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In a tail twitch, feral cats could be fair game

April 19, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

A mist rises over a crisp, autumn hayfield. The boy, out on his first hunt, trembles ever so slightly as he levels his .410 at his prey.

"Careful son," the proud dad advises. "Make sure you get him with the first shot - there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded kitty."

Sadly, this wholesome scenario never will play out in Wisconsin, where officials have rejected recommendations by the state's Conservation Congress to allow cat hunting.

Apparently stray cats are causing a problem in the land of snowballs and cheese, and this Conservation Congress had an elegantly simple solution: Shoot them.

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This action was wildly applauded by headline writers ("Mee-ouch") and humor columnists across the nation, but gained a cooler reception elsewhere - except perhaps in West Virginia, whose legalization of eating roadkill law now seems, in retrospect, relatively sane. West Virginians have to be loving Wisconsin's humiliation: "The outcry! The ridicule! The fact that it isn't us!"

Writing in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, columnist Jim Stingl said: "The policy was favored by a vote of 6,830 to 5,201 at Conservation Congress meetings around the state this week. Such a prudent-sounding organization. I shudder to think what ideas would come from the Devastation Congress."

And sports talk-show host Jim Rome questioned the move, saying a cat head just wouldn't look right mounted on a plaque in the den between the moose and the caribou.

Even hunters didn't seem to be too excited over the potential thrill of sitting up in their cat stands at dawn, blowing on their hands and hoping that big ball of yarn they'd set out like a feline salt lick would attract some prize calicos. And no one's going to want to eat them, primarily because they don't have a slogan like, "Cat: It's What's for Dinner."

I suppose feral cats can cause a problem, but certainly no more so than feral lawyers, and no one is advocating shoo ... wait, best not give anyone any ideas.

Entrepreneurs already have stepped up to the cat dish. An Alaska man is marketing a "Wisconsin Domestic Cat Call." Apparently you blow on it or something and it goes: "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."

I'm sure it won't be long before there are cat creels and cat camouflage and special cat-hunter scents - spray it on and you smell like tuna fish.

Already, eBay has gotten into the act, with someone trying to sell a poster for the Cat Retaliation Army. And as we speak, I'm sure some aide for Sen. Mel Martinez is drafting up a memo suggesting ways in which the issue can be played to benefit Republicans.

Everyone has an individual take, or agenda. The spay/neuter commandos are parachuting down in brigade strength to say this is an issue of pet reproduction. At least one blogger is arguing that we, as a society, are unfairly moving in the direction of confining all cats indoors all of the time. The Audubon Society is weighing in on the implications for songbirds.

That's all well and good, but the one group we haven't heard from is the feral cats. We live in a "victim" society, but I think it's high time the feral cats stepped forward and accepted a little personal responsibility.

I'll be right up front and tell you that I'm a cat person. And strictly speaking, I have nothing against feral cats. I don't mind seeing them sprint darkly around the fringes of my property. I don't mind if they want to paw through my trash or eat my compost heap. But frankly, I am getting sick and tired of the fact that they all seem to have a really bad attitude.

Look cats, no one guaranteed life would be fair, OK? I know you don't enjoy the greatest of circumstances, but walking around with that chip on your shoulder isn't going to help anything.

Don't accept the occasional chicken bone that I toss you, and then act as if you're too good to have your ears scratched. If you want to be aloof, be aloof, but don't expect me to subsidize this behavior with table scraps.

At best, this group needs a good publicist. "Don't Fear the Feral" bumper stickers or "Alley Cats Do It Nightly" T-shirts, anything to give them a little humanity, and prevent more states from trying to create an Itchy and Scratchy situation.

Once they've made the effort to do a little image building, they can come back to me for support. Until then, I'm staying out of this catfight.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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