less glamorous: Instead of Josephine Bakers leading “chic” diamond-collared cheetahs on idyllic walks through Paris, it’s Texans prodding confused and depressed tigers into tiny backyard enclosures at taser-point, insisting that “muh freedoms” guarantee them the right to treat the world’s iconic megafauna like toys.

So why does Renkl hate cats? Because she’s read bunk scientific research that claims cats kill billions of birds and small animals every year:

I was thinking of the first nest the bluebirds built this spring, the one in which not a single baby survived. I was thinking of the gravid broadhead skink who would lie on our stoop every afternoon, warming her egg-swollen body in the sun. She disappeared one day to lay her eggs and guard her nest, I assumed, but now I wasn’t sure. I was thinking of the chipmunk who lives in a tunnel under our stoop and of the little screech owl, its feet holding down some small prey, its eyes glowing in the infrared light of our trail camera.

The more I thought about those vulnerable creatures, already crowded out by construction and starved out by insecticides, the angrier I got at the feral tom. In truth, I would never kill a cat, but I can surely hate one with a murderous rage. A person who has spent a quarter-century trying to create an oasis for wildlife can go a little mad when a cat shows up in the photos on her trail camera.

Note that Renkl didn’t actually see the starving cat kill those birds or squirrels. She simply assumes that a bird who doesn’t return to her glorious backyard oasis has been gobbled up by evil felines. Her rage is prompted by emotion and assumption, not fact.

She doesn’t have a negative word to say about the construction and pesticide industries either, reserving her “murderous rage” for a raggedy cat just trying to survive because she read studies claiming cats are furry little Adolf Hitlers, exterminating birds one bloody feather at a time.

We’ve talked about those cat-blaming studies here on Pain In The Bud: They’re sloppy meta-analyses of earlier studies using plugged-in, arbitrary data and dubious numbers from questionnaires to arrive at the conclusion that cats kill as many as 20 billion small animals in the US alone.

It’s cherry-picking at its worst, beginning with a pretedermined conclusion and inventing, massaging and selecting “data” to support that conclusion rather than doing the hard work of collecting authentic data and honestly interpreting the results.

The researchers who published those studies should be mortified to have their names attached to them. They’re engaging in activism, not science.

We’re not the only ones who have a problem with the aforementioned studies. A team of scientists and ethicists examined the claims and “found them wanting,” blaming the sloppy science of those studies for the claim that “cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity” and the subsequent war on cats in countries like Australia, where some states offer $10 a scalp for people who kill adult cats and $5 a scalp for kittens.

What kind of twisted logic compels people to kill kittens in the name of protecting animals?

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Bunk research claims are repeated as fact by media outlets. (Source)

The primary and most-cited studies claiming cats kill billions of animals “take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large,” the critics wrote. The studies ignore “ecological context,” bury contrary evidence and ignore mitigating factors, like the fact that cats often prey on other animals that kill birds.

In other words, they start with a pre-determined conclusion and shape the dubious data to fit, as I wrote above.

And so the claim that cats kill billions of birds and small mammals is repeated as fact by an unskeptical press, and ostensibly serious people, like the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Pete Marra, advocate a “nationwide effort to rid the landscape of cats.” That’s a nice way of saying he wants to kill hundreds of millions of innocent domestic cats because he doesn’t want to see the glaring flaws in studies about the species’ ecological impact. (Marra also compares feral cat advocates to tobacco companies and climate-change deniers, which is an astounding claim from a man whose name is synonymous with manipulating research data to support his views.)

This is absurd stuff, akin to the extermination of cats in the Dark Ages prompted by stories alleging cats were the agents of Satan, witches and heretics, and central figures in devil-worshiping ceremonies. The only difference is the people of the Dark Ages, who didn’t know better, were driven by religious belief. Their modern day counterparts are driven by religion masquerading as science.

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An illuminated text on cats from the Dark Ages, when felines were considered agents of the devil. (Source)

This is what sloppy research has wrought: An army of self-professed animal lovers stalking the dusty plains of Australia and the backyards of the United States, shooting domestic cats with pistols, bows, air rifles and pellet guns.

These people don’t seem keen on thinking about how they justify the callous culling of hundreds of millions of domestic cats — intelligent, sentient animals who have feelings — in an unproven effort to protect birds and rodents.

Renkl ends her column by telling us she got her wish, in a way. A few days later, a neighbor’s kid came to her for help after some wildlife-loving do-gooder poisoned the poor animal. As she watched the tomcat convulse and twitch in an agonizing death, Renkl stopped to take pity…on herself.

“For weeks I have been trying to understand my own tears in the presence of a dying cat I did not love,” she wrote.

To her credit, by the end of the column Renkl does acknowledge her rage is misplaced, generously allowing that a cat trying to survive isn’t evil. But that concession comes after several hundred words painting cats as the driving force behind the destruction of wildlife and presenting flawed studies as credible science.

The damage has already been done.

 

Featured image courtesy of PETA.

New York Times: Wild Cats Are Glamorous, Chic Pets

Sometimes it seems like writers at the New York Times are in a competition with each other to prove who’s the most out-of-touch.

