Marc got me thinking about this. In a comment, he tells us of the story of people who cared for what seems to have been a domestic cat who had no home. I would call this cat a community cat – a tame stray cat who may have moved between homes. Anyway he was a domestic cat and he was being fed by people (a couple?) who lived in their own home in Sacramento California, USA. I don’t know if the home was rented or owned. It does not matter that much.
I suspect that the cat made himself known to these people. The people took pity on him and fed him. Marc does not know if they let the cat in. I am not that that makes much difference either.
When a cat becomes dependent on a person or persons even though the person had no intention of the cat becoming dependent, does the person have an obligation to continue to care for the cat?
It is like a slow motion adoption process. Surely it is fair to say that at some point in time what was once a stray cat then becomes a domestic cat? At that point the cat is legally “owned” by the person and the person from that point on has the obligation to care for him or her. I believe that is a fair assessment. But it may be too tough an assessment for the majority of people.
The difficulty lies in deciding when that point is crossed and whether the person caring for the cat has recognised that.
To return to Marc’s story. The people who cared for this charming and friendly cat, who would make a great companion, decided to move home and left the cat behind.
Was that the right or wrong thing to do? Of course it depends on the detail of what happened. Perhaps these people believed that this cat had other homes to go to where he was fed. Perhaps they knew that. However, Marc writes…
“..the neighbours justified leaving the cat behind since it was never their cat, just a stray who they took in…”
My personal view – and I accept the views of others – is that if a person “takes a cat in” they accept responsibility for that cat. The responsibility should continue for the lifetime of the cat in the usual way. Sadly, a lot of people don’t believe that they have responsibility for a cat for the cat’s lifetime and it does not matter how they adopted the cat.
This is an important point. How many people take on board the idea from the moment they take their cat home that they have a firm and unbreakable obligation to care for that cat for the next 15+ years? A lot of the time that commitment is not in place. There is an “opt-out clause” in their heads.
When it comes to taking in stray cats the opt-out clause is not in small print but a major factor in the deal. “We’ll take care of him but if we don’t like it anymore we’ll stop”. When does that attitude become morally wrong?
I say these people who were kind hearted enough to care for this cat should have followed through and taken the cat with them. Or found a new home for the cat. As Marc says, I don’t think taking the cat to a shelter was an option as he may have been euthanised there unless it is a genuine no kill shelter. Did they check that out?
A lot of the time it is about convenience. It was convenient for these people to feed this cat. They themselves received some benefit in that process. But taking the cat with them or looking for a new home would have been inconvenient. Too troublesome. I can understand that because life is difficult for lots of people. They have neither the time nor the energy to do that kind of “work”. However, I believe they had the obligation to do it.
My assessment is supported by the person who is currently living near the home where these people lived. The cat is still in the area. He is deliberately avoiding the cat. Instinctively, this person realises that if he starts caring for this cat he will take on an obligation that he does not want.