I am not an animal lover. There, I’ve said it, and condemn me if you will as hard hearted and unfeeling! By animals, I refer of course to the domestic pets variety, not kings of the jungle and other wild animals going about their daily business and, unless disturbed, little bother to man or fellow beast, with the obvious exception of a passing impala.
I can see an argument for working cats and dogs providing a useful service. Farmyard cats can keep vermin at bay, and big butch dogs can scare the living daylights out of unwelcome visitors. Guide dogs are top of everybody’s list, and hunting and shooting dogs return board and lodging with a long hard day in the field. But I part company with animal lovers where cats and dogs are kept simply as pets, lolling around the house all day long and doing absolutely nothing to justify their existence.
Against this background, my eye caught a report in my local newspaper of a couple who received a hefty fine and narrowly escaped imprisonment, for allowing their cats to starve to death. Apparently, they had bought them for breeding purposes, lost enthusiasm, and simply forgot all about them. On any view, an outrageous way to behave towards defenceless creatures.
I am told we are a nation of animal lovers, and judging by the popularity of Crufts Dog Show, for a small besotted minority this is probably right. And have you noticed the uncanny resemblance between owner and dog? Quite what Freud would have said on the subject makes the mind boggle.
But let’s examine the facts for a moment. I am reliably informed that dogs deposit approximately 30,000 tons of faeces each year on the highways and byways of this sceptred isle, and there’s a good chance that all of us, at one time or another, have unwittingly taken home a deposit or two on the bottom of our shoes. They yap, they crap, they pee, and they eat you out of house and home.
Cats, needless to say, confine their deposits to our favourite flower beds, and whilst they have the good grace to bury their faeces after evacuation, it’s an unwelcome discovery when you’re pricking out your new bedding plants.
For those who buy cats and dogs as pets, and often without thinking through the consequences, the problem arises when the love goes out of the relationship, and they become an encumbrance. It happens, and all those glib car stickers reminding us that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, may prick our conscience but it doesn’t provide a solution.
And that was the problem for the couple who were convicted of cruelty to their cats. Unwanted pets are nigh on impossible to rehouse, as new homes are few and far between. Give your cat to somebody living two hundred miles away, and there’s an odds on chance the ungrateful moggy will turn up on your doorstep within the week. To resolve this problem, the Chinese eat them, which to our western palates is unattractive. Anglo Saxons struggle enough as it is to stomach horse meat dressed as fillet steak in some of the finest French restaurants, but to add fricassee de pussy au gratin to the menu would be a step too far. Mark you, with frogs and snails on the menu, not to mention oysters, the sewage sifters of the seabed, I suppose it’s simply a matter of time.
For those who crave the companionship of pet cats and dogs, there’s a thriving market in very realistic look-alike toys. For the cost of two Duracell batteries, these toy pets will walk, talk, yap, purr and even wag their tails. And when you grow tired of them, you can dump them unceremoniously in the bin without fear of prosecution and the disapprobation of polite society. And the best part of all is that they don’t crap and pee all over the place, although with the ingenuity of these toy manufacturers, I suppose that too is simply a matter of time.