Crazy Cat Lady in Training
A contribution from Ladybird co-founder, Melissa McClelland
Ok, I admit it.. I’m a ‘dog’ person. I grew up with three doggies; each with their own wonderful and individual personality, they brightly colored my childhood years. My only vivid memory of a cat was during a visit to my parent’s friends house. They owned a beautiful, fluffy grey cat, and as a seven-year-old, I was determined to make this feline my best friend. The whole encounter ended in a standoff; me reaching for Kitty under a bed in some dark, upstairs guest room. Sadly, my proposition of friendship was answered with a definitive swipe across one cheek. Blood, tears, meows.. and the rest is history.
Still, a tried and true ‘dog’ person, I like to now consider myself a crazy cat lady in training. My experience with Ladybird has been the driving force in reshaping my views and opinions on cats and our collective relationship with these creatures.
In the infancy of our rescue group, we discussed the idea of what we would charge for an adoption (‘charge’ meaning a minimum donation fee). My opinion was that they should be free. Why would we charge someone for a cat that has nowhere else to go? Now, I can’t imagine giving away one of our precious rescues for nothing! Unfortunately, cats are viewed as disposable creatures by many. Whether we love them or not, there is an underlying assumption that cats can take care of themselves, and that it’s simply a fact of life that some of them will end in a tragic, dangerous or uncertain situation. I now see how this mentality has contributed to the over-population of cats and the inevitable suffering that has resulted from our neglect.
Why is owning a cat worth a modest donation fee? Taking an animal into your care is an important and life-long undertaking. There will always be unforeseeable costs and issues that come with owning a pet. It’s important to see your pet as a living creature with needs and not simply as a mouser or a toy. When we adopt out our rescues, we want people to understand that it is a privilege to invite a living creature into your home, not only for the animal, but for the entire family. We are lucky to have had so many wonderful adopters give our rescues the kind of care and protection that they deserve. These animals are worth all the love in the world, and for this, my mind has been changed!
My other point of contention: the indoor vs outdoor debate. Many people have the opinion that it is cruel to keep your cat indoors. Aside from the few cats that truly do go berserk if left inside (these are usually rescues who have already spent most of their lives outdoors), cats are perfectly happy to stay inside if they are offered a few key things. Cats need places to play, hide, roll around and ‘pretend’ hunt; easy to satisfy your cat’s needs from within your home. Most Ladybird rescues have been found on the streets and have adjusted seamlessly to a life indoors. Scratching posts, toys and maybe a few cardboard boxes thrown in for good measure can go a long way in keeping your cat happy!
But, why indoors? Although, I’m sure some cats are having a ball out there, the ‘cons’ of letting your cat run free, far outweigh the ‘pros’. I know I am preaching to the choir when I scream ‘spay! neuter!’ from the rooftops. The most obvious reason of all to keep your cat indoors (aside, from the bylaws that forbid it!) is that an un-fixed cat will add to a feral cat population that is growing at a staggering rate. Feral cat populations are littered with strays and their offspring; all descendants of domestic cats. Because they are not equipped to live in the wild, their average lifespan is less than half of that of a house cat. Judging from the e-mails we get on a daily basis from concerned citizens, most strays are miserable and unhealthy living this way and have to rely on the kindness of strangers to keep them warm and fed.
Cats get lost, cats get hurt, cats get hit by cars, cats get abused and picked on, cats pick up diseases and infections, cats decimate song bird populations along with other small creatures. Although, the debate persists, I have landed firmly on the side of ‘indoor’, as I think this will solve the issue of over-population (along with spay/neutering), and help keep our pets safe, healthy and home.. where they should be!
It is always a learning process for me, but through roughly 130 cat rescues I have seen the endurance, stoicism and endless ability to love and be loved from these funny little creatures. I have happily discarded my 25 year cat grudge; and come to think of it, maybe Kitty didn’t want to be chased and groped by some weird looking kid! And whether you are a cat person, a dog person, or neither, it is never frivolous to care for the well being of domestic animals; it is our duty. Adopt, foster, donate.. you know the drill!