I’m working on my book about cat rescue, and one of the recurring themes is “Why do people rescue cats?” (Or dogs, but the undercurrent is, why do people “bother” to help animals at all?)
And I guess there’s a cynical answer, and a real answer – I’m just not sure which is which.
On the one hand, Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” For those who reject Eastern wisdom, from the Bible it sounds like “What you do for the least of these my brethren you do for me” except some people will tell you Jesus was only talking about humans. You can also quote Martin Luther King, Jr: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” In other words, do it because the powerless need defending, and because in defending the powerless we become blessed/empowered/alive/real.
That’s one answer. The other is, when everything around you is sliding out of control, if you only have something small in front of you that you can do to alleviate suffering, you should do it. Whatever it is. I can call DC and register my concerns, but I can’t single-handedly stop anything. Most of any “social justice activism” lifestyle comes down to adding our voices to a larger pot, not being a soloist hero.
When a cat is in front of you, and it’s sick or pregnant or cold, you can pick it up and take it to the vet. (Yeah yeah, nobody has any money; there’s more than one way to pay for a cat.) And it won’t suffer needlessly.
The world is going crazy. Kids have cancer. People hate each other. So I’m rescuing cats while Rome burns. Yeah. Okay. I’ll take it. It’s what’s in front of me, and I know how to do it. It makes a difference to the cat and the cat’s new family; if that’s all the good that comes of this action, fair enough.
That said, petting a cat lowers your blood pressure (assuming you are not allergic, of course) so it’s not all about giving. Watching cats play is better than watching TV. Especially these days.
I’m not an ostrich with my head in the sand; nor am I numb. I’m making those phone calls and keeping up with relevant news. But the biggest small changes I can effect these days are fur-bearing. I’m downy with that.
In a sort of related comment, the mystery community occasionally discusses the question of why people get so upset when an animal is killed in a book. More than one author has pointed out (usually with an air of disgust) that it’s a fictional animal in a mystery where people are dying but readers only get upset about the animal. My short answer is that while most of us are fortunate enough not to have known a murder victim or the family, most animal lovers have seen animal abuse. Animal lovers in particular respond strongly to such depictions because that is more real to us; we’ve seen it. And some of the better people have tried to do something about it, one on one, case by case.
I’m not a big fan of violent movies, but I am a reasonably big fan of Jean Reno and Natalie Portman and I loved “Leon: The Professional,” in which Reno played Leon, a paid assassin, and Portman played Mathilda, a young adolescent in a bad situation. Despite the darkness and murders of many people, love prevailed in this film and Leon, a seemingly cold-blooded killer, had a moral code: “No women, no children.” I’m guessing he would have included animals had this been an issue along the way, but I really can’t know that.
We do what we can. Sometimes that’s letting innocent lives escape torture and murder, even though their family members may be blown away in front of their eyes. Sometimes it’s taking over the care of something that cannot care for itself, animal or human. In my book, life is life, animal, vegetable and perhaps mineral, which is what all that animal and vegetable life is made of anyway.
Cats are fortunate to be enjoying a heyday of rescue efforts these days. I know of several rescue programs in my area and elsewhere, and I am thankful that cats are benefiting from all the care. So much needs rescuing in the world, most of it not nearly as cute as cats.
Actually, I love that movie too. :]
Thank you, Wendy, for your message today. In our crazy world today, it helped put in perspective what we can do as individuals. I salute you for all the fur babies that you’ve rescued. I may be in to check out the rescue kitties in the next few months. We loss our 17-year-old rescue a week ago. I need to mourn her death.
Oh I’m so sorry! Yes when you’re ready, come see our babies.
Amen. I got my first two rescue cats (siblings) because *I* needed something alive in my house, a being that would respond only positively. They brought me calm, joy, and laughter. One died, I adopted another; the second sibling died and a fourth kitten in need of a home was offered. When I die, I want to be transmogrified into a cat who lives with someone just like me.
I know everyone has heard this story. Wendy, your comments today reminded me. I’ll paraphrase:
A young boy and his grandfather were walking on the beach. A big storm had come in the day before and there were thousands of sand-dollars stranded in the sand. They were starting to die.
As they walked, the grandfather would stop from time to time, pick up a sand dollar, and throw it back into the ocean. Finally, the little boy asked, “Grandfather, why are you throwing them back in?” His grandfather replied, “So that they will live.”
The little boy thought for a minute and said, “But grandfather, there are so many of them! What possible difference can it make?” The grandfather reached down , tossed another one back into the ocean. “It makes a difference to that one.”
Sometimes one of the Appalachian Feline Friends members just says “Starfish” and we all nod.
Cats also protect us from rodents and rodent-borne diseases. If I hadn’t reversed my parents’ misguided 1970s anti-cat policy upon inheriting the house, I might not have a home today.
And cats also bug the daylights out of control freaks…which is a good thing! It helps us identify the latent sociopaths out there, so we can avoid them. Never trust anyone who can’t keep a cat.
Plus…you’ve seen the combination of animals, books, and music get GMcD and me to walk in together and act like cousins, haven’t you? 🙂 Tell your left-wing friends that! There *are* things that bridge the gaps when it’s necessary to hammer out political differences, really hammer them on a red-hot forge…
I don’t like Trump; I do like some left-wingers; I feel the left-wingers’ pain, to some extent. But I have watched a small group of people start out in direct opposition to each other, work through the hostilities, and find a middle ground from which progress was possible in a direction that people from both sides were able to like. In a democratic multi-party system, those soft, nonpartisan, comfortable things that allow us to cool down are a crucial part of that process.
Left-wingers can’t just float along assuming that everyone agrees with them–that’s not true. They can’t just bully everyone into pretending to agree with them, Mussolini/Stalin/Hussein fashion–that’s not a sustainable way to run a country. They have to face reality and learn.
Very well said! Love your compassion and passion!