Why Owning Exotic Cats Is Wrong

Why Owning Exotic Cats Is Wrong

by Michael
(London, UK)

This is where the bobcat should be left unmolested, the wild. Photo camera trap by randomtruth (Flickr)

This is where the bobcat should be left unmolested, the wild. Photo camera trap by randomtruth (Flickr)

This is controversial, I suspect. It goes against the thoughts and principles of the Feline Conservation Federation of which I am a member. However, I am entitled to my views.

I am prompted to write this having read Amy Flory's article in the July/August edition of the FCF magazine.

She bemoans the gradual growth of legislation in the USA banning the keeping of exotic animals or animals that are more accurately described as wild animals. In this instance wildcats and mainly the smaller wildcats that can make pets of a sort. In this post I am referring to wild animals not wildcat hybrids.

Amy says that the main opponents of exotic animal owners are the animal rights groups, who she blames for disseminating misinformation about exotic pet ownership. She says that they don't understand.

I am not sure that Amy Flory understands. As I see it, the concept of humans "owning" wildcats is not a good thing for the cats at a fundamental level in the long term.

Firstly, it creates the culture that we, humans, have the right to "own" a wild cat. I don't think that we have that right.

Secondly, creating the culture that we have the right to own a wildcat leads to an unbalanced situation in which the cat is more likely to be treated as a commodity for the pleasure of the person. This demonstrates a lack of respect for the cat.

Thirdly, owning wildcats encourages trade in importation of wildcats from their natural habitat. They can be captured as cubs and sold as pets. This is not good for wildcats.

Fourthly, if a wild cat is owned by a person in the USA it is highly likely that the cat will be kept in an enclosure, sometimes something worse like the living room! Wild cats often need very substantial ranges in which to behave naturally. Small enclosures are unnatural. Also some escape and get shot.

Fifthly, the culture of owning wildcats undermines the better concept (
for the cat) of protecting their wild habitat. All efforts should be directed at encouraging people to learn to live in harmony with wild animals including wildcats and not encouraging their gradual extinction in the wild. The ownership of wildcats now will lead to that being the only form of relationship that people will have with them in the future.

Sixthly, captive wildcats need to be bred to supply others who want to own them. The relatively small numbers of founding cats leads to inbreeding and ill health, which is counter to the well being of the cats. This is the opposite of the objectives of wildcat lovers who want to live with them.

We should curb our desire to live with wildcats no matter how much we love and admire them. We desire this for our pleasure. The pleasure for the cat is to be left alone in its own habitat in the wild. Let us do right by the cat. That, after all, is the objective of the FCF and its members.

We need to think long term and more profoundly, set our sights higher and think wider if we are to achieve what is truly best for us and the wild cats.

Michael Avatar

Why Owning Exotic Cats Is Wrong to Wild Cat Species

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Why Owning Exotic Cats Is Wrong

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Aug 15, 2010 As I said before
by: Anonymous

CAGE mates says it all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aug 15, 2010 Sorry did a typo
by: Ruth

I of course meant to say WHY do they return to their cages, not WHO.

Aug 15, 2010 Caged IS wrong
by: Ruth

I agree with Michael !
People who 'own' wild animals are very selfish and certainly not putting the animals interests before their own.
Tim you say if it's wrong to cage wild animals who do they return to their cages and why do they live longer in captivity ?
The simple answer is that they have no choice but to look upon their cage as a den and as all cat lovers know, cats accept what we do to them because they have no choice.Suicide is not an option for animals.
As for living longer,I think given the choice they would live as they were born to live, FREE, taking the risks that living life means rather than being caged and living the long boring lives of being in the power of the controlling people who 'own' them.
The reason people want to 'own' wild animals is to make themselves look and feel important by showing how they can 'possess' a living creature, to cover up their own inadequacy.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Aug 14, 2010 Update 15th August 2010
by: Michael

The issue of individuals in the US "owning" tigers has reared its head again. There are more than 5,000 tigers in captivity in the US and probably 12,000. The point is that the authorities don't know the number due to lax regulation.

