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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, May 15, 2008

Predatory Capitalism Rears Its Ugly Head as Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Sacks Overnight Cats, Morris and Fred

"Si vous etes digne de son affection, un chat deviendra votre ami mais jamais votre esclave."
-- Theophile Gautier

In a shocking display of the predatory nature of capitalism, historic Anderson House in Wabasha, Minnesota has shown the gate to a pair of its so-called "overnight" cats, Morris and Fred. Although no specific reasons have been given for the cats' curt dismissals, it is quite obvious that management, having sucked all the blood that it could get out of them, no longer found it cost effective to keep them around. (See photo above of the inn.)

Far from being either mascots or mousers, Morris and Fred were part of a large contingent of "overnight" cats who have toiled away for the state's oldest continuously operating bed and breakfast since the 1970s. Requested by paying guests either at the time reservations are made or upon check-in, they are then passed off to complete strangers like dollar whores.

Their litter boxes, food, water, and toys are delivered and they are then locked away for the night. The next day they are packed up again and shuffled off to spend the night with a different guest.

"I think he'd be happier somewhere else," manageress Teresa Smith, who operates the lodging house along with her husband, Mike, said of Morris in a May 3rd interview with Rochester's Post-Bulletin. (See "Retired Anderson House Host Cat Is Ready to Be Your Guest.") "He's a very loving cat but on his terms."

The establishment is somewhat more forthcoming on its web site. "Morris is ready to retire -- can't handle the new kids on the block. He loves attention but does not like to be picked up."

Reading between the lines, it is safe to assume that Morris has gotten tired of being abused and exploited and let Smith and her customers know it. Moreover, cats that develop an aversion to being picked up usually have a good reason, i.e., they have been repeatedly dropped.

It also is quite understandable that cats misused like Morris would develop an antipathy to being constantly pawed by an ever-changing cast of characters. Smith's oblique charge that he "can't handle the new kids on the block" could refer to anything from his relations with his fellow felines to how well he gets along with guests.

Whatever the reason, his sacking is especially heartless in light of the fact that the orange tabby has spent the majority of his ten to twelve years on this earth working for Anderson House. In human terms, that would make him between fifty-six and sixty-four years of age. (See photo below.) Even if a new home can be found for him, he is sure to have a difficult time adjusting.

Whereas dogs belong to people, cats belong to places. "Passion for place -- there is no greater urge in feline nature," children's author Paul Annixter once wrote.

Morris first of all will have to be kept inside for several months in order to prevent him from attempting to return to his old home. He will sans doute miss his fellow felines and the familiar haunts and smells of the old inn.

Uprooting a cat of his age cannot be considered anything but cruel. The Smiths certainly have enough space and money in order to allow him to live out the remainder of his days at the inn. That is what the management at Lake Quinault Lodge in Washington State have done for a stray named Roosevelt. (See Cat Defender post of January 7, 2008 entitled "Roosevelt, Who Has Brightened the Lives of So Many Vacationers, Now Sets His Sights on Saving Other Homeless Cats and Dogs.")

Like most capitalists, the Smiths are, unfortunately, too greedy and mercenary to do even that much for Morris and the other cats that they so callously discard. A one-year-old orange cat dubbed Mini Morris already has been procured from parts unknown in order to replace his namesake.

It is even more mysterious why Fred, a three-year-old black tomcat, is being given the boot. (See photo below.) After all, he only arrived at the bed and breakfast last year when he was brought in to replace a cat named Goblin that had died.

In the Post-Bulletin article cited supra, Smith describes Fred as alternately a cat who "thinks he's a dog" and as a "cool cat," while on the inn's web site he is said to be "very loving and will be great for anyone." Quite obviously, what Smith is implying is that he would be a good fit for anyone else except for her money-making empire.

Based upon their posted comments, readers of the Post-Bulletin are overwhelmingly appalled by Anderson House's mean treatment of Morris. (Fred's sacking has not been reported by the newspaper.) In fact, many of them have pledged to boycott the guesthouse.

Under the circumstances, a full and thorough investigation is warranted of not only how management treats the cats but, more importantly, how they are treated by guests. Since cats are creatures of habit who do not take well to strangers, a prima facie case could be made that the entire setup at Anderson House is abusive and exploitative.

Although innumerable cats are gainfully employed in both the private and public sectors, their working conditions usually are far different than those experienced by their beleaguered colleagues at Anderson House. For instance, tea drinkers at Tokyo's cat cafes are free to enjoy the presence of cats but it is always on the felines' terms. (See Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 2008, "Tokyo's Cat Cafes Offer Serenity in the City.")

Therapeutic cats and dogs that visit hospitals and nursing homes do so on their own terms and with the accompaniment of their owners. (See The Reporter-Herald of Loveland, Colorado, April 13, 2008, "Disabled Cat Provides Therapeutic Interaction.")

At a Rhode Island nursing home, the amazing Oscar is allowed to come and go as he pleases as he dispenses comfort to the dying. (See Cat Defender post of July 30, 2007 entitled "A Visit from Oscar the Cat Means the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at Rhode Island Nursing Home.")

In all of these cases, the cats retain their freedom and are treated with dignity and respect as opposed to cash cows. More importantly, if Anderson House's cats liked the way in which they are being treated they would not be rebelling and getting the sack.

