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The Last Contrarian
 
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The Tyranny of the 'Cat Hoarders'

30 July 2014, 11:36

Today’s article is a sort of charity on my part. But I am not parting with currency nor asking you to give away any your money. I am also not the type to spew out tedious articles about ‘saving the spotted owl,’ and I don’t condemn the hunting of whales or the eating of domestic animals. (I myself hope to try a bite or two of the common pet species, in good time).

I do, however, have a serious problem with people who want pets, acquire them, and then cause untold suffering to their animals because of their own addictive tendencies and ignorance about the very creatures they claim to love so dearly!

That said, let’s get on with it…

Beyond the Veil of Assumption

For several months now I’ve had the privilege of having ongoing dialogue with and a glimpse into the professional life of one of Singapore’s foremost cat trappers. I’ve actually been out in the field with this person while they do their thing, and let me assure the reader that the Tom & Jerry cartoon images of the fat man disgorging from the back of a run-down van, choke pole and catch net in hand, is a thing of myth…or at the very least ancient history.

It is encouraging to see that even this underworld practise has a touch of modern sophistication and class to it—like the rest of Singapore.

The sustained efforts of a the few of these skilful and conscientious cat trappers, who capture stray cats for sterilization and re-release, have helped to reduce the birth rate of street cat populations, which directly equates to fewer cats being born into the suffering hardship of a life spent battling the elements and other feral cats for territory, food, and the right to mate.

But a problem I’m well acquainted with—one I witnessed first-hand in South Africa as an adolescent—lingers on and seems to be getting more common as affluence spreads in this part of the world. Sadly, it is one problem that professional cat rescuers can’t solve on their own. I’m talking about the obsession some hermitic, guild-ridden, and senile people have with hoarding dozens of destitute and abandoned cats in their homes.

I can almost hear the sighs of disdain. How can even a contrarian such as myself, infamous for frequently releasing the cats amongst the pigeons, bring himself so far as to chastise these philanthropic souls who offer up their time and currency, large portions of their properties, and even food from their plates to what certainly is an applause-worthy attempt at sheltering, feeding, and caring for abandoned and/or ailing cats?

It is the growing neglect behind the noble intentions that bugs me and the professionals who often deal with the overlooked suffering that results from people keeping shelters that are overpopulated with what in the case of cats is unmistakably a solitary species.

Lions are (to my knowledge) the only sociable feline species that can coexist in fairly large groups. All other feline species mostly prefer the company of their own shadow. It is only in the general rivalry of life that cats cross paths with other cats.

Competition and displays of dominance and hierarchy amongst populations of cats confined to cramped spaces can cause severe physical and psychological manifestations in the group as infighting and disease spread rampantly within the confines so thoughtfully provided by human mercy and ignorance.

While the well-meaning human element(s) may engage in the occasional refereeing of the situation, they are often totally overburdened by their collection of cats to properly manage the debilitating situation. As such, the homes of the hoarders are, more often, like prisons—where young and old, guilty and innocent, strong and weak, healthy and sick cats are thrown together in an environment where the rules bear no resemblance to those of nature.

So as you can now see, many cats in cat hoarders’ homes would actually be better off NOT being kept within striking distance of several dozen other cats. But this is something that you need some deeper understanding of animal behaviour and psychology to understand, not just the overwhelming urge to ‘just do something’ (usually of no real aid and often detrimental).

Let us then resist the knee-jerk reaction that cat hoarders’ premises are, by default, sanctuaries of hope. This is a lazy and unwarranted qualification for the most part—committed by an unaware society that simply applauds anyone’s involvement in assumed acts of charity and kindness.

A Personal Account

Much prior to this reawakening I now have of the hoarding problem, I saw, with my own eyes, how deplorable the fate of animals (dogs in this case) can get when introduced into the home and backyard of the common hoarder. Thus I feel particularly driven to swing my pen in slashing motions directed at the perpetuators of this harmful practise.

My own grandmother was a hoarder of dozens and dozens of dogs over the span of her adult life, and hardly a week passed without some poor pooch of hers ending up in a terrible condition after one of the bigger hounds in the yard mauled or ran over it,- after some new disease (resulting from the severely unhygienic living condition) broke out under the pack, or after another hot water bottle covered in a small blanket and placed in one of the doghouses (to keep the cold of winter at bay) exploded…

Trips to gran’s place usually involved guessing games between me and my brother as to what fate had befallen one of the creatures under her auspices in the past week. Such banter prompted many a “hush, you two!” rebukes from my indifferent parents. And, sure enough, there was always some new calamity that gran was aggrieved about, while the general state of her makeshift hoard of mutts seemed to look more grimy, desperate, and downtrodden by the month.

For all the love and care she demonstrated when one of her pets was in distress, she was somehow blind to her role in creating the environment that caused almost all of the accidents and afflictions that plagued her dearest pooches.

But for the sake of ‘decency’ and that antiquated as well as hollow form of ‘respect’ for one’s elders, nobody ever confronted my grandmother about the fact that she was a good-hearted, well-meaning TYRANT to the lives of her animals!

No doubt due to this unending silence from family in particular and society at large, this real-life snuff movie played out, for decades, as dog after neglected dog ended up wailing, limping, half blind, totally deaf, practically starved, choked, poisoned/shot by the neighbours, run over by a car, dying of preventable disease and infection, etc.—which added fresh carcasses to the mass grave growing in their ‘saviour’s’ backyard.

This desperate struggle for life—fit for a Discovery Channel documentary—would continue till the day my grandmother left the mortal world.

I swear, I saw her remaining dogs excited, for the first time in their lives, as the vets came to collect them to be euthanized—so desperate were these creatures some individual attention and a little bit of personal space.

I bet that final trip to Onderste Poort was the most relaxing moment of many of those dogs’ lives; just to not have to keep dodging Nero (one of many big German Shepard my gran had, each replacement given the same name), who was always on the lookout for any Chihuahua that got separated from the distressed pack.

Just as some people should not be put behind the wheel of a car, allowed near alcohol and drugs, or given guardianship over a child, some people should never be allowed to have pets! And my grandmother (god rest her soul) and many others like her fit squarely in this category.

But as long as the general society is content with standing back, ignoring the reality, and applauding the utterly futile efforts of some seemingly charitable people, then this form of animal abuse will continue unabated.

Conclusion

The hardest thing for people of good conscience to hear is that their efforts—however noble, sincere, and well-intended—are ineffective at solving the problem, and readily transform the intercessor into co-author in an ongoing chapter of human indifference.

I cannot bring myself to applaud utterly wasteful and ineffective attempts at kindness, just because ‘it is better than doing nothing at all.’ Sometimes doing nothing at all is better than prolonging the suffering of those who are, as pertains to this topic, voiceless in their protest.

So if you are the sort of person who loves adding the latest ‘rescued’ member to your ‘sanctum of hope’—such that the place is overrun with them—then this article may have left you with a great sense of personal insult. GOOD! Your lack of understanding blinds you to the misery and suffering you inevitably cause, and all in the desperate attempt to cope with the depravation of your own soul and/or the loneliness you’ve invited into your life.  

There are churches and bingo clubs to help rid you of your guilt and introduce you to some form of human companionship! Rather than ‘saving’ another stray’s life, why don’t you simply try getting a life of your own?

Sadly, I fear it will only be when most people have ended up and endured long years in an old age home, dying from biology’s inescapable repossession of their health and independence, that they will appreciate that fact that the purpose of palliative care is not the prolonging of life however faint the flicker be, but to improve the quality of whatever life remains!

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