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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cat-Hating Monster Les Underhill and Moneygrubbing Robben Island Museum Resume Slaughtering Cats in South Africa


The bloodthirsty South Africans have resumed slaughtering feral cats on Robben Island (See photo on the right). An assassin has been hired and told to mercilessly gun down the remaining seventy or so cats who call the windswept island off of Cape Town home.

In 2005, mass murderer Jon Kieser shot and killed fifty-eight cats but the eradication program was temporarily suspended in March of this year in order to allow the Cape of Good Hope SPCA and Beauty Without Cruelty time to trap and relocate the cats. (See Cat Defender post of March 23, 2006 entitled "South Africans, Supported by Ailurophobic PETA, Are Slaughtering More Cats on Robben Island.") On April 10th, however, the Robben Island Museum, which operates the island, reversed itself and ordered all the cats to be killed. Worst still, cats previously trapped, sterilized, and released as mousers will also be shot.

While ostensibly aimed at protecting endangered shorebirds, this mass extermination of cats, originally imported and then released into the wild by the island's Dutch and English colonizers, is in reality motivated by greed and ailurophobia.

Primarily because it once served as Nelson Mandela's gulag for twenty-seven years, Robben Island attracts more than a thousand tourists every day and thus has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Now, the United Nations is threatening to rescind its designation if the island does not get rid of the cats and this would cost the greedy people who run the Robben Island Museum a lot of shekels and power.

The prime mover behind the slaughter is, however, Les Underhill of the University of Cape Town (See photo below). As is the case with just about all bird advocates, he is despicable cat-hating fascist who tells nothing but lies. He also has a powerful ally in John Yeld of the Cape Argus who is incapable of writing a single story on this topic without reprinting verbatim Underhill's anti-cat screeds.

Moreover, although the editors of Yeld's sleazy, unprincipled rag gladly give space to those who agree with Underhill (PETA, e.g.), they steadfastly refuse to do the same for defenders of the cats. This is another textbook example of how fascism and dishonesty go hand and glove with the capitalist media.

The disreputable Cape Argus is owned by Independent News and Media (INM) which publishes one-hundred-seventy-five newspapers and magazines with a combined weekly circulation of thirty-one million copies in twenty-one countries on four continents. The group's flagship paper is London's Independent and in addition to its rags in South Africa it also publishes papers in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and India. The conglomerate also operates seventy web sites and owns one-hundred-twenty-eight radio stations with a listening audience in excess of five million people. On its web site the group brags of having assets of $4 billion euros and 10,400 employees. Whew! This crowd does not believe in leaving any stone unturned; if there is a nickel rusting away underneath an old Prince Albert tin in the Amazon jungle they are going to find it and press it into service!

Although the uninitiated may believe that they are receiving honest reporting, nothing could be further from the truth. As far as the cats on Robben Island are concerned, the only thing that readers of any of INM's publications are receiving are rehashes of Underhill's and Yeld's lies. A good case in point was Geoffrey Lean's April 23rd story in London's Independent entitled "The Last Victims of Robben Island." Lean did not go to South Africa to investigate and it does not appear that he even conducted any telephone research from London; even the quotes that he uses from Underhill are weeks -- if not months -- old. Lean is not only a bad journalist, he is dishonest. Malheursement, warped, one-sided, dishonest journalism and outright plagiarism are often the norm at The Independent.

While it is undeniable that feral cats do raid the nests of some shorebirds, it is also true that it is practically impossible for a cat to kill a full-grown bird on a beach. Other than by attacking nests, the only way that a cat can catch a bird is to hide in the grass and wait for one to come near. Despite all of the lies concocted by bird-lovers, in most instances feline predation has only a minimal impact upon avian mortality. Development, pollution, climate change und so weiter all have a far greater impact but bird advocates are too dishonest and morally warped to ever tell the truth.

Other animals also prey upon birds but Underhill and his cat-hating clique refuse to acknowledge this petit fait. For instance, when Allan Perrins of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA pointed out that mice, black mole snakes, and flesh-eating rabbits are also killing birds on Robben Island Underhill laughed. "I imagine a hopping rabbit would have something of a problem stalking a bird," he told the Cape Times, another INM rag, on April 11th (See "Carnivorous Rabbits Running Wild on Island.")

