Five Peas in a Pod

The position of cats in South Africa: a little perspective

The following is one hundred percent my opinion. I accept that not everyone shares these views, but following the segment by Carte Blanche, I do feel the need to share. The segment named ‘Cat Cams‘ (the originally planned title was far more insidious) is largely based on this study by the University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers, in collaboration with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Let me start by saying this:

I don’t support domestic pets catching wildlife for fun (cats are not the only perpetrators). I don’t agree with it and do my best to prevent my cats from catching birds, mice, and other creatures. I think catios are great. I think having an indoor-only cat is great. I think letting your cat out at night is irresponsible. I think letting your cat roam is irresponsible. I understand that cats are obligate carnivores and that they should be fed a high protein diet. I am aware that most foods marketed for cats are not actually suitable to fill their dietary requirements.

But beyond all of these beliefs, I am abundantly aware of and sensitive to context.

I am deeply disturbed by the segment ‘Kitty Cams’ released by Carte Blanche and am exceptionally concerned about the potential repercussions this may have on an already unpopular animal in South Africa.

How a study that takes place just in the Western Cape, which is perhaps the country’s wealthiest province, of just a fraction of our domestic cat population can even attempt to be an accurate portrayal of the behaviour of cats in South Africa is beyond me.

This study and story is at best willfully ignorant and absolutely reeks of privilege.

The majority of South African pet owners cannot afford to build a catio. They cannot afford the best food on the market or to feed raw. They require welfare assistance to have their pets sterilised and seen to medically.

And perhaps most importantly, a huge number of this country’s cats are feral or stray. They catch the wildlife to survive. They cannot be made indoor cats as they have no home.

Cats already have a negative stigma attached to them in this country and the last thing we need is for people to have an added excuse to abuse or kill them ‘for the sake of the wildlife’. This segment has given the ‘humanely euthanise the ferals’ crusaders far too much fuel to add to their fire.

Placing the blame on cats for this issue is the epitome of irresponsible journalism (I have a degree in journalism just for the record). This has always been a human-created issue and the underlying causes and background were not adequately discussed. Anneke Malan, of Cats of South Africa, was only given an interview after the feral rescuers of South Africa tried to reason with Carte Blanche regarding the airing of this segment. It seems that the compromise was a half-hearted afterthought and it shows.

People are responsible for diminished wildlife in South Africa. People are responsible for the out of control feral population.

And some of us are trying our best to help. This was touched on but was not sufficiently explored.

I will end this post with just a few of my own experiences of mistreated cats and kittens. Please read the captions and let me know if you think the cats of South Africa can handle any additional negative press.

And if you’re feeling depressed after those pics, here are some happy updates. Unfortunately little Finley did not make it.

1 Comment found

  • Thank you for sharing a broader perspective on this subject, one that Carte Blanche clearly failed at – a complete afterthought just like you said. This is merely my opinion but one I think many in the pet community will share. This study in question has many extremely important variables that have not yet been explored and publishing it without making adequate efforts & mentions for the study to be furthered would be irresponsible & quite frankly speak to the ignorance of the researchers. These researchers should be taking into consideration the harm their study can and likely will cause for the feline species and taking action in speaking up about it. They had a platform and an opportunity to truly advocate for cats and responsible pet ownership here but instead took a disappointing angle and turned it into a complete waste of air time.

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