29 December 2007

What's New, Pussycat?

Cats of various types have been in news lately.

Feral kitty cats have been recruited to clear Los Angeles police stations of rodent pests. This approach has been successful at several other locations, including the LA Flower Market. Installing cats as a deterrent to pest infestation is being hailed as a safe, humane, natural, and environmentally friendly method for removing rats and mice, as opposed to traps, glue, poisons, etc. Furthermore, shelters are eager to offer viable candidates for the program, as it moves cats from their facilities and prevents them from having to put the cats down. For their part, the cats (who are fixed, microchipped, and treated by a vet when selected for the program) gain a safe place to live out their lives, somewhat naturally, being cared for but with a minimum of human interaction.
Read more about the Working Cats program here.

We have all heard that a Siberian tiger somehow escaped from her enclosure and killed a zoo visitor in San Francisco. The questions on a lot of people's minds have been things like, "How could this happen? Why?!" I wouldn't venture to answer the "how" question, especially with the police investigation still underway. But the answer to the "why" question is obvious: Tigers (and all cats, really) are powerful, lethal predators. They are natural, elegant killing machines. While humans are not their preferred food, tigers can easily overpower and slaughter even an armed person. When provided with opportunity and motivation, a tiger will attack. IT'S WHAT THEY DO. I've always felt safe in zoos and animal parks, but I have never failed to respect the instincts and abilities of cats, big and small. Lions and tigers, and other wild animals, do not actually belong in concrete and wire enclosures, being gawked at by locals, far away from their natural habitats. Have we gone too far in trying to assert our dominance as humans over the rest of the creation? I wonder if this will prompt all of us to re-examine our relationships with the physical world in general, and foster changes in our attitudes toward our roles as stewards.


Willow said...

Yes, Working Cats is a good thing. Let's put those feral cats to work and get them off the dole.

luminarumbra said...

We have quite a few working cats at Major California Theme Park. I got to meet one of them the other day. They are usually fine with the workers, but hate the guests.

I'd be more against zoos if their sole purpose was to parade animals around for us to gawk at them, but many are involved in international breeding programs aimed at keeping the species alive and in decent numbers in the wild. Unfortunately, not every place is an animal park, though.

Kiti said...

I certainly understand that there is a lot of scientific research that goes on in zoos, animal parks, etc. I am questioning the attitude of hubris, that we can keep these creatures under our control in the territory in which we choose to confine them; then we are utterly horrified when something goes wrong, because it reveals to us that we really aren't in control, after all. A tiger isn't going to be convinced to be docile just because you politely explain that her participation is required in an attempt to preserve her endangered species.

Kiti said...

Oh, and I forgot to add, from the perspective of scientific research: Zoos are actually the least natural and thus least effective settings for research, anyway. You mentioned animal parks, and I agree that those are much better settings, while the most ideal setting is observing animals in the wild.

I guess my real question is: What is the proper relationship that we, as humans, should have with creation and the physical world? And that is a huge question, with this issue being only a small facet.