Cecil, the murdered lion, has garnered our attention because of his senseless death. This act has provoked the public’s outrage against sports hunting additionally inflamed by photos of other shooters proudly displaying their trophies. Who can forget the expression on the face of the woman on the internet with the bloody giraffe she has just bagged?
In contrast, many of us cherish, often over-indulge, our domestic animals. In 2000, I wrote a chapter called, “The Horse Bar Mitzvah” for a British veterinarian medicine textbook called, Companion Animals and Us.“ (Cambridge University Press, UK) The book explored the relationship between humans and animals. In it, I described a woman giving a bar mitzvah for her 13-year-old horse, Sonny, because she boasted that he had given her more love than anyone else in her family, including her ex-husband.
I also interviewed a former Roman Catholic priest who explained why he and his wife gave a cat mitzvah for their thirteen-month-old kitten, Fifi. He explained it in spiritual terms: “The true purpose of the occasion was to celebrate the beauty of creation as manifested in a particular little animal and, at the same time, to realize our own at-homeness in the universe.” He claimed that the cat mitzvah was a celebration of people’s relationship with nature and the cosmos.
He, his wife, and 90 guests took a tongue-in-cheek attitude about the occasion, as well, singing the following parody to the tune of “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Is this the kitty that I carried? Is this the little cat at play?
I don’t remember growing older. When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty? When did she get her first fur ball?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
It’s easy to go overboard with our pets, and I almost went too far with my first rescue cat, Tom. However, the shelter didn’t disclose that Tom had litter box issues. Tom preferred my burnt orange carpet to the new self-cleaning litter box I purchased. He frustrated me with this unsanitary problem.
I consulted with other pet owners. “Put foil in the corners of the room.” “Try another kind of litter box.” “Try another kind of litter.” “Have litter boxes in different rooms.” None of these remedies worked.
Desperate, I consulted with a cat psychic only to discover that she diagnosed cat problems by communicating privately with the animals over the phone. I was to place Tom in a room with only a phone, but I just couldn’t visualize Tom confiding to a bodiless voice. That was too much, even for me, so I didn’t sign on for this nonsense.
Just like the majority of pet owners in the U.S., I treasure and spoil my current cat, Sweetie Beattie. Far better to do that than to lay waste to endangered species just because it’s something one can afford to do.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is an animal lover and abhors sports hunting.