In making that ludicrous statement Underhill thought that he was being cute but instead he merely demonstrated writ large his total lack of intellectual integrity. The rabbits on Robben may or may not have become carnivorous but the issue as far as the shorebirds are concerned is the raiding of their nests by predators, not stalking. Understood in this light it is perfectly clear that rabbits, snakes, mice, and other predators are just as capable of attacking nests built into the sand as are cats, especially if they get hungry enough. Also, seals are reportedly killing penguins on Robben Island but Underhill and his fascist buddies have not yet organized a death squad to go after them.

Just as it has had a deleterious effect upon the rare fauna and flora of the Galapagos Islands, tourism has also been cited as a factor in the decline of shorebirds on Robben. If the Robben Island Museum was serious about wildlife conservation it would scale back tourism but this is not about to happen. It has got to have its precious shekels just as Underhill must have his daily quota of feline blood. Of course, he most likely has his ensanguinated fingers in the till also.

Moreover, in addition to cats and rabbits, Robben Island is home to such non-indigenous animals as fallow deer, springboks, and ostriches. So far, only cats and deer have been victimized by extermination attempts. The argument over indigenous versus non-indigenous species is akin to the argument in political philosophy over natural right. Both may hold a certain surface appeal for the uninitiated but that is about all. Plants, animals, and men have been migrating from time immemorial and any attempt to assign any tract of land to any of them to the exclusion of all others is not only intellectual nonsense, as any evolutionist or anthropologist knows, but inherently fascist. Instead of rectifying conditions, such attempts serve only to exacerbate them while at the same time providing a platform for the elevation of demagogues such as Underhill and his cat-hating clique.

If this planet is to survive, man must develop a healthy respect for Mother Earth, all animals, and his fellow man. This is why that it is so important that unprincipled scoundrels like Underhill and his gang of murderers and thugs be exposed for what they are and held accountable for their crimes.

As far as the shorebirds on Robben Island are concerned, there are numerous ways of protecting them and their young without slaughtering cats. First of all, their nesting areas could be fenced off and Underhill and his gang could work shifts around the clock shooing away any cats and other predators who might venture near. This arrangement would have the added benefit of giving Underhill something to do with himself and a little manual toil might just sweat out some of the bile that has accumulated in the bottom of his black soul.

If Underhill and his clique are either too lazy or too cheap to do this, then the SPCA and Beauty Without Cruelty should be given as much time as they need in order to trap and relocate the cats to a safe environment elsewhere. Under no circumstances should the Cape of Good Hope SPCA kill any of the cats that it traps as its sister agency in Pretoria is planning on doing with ninety of one-hundred-twenty cats that it intends to trap and kill this winter at the Kolonnade Shopping Center. (See Pretoria Rekord, April 13, 2006, "Cat Colony Takes Over Kolonnade.") Apparently, the Pretoria SPCA believes that the "P" in SPCA stands for "Promotion" rather than "Prevention" of cruelty toward animals. Regardless of whatever twisted rationale it is operating on, its conduct is both disgraceful and criminal. In the land of apartheid, there apparently is not much of a distinction between animal protectors and animal annihilators.

There are far more innovative methods of protecting shorebirds than either fencing in their nesting grounds or trapping and removing potential predators. For instance, when wildlife biologists in North Carolina were faced with the problem of protecting shorebirds from both developers and predators they joined with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create dozens of islands on the Outer Banks as bird sanctuaries. On these uninhabited, manmade islands, which were created out of sand dredged from navigational channels, they have deployed hundreds of plastic decoys made to look like gull-billed terns, common terns, and black skimmers (See photo above) in order to attract shorebirds looking for a place to nest.

They have also installed a sound system, powered by a solar panel and a golf cart battery, that emits a cacophony of shrill bird calls twenty-four hours a day. The decoys and sound system let the birds know that it is safe for them to nest there while signs warn boaters and fishermen not to disturb them between April and August of each year. So far, the program, which has been tried in ten other American states as well as in a dozen countries, has been a rousing success. (See Raleigh's The News and Observer, April 15, 2006, "Decoys Help Birds Rebound.")