The latest effort comes courtesy of Alexandra Marvar, who begins her profile of a designer cat breeder by reminiscing about the good old days when those lacking sense or self-awareness could be fabulous by keeping wild animals as “chic pets”:

Not so long ago, wild cat companions were associated with glamour, class and creativity. Salvador Dalí brought his ocelot to the St. Regis. Tippi Hedren lounged with her lions in her Los Angeles living room. Josephine Baker’s cheetah, collared in diamonds, strolled the Champs-Élysées. In their time, these wild creatures made chic pets.

But, Marvar writes, those animal welfare activists had to come and ruin things for fabulous people:

But by the mid-1970s, a wave of awareness and wildlife protection legislation changed both the optics of owning a big cat, and the ability to legally purchase one.

Killjoys. Don’t they know Dali, Hedren and Baker were just being fabulous? They were being classy and creative! Who has time for people who claim it’s wrong to keep a wild animal that ranges 50 miles a day confined in a living room? They have gilded cages, diamond collars and meals of filet mignon!

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Hedren being fabulous with one of her fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: Michael Rougier/LIFE

Now that wild cat ownership has been relegated to mulleted felons and gun-toting Texans who keep exotic cats to hold on tight to “muh freedoms” — stripping the practice of all glamour, class and fabulousness — where can the wealthy turn when they don’t just want pets, but status symbols?

The creators of the latest designer breeds, Toygers and Bengals, of course. Meet our heroes, the late breeder Jean Mill and her daughter, Judy Sugden:

Meanwhile, a cat breeder named Jean Mill was working on a more practical alternative: her leopard-spotted companion was just ten inches tall. At her cattery in Southern California, Ms. Mill invented a breed of domestic cat called the Bengal, which would offer wild cat admirers the best of both worlds: an impeccable leopard-like coat, and an indoor-cat size and demeanor.

Note: If you think a Persian makes you fabulous, surrender that cat to the nearest shelter immediately. Persians are so 2013!

[A Bengal cat breeder] recalled there used to be “tons” of ads for Persian cats in the back of Cat Fancy magazine. But the Persian’s prim, manicured aesthetic is no longer en vogue. “That look doesn’t say, ‘I can survive in the jungle,’” Mr. Hutcherson said. “It says, ‘I need somebody to open this can of cat food because there’s no way this cat is catching a mouse.’”

Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and a star of Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has called toyger owners “selfish” and said creating new breeds is “strapping a nuclear warhead to the feral cat problem.” Others might argue that compared with shelter pets, designer species (the rarer of which may cost as much tens of thousands of dollars per kitten) are a different beast altogether.

Others might argue! Who are those others? Uh, Marvar and…and…nevermind. The important thing to realize is that there are cats — the riff-raff adopted from animal shelters by plebs — and there are chic, elegant, glamorous beasts. To compare a shelter pet to a Toyger would be like comparing a Geo Metro to an Aston Martin.

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Brigette Helm being fabulous with her cheetah in 1932.
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A close-up of Josephine Baker’s cheetah, Chiquita, and her diamond collar, photographed in the 1920s. Credit: FrockFlicks

In the glowing profile of Mill’s daughter, the toyger breeder — whose cats the Times compares to the Mona Lisa and whose work it describes as a “creative effort” in “cultivating” perfect “beasts” — the newspaper devotes a single line to those who object to the industrial manufacture of designer pets when shelters are forced to euthanize cats who aren’t adopted:

…the designer cat market is a thriving one where supply rarely meets demand, and in its service, more than 40,000 registered house cat breeders around the world are devoted to supplying pet owners with Ragdoll, Sphynx and other prized breeds. (PETA has argued this clientele should instead adopt cats from a shelter.)

The fact that 1.4 million pets are put down every year in the US wasn’t considered important enough to mention in the Times story. Too much of a buzzkill. Ain’t no one got time for that!

The rest of the Times’ editorial staff and its stable of contributors will have a tough time topping Marvar’s masterpiece. But as they try — and try they will — remember these are the same people who want to teach the rest of us about privilege and inequality in modern society as they social distance in their Scarsdale homes and file their stories from their couches next to their $10,000 pets.

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Hedren enjoying a fabulous ride on one of her chic, fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: LIFE
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Wild cats are the preferred fabulous pets of ultra-wealthy twats who want to show off their wealth on social media.
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More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day, while Paris Hilton’s dog lives in a two-story air-conditioned mansion.

The Obsession With Chonky Cats Has Gone Too Far

Metro’s editors want more fat cats.

The newspaper recently profiled Manson, a 28-pound behemoth who lives with his humans in Silver Spring, Maryland, but the god of internet traffic is never sated, so the story ends with a request — or challenge — for more morbidly obese pets to drive clicks.

“Do you have a pet who’s even chunkier than Manson? Get in touch to share their story,” Metro’s editors write.

You know things have gotten out of hand when readers and editors alike respond to a story about a kitty almost three times the weight of a normal feline with a collective “Eh, that’s all? Show us a fatter one!”

In the world of Online Famous felines, popularity is directly proportional to fat, inspiring a caloric arms race among those seeking fleeting fame from fickle followers.

