I've been noticing lately, the older and more set in my ways I get, that I'm less and less willing to back down from the things I believe in, especially the things I am passionate about. While I don't back down, and I always stand by what I feel, in my heart and soul, is right, I rarely write about them out here for lack of wanting to create drama.
Today though? Oh, today I am plenty pissed off and am getting up on my soapbox and I dare anyone out there to try and shout me down off of it!
Everyone who has read Barking Mad for any length of time knows that we love our cats (they're featured prominently enough out here!) and don't consider ourselves "cat owners", but instead, we regard ourselves as humans who belong to our cats. It just works out better that way. When we get too haughty it's not long before one of the reigning felines around here reminds us who's really in charge.
With the exception of Geronimo, every single cat I have ever taken in or adopted, has been through a shelter or from someone who could no longer care for the animal. Geronimo is the only cat we have ever adopted from a breeder and a cat who has a long and award winning pedigree. None of that matters. We love him dearly and he has claimed Gaby as his own. I've never witnessed a bond between cat and child like the one they have and at times it brings tears to my eyes. Of course, if you leave an orange sitting around for a mere moment after peeling it, Geronimo will grab a segment or two, if you aren't careful, and the after-effects of that also bring tears to my eyes . . . as well as the need for several good bursts of air freshener!
We love our cats like they are genetically bonded to us. They are in fact, family. And as members of our family, we take care of them. We vaccinate them, make sure they have regular check-ups at the vet (and then check ourselves into the local plastic-surgeon-in-a-box in order to get some stitches as a result of the act of simply getting the cats to the vet!), and the most important part, we make sure every single one of our cats is spayed or neutered. Anyone who cares about their cat will make sure it is spayed or neutered. There are myriad reasons that a responsible pet owner will do this, but the largest being that, according to the Humane Society of the United States, estimates that there are at least 6-8 MILLION dogs and cats in animal shelters across the U.S. and of those, at least 3-4 MILLION are euthanized, each year.
Let that sink in. Think about it. As you think about it, think about the icy needle filled with the cold drugs that will run through an unwanted cats veins, and send him off to a numb, lonely death. This happens 3-4 MILLION times a year. Even if only half of that number is made up of cats (I can barely stand to think of the dogs and puppies this happens to, let alone the cats!), that is still an almost unfathomable number.
Hypothetically speaking, lets create a scenario. You have a family with five small children, a Lab puppy, and three cats (two of which are kittens) and you've just moved to a "hobby" farm. You know absolutely nothing about farming, but you're determined to live a more simple life, free from the constraints of trying to keep up with the Joneses. So you move your family to a ramshackle farm, buy some chickens, hatch some chicken eggs, buy a couple of goats, and in between your many several runs to the feed store, you get it in your head that you're not going to spay or neuter the male and female kitten. Nope, you're going to let them have free reign of the farm and procreate to the contentment of their little feline hearts. I mean hell, barn cats anyone? You probably reason that the more cats you have, the fewer rodent problems you'll have. Oh and it bears mentioning that only very recently you did not like cats. Not at all. Then you somehow ended up with one, and then she somehow got pregnant and you decided to keep the two kittens she birthed...even though you're not really someone who likes cats.
The problem with that little hypothetical scenario up there is that it is in fact, not hypothetical, and that this person intends to let her kittens remain unaltered. She openly admitted this on her blog and I've been beside myself with anger since reading it. In my mind, I see the willful ignorance involved in this kind of thought process as not only mind-boggling, but reckless and inhumane when it comes to the life/lives of what could end up being hundreds of cats. There are several programs the nation over, especially in rural farming areas, like this one, where shelters offer wonderful "barn cat programs."
Do I need to list all of the important reasons a responsible human should spay or neuter their feline companions - especially those who they're going to set free to roam a farm? OK, I will.
A female pet who is neutered will live a longer, healthier life, nor will she go into heat (if you've ever had a cat who is not altered, go into heat, you know the hell of which I speak!), it's less costly to care for an animal that has been "fixed" (although, I really don't like using that term as it implies the cat is somehow broken - and when someone doesn't care enough to get their pet spayed or neutered, I feel they are the ones who are broken!), neutered males are generally better behaved and this is important when you have "Many Small Children" and now "Many Small Farm Animals." Cats that who roam freely and are unaltered pose a serious danger to native flora and fauna in the area they live. They endanger native song-bird populations as they are much more aggressive (although this is not always the case. Our own Griffy took out a huge chunk of the chipmunk population back in Maine during the times he managed to escape to the great outdoors!) than their altered brothers and sisters. Simply put, it doesn't take a genius to realize that you should care enough about your animals to spay and neuter them.
The biggest reason though, to spay and neuter, is to reduce the already growing problem of pet overpopulation which leads to millions of needless euthenasias every single year in our country.
Why do I care so much about what another person does? I mean, it's just a cat after all, right? Why don't you ask me that again after spending a weekend volunteering in your local over-crowded ASPCA animal shelter, or HSUS shelter. Spend some time watching countless animals be euthanized (five days is the average they'll keep an animal before it's euthanized - if it's not adopted.) and then help carry those soft, cold bodies - well sometimes they aren't even cold yet. They're still quite warm and cuddle-able - into the cold storage where they'll remain until they're incinerated.
Once you've done that, come back again and try and tell me why it's not my business to care about how someone else cares (or the lack thereof) for their animals. While you might not think I have any business calling someone out on how they do or do not care for their animals (I started a thread on Facebook about this and someone pointed out to me that it wasn't my place to pass judgment as long as this person was taking care of her animals...I disagree! Part of taking care of your animals means getting them spayed or neutered!), at some point, we all end up, to a small degree, paying for each others recklessness and carelessness when it comes to our pets. Compassion includes spaying or neutering your pets so that you can offer them, even if they're just barn cats, a better life. Aren't they worth that much?