OPINION — The Pope is fed up. Not with everyone, necessarily, although that may be a possibility. And I wouldn’t blame him. No, Pope Francis is specifically tired of people who claim to be the parents of pets. You know, people who like to pretend their little fru-fru dogs are actually their children. I may not be Catholic, but I’m with the Pope on this one.
If you don’t already know about this particular peculiarity, it may come as a shock that there are people who take their dogs to spas, tote them around in strollers and baby carriers, and refer to them as their children. They spend more money on their pets than it takes to support fifty Guatemalan kids, and in extreme cases they try to ween them off meat. Otherwise these folks may appear to be fairly normal. I assure you they are not.
For one thing, just one, you can’t change nature. Dogs and cats eat meat, and if they can’t get meat they starve. People can live without meat, although not happily, but dogs and cats are carnivores. Also, cats chase birds. They can’t help it. It’s a feline requirement. And if they can, cats will catch birds. And if they catch them, they usually eat them. It’s their job.
Vicki Doudera evidently doesn’t like that a whole lot. Vicki is a state representative in Maine, which is one of these United States, although not one of the warm ones. The state of Maine has animal trespass laws designed to punish people who let their critters wander onto other peoples’ property or public areas, like roads and stuff. I assume that means that if someone tells you your cows are out, you have to go deal with them, or you’ll have to pay a fine. I also assume there are cows in Maine, but I don’t care to go check.
Maine’s animal trespass laws specifically exclude cats, on account of the fact they’re cats. They have to roam around and hunt, which means they trespass all the time. And no matter what you say to a cat, it’s still going to be a cat. Which means it won’t mind you at all. Dogs are loyal, loving, and trainable. Cats are like teenagers with better toiletry habits.
For the record, if you have a cat, your neighbors probably don’t like you. They pretend to, but they don’t. Every time they find your cat’s poop in their flower beds, or discover a dead mouse or bird on their porch, they blame your cat. There’s a reason for that – your cat is guilty. So there’s that.
Anyway, a group called Nature Communications did a study, somehow, and concluded that cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds every year. Some of those birds are endangered or protected species, like the piping plover, which is real bird I didn’t make up. They live in Maine, until the cats get them, I guess.
Francessca Gundrum, who is real person I didn’t make up, belongs to the Maine Audubon Society. She took a piping plover away from a cat a while back, for some reason. Francessca said cats represent the number one ‘direct, human-caused threat to birds.’ Which is contradictory, I know. Cats are not human-caused. That’s not how things work.
So now Vicki is trying to change Maine’s laws to hold cat owners responsible for damage caused by their wayward felines. Fines will run $50-$500, although I’m vague on whether that’s per bird killed, or per endangered plover killed, or per flower bed poop, or what. The law seems vague, but then, so does Maine.
I’m also wondering how the authorities will determine whose cat killed which bird, unless they’re caught red-handed. Or red-pawed, under the circumstances. If the cops knock on my door, that ain’t my cat. ‘I have no idea where it came from. Never saw it before. Have a good day, officer.’ I expect they’ll hear that a lot.
A lot of Maine folks are unhappy with Vicki’s proposal, as you can imagine. Farmers don’t like it, since they often allow cats to live rent-free in their barns, to keep the mouse population in check. They can’t control the cats any more than they can control their teenagers. And veterinarians are afraid they’ll be overrun by cat owners who want to have their felines put down, as sort of a preemptive approach.
Animal shelter officials are worried they’ll be overrun with cat drop-offs, too. It seems almost everyone in Maine, except for Vicki, understands that cat owners are going to want to make their problems someone else’s problems. Maybe someone should tell Vicki. She won’t return my calls.
So far no one in Maine has asked for my advice, but if they did, I know what I’d tell them. I’d tell them to slip over into Canada and drive around slinging catnip seeds out their car windows, and let Justin Trudeau deal with the problem.
Either that or call Pope Francis, and ask him to come bless all the cats. Or the birds. Or Vicki . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who doesn’t much care for cats. Or Vicki. Write to him at [email protected]