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.
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.
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.
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.