In conclusion, Underhill's insistence that the only way to protect nesting shorebirds is to shoot cats proves that he is not only a liar but a fraud as well. Moreover, the fact that anyone as morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest as him could hold a teaching position at the University of Cape Town since 1972 just goes to show that there is every bit as much vileness and corruption in academia as in any other segment of society.

More to the point, there can never be any peace between cat-lovers and bird advocates until the latter group stops murdering and vilifying cats. Until then, it is war!

Photos: BBC (Robben Island), Kathy Calf of the University of Cape Town (Underhill), and John Rottet of The News and Observer (black skimmer decoy).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Möhre Saves a Newborn Infant Abandoned in the Cold on a Doorstep in Köln

Möhre und Dirk Prager

A jet-black cat named Mohre is the toast of Koln after his incessant loud meowing and scratching on the inside of the door led to the discovery of a newborn infant that had been abandoned on his owner's doorstep.

Thirty-five-year-old Dirk Prager was sitting in his kitchen drinking coffee at 5 a.m. last Thursday when Möhre ("Carrot" in English) started raising a ruckus. When he refused to quieten down, Prager looked out the window and saw something lying on his doormat that he at first thought was another cat. Getting to his feet, he went to chase away the cat, but when he opened up his front door he got the surprise of his life.

Lying there was not a cat but rather an infant boy wrapped in a white bedsheet. Although the newborn was only a few hours old, he had been wiped clean of blood and his navel tied off with a clothespin. Prager immediately took him inside and called an ambulance.

At a hospital on Amsterdamer Straße, an examination determined that although the newborn was suffering from a mild case of hypothermia, he was otherwise in good shape. Since the overnight temperature was only thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit, the boy could have easily succumbed to either hypothermia or pneumonia had not Möhre come to his aid.

"The cat is a hero," Uwe Beier, a spokesman for the Kölner Polizei told Reuters on April 15th. "Its loud meowing got the attention of the homeowner and saved the baby from suffering life-threatening hypothermia." (See "Cat in Germany Saves Baby's Life.")

Nurses at the hospital have christened the boy Simon Sonnenschein. "Weil er überlebt hat, steht Simon auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens," nurse Monika told the Köln Express on April 18th. (See "Kleiner Simon Sonnenschein. Hallo Mama -- guck mal, so suss bin ich!")

Despite his rough introduction to life in this wicked old world, Simon is expected to be fine. "Simon geht es inzwischen gut, aber er ist noch nicht ganz uber den Berg," Vize-Klinik-Chef Uwe Knop told the Koln Express on April 15th. (See "Von Kater Möhre gerettet Baby Simon wartet auf seine Mama.")

In the same news account, nurse Martina Beier was a good deal more enthusiastic. "Er ist sehr aktiv und hat grossen Hunger. Alle vier Stunden bekommt er ein Flashchen."

Simon Sonnenschein

In the meantime, the police continue to search for Simon's mother. Neighbors and public transit riders have supplied them with a general description of her and an artist's sketch based upon what has been learned has been circulated by the local media.

A detective told the Express in the April 15th article cited supra that they are looking to reunite her with her son as opposed to wanting to punish her. "Simon soll mit seiner Mama aufwachsen. Das ist unser aller Wunsch," he said.

Nonetheless, DNA tests have been conducted on the infant and plans are under way to place him with a foster family as soon as he is well enough to leave the hospital.

It is widely believed that the young mother left Simon on Prager's doorstep because his lights were burning although it is possible that she made her selection based upon his address: 13 Am Emberg Strasse.

Regardless of whatever rationale she was operating on, she certainly guessed right although it is doubtful that she could ever have imagined that behind unlucky number thirteen there would be a cat who was destined to turn out to be her son's savior.

Photos: Schwaiger, Koln Express ( Mohre and Dirk) and Meyer, Koln Express (Simon).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Molly Is Finally Rescued After Spending Two Weeks Trapped Inside the Walls of an English Deli in Greenwich Village


Molly, an eleven-month-old black cat whose plight softened the hearts of both jaded New Yorkers and cat-lovers all over the world, was rescued late last Friday evening from the walls of an English delicatessen in Greenwich Village where she had been trapped for two weeks.

