The Neverending War on Homeless Cats

I am a fan of Gwen Cooper, the author of the books about Homer the blind wonder cat. Homer has moved on from this realm, but Gwen continues to write about cats and topics of importance to cat lovers.

This week Gwen sent out an email to her readers alerting us to a book being hawked by Dr Peter Marra, Head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. In his book entitled, “Cat Wars,” published by Princeton University Press, he argues that cats are responsible for the deaths of billions of birds and also are a health risk to humans. He blames a, “small but vocal minority of cat advocates” for keeping us from doing anything to solve this grave problem. Marra’s solution? The mass killing of homeless cats.

second chance
Every cat I’ve ever shared my home with was homeless. This is Malachi, who crossed the bridge in May. When he showed up at my house he was so skinny I thought he was a juvenile cat, not the 8 year old neutered tom he turned out to be.

I can’t talk about the fallacy of Marra’s notion without talking about the gender bias prevalent in the animal welfare arena. Marra is a white man, as are all those listed as endorsing his book. And that small but vocal minority of cat advocates? They’re almost all women.

Indeed, while membership of animal welfare groups is overwhelming female, it’s men who always seem to be in charge, or, as in the case of PETA, finding a way to degrade women. But Alley Cat Allies is different. It’s a strong, vocal group of women run by a woman and whose leadership is overwhelming females advocating for homeless cats.

Marra claims that his foes would do nothing to address the homeless cat overpopulation. That is not so. Alley Cat Allies and its’ partners have advocated for TNR programs to reduce the populations of homeless cats in the country, and have been doing so since 1990. The problem is in convincing state and local government officials, overwhelmingly a bunch of white men, to spend the money on the programs. Usually they said no, because only women care about cats and it’s a lot cheaper to kill cats than to TNR them. So it wasn’t the cat advocates doing nothing, but his fellow white dudes in charge. Yet we managed to change public perception so they couldn’t continue to kill the cats without facing the voters’ wrath.

Women have actually been made fun for caring about cats. We’re referred to as crazy cat ladies, with action figures to go along with it. And one cat litter company even marketed itself to “crazy cat ladies,” and continued to do so even after women complained. They simply added a few men to the mix and said anyone could be a crazy cat lady. They never admitted the blatant gender bias in their marketing. I still refuse to use their products.

Graybie and his brother Yella were born to a homeless cat, then abandoned in my yard. I bottle fed them both and, miraculously, they survived.

We women tolerated the bias, but we have not kept quiet about TNR. With Alley Cat Allies behind us we stood up and let our voices be heard, and eventually even the so-called mainstream run-by-a-man groups (ASPCA and HSUS) got on board with our message. Then the money started coming in and TNR became a thing.

But apparently that’s not enough for these well-educated white dudes who love birds, and now they’d like us to go back to the days of killing cats so they can say they did something productive for the environment without making themselves the least bit uncomfortable. After all, it doesn’t address the tall buildings, wind turbines, airplanes, deforestation or other man-made problems that are decimating birds. No, we will let cats take the blame for their precious little birds going extinct. And those of us that complain? Well, we are mere women. What do WE know?

The irony is the homeless cat problem is also man-made. These cats didn’t appear out of nowhere. People dumped cats outside and didn’t look too hard when their cats didn’t come home. People didn’t spay/neuter their cats. People refused to insist their local governments pay for sufficient animal control services so there would be persons available to address the homeless cats locally. And when our neighbors killed our precious cats with poisons, arrow, or guns, we were given no justice because they are just cats. But a dog? Now that’s a different story.

June Buggie and Bubba were about 2 months old when a co-worker captured them on the grounds where I worked. She asked me to take them because the “man in charge” of facilities would kill them.

Alas, the times, they are a-changing. And white men are running scared. So they continue to advocate for their tired old plans. Let us kill the cats, vocal minorities be damned!

Well I say fuck them! You keep doing what you’re doing. Support groups who support cats. Give your money to Alley Cat Allies or local groups who advocate for cats. Continue to TNR and care for homeless cat populations.

And just so you know, the Smithsonian is 70% funded with federal tax dollars. If you don’t like the idea of your taxes paying the salary of a jerk like Marra, maybe you should write your elected officials and say so. 

36 thoughts on “The Neverending War on Homeless Cats

  1. I agree with you…the probem is man-made… I sniffed through our local ads today in the morning and I nearly swooned how much kitten they offered there for free or for one (symbolic) euro… instead to invest 20 bucks to neuter and spay their cats before it comes to litters what will be disposed like trash if there is no one who wants them :o(((

    1. Yes, it is a problem. When I worked in child protective services I always asked the pet owners if their pets were spayed/neutered, then told them of places they could go for free or reduced cost services.

      1. I offered one of our neighbors to take the cat with me when we visit the vet and to pay the bill… he said it’s not worth it… some people are just …arrrgh!

      2. he waits for this men to sue them…. think the whole court including all judges just works for the complaints of this guy… it’s such a pimpel on the butt a lot of town and villages have to bear :o(

  2. Usually you solve a problem by finding the source and stopping it before it becomes a problem, and that becomes a permanent solution. We fix the leaking drain, replace the broken window. But these “scientists” have never once discussed human abandonment of cats nor the need for affordable neutering programs as a way to control the numbers of homeless cats. They would rather snicker and blame it on a myth of deranged women, who are actually kind and compassionate. They would rather kill than heal. I don’t know how this book was published by a reputable university publisher.

