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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The truth about cats

I’ve often needled Charlestown Family Planning Commissar Ruth Platner in this blog for her negative remarks about senior citizen affordable housing. She claimed older people are more likely to own cats and cats will kill birds. So of course, I wondered whether Ruth hates cats.

Patricia Curry Almeida called my comments “cheeky” and said that Ruth loves cats. Ms. Almeida said Ruth and her husband Cliff Vanover owned “a couple.”

I responded by saying that maybe Ruth has cats and might even like them, but she sure doesn’t like other people’s cats. I also asked if Ruth and Cliff’s cats stay indoors or are de-clawed. Or do they get to hunt the birdies on their farm.

I never got an answer.

After that, several commenters weighed in, mostly in support of cats, but cats that are well-cared for and kept indoors. I reported on studies showing that free roaming cats do indeed pose a threat to birds – in fact, a 500 times higher threat than the potential threat posed by large wind turbines.

Cathy and I have had cats since we were in our early 20s, now going on past 40 years. We currently have three. They were all either pound cats or strays. One was quite feral. We have looked after all of them and kept them indoors. Two lived past the age of 20. 

Stray and feral cats are a problem. They do indeed go after the birds. I have chased outdoor cats away from our bird feeders from time to time. If they have owners, I wish those owners would act more responsibly.

This it's not just a country problem. There's a guy in Pawtucket who's upset because his neighbors' cats take dumps in his flower and vegetable garden. He says that contrary to popular belief, cats don't bury their waste: "They leave it on top and walk away." So he's is campaigning for a city ordinance to make cats subject to the same leash requirements as dogs and is actually getting some traction.

Cats roaming loose will die much younger than cats kept indoors. I’ve seen some estimates that outdoor cats have a life expectancy of less than three years and maybe up to 6 years, compared to 15-18 for an indoor-only cat. If the coyotes, foxes or fisher cats don’t get them, there’s disease, malnutrition, injury or traffic.
Raiding bird feeders is just their attempt to survive against long odds.

Even PETA supports pet ownership (although they prefer the term “companion animal” over "pet"), but only when it’s done responsibly. Such as adopting a “companion” from a shelter, spaying and neutering, and of course treating them humanely.    

The staff at the Charlestown Animal Shelter are wonderful and they do their best for the many critters that end up under their care. Our youngest kitty came from there and we would not hesitate to go back again. 

But shelters are swamped and stressed by having too many lost, stray or abandoned animals and not enough people wanting to adopt them. As I understand it, the Friends of the Charlestown Shelter have plans for a new, expanded and nicely modernized shelter. They can certainly count on our support.

As a +55 Charlestown resident with cat companions, I just don’t understand why Ms. Platner needed to use such a ridiculous – not to mention legally irrelevant – reason to shoot down affordable housing for older people. Like her jihad against families with children, she finds the most off-beat excuses to avoid saying she simply doesn’t want any new construction in town or, if you can’t afford to pay market rates for housing, get the hell out. And take your cats with you.

Author: Will Collette