Few people will challenge the notion that Maine, like pretty much everywhere else in this fine country of ours, has a cat problem
. Go to any shelter from Kittery to Fort Kent and while you may only find a handful of dogs looking for a loving home
, you'll practically be overcome by the number - and, sometimes, the smell - of cats reaching for you and plaintively calling out for you to whisk them away.
There are many reasons for this proliferation of cats, but the big one is that cats seem to be rivaled only by rabbits in their tremendous ability to procreate. I'm not sure if it's the fine air here in Vacationland or cats' natural comely ways, but all an un-spayed or un-neutered feline seems to need is a few minutes outdoors before the kittens show up. And while Mainers acknowledge that the cat crisis shows no sign of abating, we're not doing much about it. Maine law requires dogs to be under voice control at all times that they're off an owner's property, yet it gives cats free reign of the countryside, city streets, and everything in between. In addition to turning the great outdoors into a feline bordello, such freedom also teaches cats that yards are actually great big litter boxes.
One fellow up in Bangor has had enough. He's put a baited trap in his yard
and says any cat he catches on his property will be brought to the Bangor Humane Society. His neighbors are up in arms and plead for him to do what's "right" rather than what the law allows him to do.
I've had cats all my life, and they've all lived to a ripe old age. I'd say they've all had wonderful lives, if their constant purring and seemingly incurable ability to sleep on my head is any indication. The thing is, my cats have never been outside, other than perhaps a panicked moment or two on the front porch when one of the kids leaves the screen door open. Have their lives been less satisfying because of not being allowed to wander the neighborhood? If so, that mistreatment has been more than compensated by the many extra years they've been fed, cuddled, and pet as a result of not ending up under someone's tires or as an appetizer for a fisher or even a bully domestic cat. One study indicated that an outdoor cat's life expectancy is two years, versus twelve for an indoor cat.
Trapping someone's beloved pet when they wander onto your property doesn't seem all that friendly, but then again neither is assuming your cat is as welcome at your neighbor's house as she is at home. If you truly care about the happiness of these living creatures, wouldn't the "right" thing be to keep your cat safe by restricting it to indoors, or at least making absolutely sure that the neighborhood wants it wandering around? For many people, pets are like children - would you want your children wandering around the streets aimlessly? If so, we have much more than a cat problem on our hands.
JOSHUA F. MOORE
Deputy Editor, feline pillow