Tag: Tigers

Ban On Big Cat Pets Heads To Biden’s Desk

All that awaits is a stroke of President Joe Biden’s pen.

The Big Cat Safety Act was passed by the US Senate this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The law would ban the “ownership” of big cats as pets and would end their exploitation by roadside zoo operators, while also outlawing big cat breeding by private parties.

It’s a bipartisan effort that gained steam after years of efforts by animal rights organizations and documentaries like Netflix’s infamous Tiger King, which showed millions of viewers how the majestic felids are kept in cruel conditions and chained to an endless breeding treadmill to provide a constant supply of cubs. Those cubs are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth and used as props in lucrative “selfie with a tiger” offerings at unaccredited roadside zoos.

Private “ownership” of big cats has been a contentious issue and an embarrassment for American animal rights activists, particularly because almost all big cat species are critically endangered. There are more tigers living in backyards in Texas and Florida, for example, than there are living in the wild in the entire world.

Breeding for conservation is a process that involves careful planning by experts at accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Because there are so few big cats left, with some subspecies down to just a few hundred living animals, mates must be carefully chosen to avoid genetic bottlenecks and to ensure healthy and viable breeding populations in the future. As private breeders and roadside zoos breed the animals without regard to subspecies or genetic diversity, they do not contribute to species conservation in any meaningful way and can do harm with indiscriminate matches, conservationists say.

leopard on brown log
Credit: Pexels

While the bill outlaws private ownership, it still allows sanctuaries, zoos and universities to keep big cats in regulated facilities that meet their physical and psychological needs. It also permits programs like the statewide puma project in California, which has been tracking the elusive felines for more than two decades and involves occasional sedation and temporary custody so the team can provide veterinary care.

“An extraordinarily cruel era for big cats in the U.S. finally comes to an end with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” said Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “We’ve been fighting for this moment for years because so many so-called ‘Tiger Kings’ have been breeding tigers and other big cats to use them for profit. And once the cubs grow too large for cub-petting or selfies, these poor animals get dumped at roadside zoos or passed into the pet trade, which is not only a terrible wrong for the animals, but also a threat to public safety. Now that the Big Cat Public Safety Act will become law, it’s the beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”

The Big Cat Safety Act cleared congress in mid summer, and its passage in the senate means it will get to Biden’s desk with several weeks to go in the current legislative session. Biden is expected to sign it without delay.

“For me, this fight for the big cats was never personal,” said Carole Baskin of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. “This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements.”

The new law does nothing for big cats currently in captivity, unfortunately. Current “owners” will be grandfathered in, although they won’t be able to replace their “pets” legally, as breeding and purchasing the animals will be illegal. The last “pet” members of the panthera genus in the US will die out within the next two or three decades, assuming no major outliers in lifespan.

Puma
As felines who can purr but not roar, mountain lions are not technically “big cats,” but they’ll also be protected under the new law. Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Happy International Cat Day: The World Is A Better Place With Felines

Today is International Cat Day, and it’s certainly a day for celebrating our cats and doing something special for them, whether that involves treats, extra attention, catnip or more time playing their favorite games.

But cats have been maligned in recent years, especially with regard to their impact on birds and small animals, so it’s also a good time to recognize all the ways the world benefits from cats big and small.

Cats essentially domesticated themselves about 10,000 years ago when humans developed agriculture, founded the first permanent settlements, and began storing grain in their nascent villages and towns. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted the four-legged, furry little felines, marking the beginning of a beautiful friendship between species.

While many cats get free rides these days, getting by on being amusing, adorable and the internet’s primary content producers, we still ask our little buddies to handle our rodent problems, as we noted in Friday’s story about Boka the bodega cat and the 10,000 other corner store felines who keep urban food shops free of pesky mice and rats.

Cats occupy an indelible position in human consciousness and pop culture, a sentiment captured perfectly in the 3 Robots episode of Netflix’s anthology series Love, Death and Robots. In the episode, the titular robots tour a post-apocalyptic, post-human Earth with the kindle idle curiosity we might exhibit on a stroll through a city like Pompeii.

“What’s the point of these things?” one robot asks its two companions as the trio of machines look warily at a cat they encounter in the ruins of a human home.

“Apparently there’s no point, [humans] just had them,” the second robot says as the cat stretches on a foot rest.

“Well, that’s underselling their influence,” the third robot says. “They had an entire network that was devoted to the dissemination of pictures of these things.”