Although policemen, firemen, Animal Care and Control (ACC), and Down Town Pets had all made a variety of unsuccessful attempts to rescue the feline, in the end it was an acoustics expert and a construction worker who were finally able to locate and free her. Using sophisticated sound-detecting equipment, Alan Fierstein was able to locate Molly trapped in a tube behind a first-floor wall. This discovery allowed Kevin Clifford of Queens, who is working on a new water tunnel in Lower Manhattan but had volunteered to assist in the rescue, to drill a hole into the wall and free the dusty and frightened cat at 10:13 p.m.

"Merry Christmas -- you're going home, Molly," the sandhog reportedly told her after he had pulled her out by her tail. (See New York Post, April 16, 2006, "Lucky Molly's In the Lap of Luxury.")

Despite being forced to subsist upon whatever mice and insects that she was able to catch and dripping water for a fortnight, she was in remarkably good shape after her trying ordeal (See photo below) and did not require hospitalization. Having migrated from the deserts of Africa, it is not unusual for cats to go without food and water for extended periods of time. For instance, Emily, a thirteen-month-old black and gray cat from Appleton, Wisconsin, survived more than three-weeks without sustenance last October when she became trapped inside a cargo container that was being shipped from the badger state to Nancy, France. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")

"I saw her eyes shining in the light," Clifford told The New York Times on April 15th. "I was calling her, and she was meowing to me. She was scared." (See "The Fraidy-Cat of Hudson Street Is Yanked to Safety.")

"It feels like I just won the lottery," an overjoyed Peter Myers, owner of Myers of Keswick at 634 Hudson Street, told the New York Daily News on April 15th. (See "Ending Is Cat's Meow.") "We're glad to have her back," he added. (See the New York Post article cited supra.) Myers and Clifford are pictured at the top of the page, left to right, along with a caged Molly.

Myers and his daughter, Jennifer, celebrated Molly's safe return with champagne and English ale while the prodigal feline, a non-tippler, made do with water, bacon and sardines.

Before Messrs. Fierstein and Clifford were finally able to solve the riddle of Molly's whereabouts, rescuers had unsuccessfully tried removing bricks and drilling multiple holes in the walls but all this succeeded in doing was to frighten her and to subject her tiny lungs to dangerous levels of dust. They next lowered video cameras into the darkened crevices in an effort to make sure that she was still alive. They also tried to entice her out by playing recordings of whales and sea gulls. Traps were baited with mackerel to no avail. Cat therapists and psychics plied their crafts without success and, in an attempt to arouse Molly's maternal instincts, kittens were also pressed into service.

While all of this was going on inside the nineteenth-century, four-story brick structure, a media circus that included not only reporters and cameramen but concerned ailurophiles and their detractors was performing outside in the street. Food was dropped off for Molly and seemingly everyone and his brother had advice of one sort or another to offer.

The rescue has hindered from the outset not only because of the fact that the building is protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission but also by Myers' initial unwillingness to foot the bill for any damage that might be done to his eatery. This was in spite of the fact that the building's unnamed owner had given permission for rescuers to drill into the walls.

As cheap, heartless, and inhumane as this sounds, it is not all that uncommon an occurrence. Specifically, Mike Pastore of ACC told the New York Post in the article cited supra that twice in the past dozen years he has been forced to kill cats with poisoned needles and then to drag out their bodies because either tenants or landlords had refused to allow him to drill into their precious walls. This attitude on the part of cat-owners, landlords, and city officials demonstrates a lack of regard for feline life.

Officials would never stand idly by and allow a human to perish under similar circumstances. Clifford got it right when he told the New York Daily News on April 16th, "If that ever happened to me, I hope they would keep working that way." (See "Molly's Already Feline (sic) Just Fine.") Besides, the concerns of both Myers and the conservationists were superfluous in this instance because not only has an anonymous donor agreed to pay for the rescue but the ACC has also established Molly's Fund.

Myers has also been criticized for waiting too long to notify officials of his cat's disappearance. Although she vanished on March 31st, he did not contact the fire department until April 2nd when he heard her meowing from inside the wall. He has attempted to justify his dereliction of duty by arguing that he thought that she had been stolen. This is, of course, specious reasoning that hardly helps his case.

