Doing your Godly duty: Cats need killed

Posted by Al Barger on September 23, 2005 02:35 PM (See all posts by Al Barger)

"Thou art God." -Valentine Michael Smith

Being at the top of the food chain isn't all fun and games. Humans usually don't get eaten by the lower animals, but being so far on top saddles us with a lot of often times unpleasant responsibility for the creatures over which we have dominion- particularly domesticated pets.

To them, we are God. Personally, I don't entirely like that. I like the affection of a fuzzy puppy dog or kitty cat, but then you have to try to even figure out what they need before you can provide it. They can't talk, so it's often worrisome to figure what they need. Worrying about that need and dependence can be stressful and unpleasant.

Then there's making the really difficult decision to kill them. It's not something that a decent empathetic person would do for fun or to satisfy their curiosity like Dutch Wagenbach in The Shield's "Strays," but sometimes it's the best and most responsible thing to do.

Sometimes this just really absolutely has to be done. Fido is old and sick, and he's been loyal to the family. The only thing to do is to put him down peacefully rather than letting him linger in pain. Very often, we put off such a necessity way past any reasonable point. Refusing to take your godly responsibility can result in horrible needless suffering.

Almost no one would object to euthanizing a diseased animal that just absolutely can't be helped. But then there's a more gray area. Lots of perfectly healthy dogs and cats get euthanized at animal shelters cause there's just no place for them. It sucks, but it's hard fact that in America we have millions more dogs and cats than any homes for them. Rather than have them running loose, spreading disease, and suffering themselves, we put them to sleep. It's the only responsible choice.

In truth, this really isn't bad at all. WE feel bad about doing it, but a simple shot isn't painful. They don't know what it's all about. They don't have our forward projected fear of death, which is part of the curse that goes with our high level human consciousness. They're going to die eventually. Much better a quick shot than disease and starvation in the wild. The anguish is mostly all in OUR heads, not theirs.

There seems to be a big difference in people's minds about who's doing it. Few object when the pound finds it necessary to kill unwanted animals. But woe be unto you if you do this to your own animals. Perhaps it seems more fair or impartial or something when the animal shelter euthanizes an animal.

Emily Yoffe, a writer for Slate, illuminates a bit of the much tougher decision to kill your own animal that you just can't keep any longer. CLICK HERE for her article "Why I Killed My Cat."

The Yoffe family went to what to me would seem utterly ridiculous lengths to avoid the obvious. She writes, "there was one bedtime too many when my 9-year old daughter laid her head on her pillow and remarked, 'Mom, my pillow is wet.'"

By my figuring, ONE time like that would be the one bedtime too many. But no one's going to want to take such an animal, and they didn't want to be big meanies. Besides living in the nasty filth, they wasted thousands of dollars replacing carpets and such. That's a lot of money that could have been saved for the daughter's college tuition.

Eventually, though, Ms Yoffe's family did the only reasonable thing. They had Goldie put to sleep.

But the reader feedback on this column showed some fairly nutsy human emotional psychology. There were some reasonable, thoughtful responses, but then then there was just silly stuff. There were all kinds of suggestions of what loop-de-loops they should have jumped over a cat.

One curious fellow had a very earnest explanation that it was perhaps understandable what she did, but that she should have kept it to herself. It was wrong for her to write about it in an attempt to get absolution for her supposed guilt. See, this diminished Goldie's memory. Dude, this was a frickin' maladjusted house cat that they couldn't do anything with. It made all their lives miserable for YEARS before they could bring themselves to do the obvious right thing. How much memory is Goldie supposed to get?

Some suggest that when you take a pet, then you are somehow morally obligated to keep and care for the thing pretty much until it dies of old age. Who decided this? On what basis are we so obligated?

Look, animals are great, but people come first. Again, WE are the top of the food chain. It's a ridiculous and arbitrary assertion to say that the Yoffe family should live in cat piss for the next dozen years just because some rich spoiled Americans have watched about twenty too many damned Disney movies.

Keep in mind the distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. It's good and right to strive to give your pets and even your livestock a halfway decent life. What kind of decent person wants unnecessary suffering?

But animals don't have rights. That's just some made up nonsense. Humans get some reasonable idea of having "rights" as part of a social contract. I won't kill you if you won't kill me. But killing is the way of nature, and animals couldn't make such an agreement if they wanted to. Cats sure don't have any qualms about killing songbirds.

Taking the human emotional issues to another level though, this Yoffe article came to my attention because my best friend killed her cat a couple of months ago. Thus, she was real interested in the topic. She wrote a contribution to the Slate "fray" on the Yoffe article which became an editor's pick. CLICK HERE to read, "What I did this summer: I shot my cat."