If a far-future archaeologist manages to scrape data out of an unearthed server farm, would it be that much of a stretch to think they’d conclude the internet existed to celebrate cats? (Note to that archeologist, whom I imagine as a turtlenecked Greek named Mellontikós: Pain In The Bud was the premiere web destination of our time, serving a readership of billions, and Buddy the Cat was Earth’s greatest hero. Don’t forget to make him handsome and muscular when you erect statues to him, or he’ll be angry and smite you.)

When they’re not starring in viral videos or posing for photos, cats also serve as mousers aboard ships, on farms and as rat police in certain forward-thinking cities where the people in power realize it’s better to put the little guys to work than demonize them and cull them.

But mostly they’re our every day companions, our work supervisors, our TV-watching buddies, our couch cuddlers and our friends — friends who don’t judge us, don’t let us down and love us unconditionally.

While house cats aren’t endangered, we’re at a critical juncture now, one that will determine if future generations put their kids to bed promising to take them to zoos to see tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs, or if they’ll kiss their kids goodnight after explaining, sadly, that the majestic animals in their storybooks were extirpated from the Earth a long time ago along with elephants, orangutans, gorillas, whales and virtually every other example of charismatic, iconic megafauna.

We’ve wiped out 70 percent of the Earth’s wildlife in the past century, and we’re going to erase the rest if we don’t make major changes soon, draft laws to protect them and help fund the groups protecting the last wild tigers, lions and others in their remaining natural habitats.

The world is a better place with cats, and we’re lucky to have them. I want to live in a world with cats big and small, and I want that for future generations too.

Humans Are An Alien Invasive Species, New Study By Feline Science Institute Finds

Homo sapiens are an invasive species who do irreparable harm to the environment and other animals on an unprecedented scale, a new study by the Feline Science Institute has found.

The results prompted feline scientists to add homo sapiens, commonly known as humans, to a database of destructive and invasive animals maintained by the Academy of Scientific Studies.

Cat scientists have only just glimpsed the breadth of human-initiated impact on other animals, Dr. Oreo P. Yums, lead author of the newest research paper, told reporters.

“We found humans are astonishingly, almost indescribably destructive,” Yums said. “For instance, although they fret about birds, humans kill more than a billion of them a year just with their skyscrapers, which birds are prone to fly into due to their mirrored surfaces. Add in wind turbines, cell towers, power lines, habitat loss and slow die-offs due to chemicals, and by conservative estimates we’re talking about billions of birds killed by humans every year without even tallying active measures like hunting.”

Humans have killed off an estimated 70 percent of the world’s wildlife in the last 50 years alone and show no sign of stopping. Oceans are overfished, animals like pangolins and big cats are ruthlessly hunted to extinction to feed demand within the Chinese traditional medicine market, and human addiction to palm oil means the “two-legged demon monsters don’t even have sympathy for their fellow primates,” mewologist Charles Clawin said.

“In Borneo and Sumatra there are entire schools, filled to capacity, for critically endangered orangutan babies who were orphaned by human contractors clearing ancient jungles to make room for more palm oil plantations,” he said. “Often, the humans use industrial equipment to tear down trees while the orangutans are still in them. Other times, they dispatch the mothers with pistols, not realizing there are babies clinging to them.”

In Africa, where the elephant population has plummeted in the last century, more than 110,000 elephants have been slaughtered in the past 10 years alone for their tusks. The elongated incisors are used to make jewelry and piano keys, and items made from ivory have become a status symbol in China, where growing middle and upper classes seek to show off their wealth with luxuries.

In 2019, Chinese businesswoman Yang Felan, dubbed the “Ivory Queen,” was arrested and charged with smuggling $2.5 million worth of tusks from Tanzania to her home country. Yang, “a key link between poachers in East Africa and buyers in China for more than a decade,” was a respected businesswoman, investor, restaurateur and vice chairwoman of the China-Africa Business Council.

“Poachers continue to slaughter elephants and our big cat brothers and sisters,” said Luna Meowson, who tracks the illegal wildlife market for the University of Nappington. “Having extirpated tigers from virtually their entire range, poachers are turning to South America, where jaguar poaching increased 200 fold between 2015 and 2020. It never stops.”

Big Bruce the Lion Slayer
A human hunter poses victoriously after heroically slaying a lion (panthera leo) from atop his trusty steed, a mobility scooter, after a team of guides drove him around the bush in an air-conditioned SUV, then lured the animal directly into his line of sight. A female of the species, presumably his mate, looks on proudly.