Indeed, the Metro story notes that while two-year-old Manson can’t hop up onto his humans’ bed without assistance, he’s amassed more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, as if an abstract measure of online “fame” — which he can never comprehend and makes absolutely no difference to him — counterbalances the maladies he’ll suffer due to his weight.

People apparently think it’s funny to see a two-year-old cat who can do little more than nap, eat and roll himself around the house. Anyone who expresses alarm for the welfare of the cat is a “troll” or a hater, according to the Metro article.

Are people stuffing their cats for followers and upvotes?

There’s really no way to determine that short of cat owners admitting it. Manson’s owners say they see no problem with their cat’s diet.

Most of these “chonky cat” stories come from shelters, where staff and volunteers are left with the hard problem of getting huge furballs to slim down after they’ve been abandoned by their humans or orphaned due to owner death. That was the case with Bazooka, a 35-pound ginger tabby whose owner had dementia and fed the cat constantly.

“[Bazooka’s owner] thought he was doing the best thing for his cat by feeding him,” an SPCA spokeswoman said at the time. “We need to look on this with a compassionate view. He was loved.”

Those viral chonky cat stories have been a boon to shelters, highlighting the good work they do and driving donations from cat lovers and well-wishers.

But those shelters are trying to get the cats in their care to lose weight, not pack on the pounds. That’s because they see first-hand what morbid obesity can do to a cat’s quality of life and life expectancy.

As for the rest of us, we should probably rethink our tendency to reward the owners of massive cats with our attention.

Plankton The Cat Has A Home After 2,432 Days In The Shelter

We’d like to offer a special congratulations to the SPCA, two kind-hearted adopters, and especially Plankton the cat for finding a forever home after a long, long wait.

Plankton had a rough start to life: He was one of about 100 kittens and cats rescued from a hoarding situation in a two-bedroom apartment in late 2013 and suffered renal failure. For years, potential pet parents passed up on the handsome black-coated little dude because of his condition, and the thrice-weekly infusion of liquids he needs to stay healthy, even though staff at the shelter say he takes the infusions like a champ.

Ashlee Haughtaling read about Plankton in a Feb. 15 article by the Kingston Daily Freeman, a New York newspaper covering the mostly-rural Ulster County about 75 miles north of New York City.

Haughtaling had a dog who suffered from kidney problems as well, so she knew what caring for Plankton would entail. She reached out to the county SPCA immediately.

“I thought it was so sad that no one was adopting him because he had a medical condition,” she said, per the SPCA. “The fact that he had been there for so long, it really hit home for me. Sick cats need homes, too.”

Ashleey and her mother Ann Houghtaling took Plankton home six days later. For the first time, the 6 1/2-year-old cat has a place to call home. He gets along well with other cats, the shelter said, and he’s got a pair of new feline friends, Nutmeg and Boots, in his new home as well.

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Ann and Ashlee Houghtaling comfort Plankton, the newest member of their family, before bringing him home from a shelter where he’d been staying for 6 1/2 years. Credit: Ulster County SPCA
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Plankton suffers from kidney problems and must have fluid injections three times a week. Credit: SPCA

 

This Cat’s In For A Rude Awakening

Meet Bazooka.

The orange butterball weighs in at 35 pounds and was surrendered to the SPCA in North Carolina’s Wake County this week after his former owner died.

Although the shelter says some people were initially outraged that a person would let the ginger tabby grow to such elephantine proportions, it turns out there’s more to the story: Bazooka’s owner was inflicted with dementia and, never sure if he’d fed the amiable cat, he just kept feeding and feeding — and feeding — Bazooka, who has apparently never met a cup of kibble or a can of tuna he won’t happily scarf down.

We wouldn’t be surprised if there was some insistent meowing prompting his late human to keep refilling those bowls.

“[Bazooka’s owner] thought he was doing the best thing for his cat by feeding him,” the SPCA’s Darci VanderSlik told North Carolina’s News-Observer. “We need to look on this with a compassionate view. He was loved.”

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Bazooka with his foster mom. Credit: Wake County NC SPCA

It turns out Bazooka is a loving and chill dude as well.

“He wants to be around people,” said Michelle Barry, the big guy’s foster mom. “He’s happiest lying right next to you. And he’s more active than I expected him to be.”

He’s in for quite an adjustment period, going from a life of on-demand meals to a strictly-regulated diet designed to get him down to a healthy weight. As any cat servant knows, there’ll be lots of agitated meowing in his future.

The ‘Zookster has already been adopted and will soon move into his forever home after the shelter provides some basic veterinary care and draws up a weight loss plan for him. Working with his new human, staff at the SPCA want to get Bazooka down to 20 pounds or so, which they feel is appropriate for his large frame.

They say they’re just glad to help.

“We don’t know a lot of the back stories of the animals we get, but we try not to judge people or make people feel bad about the circumstances that led to their surrender,” VanderSlik said. “We’re really lucky to have the resources to take him in and help him get a home he deserves.”

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Bazooka’s a handsome kitty with a lion-like mane. In this photo, he’s thinking about pastrami sandwiches. Credit: Wake County NC SPACA