By BEN GRABOW
Scripps Howard News Service
April 25, 2005
Voters in Wisconsin are about to decide whether to classify the feral cat as an "unprotected animal," which would allow the cats to be hunted. The results of the vote don't really decide anything; votes are simply forwarded on to the state's board of Natural Resources for a later decision, but this is all beside the point.
The point being, people are actually voting to see if it's okay to hunt CATS. You know, whiskers, purring, wet nose... cats. Not lions, tigers, or bearcats. Regular cats.
The term "feral" cat includes domestic cats that are not under the control of their owners. This, basically, includes every cat in the history of catdom. Since the first cat crawled out of the primordial ooze and licked its butt, it was its own cat. It is a well established and widely known fact that cats, of course, own you.
But sadly, in Wisconsin, there are many cats out there with no one in particular to own. And the only conceivable solution to such a dilemma is to hand out the hunting rifles.
It would be even more outrageous if cat hunting weren't already LEGAL in South Dakota and Minnesota. The Dakotas are understandable; state legislatures are willing to endorse anything to keep people from moving out. (State Motto: Welcome to the Great Plains: Shoot anything you please!)
But Minnesota? What, is ice fishing not stimulating enough? It appears that in these northern states, wild and roaming cats have become nuisance animals, on par with raccoons and squirrels. Proponents claim that, if you can hunt raccoons and squirrels, and if raccoons and squirrels are nuisance animals, you should be able to hunt cats, too. Cold weather, it seems, has a certain strange effect on logic.
It would be one thing if cats were dangerous. If they mauled innocent hikers or destroyed cars on the highways, then hunting might be a viable option.
As editor and author Scott Dikkers has said, if your cat were big enough, it would kill and eat you. Your cat is, however, small, and dangerous only if you are threatened by fishy breath and a sandpapery tongue.
No, these cats are merely a nuisance - which is not to say that a horde of wild cats isn't a problem. Along with the potential for disease and the decimation of all wildlife smaller than a cat, there is the risk of cat vomit covering city streets. Hunting, however, is not the best solution to this problem.
For one thing, ESPN Outdoors probably isn't going to run a cat hunting segment. A Realtree or Mossy Oak sponsorship also seems unlikely.
Hunting as a means to control cat population is inefficient, inhumane, and, well, kind of evil. As any octogenarian game show host would tell you, it is worth the time, effort, and money to trap feral cats, spay or neuter them, and release them back into the wild.
Ultimately, the problem isn't stray cats - the problem is people. Feral cats are the result of pet owners who have abandoned their cats or neglected to have them fixed. And ultimately, people will decide how these wild cats are handled.
Until the results are in, cat lovers in Wisconsin can only hope that officials will take Bob Barker's perennial advice and let these animals live.
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