Jess Parsons

Jess Parsons

Posted April 1, 2011

Published in Animals

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The truth about cats and dogs (why not buy?)

Read More: animal cruelty, animal shelters, breeders, cats, dogs, donations, euthanasia, kittens and mother's milk, pet stores, pets, volunteers

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Our New Family Members

After sadly farewelling our longtime family pets in 2008, we were finally ready to welcome some new furry babies into the house.  We wanted our cats to be friends with each other and with our children, so we agreed that we wanted to find two sibling kittens who could grow up together.

Even better, we found two 11 week sibling kittens needing a home - along with their beautiful young mother! 

03 CatFamily.jpg

These kittens had been with their mother since birth and having the whole little family come to us meant that they settled in like a dream - in a real way, their home had come with them.

Mother's Milk

As a lactivist, I admit to being strongly swayed to adopt the mother as well when I learned that she was still feeding these, her last kittens.  We wanted our new kittens immediately and I would have felt guilty knowing that I was interrupting a natural weaning process.  Until then, I'd never thought how long mother cats would naturally feed their kittens.  Of course, too many kittens never have the chance to find out.  Our kittens' siblings had already been adopted away, being "old enough".

And to my satisfaction, this wonderful mother cat was soon settling in her kittens in the most natural way possible, and continued to do so until very recently.  The kittens are 5 months old, and the bigger one (always more of the mummy's boy :) seems as big as his mother now.   This was also valuable education for us and our children!

03 HeatherFeedingKittens.jpg

But the story doesn't stop with our household's new entertaining residents. 

There are too many cats and dogs looking for homes like ours than can ever find them.  They will die instead.

Animal Shelters

We found this charming cat family at Animal Rehoming, a labour of love for Linda Nunn and Paul Johnson.  They pay for food, vet bills, cat litter, etc out of their own earnings and any other voluntary donations.  The local vet is kind enough to reduce their charges so that Animal Rehoming's debts (and there are debts) don't spiral out of control.

Other local choices for us are the RNZSPCA and LonelyMiaow.  All of these organisations survive based on people who freely donate time and money and their homes to homeless animals.  And make no mistake, these animals are cute!

And sometimes there are happy endings like ours.  And sometimes there are not.

Killing them Kindly

Animals in shelters have an unquestionable advantage over farm animals - they have some hope of being adopted among friends.  When they are killed (as a majority are), it is genuinely humanely, unlike the travesty inflicted on farm animals.  However...

...approximately 3-4 million [dogs and cats] are euthanized each year ...

...It is widely accepted that 9.6 million animals are euthanized annually in the United States...

The American Humane Assocation's discussion of pet overpopulation is a must-read. 

And yet pet shops thrive.

Pet Shops

Pet shops make profits from their suppliers breeding even more dogs and cats.  Customers buying animals at pet shops make this insanity worthwhile.

Each animal purchased at a pet shop means that one similar animal left at a shelter will be euthanized.  The money spent to support pet shops and their animal suppliers takes more money from the pockets of committed volunteers who feed and house homeless animals for the sheer love of it, and the sheer horror of the scale of the animal population problem.

Pet shops (estimated)
New Zealand 250
USA 20,000
Australia 1250
England 3000

An Australian site discusses how shelters need to compete with pet shops -  I remain convinced that, as with so many problems, the answer lies with consumer choice and awareness.  Plenty of consumers now know that a clear conscience often comes at the price of convenience, and adopting an animal is no exception.

Good Breeding?

When we moved into a more affluent neighbourhood, I noticed right away:  not only are the cars newer, the houses bigger, and the gardens better tended, but the cats and dogs are recognisable breeds.  Obviously pet stores cater for this in a way that shelters can't.

Vanity pets might seem like a matter of personal taste.  But the vast pet overpopulation problem is only the start.  It is absurdly easy to find substantiated stories about animal cruelty in the pet breeding industry, just like any farming industry.

  • This one links to Iams pet food which may finally lead me to invest just that bit more on Ami or some other vegan petfood.
  • The ASPCA speaks out starkly on the topic of breeding cruelty.

Pet shops are big business because we animal lovers love our animals.  It is time to remember, again, that every dollar we spend is a vote for the organisation who gets it.