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Don’t mess with cats

If one peruses Wairarapa community pages on social media, it’s hard not to escape the idea there are a large number of residents in the region who harbour an inexplicable animosity towards cats.

Post after post documents missing and – all too often – deceased family felines, with one report in the past year providing an eyewitness account of a car purposefully swerving onto a footpath to bowl a blameless pet.

To those of us who are happiest when cohabitating with a cat – that’d be 41 per cent of New Zealand households, which are home to approximately 1.2 million pusses – that’s completely bizarre behaviour and – given the correlation between cruelty to animals and violence against people – more than a little disturbing.

One wonders whether at least some of the apparent animus towards this nobly unfussed animal has been inspired by economist Gareth Morgan’s call – almost exactly 11 years ago – for domestic cats to be eradicated from these shores. Morgan went so far as to set up a website called ‘Cats to Go’, on which he defamed the pets as “sadists” and natural-born killers that destroy native wildlife.

At the time, Morgan’s campaign was largely dismissed – the SPCA called it “hare-brained” and offensive – but in the intervening years there’s been a sense that his fatwa against Felis catus has seeped into the collective unconsciousness of some Kiwis and taken root.

More than a few cat companions, for example, have been keeping an eye on the Predator Free 2050 hit list, thanks to a sneaking suspicion that Morgan’s mortal animal enemy will be included on the rollcall for extermination sooner or later [after all, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to kill your cat].

As such, a just-released article from the SPCA [which appears to have moved ever so slightly closer to Morgan’s position in the years since first denouncing it] might strike some as the thin edge of the coming wedge.

On the face of it, though, the piece makes good sense and might actually forestall further calls for a full-scale genocide of gingers, tabbies, tortoiseshells, and all the rest.

The authors argue there should be comprehensive reform of cat law so it’s consistent across the country, and ultimately advocate for an ideal world in which there are no feral cats, few strays, and all of ’em microchipped and desexed – other than those raised by registered breeders.

Such an outcome could conceivably contribute to depriving the Morgans of the world of their argument that feline pets are just pampered predators – and cat owners can of course help achieve this aim by taking on board the above, as well as ensuring that their furry friends spend the nights indoors to ensure they’re not engaging in murder sprees of the local fauna.

There is another explanation for anti-cat antagonism, one that’s outlined by political philosopher John Gray in his book, Feline Philosophy: Cats and the meaning of life – that some humans essentially resent their enviable lightness of being.

As Gray notes, “Not craving inner quietude, cats revert to it whenever they are not practically threatened. Not looking for meaning in their lives, they are free to live them as they come, without looking for distraction or consolation. It is life itself that they value.

“Human beings may be too frail to emulate the fearless lucidity of the feline mind … But whatever you do, consider: you will live more lightly if you pass some of your time with a cat.”

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