Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Inadequacies of Cat Owners…


I would like to draw your attention to a matter that has risen in severity over the past couple of decades and is in rapid ascension in terms of its impact upon neighbourhoods the length and breadth of this country. Through stupidity, ignorance, selfishness and idiocy, the good people of England have allowed the situation to spiral out of all control, beyond reason, doubt or sanity. I am, of course, talking about the growing menace of roaming cats.

We have had a situation of late that has opened my eyes to the severity of the problem in this country and the apparent lack of legal and governmental support available to assist people against the misery and damage that these wretched creatures and their selfish, irresponsible owners cause. During the summer, we begun to notice a steady deposit of steaming cat turds on our front driveway by a large laurel bush that I had started to dig up. Once I had removed the bush, I cleared the area and put some clean stones down, thinking that it would solve the issue: it didn't. Conscious that there were a handful of cats in the vicinity, I began to look out for the offending animal (cats are territorial after all so it was likely that it was a single offender rather than a group of them using our property to empty their guts). After several weeks it became clear that it was specifically the black cat from next door - having seen it prior to the offence, during and immediately after; the three phases of guilt. Chasing it away and hissing at it did no good - it was a repeat offender and, moreover, I felt pretty justified that it was reasonable to feel aggrieved for another person’s animal using our front driveway as a public lavatory, especially when the disgusting task of removing the excrement fell to me.

With the number of deposits piling up alarmingly, I approached our next door neighbours and presented the problem, assuming that they would be mortified at what their pet had done. I thought wrong. Begrudgingly, he wandered over for a view, offered a muttered apology, speculated that their cat had probably thought the stones were a public litter tray, that he would fit an anti-cat sonar to the driveway wall and that they would keep the cat in their back garden anyway so it probably wouldn't happen again. There was no offer to collect the foul deposits, no embarrassed grovelling, no real sense of responsibility, though I at least hoped for some support. As the weeks passed, it became apparent that there would not be any action either. The turds continued to pile up, the cat continued to treat the driveway as its personal quarters, there was no sign of a helping hand, an apology, a cat sonar, or anything. Nothing at all

My mood turning from aggrieved to down-right irritation, I finally hit the wall when taking bags of cat shit through the house, nearly throwing up with the disgusting smell and then frantically stopping my two year old daughter from picking a piece up. Had she had done so and then put her hands in her eyes, that could be pretty serious medically so at that moment I decided that I'd had enough and that it was going back on their driveway - "return to sender." Around 5 or 6 of the deposits were dumped over the wall in that manner until I was finally approached on the subject on Boxing Day by his wife, who fell into a raging fit when I explained that I had decided to return her cats deposits seeing as she and her husband had failed to act on it. In an outburst in front of my wife and daughter, she denied that her cat had anything to do with it "there are four black cats in this road" (presumably she thinks we all live in Hogwarts as I thought there were only a couple), clutched at a variety of spurious straws before finally ranting that she shouldn't be forced to "kill her cat." At that point the argument was broken up and we went our separate ways...I would have probably received a more constructive response had I approached the cat itself and asked it to change its ways...

Now, it is often the case in these instances that tempers can impair even the best judgement and so I was quick to re-analyse the situation, reflect upon events and ask others for their opinion whilst sense-checking my own sanity. The collective opinion was unanimous: we live next door to a pair of extraordinarily selfish and irresponsible cat owners, who give more of a damn about their pet's reputation than our daughters health; who chose to buy an animal that they can't control; who won't accept any responsibility for their cat's crap on other people's driveway; who can't see past their own apparent “rights”. However, they are not alone and are quite representative of a growing demographic.

Being a digital kind of person, I have since spent some time online on various forums in an attempt to quantify the matter, assess the rights and responsibilities and weigh up the lie of the land. What I discovered was extraordinary: our country is overrun by cats, whose owners don't give a damn about their behaviour and who are not governed by any specific laws relating to their responsibilities. Not only that, but there are many thousands of people across the country like us who have been put in this situation by the actions of other people’s pets and who have all been rendered to frustration by the bizarre attitudes of those who have introduced the problem.