His callous treatment of Molly has nonetheless engendered a spate of hate mail from concerned cat-lovers and this has prompted him to have a veterinarian surgically implant a microchip underneath her skin in order to protect her from theft. This is not only a needless invasive procedure but also a waste of time and money because it is highly unlikely that any catnapper would be imbecilic enough to allow her to be scanned by a veterinarian.

Nonetheless, the hate mail as well as her own fame may have put an end to her career as head mouser at the West Village deli that specializes in such staples of English cuisine as Scotch eggs, clotted cream, Marmite, and fresh pork pies. At last word, Molly is staying at Jennifer's West Village apartment and has not yet returned to her customary basket at the deli. She and Jennifer did, however, make an appearance Monday with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa (See photo below).

By all accounts Molly has been a proficient mouser since Myers adopted her from an animal shelter last year in order to replace the late Fluffy Fleabag. "She is a little four-legged killer. She's a valued member of the staff," he told The Times of London on April 13th. (See "Bid to Save Molly the Mouser.")

She is in fact so good at her job that Myers willingly pays a $300 fine twice a year to health inspectors for the privilege of illegally keeping her at his twenty-year-old eatery. It is one of those Catch-22 situations that occur so often in New York. Without Molly, he would have to pay an identical amount for having mice.

Despite all the wasted time and cheapness of some of the parties involved, the rescue effort nonetheless brought out the very best in the Big Apple. It is a bigoted, greedy, and violent city to be sure but on those rare occasions when it decides to strut its stuff it does so with a certain savoir-faire that few cities can equal.

As for Molly, it is hoped that Myers and his daughter will take better care of her from here on if not out of love then out of an appreciation of the fact that because of her newfound fame she is now a valuable cat.

Photos: Dima Gavrysh of the Associated Press (Peter Myers, Kevin Clifford and Molly in cage) and WABC-TV, New York (Molly by herself and with Jennifer Myers, Rigis Philbin and Kelly Ripa).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Hal the Central Park Coyote Is Suffocated to Death by Wildlife Biologists Attempting to Tag Him


Hal, the one-year-old coyote who captured the hearts and imagination of New Yorkers when he strayed into Central Park last month, has been murdered by wildlife biologists in a botched attempt to ear-tag him. His killers have been identified as Dan Bogan, a graduate student at Cornell, and Mike Putnam, a wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). No criminal charges or disciplinary action have been brought against the deadly duo.

Hal was first spotted in Central Park on March 20th and it is assumed that he wandered in from either Westchester County or New Jersey. The police hounded him for two days before they were able to corner him and shoot him with a dart containing Ketamine. (See photo of him above.)

He then spent a week with firefighter Bobby Horvath and policewoman Rebecca Asman who operate Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation on Long Island. There he was treated for ticks and other parasites as well as given a steady diet of venison, chicken, organ meats, canned dog good, and kibble.

On March 30th, Bogan and Putnam reclaimed him with the intent of releasing him in the California Hill State Forest in upstate New York's Putnam County. Not having an ounce of respect for his inalienable right to live in freedom and dignity, they decided that he must first submit to being tagged before they would release him.

Bogan and Putnam then proceeded to remove him from his carrier with a control pole and to seal shut his mouth with an elastic bandage. (See photo of him in his cage below.)

They then attempted to pin him down for tagging but while they were tussling with him he suffocated on his own blood and died. Although a postmortem revealed thirty-five heartworms and the presence of the rodenticide Chlorophacinone in his body, his premature death was no doubt the direct result of the rough and uncalled for treatment that he received at the hands of the biologists.

His death also raises serious questions about how not only wildlife but domestic animals as well are treated by animal care professionals. For instance, why was he never checked for heartworms and Chlorophacinone by either the DEC or by Horvath and Asman?

Also, should rat poison he used under any circumstances? Not only is it lethal to all animals who come into direct contact with it, but it is also harmful to those who feed upon poisoned rodents.

As for tagging, Asman told the New York Daily News on April 8th, "To minimize stress, we handle wild animals as little as possible so they can be released back into the wild. Hopefully, new protocols will be set for the handling of coyotes that come into the five-borough area, and we do believe that will happen again." (See "Stress Killed Coyote.")