Management also should be required to disclose records of how many cats it has run through the inn during the past thirty years. In particular, close scrutiny should be given to how unwanted cats, such as Morris and Fred, have been disposed of over the years.

The public is entitled to know if these cats are given over to shelters to kill or do the Smiths dispose of them in some other nefarious manner. Above all, Anderson House should not be permitted to operate a revolving door whereby it takes in cats, exploits them, and then dumps them.

Even procuring good homes for the cats that it sacks is insufficient. Jaded by their misuse at Anderson House, these cats may not last long with new families. In fact, adoption could be only a way station on the road to being slaughtered at a shelter.

It is therefore incumbent upon animal rights groups to follow up on the fate of cats and dogs after their working days have come to an end. Businesses and organizations that serially exploit, abuse, and dump animals should be identified and prosecuted.

Attention also should be concentrated upon how the cats are procured and, in particular, the role that shelters and other humane organizations play in aiding and abetting Anderson House. The Post-Bulletin's eagerness to assist the Smiths in their shenanigans is reprehensible but entirely predictable.

Totally lacking in shame as well as in compassion, the Smiths have announced on the inn's web site that they are holding "cat interviews" in order to restock and interested parties are urged to forward photographs of their cats.

Since most shelters and humane organizations allow individuals to repeatedly adopt and return any number of cats and dogs, there probably is nothing illegal about Anderson House's modus operandi. It furthermore could be argued that it is giving unwanted cats a few years of life that they otherwise would not have had if the knackers had gotten hold of them. That does not materially change the fact, however, that its treatment of the cats is tacky and inhumane.

Anyone who adopts a cat or a dog is a genuine hero in every sense of the word, but to then turn around and either return or abandon it negates the good deed. Once an individual adopts an animal he or she is responsible for its well-being for the remainder of its life.

This moral precept applies to individuals and should be extended to businesses as well. Moreover, serial adopters and dumpers like Anderson House set a horrible example for the remainder of society.

Raising the issue of Anderson House's naked exploitation of its "overnight" cats, admittedly, opens up a Pandora's box. At the Clipper Ship Inn in Salem, Massachusetts, Suzanne Sullivan is up the spout as the result of her humane efforts to house, as opposed to exploit, homeless cats.

For example, the local health department not only has stripped her establishment of the right to serve food, but it also has mandated separate litter boxes, cat perches, and rabies' vaccinations for each of her cats. (See Cat Defender post of May 21, 2007 entitled "Salem, Massachusetts Is Going After Cats Again Much Like It Did During 1692 Witch Trials.")

That is not what is needed anymore than the benign neglect shown by the D Sands Condominium Motel in Lincoln City, Oregon. In that instance, management allowed a cat named Marmalade who had been hit by a motorist and assaulted by a raccoon to wander its grounds for months with a prolapsed rectum. (See Cat Defender post of October 16, 2007 entitled "Tourists from Michigan Save the Life of a Critically Ill Oregon Cat Named Marmalade.")

What is needed is an enlightened public policy that would encourage lodging houses and other commercial establishments to shelter homeless cats and dogs without burdening them with superfluous and expensive legal requirements while at the same time protecting the welfare of the animals. That is a fine line to draw but intelligent and humane public officials should be capable of striking an appropriate balance.

Of paramount concern is the odious practice that many businesses and institutions have of killing their cats as soon as they grow old or sickly. Par exemple, that is how the world famous library cat Dewey Readmore Books met his end. (See Cat Defender posts of December 7, 2006 and May 10, 2007 entitled, respectively, "After Nineteen Years of Service and Companionship, Ingrates at Iowa Library Murder Dewey Readmore Books" and "Iowa Librarian Vicki Myron Inks Million Dollar Deal for Memoir about Dewey Readmore Books.")

The same fate befell Colin's of Port Taranaki and a newspaper cat named Tripod. (See Cat Defender posts of May 31, 2007 and February 9, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen" and "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont.")

In addition to the newcomer Mini Morris, Anderson House currently has three other "overnight" cats on its staff. Ginger, who is described as the friendliest of the crew, craves attention and is no doubt a favorite of ailurophiles.

Arnold is a dashing black tomcat with splashes of white running down his handsome face and chest. He is not only great with kids but reportedly already has had a book published about himself.

A gray and white cat named Aloysius rounds out the team. Fairly new to the job, he is described as shy but loving.

From the personality profiles posted on its web site it is clear that Anderson House keeps around only those cats that are highly sociable and do not mind being bandied about from guest to guest. That petit fait alone strongly suggests that a large percentage of the Smiths' adoptees sooner or later will be getting the bum's rush like Morris and Fred.

To their credit, cats are not brownnosers and that is precisely the personality trait that ailurophiles love about them and ailurophobes, quite naturally, detest. As musician Jeff Valdez once said, "Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."

The last word fittingly belongs to French poet Theophile Gautier who had an abiding appreciation for cats that is totally beyond the keen of the moneygrubbing Smiths. "Si vous etes digne do son affection, un chat deviendra votre ami mais jamais votre esclave."

Photos: Minnesota Bed and Breakfasts (Anderson House), Post-Bulletin (Morris), and Anderson House (Fred).