This private ownership of the tiger endangers the tiger in the wild as it could be a source of tiger parts.

The market in tiger parts is destroying the wild tiger.

This is just one more example why owning exotic cats is wrong. It is against feline conservation in the wild which is the only form of conservation worth fighting for.

My article is written from the standpoint of the cat, while counter arguments are written from the standpoint of the human.

Which is the better starting point?

Michael Avatar

Aug 13, 2010 To Tim Stoffel
by: Michael

Hi Tim, thanks for your comment. You are correct. I have never owned a wildcat. It is almost unheard of in the UK for an individual to own a wild cat.

I know that I am looking at the situation from an idealistic point of view. Your solutions are more pragmatic it seems as you have more or less accepted that the only way or best way forward for the wild cat is as captive animals. This I feel is a "model of failure". It is not good for the cat as it discourages preservation in the wild and promotes ownership of wild cats in captivity. At a completely fundamental level it is wrong. Anything short of letting wildcats live naturally is an admission of failure by the human.

I prefer the more idealistic and ultimately better route, the more natural route; leaving them in their natural habitat.

Also you do not produce factual documentation that supports your statement that "Cats in general, and especially the larger cats, do extremely well in captivity".

Where is the research that verifies this. We don't know what is in the mind of wildcats in captivity.

These cats have very large home ranges. To be captive would indicate to me that they will feel stressed, unhappy. They can adapt, yes, but at what price?

Michael Avatar

Aug 06, 2010 Cagemates says it all?
by: Tim Stoffel

Ok then. If living in a cage is so bad, then why do most cat species thrive in captivity? Why do most cat species live much longer in captivity? Why do many of these cats eventually return to their cage on their own if inadvertently let out?

You are accepting what the animal rights folks are telling you, hook, line and sinker. Many of these people have never even had a pet (cat or dog, etc.), and are therefore clueless about what it is really like to work with 9expecially exotic) animals. Why not instead listen to folks who REALLY work with animals? Why not consider BECOMING one of these folks?

Aug 05, 2010 To Tim
by: Anonymous

CAGE mates says it all!!!!

Aug 04, 2010 You should try it!
by: Tim Stoffel

I, too am a member of the Feline Conservation Federation, and have been for many years.

Occasionally, people newly joining the FCF do not really understand the mission of the FCF. The purpose of the Feline Conservation Federation is to Preserve, Protect and propagate our non-domestic cat species. A major part of this is through captive husbandry. Fully 2/3rds of the cat species on earth are threatened or endangered. Some, like the tiger, will probably only exist in captivity in 20 years. Thus, captive husbandry of these cats is extremely important to their continued existence.

The arguments you gave in your article sound compelling, but in do not have any basis in fact. There are many people here in the US who own exotic cats for various reasons, just as there are in the UK. Cats in general, and especially the larger cats, do extremely well in captivity. Why is this? Firstly, it is because cats are highly adaptable to their environment. This is required due to their challenging lifestyle. Second, they build deep and abiding bonds with their cagemates and human friends. The strength of this bond is what really ensures thay they stay happy and healthy in captivity.

I can tell by the tone of your comments that you have probably never kept an exotic cat. You ought to get to know someone who does, or get involved in a program where you can experience it yourself. I promise you that both you and the cat will benefit from the experience in ways you never imagined!

Jul 31, 2010 I agree
by: Ruth

I agree with you Michael.
Anyone wanting to 'own' a wild cat doesn't want to do so for the cat's sake, because if they thought about it they would realise wild cats are born to live free.
It seems to me to be all about possessing an animal and people who need to have wild animals in their power are usually very inadequate and do it to make themselves look important.
I've seen questions from kids 'I WANT a wild cat,where can I get one ?' They don't know the first thing about looking after a domestic cat let alone a wild one.
Susan is right,many big cats are suffering from declawing too. Caged and frustrated and in pain when they should be FREE !

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jul 30, 2010 Owning Exotic Cats should be BANNED
by: Susan

Adding to #4 about owning Exotic Cats in the USA, they are also routinely DECLAWED as well as enclosed or caged. Absolutely criminal.

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