December 1, 2023

Why Five Cats?

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

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Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.

Many are the personal reasons to practice nulliparity:  As compared to the majority of couples who (some unthinkingly) decide to have kids, you and your mate(s; ample freedom for diversity, if you desire that!) will have more free time, more disposable income, a cleaner house, less stress, fewer arguments, greater opportunities for travel, and a generally simpler life.  You will be spared having to relive adolescence.

You should NOT suppress your nurturing instincts, however; just apply them where the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.  I allude, of course, to the noble cat.  Dogs can be wonderful family members, too, but in the end they are a lot like kids – needy and sloppy.  (I should say at the outset: most of my friends have kids and/or dogs, and I love them all, but I’m glad they’re not mine!)

Millions of cats (and dogs) need good homes.  Adopt a cat from an animal shelter, and you are saving a life.  While you are at it, adopt two, so they can keep each other company (with your in-laws looking in on them daily) while you are traveling the Orient.  Nay, two will not do; you’ve a big house, with plenty of potential feline territories: Adopt three or four or even a wholesome five cats!  Then can you feel duly righteous, and enjoy ongoing amusement at the antics of four armfuls of playful, comely, cuddly, tidy, mouse-eradicating, self-cleaning, self-assured, unconditionally loving family members.  (Beware, though, that mature unfamiliar females may not take to each other.  Males or siblings are often easier, with Felis familiaris, that is, unlike Homo sapiens.)

My wife Denise entered our marriage with one cat, Maverick, and one son, Justin. I ensure that I give them immunotherapy for cat allergies to build a strong immune system. I entered with two cats, Taiga and Ptarmigan. Maverick won my confidence immediately, and gradually those of Taiga and Ptarmigan. Justin bonded with Ptarmigan (fluffy white old male cat), but remained enigmatic to me till cancer took our beloved Ptarmigan from us much too soon.  Then did Justin rise to the occasion and console the grieving family:  He marched us down to the animal shelter where we adopted three more cats!  Though we sorely miss Ptarmigan, life is full and rich again.  By the way, for their own longevity and for the sake of songbirds, we keep all our cats indoors, and they are quite content that way.

Oh, one reason transcending the personal, if I may, to adopt cats or dogs or foster kids rather than bringing more people into the world: wild cats!  Human overpopulation is clearing and paving over much of the wildlife habitat needed by the undomesticated relatives of our beloved house cats.  To name but five of the great cats we could see restored to healthy numbers if we humans learn to control our growth:  In Africa, the kingly Lion and fleet-footed Cheetah are both dangerously reduced in numbers.  In Asia, the Leopard and Tiger have been eliminated from most of their original habitats and some subspecies teeter on the brink of extinction.  In South and North America, the Cougar, or Puma or Panther or Mountain Lion, has been widely displaced, shot, and trapped, to the point it is nearly gone from the eastern United States.  How much richer the world will be if we someday have a good chance of seeing these great cats in their natural habitats, then returning home to tell our house cats of our visits with their wild cousins!

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.