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Simplistic musings on cats and dogs, or ramblings about why pet shops shouldn't sell them

posted on: Saturday, 24 March 2012 @ 10:15am in

[minor pseudonymising edits during Drupal to hugo migration for all the good that will do now]

I have this bias towards cats and dogs in this piece, because I’ve only ever shared a house with cats and dogs.

Staffy X rotti and staffy X mastiff squished up in the same dog bed

Fenrir and Taliesin bunking in

My random thought that triggered the blat was that JJ is not going to let me have any more cats.

Pile of five cats snoozing on the couch

Clockwise from top: Ghost, Sanguine, Graymalkin, Darkness, Itti Bitti Kitti

I’m down to three now. Ghost was run over by a car a bit over three years ago, shortly before we moved to the house we live in. Sanguine went completely senile (that cat has not been quite right since he was a kitten) and had to be put down earlier this year.

Malki comes and sits on my lap for ages while I’m at the computer (and keeps insisting on leaning on my arm when I’m 3d-ing, at least she’s learned leaning on my left arm is more comfortable for her as I don’t move it as much as the right). Darkness runs up and headbutts me repeatedly and lolls around on the ground with his paws in the air when I’m out processing laundry. Lately he’s gone a bit funny about entering the house via the catflap (though he still exits by it as far as I’m aware), so at dinner time I actually have to go to the sliding door and call him in or go out and get him, as he’s usually sitting staring mistrustfully at the catflap from outside. I hope he is not also going senile, but as I suspect they were kitten mill jobs, it wouldn’t surprise me. It seems to have become a practice for pet shops to reassure customers that their stock comes from responsible breeders and definitely not from mills but as with every commercial and vested interest type thing, I always wonder how far you can trust it. Itti is a prat, but I still love him. He visits a neighbour one house over and we’ve become pretty good friends with this neighbour now thanks to the cat, and everyone is happy with the shared care arrangement we have going. They are all 10-11 now and I’m hoping to have a few more good years with them.

Part of my thinking was JJ wants to go camping more, and we can take the dogs camping in certain areas and some places where you can rent self-contained accommodation will allow dogs, not so much cats (though it is apparently quite possible to take cats on road trips, I’ve never done it before).

Not that going camping is exactly easy anyway, cat/housesitters are hard to come by due to the amount of work our place is, which is probably why not more people are doing the whole “sustainable” thing (fodder for another post).

JJ recently clarified and said we could have more cats when we have no cats, which I am perfectly okay with. 2, absolute max. I said 5 chickens, absolute max. I don’t know how many we have now, but it’s more than 5. I am not going to go crazy cat lady on him though.

With these thoughts not quite so coherently formed in my mind, I wandered onto the Shenton Park Dog Refuge site, then to the website of the Cat Haven which is across the road from the Dog Refuge (don’t ask me why, I have no idea how my brain operates most of the time). On a page where they suggest adopting two cats instead of just the one, I found an interesting little snippet:

DID YOU KNOW: In Switzerland, an anti-cruelty law was passed that requires people who are buying/adopting cats or dogs to acquire 2 instead of 1 since it is the nature of the animal to have company of his or her kind!

I did not know that.

Of course while I found plenty of references to this law on a few blogs and sites in my search, I couldn’t find the actual law, which could be because if it’s on the internet it may not be on the internet in English.

I don’t think that’s a terrible idea, assuming of course that the critter in question likes company. Some don’t, but any worthwhile shelter worker would be able to tell any worthwhile human whether or not their prospective companion would be happier as an only or wouldn’t mind/would love companionship and what they’re compatible with. Hopefully that Swiss law and any other place intelligent enought o adopt something like it would allow for personality.

Having 2-3 being adopted at once would empty out the shalters a lot quicker, can’t help but feel rather annoyed about them filling up in the first place. I think a lot of it has to do with pet shops that sell animals (not to be confused with pet supply shops like City Farmers which sell pet supplies, and fish and axlotls which don’t seem to count for some reason).