Asman concluded by saying, "We are still very saddened by the fact that Hal was never able to be free." Bon dit! As for Bogan and Putnam, they should at least be fired if not jailed. They are not protectors of wildlife; they are wildlife annihilators.

Photos: James Carbone of Newsday (Hal) and Daniel Avila of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Hall in cage).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Once Worshiped as Gods, Maus Are Now Being Poisoned to Death by Egyptian Authorities


Their lineage can be traced back to the days of the pharaohs when they were worshiped as gods. Sadly, today they roam the mean streets of Cairo fending for themselves as best they can all the while the Egyptian authorities are attempting to poison them out of existence.

They are the Maus and they are known for their distinctive black spots and "M" markings on their foreheads. They also have black ringed tails and legs, a black stripe down their backs, and large gooseberry-colored eyes. These intelligent and mischievous felines are also capable of running at up to thirty-six miles per hour!

Although it is now known exactly how many homeless Maus live in Cairo, there are certainly dozens -- if not indeed hundreds -- of them. On the street they face the same dangers that plague homeless cats everywhere: starvation (See photo above of a Mau fishing through the trash), predation, disease, the elements, and motorists who run them down for sport. Worst still, the Egyptian authorities consider them to be pests and have begun systematically poisoning them as well as gunning down homeless dogs. The Egyptians' barbaric treatment of cats and dogs is on a par with how the Greeks and Israelis deal with their unwanted pets. (See Cat Defender post of November 7, 2005 entitled "Israeli Colonialists in Gaza and the West Bank Leave Behind Thousands of Cats to Die of Thirst, Hunger, and Predation.")

Fortunately, things are beginning to look up for the Maus now that they have found their white knight. Her name is Gloria Lauris (See photo below) and she is a transplanted Canadian and founder of Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization (EMRO). According to its web site, www.emaurescue.org, EMRO has formulated a comprehensive plan to save not only homeless Maus in Cairo but also to support breeding efforts both inside and outside of Egypt.

Through the establishment of a shelter, an adoption office, and a sanctuary, homeless Maus will be trapped, vaccinated, and sterilized. An effort will be made to find homes for those tame enough to the adopted while the remainder will be allowed to live out their lives at a sanctuary.

Because of extensive inbreeding, Maus born abroad often suffer from cataracts, heart problems, and compromised immune systems and in an effort to remedy this situation EMRO is now selling some of the cats that it traps to breeders outside of Egypt. Following the success of Halle Berry's Catwoman, where the cats were prominently featured, demand for them has soared in the West with pedigreed Maus fetching as much as $1,500 apiece. Moreover, researchers at the University of California at Davis have extracted DNA from a mummified cat which they think will clearly establish a direct link between the Maus of the pharaohs and their twenty-first century cousins.

Although EMRO's efforts to save the fabled Maus are highly commendable, it is nonetheless disturbing that the organization is not doing more to pressure the Egyptian authorities into stopping their slaughter of homeless cats and dogs in Cairo. These unfortunate animals have not committed any crimes and it is reprehensible that they are being poisoned and shot down.

Secondly, although breeding cats may be justified under some circumstances, the fact remains that there are more cats than there are homes for them. More to the point, EMRO's plan to breed more Maus in Cairo while it is at the same time sterilizing them en masse is not only barbaric but hypocritical as well. Of course, the group would no doubt argue that it needs the money that it earns from breeding pedigreed Maus in order to help defray the costs of rescuing feral Maus.

Despite EMRO's good intentions, their emphasis should be on saving the lives of the Maus already living in this world as opposed to breeding more of them.

Photos: EMRO (Mau in trash) and Mohamed Muslemany, NBC News (Gloria Lauris and Mau).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once Read His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18


Humphrey, the long-haired tuxedo stray who once lived at 10 Downing Street (See photo on the right), has passed away. He died approximately three weeks ago at the home of a Cabinet official who had adopted him after the ailurophobic Cherie Blair had driven him out of the prime minister's residence back in 1997. He was eighteen-years-old.

