The New Zealand government has recently announced a new initiative to take measures that would curb the presence of invasive species in the country. The announcement has been met with harsh backlash from the American public, as well as from celebrities in the ilk of Morrissey. The reason for this outrage is that New Zealand listed feral cats as one of the aforementioned invasive species, and therefore efforts will be made to decrease the feral cat population, meaning that, likely, there will be a mounted feral cat-killing effort. A feline death squad, so to speak.
Seeing as cats are, for some reason, a popular house pet, many folks are averse to the concept of their systematic elimination. To be clear, New Zealand has no intention of killing anyone’s beloved kittens, only wild, outdoor cats. But cat-sympathizers cannot seem to get past the fact that these rambunctious and, frankly, violent beasts look similar to their little Whiskers or Fluffykins or whatever ridiculous name they have given to their pet.
Now, let’s be clear here: I do not like cats. I do not enjoy their presence. I do not think they make good pets. They are not a proper animal. They are not to be trusted. Whenever a cat sits on my lap, it feels like it’s just waiting to dig its claws into my flesh the first chance it gets. But I’m not going to let my personal bias against cats impact my argument here. I will not let this argument devolve into a purely pathos-driven case; that would mean stooping to the level of those fools that are blinded by their cat love. No, I will get to the meat of the issue, believe me.
A recent article from The Atlantic provides an overview of the heated debate. In it, both sides squabble over issues ranging from the spread of diseases, the relatability of the animal and where cats land on the spectrum of species priority.
The first two issues – spread of diseases and cat relatability – sort of go hand-in-hand. Both pro-cat and anti-cat debators will generally acknowledge one of these issues and conveniently ignore the other. The anti-cat coalition generally takes ownership of the disease argument and cites the numerous plagues and parasites that many feral cats carry. This includes the toxoplasma gondii parasite, which causes toxoplasmosis and has also been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder and OCD. Proponents of this argument also cite the hypocrisy of the cat lover in that there is no call for sympathy in the control efforts of other disease carrying animals such as rats. Poor rats, they do not know Morrissey’s love.
Now, rather than tackle this issue head-on, pro-catters generally sidestep the topic and argue that despite their pestilence, cats deserve human sympathy because we, as a society, have decided to accept cats as a friendly animal. What a mistake. This is similar to the backlash against horse meat as a proper food in the West – it is deemed unacceptable just because we have decided to empathize with equine creatures, ignoring the fact that many other cultures find it perfectly all right to chow down on some noble, trusty steed. In the same fashion, just because one society makes the grievous error of cat reverence does not mean another society has to abide that in its own affairs. It is important to note that little to none of the backlash to New Zealand’s cat population-control effort is coming from within the state. If the Kiwis want to be sensible and limit their cats, well I guess that’s their own business, wouldn’t you say?
Additionally, I find disturbing the lengths to which some cat lovers will go to excuse the faults of their feline overlords. At one point in The Atlantic article, a pro-cat reporter claims that “cats look uncannily like us, even better, they look like our infants.” Now what kind of ill, twisted mind could look a cat in the face and actually think that it at all resembles that of a human baby? Could they truly stare into the cold, distant feline eye and think to find the warmth and compassion of which humans are capable? I pray for their souls.
Those two issues are great and all, but quite frankly they are secondary to this next one: feral cats are one of the greatest threats to bird populations. As an avid reader of the Star Tribune’s birding section, as well as a wannabe amateur bird-watcher, this point really ruffles my feathers. Obviously our aviary pals should be given priority over the feline scourge. Not to berate cats too much, but let’s be honest, they had their chance. We need to protect our bird species at any cost, and asking people to just not let their cats outside is not too much to ask.
To put it plainly, I ask not that cat lovers become anti-cat, but that they instead consider becoming pro-bird.
Chaz Mayo ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Rice Lake, Wis. He majors in theater and medieval studies with a film studies concentration.