Graymalkin - a domestic short haired cat who apparently looks like a Russian Blue

I got Malki and Gweeni from a pet shop when I was a starving student and thought I knew a lot about everything but in reality didn’t know much about anything, back in 2001 or 2002. They were only 6 weeks old, which gave me plenty of time to save up the meagre funds I was running on back then to get them desexed when they were 4-6 months old. I told my ex whom I was living with at the time that the money was for getting the cats desexed and not to touch it for any reason unless it was an emergency. Apparently getting a piece of computer equipment we kind of needed (ie very useful to have but not exactly what one would call essential for survival) while it was on sale was an emergency. My kittens had kittens at the ripe old age of 5-6 months. I was fully intending to Cat Haven the kittens when they were old enough, even entering into correspondence with whoever was manning the email at the time. Partly because they would have been 12 weeks old close to Christmas, partly because of the remote possibility that they’d be put down if they couldn’t be rehomed (remote because puppies and kittens always rehome fast) and mostly because I’m a sucker and got attached to them, I ended up keeping all five of them.

And that happens. Okay, maybe not that situation specifically. But people pick up a cute little puppy or kitten, and either can’t afford to have them desexed, never get around to it or think it’s cruel or whatever, or perhaps they have it in their heads that they want to become breeders, girl gets knocked up and produces a litter, humans suddenly realises it’s a lot of work and dumps the lot of them. I have seen people standing outside pet shops going all gooey at the antics of the puppies and kittens in the display tanks, and suspect there are a hell of a lot more impulse buys than carefully considered decisions. Browsing through the Cat Haven, a lot of them are either strays or mothers that have been abandoned or given up with their litters. Through the Dog Refuge, they are mostly medium to large dogs, a lot of them working dogs that probably shouldn’t be living in suburbia unless they have humans ready to take the time to train them properly and provide mental stimulation and the amount of exercise required.

Fenrir - staffy X rottweiler

Fenrir is a high energy dog. We bought him from a pet shop as a staffy X rotti. He’s bigger than a staffy but a lot smaller than a rotti, with a face kind of like a kelpie. If he hadn’t come to us or someone like us, I think he would have eventually ended up at Dog Refuge or RSPCA because he is a bundle of energy. Now at 10 he’s finally starting to slow down, though he is still incapable of doing something as basic as not pulling on the leash when going for walks until he’s had his 5km sprint.

Cats Haven (no-kill shelter for cats)

Cats Haven (no-kill shelter for cats) (Photo credit: IndyDina with Mr. Wo. Coulnderful)

Perhaps not having people able to make impulse buys at pet shops would cut down on the number of animals that end up in shelters or otherwise abandoned. To that end, there shouldn’t be pet shops selling animals.

Responsible breeders and shelters should be the only sources for companion animals. Animals from a shelter tend to already be desexed (Tali was and he was only 8 weeks old when we got him). Puppies and kittens also have their infant developmental stages to get through and separating them too young from their mothers can cause all sorts of dramas. 8 weeks is absolute earliest, 12-14 better and suck it up about not having a cute tiny fluffball. It will bond to you better when it’s had time to mature a little. A responsible breeder will screen the hell out of prospective humans to make sure they’re a good match which will likely deter most if not all impulse buyers.

A responsible breeder would/should sell the animal desexed (because it will probably be old enough by then) to avoid the accidental/unwanted litter problem. If the prospective human is another breeder or intending to become one (after jumping through the hoops to become reputable) arrangements could be made for the animal to be left intact.

It seems to work, the Dog Haven and the RSPCA grill humans who come in looking to adopt as they don’t want the animal ending up back there. I spent a lot of fuel driving up to the Dog Haven trying to find a dog that Rar would get along with, three dogs came so close but not quite (because while they played well enough the handlers weren’t confident enough that they were getting on well enough to live together), before one of them recommended getting a puppy under a year old. We got Tali from the RSPCA, he was almost the last of his litter to go. His larger brothers had already been adopted and his sister got adopted on the same day by their foster carer. Perhaps it works because if people are looking for companions at a shelter rather than squeeing into a pet shop window then chances are they’re already the type of people that would share a lifetime with their chosen companion/s rather than just the baby/honeymoon stage, and as an added bonus may have even done some research into what they were getting themselves into as far as the breed (if such a thing can be determined in the case of some the bitzas) goes.

Not a perfect system, there will still be a few diehard mills and irresponsible breeders in it for the money, but I don’t let a few people that I think are idiots colour my view of an entire group or operation.

If you ever feel like sharing your place with a dog or cat (or rabbit or guinea pig or poultry or horse or donkey or goat etc, some shelters take all sorts), check out the shelters before hitting the responsible breeders. And avoid the pet shops!

If you live around the Perth metro area in Western Australia:

Australia wide:

More suggestions for links welcome.