While still a stay, Humphrey wandered into 10 Downing Street back in 1990 while the "Iron Lady" was still in charge and stayed on as "First Mouser of the British Isles" throughout John Major's tenure. He lasted only six months, however, with the Blairs and Cherie reportedly tried to have him exterminated. Once the media got wind of what was afoot, she was forced to back down and even made to pose with Humphrey (See photo below).

In this context it is important to remember not only that old Irish proverb which warns against people who hate cats but also the petit fait that the Countess of Wessex once referred to Cherie as "horrid, horrid, horrid." In the photograph below even poor Humphrey looks like he is frightened to death of her.

Nonetheless, because of Mrs. Blair's antipathy, Humphrey's tenure at 10 Downing Street ended at that point. His supporters within the Conservative Party continued, however, to champion his cause and one MP even demanded proof from the Labor government that the Blairs had not done in the celebrated moggy. The media were then summoned to Humphrey's new south London residence where he was photographed, hostage style, surrounded by a jumble of the day's newspapers. Commenting upon Humphrey's new digs, a spokesman for the Tories could not resist making some political hay: "Humphrey is voting with his paws. After eight happy years under a Conservative government he could only take six months of Labor."

Humphrey, who was named after Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Machiavellian civil servant in the BBC sitcom, Yes Minister, and its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, reportedly liked cookies and spent a disproportionate amount of his time at 10 Downing Street sitting atop a hot-air vent. He was also known as a proficient mouser. "He has caught numerous mice and the odd rat. By a perhaps unfair comparison, Rentokill have (sic) been operating for years and have never caught anything," a Cabinet report released last July said. (See The Times of London, March 20, 2006, "Political World Mourns a Killer Named Humphrey.")

The same report described Humphrey as "a workaholic who spends nearly all of his time at the office, has no criminal record, does not socialize a great deal or go to many parties and has not been involved in any sex or drug scandals that we know of."

Humphrey also enjoys the distinction of being perhaps the only cat in history to ever have had the opportunity to read his own obituary. When he temporarily vanished from Downing Street back in 1995, his obituary in The Times of London alerted the staff at the Royal Army Medical College that the cat they had adopted and christened PC was in fact Humphrey! This made him instantaneously famous and the fan mail poured in from all over the world.

Humphrey did have one close brush with death while at Downing Street and that came when he was nearly run over by a limousine carrying Bill Clinton. The former president, it might be recalled, not only mutilated his cat Socks before dumping her on his former secretary but he has also allowed two of his dogs to be killed by autos. It would therefore appear that both the Clintons and Blairs are lethal to cats and dogs. Other than a chronic kidney ailment, Humphrey enjoyed relatively good health throughout his long life.

When he died his obituary appeared in, inter alia, The Times of London, on the BBC, and in the Washington Post. Sadly, this time around it was the genuine article and Humphrey will most definitely not be reading it unless it is from the Rainbow Bridge. No funeral plans have been announced and it is not known how his guardian plans to dispose of his body.

Humphrey was a great cat and he will be sorely missed.

Photos: BBC (Humphrey outside Downing Street) and Fiona Hanson of the Associated Press (Humphrey and Cherie Blair).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Free Lewis Now! Connecticut Tomcat, Victimized by a Bum Rap, Is Placed Under House Arrest


Lewis, a five-year-old polydactyl long-haired tuxedo tomcat (See photos) from Fairfield, Connecticut was placed under house arrest last week for allegedly attacking about a half-dozen area residents. Meanwhile, his guardian, real estate broker Ruth Cisero, is up to her neck in legal troubles.

The alleged attacks, which have occurred over a three-year period in Lewis's Holland Hill neighborhood, had previously prompted Animal Control to order him quarantined on three separate occasions. Cisero even took the drastic measure of placing him on Prozac for two months but when he suffered a negative reaction to the drug she wisely took him off of it. Now, he has been placed under house arrest following another incident.

After the Connecticut Post broke the story last week Cisero has been inundated with hundreds of telephone calls and requests for interviews by reporters from all around the world, including the BBC, CBC, and London's Guardian. With his fame spreading like wildfire, Lewis has now even been profiled at myplace.com. It is a classic example of the old newspaper adage which holds that if a dog bites a man it is not newsworthy but if a man bites a dog it is a big story. Likewise, ailurophobes attacking cats is old hat but a cat who strikes back creates a media feeding frenzy.