My godson's Mama had a much lower threshold than Yoffe. This cat wasn't pissing in our boy's bed. If I'd found her tolerating such a thing, she'd have had hell from me.

She got a pair of cats from the shelter back several years ago, before she was pregnant. From the time she got pregnant, people were urging her to get rid of the cats. For one thing, pregnant women aren't supposed to be fooling with catboxes for fear of toxoplasmosis, which she took the chance of doing anyway. She was fortunate to find a new home for the nicer, more sociable of the pair shortly after our thug was born.

That left her still stuck with the anti-social cat that shed copious amounts of fur, and objected to brushing. It was not just unrewarding, but a big pain to try to keep up this cat. She's a single mother working and raising a toddler.

Plus, Tuff Guy was a killer. She was constantly trying to get out the door to go hunting. As cats are wont to do, this meant killing songbirds. The Thug's Ma is a conservation professional, and real sensitive to such things. One day it was one dead songbird too many.

She took kitty out back, put a .22 rifle to the head. Bang. Problems solved.

I did what a responsible person would do. I put her down myself. I grew up on a farm, where life and death issues, while not taken lightly, are day to day things, and where a responsible person doesn't dump their animal on the Humane Society to anesthetize or board (for endless months until the animal gets wacked anyway). It wasn't a pleasant task. I'm not some psycho.

I saw it as ultimate respect. I took responsibility for putting my animal down, rather than foisting the job off on other people. I didn't dump her somewhere else. I didn't have the time or effort to find another owner -- when frankly, nobody would have wanted this cat anyway. (Oh yes, unfriendly cat needs new owner.) I didn't take her to the pound, to endure the endless torture and isolation of living in a cage. And I didn't let her live outside, where she took a yen to slaughtering all the resident songbirds and wildlife (which I value far more greatly and need all the conservation help they can get).


As her best friend and minister, I heard about it right away. She felt bad about it. She didn't feel guilty, but she was heavy of heart. This unpleasant responsibility of godhood weighed on her mind, or perhaps more precisely said, it was the way that others avoid their responsibilities due to the anthropomorphization resultant from watching too many damned Disney movies.

This little essay was a useful public service from the Thug's Ma, but the reader responses might make you think the world is nuts, which perhaps it is. For example, Catlady78 speculated that "you will decide that your baby is not what you thought it would be and you will do the respectful thing to do and shoot it."

Then there's the HUNTER explaining why killing bear and moose was ok, but that what SHE did was just wrong. This is SO far from any rationality as to make your head spin. Americans don't hunt for necessity. They hunt for pleasure. His fun in shooting a moose is more acceptable than Ma not wanting cat fur all over the house and in the walls and crawl spaces where she's raising a toddler.

As a lifelong hunter and professional conservationist, she'll point out that hunting deer or moose serves an important function of population control, and keeping the rest of us from slamming into them on the highways. I will counter, however, that Uncle Jimbo isn't out hunting as a public service.

Ultimately, I will completely discount out of hand the objections here of anyone who is not a strict vegetarian. You COULD live on nuts and berries, but pork chops taste GOOD. Bacon tastes GOOD. You're killing animals. You're just not doing it by your own hand.

The Thug's Ma, on the other hand, is not the kind of gal to put her dirty work off on somebody else. She's not the type to shirk her Godly responsibilities. She wasn't going to take $50-100 out of her son's mouth to get someone else to do what she should do herself. She put a 10 cent cartridge in the gun, and did what needed to be done.

Note that she wasn't shooting at it from a comfortable difference, leaving the cat wounded to crawl off and die. She knows what she's doing. She put a gun right to the back of the head. Tuff Guy never knew what hit her.

A lot of people just wouldn't do this. Not only wouldn't they do it themselves, but they wouldn't even be able to bring themselves to do it at the vet's office. They would like to think that they're just too kindhearted, but that's a lie. It's not compassion, but dysfunctional emotionalism and just plain cowardice.

Then when they can't stand the animal anymore, they'll just put it outside or drop it off way out in the piney woods. This is bad for dogs. They'll likely be starving, and picking up diseases. Eventually, they have a long lingering diseased end, or get tore up by a coyote or some such.

Abandoning a dog like this is bad, but a cat is even far worse. They are generally much more predatory on much more valuable wildlife. A dog's likely to kill some possums and moles, perhaps a couple of squirrels. A cat in the wild, however, might likely kill hundreds and hundreds of songbirds.

Thus the net result of your "compassion" ie emotional self-indulgence is disease and suffering for the poor kitty, and the slaughter of masses of far more valuable birds.

So then, fellow Gods, as you go out about your godly business of caring for the creatures in your dominion, I leave you to ponder your own decision making. Is the choice that you're making a reflection of sentimental self-indulgence or actual compassion?

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