UK and USA: Cultural Differences and Cat Caretaking
What are the cultural differences between the UK and the USA and do they affect how people care for their cats in these countries?
I’ll remark right away that having worked through this page, learning and thinking as I went along, I have not come to a firm conclusion. I thought that I might. I was wrong. Also, we should not generalise about people. It is easy to do it. We can’t say that “Americans” do so and so because many Americans don’t do so and so.
By convention3, it is considered that compared to Brits some Americans are:
- More patriotic – In the UK, you never see Union Jack flags outside people’s homes unless there is something special going on. This is probably partly because, in the USA, kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily at school (I am told). It also means that some Americans are….
- Less likely to enjoy laughing at themselves – self-deprecating humour – and less likely to accept criticism of their country, perhaps.
- Less likely to have travelled abroad and therefore have less to compare with and some Americans will be less broad-minded perhaps. This may result in a likelihood for some to have entrenched views, a sort of false certainty. Only 22% of the American population have a passport.
- More openly friendly and less reserved. But is the friendliness skin deep?
- More family-orientated perhaps. More focused on their children.
- In general, very pro-gun ownership4. Many Americans defend the right to bear arms with a passion. Many Americans are not interested in guns.
On my travels to America I see differences in culture but they are not that stark to me. Perhaps it is because I have travelled a lot and am more accepting of differences in culture.
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How do these cultural differences affect cat caretaking? Perhaps they don’t affect cat caretaking but what are the outstanding differences? These come to mind:
- There appears to be more feral cats in America. Does that mean (a) more relinquished cats or (b) less responsible cat ownership or (c) is it because there are far more full-time indoor cats, which results in cats escaping and disappearing.
- There appears to be a greater acceptance to euthanise cats in shelters. I stress “appears” because we don’t really know for sure. It is discussed a lot but no one can provide firm figures. No one is counting the number of eurthanised cats and Americans don’t know how many feral cats there are. The same applies to the UK as far as I am aware. Euthanasia of shelter cats happens in the UK, I presume. I say, “I presume”, because we never read about it or hear about it. I know Cats Protection, a large organisation, euthanise with great reluctance and under veterinary control.
- 50-60% of cats are indoor-only cats in the USA. The percentage in the UK is 8.4%1. This is a significant difference. Is it due to cultural differences? I can’t see a connection between the cultural difference listed and keeping cats indoors so conclude that the reason is that the outdoors is more dangerous for cats in the USA. This may be because of the far greater number of large wild animals in the USA that will attack a domestic cat (i.e. coyotes).
- I hate to mention it but declawing of cats is by far the biggest cultural differences in cat caretaking between the USA and the UK after the indoor cat issue. Once again there is no obvious connection between the cultural differences listed above and declawing of cats. I have to conclude that this is an aberration. It must be partly due to a lack of sensitivity towards the cat as a sentient being with intelligence and emotions.
In conclusion, I don’t see the conventional cultural differences listed affecting how American people care for their cats. There is no obvious connection.
What about hunting? More than 38 million Americans hunt and fish2. That is about 12% of the population. I can’t find a figure for the UK but it will be very low. Perhaps the liking of hunting and the desire to declaw have the same cause. Perhaps the reason is that America is still a relatively young country and the legacy of hunting for food has carried forward to the modern era. Hunting for food does not sit comfortably with treating animals as sentient, feeling beings.
Consumerism and commercialism appears to play a role too. The biggest difference, as mentioned, is declawing and vets do it. They are a businesses. They could stop doing declawing but it would hurt profit margins.
The differences in cat caretaking between the countries is due to a variety of factors
- http://britishexpats.com – reflecting general opinion?
- This is my view judging by internet research.
- Picture of American flag by Cristian_RH7
- Picture of Union Jack by ReeSaunders
- Picture of cat by Michael
I only hope that due to shock the poor cats in the dog fighting died quickly 🙁 I feel sick at how they suffered though before they were given over to the dogs. I had heard of this some years ago and didn’t want to believe it.
I have to say I have a little of my faith restored after watching back to back episodes of Jackson Galaxy today. What a wonderful man so caring and knowledgable where cats are concerned. I was expecting to see at times some of the behavioural problems being associated with de-clawing but non of them were but there again how would the programme roll out if a de-clawed cat was featured? it wouldn’t would it? ‘Well’ Jackson would say ‘until now there has never been a cat I couldn’t help. Your cat is beyond help. He is agressive and bites you because you have taken his natural defence’
Cultural differences are interesting and I know England is known as ‘A Nation of animal lovers’ but it isn’t really true as there are animal abusers here, not as many I suppose because there are not as many people here as in the USA.
About declawing, I think many Americans lack the passion and commitment to change things, where we in England campaign long and hard and use ‘people power’ and ‘pester power’ to get our animal laws improved, most people there just seem to accept what happens.
But even people here who don’t particularly like cats reel back with shock and horror at the thought of taking a cat’s claws away, I did too when I found out it was happening.
This is why I feel sorry for the people like our Dee here and others with passion and commitment who come to PoC, there are not enough others willing to help them.
Thanks Ruth. I still have a hard time understanding why this is only a cat issue. You won’t find people willing to chop up their dogs’ paws if they make scratches on the door wanting to go out or cut off their childrens’ fingertips if they pick their nose.