"I have pages and pages of newspapers and people who want to come here and interview and take pictures of Lew. All over the place they have covered this story and I am totally shocked," Cisero told the Connecticut Post on March 30th. (See "Fairfield Feline Under House Arrest Now Media Celebrity.")

Contrary to the pronouncements and edicts of Animal Control, Lewis has no doubt been the victim of a malicious slander campaign initiated by overly protective cat owners, ailurophobes, and bird advocates. He has, in short, been given a bum rap and should have his freedom restored immediately!

Cisero attributes two of the alleged attacks to the interference of neighbors in standoffs between Lewis and their cats. "Everyone who is complaining has a cat. And as you know like a dog, when cats face off, you can't go near them and that's not been brought out anywhere," she told WCBS-TV out of New York on March 29th (See "Lewis the Cat in Hot Water After Alleged Attacks.")

As for Avon peddler Donna Greenstein, who had a run-in with Lewis, Cisero suspects that she inadvertently either stepped on the cat's tail or closed a door on him. Whatever the case, Greenstein is suing Cisero for $5,000.

As for the other alleged attacks, Cisero believes that they were instigated by bird-lovers who objected to Lewis's hunting prowess and responded by dousing him with water and throwing eggs at him. "Part of this bad reaction he is having to people is he has been tormented," Cisero told the Connecticut Post.

Ailurophobia cannot be ruled out either as one of the sources of Lewis's troubles. Malheursement, there are a lot of people in this world who go ballistic whenever they see a cat and some of that anti-cat sentiment even leaches into news accounts. For instance, Janet Kettman is quoted by WCBS-TV as accusing Lewis of being a dry-gulcher. "His m. o. is to spring from behind you and what he does is wrap himself around your legs and he bites and scratches," she said.

When they are considered in their entirety and divorced from the hysteria created by ailurophobes, the charges against Lewis are preposterous. Cats are, as Lilian Jackson Braun once said, peace-loving creatures and they never attack humans unless they are either provoked or rabid. Some cats do admittedly like to grab ankles when they are playing and this sets off certain people who are either antagonistic toward them in the first place or unfamiliar with their ways and personalities. If the alleged attacks had been captured on audio-video the tapes would most likely confirm that all of them had been, wittingly or unwittingly, provoked by Lewis's accusers.

As for Lewis, not only has he lost his precious freedom but his life has been placed in jeopardy because of these charges being leveled against him. Accustomed to the great outdoors, Cisero is going to have a tough time keeping him inside. What Machiavelli said about taking away the liberties of people accustomed to living in freedom applies equally to cats. "He is dying to get outside," Cisero has already told the Connecticut Post.

If she has the time and is willing to spend the money, Cisero could enclose a backyard or a porch for him. She could also attempt to train him to walk on a leash around her property if fencing in the yard is not practicable. She could also try making the inside of her house a whole lot more interesting to him by building kitty condos, erecting special perches near windows where he could watch the birds, and by buying him a toy mouse that he could chase.

Cisero is scheduled to appear in Bridgeport Superior Court on April 25th to stand trial on charges of reckless endangerment resulting from an alleged attack that Lewis committed while he was under limited house arrest. More worrisome is the fact that Lewis will no doubt attempt to regain his freedom and should he somehow manage to escape Cisero's house again Animal Control might very well sign his death warrant. One of his alleged victims is already clamoring for his head.

It is therefore incumbent upon Cisero that she take great care in order to ensure that Lewis's enemies never again get their hands on him. It is entirely possible that Cisero may eventually tire of her travails and abandon Lewis to some shelter where he would surely be exterminated unless a suitable home could promptly be found for him.

The best solution for all concerned would be for the authorities to immediately free Lewis. Bird-lovers and ailurophobes should mind their own business and anybody afraid to go outdoors because of a cat should stay inside. Failing that, Cisero should take matters into her own hands and leave Connecticut. That would indeed be an expensive undertaking but no cost is ever too great when it comes to saving a life. Cats are special and they live such terribly short lives even under optimal circumstances.

Photos: WPVI-TV, Channel 6, Philadelphia (Lewis playing and portrait shot) and WNBC (Lewis reclining on the carpet).