Although the earliest details remain murky, fossil records show Homo sapiens first emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago. The invasive species, which has a gestation period of about nine months, began rapidly breeding and immediately went to war with fellow members of the genus Homo.

After wiping out two-legged rivals including Homo neanderthalensis, Homo altaiensis, Homo denisova and Homo bodoensis, the victorious Homo sapiens set their eyes on other species. Throughout their history they’ve also proven remarkably adept at murdering themselves and continue to hone their skills.

“Those OG humans, they had to really work at slaughtering other species and extirpating wildlife,” said Chonkmatic the Magnificent, King of North American cats. “They didn’t have attack helicopters, stealth bombers, tanks, carrier battle groups, daisy cutters, artillery, mortars, phosphorous, napalm, biological weapons, or even small arms like rifles. In those days a pimply kid from Oklahoma sitting in an air-conditioned base in Virginia couldn’t wipe out an entire city 5,000 miles away by pressing a button ordering a drone to drop a nuke. They had to put some sweat into violence, you know?”

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Breakthroughs in recent centuries have led to innovative and more convenient ways for Homo sapiens to author mass destruction and render entire sections of the Earth lifeless.

The species, known for its aptitude for tool-making in addition to eating ultra-processed foods and staring at screens, began with simple tools of destruction like the Mark I Spear, early bows and even torches. Over the centuries they innovated, coming up with clever and inventive new ways to inflict pain and end life until the advent of electricity, the industrial era and the brutally destructive war machines of modern times.

Human scientists have tried to obscure their species’ impact on wildlife and the planet by declaring species like felis catus “invasive” and “alien,” but even if cats are “guilty of grabbing a forbidden snack every now and then,” they don’t have the coordination, technology or will to carve up habitats, render entire swaths of the Earth uninhabitable with nuclear fallout, create Everest-size mountains of garbage, or effortlessly drive millions of species to extinction, Clawin said.

“They’re so good at it, they don’t even have to try,” he noted, pointing out human accidents or incidents of negligence like oil spills and chemical run-off into rivers. “We tend to think of humans out there with shotguns and rifles, cackling maniacally as they shoot anything that moves. And, sure, they do that, especially in places like Texas where the sight of any animal always prompts the question ‘Should we shoot it?’ But our research shows they can wipe out entire categories of fauna in their sleep. It’s remarkable.”

Additional reading: Polish institute classifies cats as alien invasive species

Finally, Wild Cat ‘Ownership’ Could Be Banned Under The Big Cat Public Safety Act

There are more tigers living in cramped backyards in Texas than there are in the wild.

At roadside zoos, shady people like Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Joe “Exotic” of Tiger King fame, breed big cats like rabbits so they have an endless supply of cubs to steal from their mothers before they’re weaned, pumped full of sedatives, and handed off to tourists who take selfies with them but never stop to consider the welfare of those baby cats or the harm they’re enabling.

And in states like Florida, where “Muh freedoms!” reign supreme over all other values, people can own any wild animals they want, with no real oversight and no mechanisms to ensure they’re doing right by the animals. There’s nothing forcing “exotic” animal “owners” to keep the big cats, monkeys and other mammals in proper enclosures where they have stimulation and — just as importantly — won’t escape and hurt neighbors.

India the tiger Transported to BBR
India the tiger was still just a cub when he was spotted wandering through residential neighborhoods in Texas, where he’d been dumped by his former “owner.” Credit: Humane Society

Thankfully, things could change soon as lawmakers are expected to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a rare bipartisan effort that would finally make it illegal to keep tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, pumas and other wildcats privately, whether in homes, businesses or non-accredited “zoos.”

Currently keeping big cats is illegal or severely restricted in most states, but like many things in the US, there’s a confusing patchwork of laws and things that would be unthinkable in other states are perfectly acceptable in places like Texas and Florida.

Because, you know, “muh freedoms.”

Now is a good time to point out that this blog has always been, and will remain, politically agnostic. I have my own political beliefs as any other person does, but PITB is a cat humor, news and advocacy blog, and the only politics we discuss here are those that relate to animal welfare. Equally important, Buddy and I want people of all political persuasions to feel comfortable as readers and commenters on PITB. (Although that could change if one or both political parties suddenly makes a move against the nation’s Strategic Turkey Supply. Then Buddy’s gonna have to get biblical.)