Yes because dogs can do as much damage with their claws as cats can if not more, a neighbour’s dog jumped at our late mother in her wheelchair and ripped the skin on her arm, but no one said it should have been declawed!
Cats are hidden away though in your country, not like here where most go out and people would see their deformed paws.
Seems to me Americans have the need to own things including animals,you don’t find people here wanting to own wild cats or semi wild cats.OK our houses and space here are a lot smaller but some stories I’ve read about big cats being kept in basements there are horrible,why want a big cat if you’ve no space to let it live with quality of life?
Owning material things you don’t have to have feelings for and owning cats seems to be looked on the same there because furniture is more important than a cats claws yet cats have feelings and furniture doesn’t.
As a total outsider Asian i found this topic very educative and surprised that only 22% of Americans have a passport !?According to me, travel educates a person and helps in understanding various cultures and way of life of the average population.Thanks to sea-employment and post voluntary retirement have travelled various country’s at my own expense including London and Europe,hence have some knowledge of Europe as well as America.I have mentioned numerous times that i was amazed of not finding a single stray cat or dog in the streets of Europe, proving the fact that “Euthanasia(Killing)” of stray pets was prevalent. In U.S.A visited a few Port city’s when employed on ships and was amazed at the cleanliness of the streets but at that time i was not into cats, as pets being a dog owner nor observant about stray animals on the streets.I was sad to read a recent article in “C.N.N” which said that the bankrupt city of Detroit was infested with stray abandoned dogs, result of unemployed Detroit citizens abandoning their pets on the streets.I wonder as to how some people can treat their pets as non-tangible assets to be abandoned in times of distress . regarding de-clawing, my personal opinion is that people who don’t like cats for their “SCRATCHING HABITS” should not own one or take another animal species as a pet.
I think you make a good point. Travel does broaden the mind and educates. I wonder if the number of Americans with passports was 90% with much higher travel abroad whether that would help to kill-off declawing. I think it would because people can see the bigger picture rather than being cocooned in one way of life.
More indoor cats in the US leads to more declawing in the US. However I think this is misguided thinking. People need to understand you have to trim their claws and provide a few alternatives for them to scratch.
Now I don’t declaw but I wouldn’t dream of letting my cats outside anyway. There are too many bad things that can happen to them most especially cars. I live in a condo on a busy street. I have a friend from England and her cats roam, but then again she lives in a house with a big yard on a quiet street.
In short it is partly cultural and partly due to necessity. That is as far as going outside only. Unfortunately I think declawing is truly a cultural difference and I’m not sure how to stop it when vets continue to do it.
I found this site http://www.veggieboards.com/t/108317/the-shocking-history-of-declawing-ear-cropping and quoting:
Ironically, dogfighters largely abandoned ear-cropping and tail-docking by the mid-20th century, to avoid being conspicuous, after dogfighting was outlawed in most of the U.S. Dogfighters preparing cats and kittens for use as live bait in training dogs meanwhile became the first practitioners of onychectomy, as the most common declawing operation is formally called. Veterinarians later refined, commercialized, and popularized the procedure.
So, the initial reason for declawing was to render cats and kittens helpless in order to train dogs for fighting. I could puke!
Thanks a lot for that Dee. Very interesting. I’ll work on that.
I’ve been thinking on this for a while and have no solid conclusions really.
All you have written, including Marc’s theory are plausible.
Since I can’t draw anything firm, I’ll just share what some of my thoughts have been.
Indoor cats – there are constraints by law and it is true that wild animals and venomous snakes, lizards, and spiders are plentiful here, depending on what region we talk about.
Ferals – any thoughts I have are subjective and critical. So, I won’t bother because you know I can ruminate about irresponsibility of people here.
Guns, hunting – Let me prefice by saying that I have never intentionally harmed any living being in my life (not even insects), I hate guns. and have never nor will ever hunt or fish. I do not eat animal flesh. I concede that I have some understanding that, years ago, people hunted and fished to feed their families. How this ever became to be considered a “sport” is beyond me. And, is there any difference between hunting and farmers raising animals for slaughter?
Any further thought I have about shelters, acceptance of euthanasia, and declawing here would only be a repeat of what I have ranted about before.
Interesting and very detailed – I think the underlying cause of all the difference come down to one simple thing, space.
I honestly believe everything can be brought back to that sole factor. Having less or more space changes the way you think. It changes your every day and it changes what you have – in other words it changes everything.
Cat caretaking differences fall within this obviously I believe.
Thanks Marc. I am searching for a reason for declawing and the other differences. At one time Europe and the USA were made up of the same people. Sadly the Native American was sidelined. Why do the same people have different approaches to cat welfare? I have searched for the answer to this for years.
Certainly a major difference between the UK and USA is space. Perhaps that difference feeds back to many areas of society.
A lot of people are very materialistic here and value their possessions above other things. I don’t know really if they are more so this way than in the UK , but the all time reason I hear for declawing is to protect furniture, carpeting, etc. I’m groping here, but I think it may have to do with tolerance levels. Why these would very between countries is a mystery.
Why do some people devoice their dogs here? Because they find barking annoying/intolerable.
A whole other aspect that is even more baffling to me is why people would clip an animals ears or have their tails cut off.
It seems we can’t tolerate or accept a “whole” animal.
Yes I think this is consumerism gone too far but the UK is pretty much a manic consumer society too yet we don’t declaw.
I would love to know the exact date when the first declaw was done and how it built up from that point.