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
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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