The Big Cat Safety Act is co-sponsored in congress by representatives Mike Quickly, D-IL, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and in the senate by senators Susan Collins, R-ME, Tom Carpenter, D-DE, Richard Burr, R-NC, and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.

It’s endorsed by a wide range of groups, from the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums to the Humane Society and various bar associations. The proposed legislation also has the support of the White House, which released a statement this week urging its passage.

If your congressional representative or your senators aren’t publicly on board with the Big Cat Safety Act, you can make your voice heard via the Humane Society’s site, which allows you to draft and send letters to the offices of your lawmakers.

shallow focus photography of cheetah
Cheetahs, already critically endangered, have been almost entirely wiped out by poachers who sell their cubs on the illegal wildlife market. Credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels

Too Many ‘Cute’ Pet Videos Are Animal Abuse

I know I’ll probably catch some heat for this, but the below video, which a Newsweek writer gushes over and 8.8 million people favorited, is an example of animal abuse. It may not be violent, it may not be particularly overt, but it’s animal abuse all the same.

@cowlashes

She stays in bed like this alllll night 😉 her name is Pishy (pee-she)

♬ Great Mother In The Sky – Lionmilk

I get why people are saying this is “adorable” and think it’s sweet, but anyone familiar with cats can see clearly the kitty does not like being picked up, then placed in a bed on her back. She protests, then moves to get away, but her “owner” clamps her down and presses an admonitory finger to her nose.

Little Pishy’s ears twitch and her eyes dilate. Her owner slides her into position, then holds her down before tucking her in beneath a heavy comforter. Then the woman takes both of the Pishy’s paws, places them deliberately above the comforter just the way she likes them, and finally wags her finger in the cat’s face again before she’s finished, as if to warn her: “Don’t move a paw.”

Just before she steps away, she strokes Pishy’s paw a few times with a finger, an affectionate afterthought on her terms.

Pishy
This is not love. (Still image from TikTok video.)

Let’s be blunt here: The cat is not enjoying any part of the whole charade. She would almost certainly rather sleep like a cat, and not be treated as an infantilized, anthropomorphized stuffed animal. Her “owner” is dictating everything from the position in which she sleeps to where she can keep her paws.

“She stays in bed like this alllll night ;),” the TikToker brags in the video description.

Of course she does, because she’s probably scared to find out what will happen if she doesn’t. This isn’t a person who considers her cat a living being with her own feelings. She’s a person who sees her cat as a prop and a way to earn the adulation of strangers on the internet.

The same thing applies to all the “cute” videos of cats forced to wear clothing, glasses and hats, and posed in human-like positions. Last week, a short clip of two cats watching an iPad went viral. The cats are snuggled together in a miniature chair, posed like miniature humans. The larger cat has a paw around the smaller cat’s shoulders, and the tablet is balanced between their free paws.

Instead of gushing over the seemingly perfect 8 seconds we see, it’s worth thinking about what we don’t see, and how that manufactured scene came to be. I can assure you it does not involve animals who enjoy being posed like dolls for the benefit of an audience they don’t know exists, on a medium they don’t understand.

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Cats dressed and posed as Robin Hood, Bob Ross, Spiderman, the monster from Stranger Things, some sort of naval admiral or Founding Father, and a Stark from Game of Thrones. I think.

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A cat who doesn’t understand what a costume is, not enjoying his Freddie Kruger outfit.

I keep coming back to the best advice I ever got about taking care of a cat: The strength of the human-feline bond depends in large part on how much the human takes the cat’s feelings into consideration.

We’re much bigger, stronger and some of us subscribe to the archaic “might is right” way of thinking. Imagine the reverse: Five hundred pound cats as large as tigers, subjecting us to tongue baths at their whim, posing us like dolls and forcing us to sit, stand and sleep in feline positions because it’s “cute.”

I am by no means an expert in cat care, and I don’t pretend to be some sort of cat whisperer or cat guru, but one thing I’ve always done is let my cat decide when he wants affection and interaction. I’ve never grabbed him and held him in my lap, or tried to dress him in miniature samurai armor for social media snaps.

When he meows for a head scratch or lays down on my chest and purrs as he listens to my heart beat, it’s because he wants to be there, and he knows I won’t grab him and force him to stay when he wants to get up.

If I treated him like a doll and tried that tuck-in move with him, he’d claw the hell out of me, and I’d deserve it. He’s my Buddy, not my property or my puppet.

What do you think? Am I overreacting, or are you disturbed by these videos as well?