The following letter to the editor was circulated on Global Cat Day, October 16, to discuss horrifying cruelty carried out against cats around the world and the best ways to confront it.
Cats have lived alongside people for thousands of years. They have a place in our communities and are beings of inherent value who deserve to be protected. Cats are our family, our friends and our neighbors, living indoors with us and outdoors among us—our community members.
But on Global Cat Day, October 16, it’s critical that we all take a moment to understand and spread the word that even with so much history together, cats still face cruel threats to their lives every day. For their sake and our own, it is our responsibility to defend them.
Australia’s war on cats has now taken the hi-tech form of laser-guided gel, shot onto cats who groom themselves by licking the gel, which is laced with deadly 1080 poison. Across the Tasman Sea, a New Zealand community launched a cat-killing contest earlier this year. This grisly contest led to hundreds of cats being killed, while undoubtedly causing lifelong harm to the children who observed.
Large-scale, government-endorsed cat-killing operations are also being pursued here in the U.S. California’s East Bay Regional Park District has a policy that sanctions the shooting of cats by park employees. The Hawaii State Legislature considered a bill last year calling for the state to “eliminate the feral cat population” entirely on three Hawaiian Islands.
These deadly schemes are morally reprehensible and against all responsibilities we hold to respect all species on this planet. Killing cats is immoral and accomplishes nothing. Governments have tried and failed for decades, killing millions of cats with no lasting effect. Some attempt to justify such policies with an argument about the relationship between cats and diverse species in different locations around the world. However, scientific evidence consistently exonerates the domestic cat species of threatening wildlife. Leading biologists, climate scientists and environmental watchdogs agree that climate change, habitat destruction and development are the leading causes of species loss. Attempting to pin the blame on cats conveniently ignores the reality that solutions to species loss rest squarely in our hands.
Global Cat Day will also be needed until decision makers no longer pass misguided laws and policies that not only threaten cats, but needlessly punish their own constituents for the “crime” of being compassionate. In recent months, Cedarville, Ohio, and Port Neches, Texas, were among the communities seriously considering outlawing the feeding of community cats who live outdoors. The Port Neches ban has since gone into effect.
These proposals fail to recognize that feeding bans, just like large-scale killing, are ineffective as a means of population control and are not scientifically supported. There are always other food sources available that are a byproduct of human habitation and activity. Cats simply wander farther to find this food, becoming more visible in the process. Feeding bans are also very difficult to enforce. Ultimately, these policies are cruel to cats, cruel to the people who care for them, and constitute nothing more than a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Cruelty to cats also takes the form of declawing, the surgical amputation of the last joints of a cats’ toes that can have severe consequences for the cat—a form of cruelty still all too common in the U.S.
Without their claws, cats can’t perform many of their natural behaviors, can feel unsafe, and can experience issues with walking and balancing. A declawed cat is more likely to exhibit increased aggression and biting to compensate for losing her protective claws.
The residual pain associated with declawing also can result in refusal to use the litter box. Biting, aggression, expensive medical issues and litter box avoidance are among the most common reasons cats lose their homes and are brought to shelters, where virtually all cats are killed.
Though declawing cats is already banned in more than 40 counties worldwide, New York state, Maryland, and more than 16 major cities in the U.S., progress on banning declawing once and for all is too slow, and cats are suffering for it. Global Cat Day will be needed until all harmful acts against cats, including declawing, are recognized and outlawed throughout the country and around the world.
We can do better. Cats are our community members and, as sentient creatures who suffer and feel pain, they deserve to live out their lives without being hunted, tormented, and killed. Governments the world over should embrace policies in favor of humane, evidence-based, effective, and lifesaving approaches for cats and all animals. Global Cat Day is a day for people in every corner of the map to raise their voice and say “no more” to cruelty and killing.