A cat at a restaurant in Dahab, Egypt -- Photo by nebedaay (Flickr)
I read about the stray cats of Egypt yesterday. The revolution there has caused a steep decline in tourism. As there are a lot of stray cats in Egypt the proportion of cats to tourists has increased. At restaurants in the Red Sea resort of Dahab there are less tourists to feed the cats!
I guess these cats are not true ferals, more semi-domesticated because they are relaxed around tourists and restaurant owners looking for food.
Restaurants are bound to attract feral cats because a food source is the most important aspect of life for feral cats. They form colonies around food sources and adapt to living closely together. I guess there is fish to at seaside resorts.
Well, one day, ten years before the recent revolution (2011-2012), a Canadian tourist was feeding a stray cat and he got scratched. I am trying to think how this could have happened. If a tourist puts a bit of food down on the ground there would be no chance of being scratched. What must have happened is that the Canadian held out his hand with the food in it. The cat probably grabbed the food with his paw and claws to drag it off the hand and scratched him. It would have been something like that.
In any event the problem was caused by the Canadian. His reaction was poor - very poor. He grabbed the cat and threw it into the sea as hard as he could. The sea there is the Gulf of Aqaba:
The cat swam back to shore and a waiter helped the cat up to dry land and shooed it away. Thankfully the outcome was OK for cat and person.
Today the restaurant owners give squirt water bottles to customers and they squirt water at them to get rid of them when they come begging for food.
This story is interesting on a number of levels one of which is to ask the questions, "what do you do when you get scratched by a cat?"
There are two broad outcomes.
(a) you do what the Canadian did; you react in an aggressive manner and punish the cat severely. This is blaming the cat for doing something natural and normal. This has to be morally unjustifiable.
(b) you reflect on what you did wrong to acquire that scratch and take steps to prevent it happening again. You do all you can to reassure the cat so that the cat is not placed in a defensive/aggressive mentality. This prevents further scratching/biting etc.
There are people, good people, who love cats who believe that squirt water bottles or other forms of punishment are acceptable. With respect, I disagree with them. I have never had cause to punish a cat. I don't see the point of it.
A domestic cat can do no wrong in an absolute sense. A cat can displease us in their behaviour sometimes but this is different to doing wrong.
We cannot justify punishing a cat simply for displeasing us. We manage all the cat to human relationships of whatever type including the feeding of feral cats at restaurants.