Cats make wonderful pets. They can be left at home all day, relatively peacefully. They fit into your couch potato lifestyle, most of the time. They like a snuggle. They aren’t noisy. It’s no wonder they are now the no.1 pet in many countries around the world.
Just not Australia.
Down under cats
Of all the diverse fauna that inhabit this wonderful continent, cats are probably the one that people (some people) despise most. Well, perhaps foxes and rabbits are up high in the detestability charts too. Here’s why…
Cats are hunters. That is their nature and that is their behaviour when it is nurtured i.e. allowed to happen. Whether they are the real decimators of wildlife is debatable. More likely they just finish off the job that humans have started – chopping down bushland, effectively sealing our native wildlife into small pockets of bush where cats are attracted to hunt. It is possible not to let cats hunt by keeping them indoors or by only allowing them in enclosed outdoors areas.
Unowned cats. Australia, like most other countries, has a problem with unowned cats. They may be feral, they may be stray or they may be cats that someone is feeding but not taking ownership responsibility. This is common and another reason that cats are commonly frowned upon as pets. Australian welfare agencies and animal shelters such as the Animal Welfare League are attempting to diminish the numbers of unowned cats.
Every man, his ute and his best mate. No disrespect to the Aussie bloke and his dog. Things have moved on these days, however. The working dog no longer rules the Aussie bush and backyard. Now the most common dog is more likely to be a designer mixed breed, fluffy/scruffy (but not shedding hair) and under 10kgs. An animal that – dare I say it – is beginning to resemble a cat!
Cats are different
Arguments such as “but a cat does not give you the affection that a dog does” tend to come from people who have never owned or lived with a cat. Yes, you do have to try harder with your precious pussycat. Dogs follow you, hanging off your every move and word. Cats tend to keep a watchful eye until you sit down, then they home in on your lap and don’t let you ignore them. Unless the cat is yours, you are unlikely to have the full affectionate and bonding behavioural repertoire (unlike your dog who will more than likely lick and slobber over any visitor who gives him attention – or food!).
Time, I believe, for a change. Time that our feline friends are not only recognised for their ability to fulfil our human needs for companionship and adulation, but promoted as being a more-than-suitable pet for our busy, increasingly urbanised lifestyles.
If I can be a catalyst to encouraging prospective cat owners to give a cat a go, then I shall be a happy animal behaviourist. Or perhaps I can convince an already established cat household to add a second feline family member. We have a long cat journey to go on if we expect cats to join the US and the UK in cats occupying the ‘favourite pet’ niche but it is one that am willing to begin – small pawprints at the start.
Let me know if you’d like to join me (please leave a message of support for cats below). If we get lots of interest, we can start making life better for cats 🙂