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Gopher Gulch: Eventually, society will let the cat in

Sometimes age and wisdom are considered synonymous. I hate to burst your bubble, but living a long time doesn’t make you wise. It makes you old. Nevertheless, appearing wise is easier for the old simply because we’ve seen it all before. It’s easy to seem wise when you’ve watched the same cycle half a dozen times and have no reason to believe it won’t continue. Thus it is with the cycle of personal responsibility.

In the 1950s, virtually all adults smoked and even nice people tossed empty cigarette packs from car windows. Pregnant couples celebrated with cocktails and children bounced around cars like acrobats. Many women and children wore constant bruises and no one asked any questions. All dogs and a good many cattle ran loose. Del Norte County had one vet and he treated only farm animals.

Today that sounds insane, and it was, but many of us survived. In the 1960s our children taught us not to litter, having learned about it at school. We learned what alcohol can do to the unborn and what being an unguided missile can do to a child. We learned it wasn’t acceptable to beat women and children, and that owning domestic animals carried with it certain responsibilities.

Because of those changes we now live in a different world. And the beat goes on. But there's always the “realist,” the fella who heaves a sigh of discouragement and says nothing will change. I was talking with such a man recently, and I see a change coming that he doesn’t believe is possible. So I’ll lay it out and you can watch what happens over the next few years.

I think that cats will become valued family members, just as dogs have. I think they’ll be indoor pets, which will improve not only their lives but that of small wild critters. Unless you’ve been homeless, you can’t imagine how hard it is to be constantly on guard against attack, even in your sleep. The outdoor cat can never, ever truly relax.

They’re constantly fleeing dogs, vehicles, people and each other. Outdoors, raccoons, coyotes and even hawks hunt them. Some are fed on back porches, but their diet is mostly garbage, birds and rodents. They’ve decimated songbird and ground squirrel populations. Unneutered males fight to mate and most males have frequent festering wounds, while the females bear kittens they can neither feed nor protect. Many have ear mites that cause deafness, making it even harder to survive.

Indoor cats are more affectionate and live longer, healthier and much happier lives. If we’re going to have cats, we need to be responsible beyond simply not using them as crab pot bait.

If I’m wrong about this, it ain’t the first time. Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise, it won’t be my last opportunity to be wrong. If I’m right, feel free to call me wise and I’ll do my best to live up to it.

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