Cats are natural libertarians

Cats are natural libertarians

Cats are natural libertarians

July 30, 2015

There is reason to believe that cats are natural libertarians. I’m managed by four of them, and I speak from experience. They are all individuals and refuse to identify with groups.

I say managed, not owned, because while my cats make demands on me that I sometimes ignore, and I have no idea of their views on my new job as senator, my wife and I nonetheless devote a lot of time to meeting their needs.

Oliver (the one pictured) is the friendliest. He invariably approaches visitors who come to the door in the quest for pats or food and also because he is nosy. I’m told his stare is even more mesmeric than Julie Bishop’s.

Tiffy is a seal-point (dark points, cream fur) Birman, and the most regal. She’s colonised a corner of my desk and refuses to share it (or the bed) with the other three. A true princess in every sense, she is the only one we take to our farm. She roams calmly around the car and then turns kittenish when we arrive and she realises there are no other cats present.

Ratty and Mia are both common tabbies, making up in personality for what they lack in appearance. Ratty demonstrates his affection for my wife by sticking his cold wet nose in her ear, while Mia (aka “Fuggly” and “Fat Cat”) snores between the pillows at night and plays under the sheets during bed making.

Unlike many cat owners, my wife and I take our responsibilities seriously. Oliver, Tiffy, Ratty and Mia are all de-sexed and only allowed outside for short periods under direct supervision. We are very proud of the abundance of bird life visiting our garden in the inner suburbs of Sydney. At certain times of the year my wife feeds the lorikeets, kookaburras, magpies and an occasional kingfisher while our cats watch from a window, whiskers twitching.

One of the reasons Australia’s native fauna is in such dire straits – with many smaller species, like bilbies, coming close to extinction – is precisely because cats are very efficient hunters.

Wearing my veterinarian and conservationist hat for a moment, I would implore cat owners to desex them and keep them indoors. And if you are a hunter, consider adding feral cats to your list of targets along with foxes, rabbits and feral pigs. Cats are beautiful and enchanting animals, but devastating to Australia’s wildlife.

I’ve always liked Winston Churchill’s quip to the effect that dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, while pigs treat us as equals. When I was in veterinary practice long ago, I’d periodically make this observation to clients. It didn’t always go down well (my bedside manner, I suspect, left something to be desired).

But when George Orwell wrote in his novel Animal Farm that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”, he could just as easily have had cats in mind instead of pigs. Cats will accept being equal, but nothing less is acceptable. It’s very libertarian of them.