    1. And I don’t know how he is the head of a division of the Smithsonian. But I did notice that one of his advocates is the jerk who wrote the article advocating killing cats that was published in the Orlando News Sentinel several years ago.

  3. I’d never seen the disregard for homeless cats to be a sex-bias issue, but I like your logic. After all, everyone knows that “real men” don’t like cats, etc. You make me proud that I’ve been an Allie Cat Allies supporter for several year and for taking in a stray cat I met a year and a half ago. He was so sick he was near death then, but he’s a strong healthy member of our household now! Thanks for making such great points today!

      1. And other women ridicule us too. Over two cats, and you’re crazy. Over two dogs, and you’re obviously organized and energetic.

  4. My Vet actually treats Strays for nothing,I do love my vet,they even try to discount where they can for those with limit incomes too,plus if you are on benefits there is the PDSA charity that give free treatment at the branches too,but that is in the UK.
    How ever this is something that makes me so proud of my Dad,he lives in the US and he has taken it upon himself to TNR the local strays where he can out of his own pocket and socialises any kittens and re homes them and if they need treament he does that too.Now he is a man to be proud of,xx Rachel and Speedy

  5. I would like to say that I am a white male who likes cats. I also like birds, and all animals for that matter. I think it is important to point out that bird populations tend to be self regulating unless influenced too much by human intervention.

    In other words, If there are too many birds in an area, the food supply will dwindle, causing less birds to be born or survive to maturity. If cats kill off a few birds, causing a shortage, the birth rate will increase. Typically, only humans kill off animals at a rate that they can’t recover.

  6. I have to concede I’m not a feline fan. I don’t care for their psychology, and besides, I’m actually allergic to them. I’d always suspected the latter, but it was formally confirmed 12 years ago after a visit to an allergy doctor. Nonetheless, I hate to see any animal suffer. One summer afternoon in the late 1980s, I decided to take a jog along a residential area behind my parents’ home. It has rained the day before, so it was very hot and humid. At one point, I thought I heard an odd sound coming from some bushy area, but I dismissed it. On my way back to the house, I heard it again, so I stopped to investigate. I could tell it was an animal noise and I soon discovered a tattered box of kittens amid some overgrown shrubbery. They were crying out for help. I picked up the box and returned home. I rinsed off and dried each kitten as best I could, thinking in just a few minutes, my eyes would start itching. They did, but not before I called local animal control. They came to retrieve the kittens.

    I couldn’t believe someone had actually done that: dumped a box of helpless baby animals into some bushes. If I remember right, there were four of them. They couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks old. Even though I’m not a cat person, I would definitely never hurt one deliberately.

    I’ve heard the “crazy cat lady” slur before, but then again, people who hoard animals have to be a little crazy. The animals often end up suffering at the hands of those otherwise well-meaning individuals. Still, I’ve said this before and I’ll say I again, I’d rather see a thousand drug addicts and sexually-irresponsible people die of AIDS (or any other disease, for that matter) than see just one animal suffer because of human neglect and abuse.

  7. I feel the same way. So many left to run. My sister in CA has a high feral cat populace but is unable to do anything herself as she works full time and is caretaker to our aging father. It wasn’t like that when I grew up. I just had to put to sleep our last cat of three a couple of weeks ago. They were all indoor cats and lived to be 18,16 and 17 yrs old. It is the first time in 21yrs there have been no cats. But I now have a 3yr old rescue dog and at 64yrs of age she is all I can handle. I love animals and all of mine, whether cats or dogs, have all been rescues. Thank you for your post.

    1. The place where I live now is the first place where I have not seen many free-roaming cats, though there is one neighbor whose cats remain mostly outdoors.

      1. Your site is an inspiration to everyone who either wants to be better pet keepers and an education for everyone on the importance of animal welfare everywhere.

  8. thanks for this statement so perfectly expressed…my husband is the cat lover…I am only a close second…not sure he wants other males to know that he is…he is not all the way trained! ha! I am so cattish now that I cannot live without my “kids”…and realize how special all cats are and can be with a bit of attention from somebody somewhere…your cautionary words are important…sharing! want a cooperative house guest for 10 to 20 years? adopt a kitty…they receive the wrong press….they are as capable of fidelity and respect extended to the human animal as dogs are…it becomes a circle of precious love…”mammals can peacefully co-exist”…and can tolerate birds and insects and reptiles and amphibians…and simply observe such from afar via a sunny window…problem solved! all life matters…swaggering males are however an abomination and must adjust…my only prayer. and “crazy cat ladies’ are angels in disguise…a much more accurate LABEL if there must constantly be LABELS?

    1. I agree. But the crazy cat lady thing was to degrade us. A woman who “can’t find a man” and instead lives with several cats usually gets the label because there must be something wrong with her. Hoarders? Yes, they are nuts. But not all animal caregivers are hoarders. And not all animal hoarders are women.

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