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The Furry Weather Report: Animal Rights

I haven't posted a furry weather report in quite a while, as the entries would have been quite monotonously the same. "Hot, dry, dusty." It was an unusually long, dry summer here in wine country, though it was good for the grape harvest. Not perfect, but it should be a good year for wines made in Sonoma County.

However, the past month has been a different matter. The winter storms have swept in with vigor. It has been raining off and on all week, and yesterday and today the storm picked up strength. The weather person on the radio last night gave a coastal storm warning, predicting twelve-foot waves, and warned of downed branches and power outages.

Today, as predicted, it is storming hard, with a strong wind and rain coming down so thickly that sometimes the fence in my back yard, a mere sixteen feet from my back patio door, is partially obscured. I love the wild energy of rainstorms, and consider them to be one of nature's ways of pruning trees. Though I have heard today that not just branches, but entire trees are down, and the Russian River, not normally due to flood this early, has overridden its banks and is flowing in some new directions today.

And the cats, like the tide, are in for the winter, cuddled companionably about in various cozy, warm places, such as the baskets around and on top of my desk.

(As I am typing, Merlin, my large Maine Coon-like cat, has crammed his furry and warm 16 pounds of bone and muscle onto my desk between me and my keyboard, and is sound asleep with his head resting on my left arm. This is an arrangement he and I have worked out whereby he gets the cuddling he loves and I am not totally bereft of my computer. It works particularly well with the ergonomic keyboard I use, a rather space-age one I purchased to prevent repetitive stress injuries.)

Even Marigold, my sometime cat, who as often as not had spent her life, until this year, elsewhere, has taken to coming in from the outside, soaked, then swarming up onto my chest and using me as a comfy drying pad and place to sleep. She turns around a time or two, purring, then crams herself under my chin, her back to my neck, stretching her front legs and chin out over my shoulder, then falls asleep. Eats right into my productivity, that it does, but I don't mind. A sleepy, purring cat is a treasure beyond price. The trust it shows, and the love, are heartwarming.

Funny thing about Marigold. Once my former partner moved out at the end of February this year, she very quickly started hanging out around home. She was born and raised here, but as soon as she was an adult, she would take off for days at a time. I suspected that she had another home somewhere, though she is also an excellent huntress and has brought home rats beyond number--sometimes quite big ones--which she kills and neatly eats. Good cat. (Rodents are a bit of a problem in this city.)

So she is quite capable of caring for herself. And she clearly doesn't mind any kind of weather--at least, the kind of weather we have here, which admittedly is not that severe. Her fur is plush and dense, and keeps even the heaviest rain from penetrating to the skin. Since we saw so little of her, I figured she just didn't like us very much.

Turns out I was partially right, except there was only one person she didn't like, and he is now gone. So now she spends much more of her time around home, even sitting on my lap or snuggling with me in bed, which she never used to do. Since she is also my most psychic and aware cat, it makes me wonder what it was that she sensed or knew that I did not. No matter now, as the point is moot, but I am very glad she has decided to be more a member of the family. She is a beautiful and loving cat, very much her own being, very much one who chooses to stay with us.

Which leads me to another, more serious subject: PETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA and Pets

I am totally for treating all life with loving honor and respect. I have a hard time causing harm to anything, though sometimes life requires it. (The very microbes that invade my body, bent on perpetuating their own lives at my expense, are swiftly dispatched--that's a fancy word for "killed"--by my immune system.)

However, I also believe that all living things are intelligent to some degree and that they therefore make their own choices, and that is where I diverge from the beliefs of some members of PETA.

I received email some years ago from a member of PETA who told me that my keeping cats was cruel, and that PETA does not believe in keeping animals of any sort, including pets, because pets are prisoners who have no choice but to be our slaves. By her standards, I should not keep or condone the keeping of pets, and should "let" all my cats free. (I had to laugh at that. One day, perhaps, my cats may let me free.)

I would like to think that this is not PETA's official stance, but instead is just representative of the beliefs of some members. (Though I have heard this stance taken by other members of PETA as well.) I do understand that people who believe that sort of thing truly think they are speaking on behalf of and in the interest of the animals, but I respectfully disagree, since I have different core beliefs about animals--heck, about all of life.

My cats choose to stay with me--I do not confine them to the house, though I know there are some who disagree with this choice, as well, and claim that allowing my cats to come and go at their own will is likewise cruel, because of all the dangers they face. Yet again, we return to my belief that my animals are intelligent and aware. If one dies, it is, just as with humans, because it chose to die. Keeping a cat indoors would only make it miserable and unhappy, and more a prisoner than a respected and beloved companion.

Mind you, I think PETA is doing a great service for animals and humans everywhere in documenting and fighting animal abuses and the use of animals for testing and "scientific" purposes, and in exposing so-called "environmental" organizations for their poor attitudes toward animals.

However, if someone wants to take my cats away, thinking that he or she is able to treat my cats more kindly than I, then that person is overlooking the fact that my cats and I know and love each other in all our idiosyncratic glory, and it would be cruel beyond speaking to remove them from their home and "release" them into the wild somewhere to fend for themselves. Anyone with that idea will remove my cats from my house over my empty .45.

I will continue this thought in a post on self-defense at a later time.

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