All right all right, so I’ve done it again. Got a new cat, in spite of all the arguments against it. Is that wise? Is it ethical? Is it even safe? Watch me torture myself in public over this decision.
Introductions first. Her name is Ursula, which slid into place merely because it means “little bear” and she is rather teddy-bearish in shape and texture. Breed: British shorthair, and colour: chocolate. She is almost four months old.
Is it ethical to own a cat at all?
This is a hot argument in New Zealand at present. Feral cats and domestic cats eat native birds by the ton. They also eat rats and mice, which eat native birds.
This argument is easy to deal with in the case of Ursula. I live in an apartment, second floor. The boundary of her estate is a deck, and if she is feeling energetic, a dangerous rooftop. Not a habitat of native birds. If the occasional sparrow flies down Ursula’s throat, they knew the risk. Should have listened to Mummy Sparrow.
Ursula can never roam, not even into the neighbour’s garden, and this will not frustrate her in the slightest. That’s why I chose a British shorthair. The polar opposite of Burmese or Siamese, their idea of fun is lolling around the house all day. At present we are teaching her how to play. Teaching her! And she’s a kitten!
Is it wise for an older person to own a cat?
Arguments against (wild generalisations):
- Many old people trip over their cats and break a hip. I am very sorry to hear that, and I do see the risk.
- Cats can spread a parasite that causes dementia in the elderly. (But not, I think, a hermit cat bought from a reputable breeder.)
- They smell. Yes, they do! And some people, including dear friends of mine, are allergic to cats.
- Keeping a cat costs money, especially when the vet’s bills roll in. And I’m on an economy kick, planning for when my business income drops away one day. To own a cat is crazy!
Arguments in favour (brutally paraphrased):
- Stroking animals lowers blood pressure and makes people happy. I don’t have high blood pressure and I’m not lonely or depressed but hey, why not?
- Heart attack victims who have pets survive longer than those without pets. Be prepared!
- I’m trying to get used to the idea of being old. So I’m embracing the stereotype: old ladies have cats.
- Having responsibility for an animal is a factor in keeping older people alive as well as happy. Beat that! End of story!
Afterthoughts that are really my core reasons:
- Pure pleasure and amusement.
- Aesthetic buzz: beauty in motion.
- Companionship. Hey there pal!
- The mysterious sense of another living spirit in my space.