Ethics and Breeding Cats
The other day, a woman told me that I should not breed Egyptian Mau cats because stray cats needed homes. When we use the word "should," we are incorporating ethics (ethos) into our argument. What is ethics? Ethics is the idea that some actions are wrong while others are right. As a Christian, I am a firm believer in absolute truth (the idea that universally there is a right and wrong - good and evil); however, while I agree that allowing cats to breed indiscriminately and leaving kittens to fend for themselves in the wild is certainly a cruelty to animals and some breeding facilities are no better, I have a hard time believing that God has a problem with our CFA and TICA registered cattery breeding a litter of kittens a year to provide excellent companions. We actually lose money in the process, but we gain tremendous joy from having kittens in our home from time to time, and since heath issues and volunteer commitments prevent any real vacations, the time and energy spent working with our cats is our way of releasing stress and taking a "break" from the troubles of the world.
Why is Breeding Purebred Cats not an Ethical Issue?
From an ethical point-of-view, we must agree that animals are less important than people. While we love and provide care for our shelter-rescue cats, our two Egyptian Maus are much better companion animals. While our shelter-rescues are sweet, they require care for life-long health issues, and their poor care as small kittens did not socialize them well-enough or provide the stimulation and nutrition to develop the intellectual capacity to somehow predict what my husband and I want them to do as our Maus do. Yes, there are plenty of qualitative, anecdotal stories of rescues with excellent health and amazing intelligence; however, from a quantitative, statistical analysis, I doubt this is the case. After all, when we were looking at sighted-eye dogs, we saw Labs and German Shepherds - no Chihuahuas. To argue that breed does not affect personality would be ineffective. Interestingly, no one complained that taking a German Shepherd as a sighted guide, we were keeping a stray dog from having a home! In the end, we decided not to have a canine helper, but our Egyptian Maus are a greater comfort to us than our rescue kitties, and we believe their kittens will provide the same joy and comfort to others.
Why Take a Stray Cat when Children Need Homes?
Note: This next section is purely satire to show the lack of logic in bashing cat breeders - do not take it literally!
If we are in agreement that people are more important to animals, then, one could argue that meeting the needs of other humans should be prioritized. That said, even though there are many, many children in foster care, one rarely feels the need to judge a family for procreating instead of simply adopting one of the children who need homes. Why not bash all pictures of babies for taking the place of a foster child? If we feel the need to proactively censor the actions of others because we believe we have a higher ethical standard than someone else, why focus on cats, when humans are more important?
Added to the fact that we continue to produce children when other children need homes, should we utilize time in animal shelters, when people are in need? While providing food and shelter for animals is a good thing to do, wouldn't providing for the basic needs of children be a far more ethical choice? If we want to argue ethics, should the people who volunteer in animal shelters (which - by the way - I respect, appreciate, and support financially - this piece is satire, so don't take it literally), start volunteering in human shelters or feeding programs instead? Shouldn't we make ugly comments on all animal shelter websites about how they are wasting the world's precious resources on animals instead of people? (Remember, this is satire)
Back to Being Serious - Can a Person be Ethical and Still Breed Cats?
As an ethical person (apart from my Christian religion since we are focusing on breeding cats, not Jesus, in this particular blog), I donate my ENTIRE summer to coordinating the feeding program where children come to eat for free at a park; help to coordinate the snack pack program throughout the school year; coordinate and help deliver food for the mobile food bank 4 times a year; coordinate and help deliver food when local organizations have a meal with leftovers throughout the year; help with Thanksgiving food delivery; and coordinate and deliver gifts for about 100 children every year. I also teach in a poor, rural school, where my per hour income is less than my prior occupation. I'm not listing these efforts to brag; instead, I'm arguing from an ethical point-of-view that if we want to change the behavior of others using ethos, we should probably not be focusing on breeding pure-bred cats in a very humane and loving environment to provide excellent companions for families. Once ethics has been brought into the conversation, you should first examine yourself to see if your own choices are ethical before deciding to judge the choices of others.
Breeding Pure-Bred Cats Helps Shelters and Rescues
Feline breeding programs generate interest, research, and funds for cats who need homes. The information provided by ethical breeders who work with cats every day is often published on the internet free of charge; much of this anecdotal research can apply to household mixed-breed cats, too; other life-long breeders, including veterinarians, have written books that provide well-documented case-studies and helpful data. Furthermore, the organizations that promote pure-bred cats -- such as TICA and CFA -- not only promote new research into feline health, but also allow local rescue agencies to set-up booths and their innumerable shows around the world to both raise funds and awareness for spaying/neutering and cats needing homes. These agencies usually allow these pets to be shown, which also helps to generate more interest in adoption. Finally, although I'm sure there are exceptions, most of the people that I know who are either looking for a pure-bred kitten or are ethically breeding for breed-standard, support their local agencies by either adopting 2 or more shelter cats or by donating money. One breeder that I know is extremely active in helping families connect with cats who need homes - giving untold and unpaid hours in this capacity. Instead of causing a giant rift that seems to be far more prolific in the cat world than the dog or other pet realm, let's try working together without the need to feel superior to one another. All in all, if catteries were eliminated, there would likely be more - not fewer - cats and kittens needing homes.