Sunday, November 21, 2004

Who Owns Who?

Humans who live with cats have traditionally referred to themselves as "cat owners," but lately I've seen a lot of people say they are "owned by cats." There's a group called "In Defense of Animals" who have come out strongly against the concept of pet ownership.

In this article, IDA writes:

Language is important because the way the law defines relationships influences the way people think and act towards those relationships. Throughout history, the law has defined animals as "property" rather than "persons." While it is technically true that animals are not "persons," neither are corporations, ships or municipalities. And yet, the law considers all of those entities "persons" for the purpose of granting some legal rights and protections. For example, a cruise liner does not have the right to vote, but it does have the right to sue on its own behalf if it suffers a financial or other injury.

The "We are Not their Owners" campaign is intended as a first step toward recognizing that "owning" an animal is inherently different than owning other forms of property such as a car or a pencil. The goal is that the use of the word "guardian" will encourage people who are responsible for animals to take that responsibility more seriously. It will also hopefully, eventually, grant animals some legal rights and protections of their own.

On the other hand, in "What's Wrong with Owning Pet Cats,"'s Franny Syufy argues that the concept of ownership is mutual, between cat and human.

I'm not sure about the semantics here, but I will say this: I consider myself a cat guardian, not a pet owner. If I'm talking to people I might refer to myself as a "pet owner" out of habit or just because I'm not trying to make a radical statement. I just know that "my" cats are not my property.

My boys were adopted and we had to go through a screening process to get them. We didn't "buy" them, but rather gave an adoption fee to cover some of the costs the shelter had spent in caring for them. They are family members now, but they're not just here for our amusement. They're living creatures whom my fiance and I have chosen to share our lives with.

I know they're not human beings, but they are living beings and their lives are special and unique. Liz and I have dedicated ourselves to giving them the best lives we can. In practical terms, that means:

  • Giving them the best quality food we can reasonably afford
  • Getting them the best health care we can
  • Cat-proofing our home, even though it may inconvenience us in a big way
  • Planning our schedule around their schedule (feedings, vet visits, medicine time)
  • Playing with them and spending bonding time with them, even when we get busy
  • Always treating them like an important part of our family, even after we have human children

Am I wacky for feeling this way? I'll leave that up to you to decide, but I don't believe in doing things in half measures. When I decided I was ready to adopt cats, I knew it would be a big change in my life and so far it has been.


Anonymous said...

Wacky? I wish more people were your kind of wacky! WE say we are owned by our cats, but for all those reasons YOU mentioned. We adjust our lives around our cats. It all seems so logical - so humane - so right - to treat all living things in our care with love and respect. Welcome to our club - we're glad to have you!


Anonymous said...

Cats are great, they really enrich our lives. for a different view of human/feline relationships check out Mark Mason found his cat's diary and writes exerpts from it every week as his cat Chance describes his thoughts on the human race/slaves that live with him in his house. Be sure to check out the picture page and look at the entries for the hall of fame, cat in closet is my favorite.
you can see pictures of one of my cats, PC, and my wife's sister's cat Scaredy Cat on my webshots picture page in the columbia river adventure and PC's album
John McCann