The destruction caused by cats
Aside from the tendency to frequent other people’s driveways, gardens, lawns, borders, trees and wall, cats will choose other people’s property to urinate and defecate at will. This will include ruining driveways, digging up borders, plants and gardens, destroying all in their wake and causing damage. Not only that, but once they appear, they are highly unlikely to disappear, given their territorial nature and reliance on habit. If you are a nature lover, forget creating a nice environment in your back garden as cats will kill birdlife and wildlife indiscriminately (not even for food – just because it is in their nature). We have had birds killed and even had to save a squirrel from being openly savaged by a neighbour’s cat in the back garden – not the kind of scene you want your children witnessing on your property. Improved fencing to the rear of the property has partially improved matters, but they can still climb and jump pretty impressively…

Moreover, cats will scratch and rip a whole range of materials for their own entertainment – I have had rain-proof bike covers shredded in the past, whilst an outdoor table protector we bought had to be dumped because they clawed it to pieces. At one point, during some work we were having done on our dining room a couple of years ago, we even ended up having one cat enter our house for a wander about whilst the carpenter had the patio doors open – god knows where in the house it would have ended up had we not have chased it out. There are numerous deterrents that are offered – ranging from orange peel to sprays, to sonar systems, but the bottom line is that I don’t see why I should have to spend time and money fortifying my property against someone else pet, especially when these tactics are unproven and inconsistent at best.


The blindness of their owners to the problem
So if these animals are causing such a monumental set of problems for people wanting to create a nice place to live in, then why are cat owners (by and large) so blind to it?). You have to ask why they would want such a pet in the first place – and I can answer this with two words: Lifestyle…&…Anthropomorphism

We lead increasingly hectic lives, meaning that we have less time to achieve all the “tick box” things that we aspire towards. So if most people decide that they would like a pet, reality dictates that horses, goats, dogs and fish are all too much maintenance. They want something that cleans itself, takes care of itself and can pretty much fend for itself, short of putting some food and water in a bowl – enter the wretched cat. But why is a cat such a draw over anything else? Why did the creators of Shrek decide that a cat would make a “cute” characterture? Because there is a ridiculous preconception that a cat’s face is somehow a “sweet” thing and therefore makes it a more desirable and moreover a more worthy creature than most. 

This sort of warped logic by the “animal value” police gives rise to the ridiculous and quite arrogant notion that THEIR pets have more rights than YOU do on YOUR land. There are many people who I believe genuinely feel more empathy towards their cats than human beings and this is why I honestly think that cat owners must simply be spiritually inadequate people in the main. What credentials does a cat have that suddenly makes it sacred in the eyes of the community over, say, a squirrel, or a pigeon or a magpie? They are all pests – all vermin.

Just a quick glance at a number of forums on this issue demonstrates the extraordinary reaction that this kind of mindset generates. One anonymous woman, for instance, stated “I have four cats and they certainly don’t foul in MY garden – that’s what other people’s gardens are for. If anybody complains then I just tell them that my cats were here first.” If that doesn't reduce you a raging ball of fury then how about this: “The day I moved in I was greeted by my next-door neighbour who informed me that she would prefer it if I left my windows open so her cats could jump in easily if they so wished.” Extraordinary. Breathtaking arrogance.


The law
Without embarking on a full appraisal of the law, it seems that over the course of the last couple of decades, the steep rise in cat ownership has completely outgrown the lack of legislation governing it. Whereas the mandatory licence required for dog ownership was dropped at some point in the late 1980’s (I believe), there never seems to have been one in place for cat ownership. Surely, at the very least there should be a mandatory licence for pet ownership in general – perhaps say £100 which would at the outset set out a declaration that the owner took the responsibility seriously enough to be considered fit for the task. I would also suggest a more stringent form of governance for “roaming pets” – that is to say that if you do allow your animal out of sight then you take responsibility for its actions. Not too much to ask surely?


A plea and a promise
A few days after the row with my neighbour, we had a small note through the door from our other neighbours, who had apparently lost one of their cats (I know, the road is teeming with them). It stated that their son was distraught and could we look for the missing animal as it might be in a shed, garage, etc. Now, I’ll wave aside the issue of people having the temerity to allow their cats to wander all over the place then ask people to search their property when they go missing. Moreover, this illustrates what an inappropriate choice of pet a cat is – by purchasing one (or acquiring one), you only serve to become emotionally attached to something that is likely to sod off at the first opportunity. 

This blog piece is, I admit, going to act like written Marmite – depending on your pet ownership status you’ll either love it or hate it. But remember this – we are at the start of a new year and the criticism here is in retrospect…so here is your opportunity to make a change. If you are a fellow sufferer, then I offer you my comradeship and support. If you are thinking of cat ownership, then I implore you to re-consider for the good of your fellow man. Remember - nobody is forcing you into buying one. Dogs and rabbits also make great companions. At the very least, if you do feel the overwhelming need to buy one then at least keep it indoors. If you are already a cat owner then please have the good grace to consider your neighbours. And if you belong in government office, then hold tight as you’ll shortly be hearing from me in an official capacity – I want suitable legislation passed to tackle this growing problem and I want it done NOW!