Sunday, March 13, 2011

On The "Helping Homeless Cats" Class

So, per my prior post, I attended the "Helping Homeless Cats" class at the local Humane Society last Thursday. It was definitely an interesting experience, and I am really glad I went.

The turnout was pretty low -- I think only three names on the sign-in sheet, and maybe six or seven people in the room total (including presenters). I already knew a lot of what appeared in the informational part of the presentation (e.g., "how to set a humane trap"), but I also learned a few new, useful things (e.g., "make a list of all the cats in the colony, describe each cat, and include a picture if possible").

I was also just really pleased to see that Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is apparently in the process of "going mainstream". It took a long while for shelters and adoption agencies to get a clue in that department, because for so long the default for "unadoptable" cats (a group with includes the vast majority of ferals) was to simply put them to death in order to "free up space" for socialized, more extroverted felines.

What seems to be finally getting into more people's heads is the fact that shelters and animal-control facilities are simply inappropriate for feral cats, period. Shelters are designed for displaced domesticated animals (for whom, hopefully, the shelter will serve merely as a stopgap between homes), not wild ones. And by the time a feral cat becomes an adult, it is likely that he or she is running an entirely different "operating system" than a domesticated cat. In other words, just because cats CAN be tame* it doesn't mean that all non-tame cats are suffering for the mere fact of not being inclined to sit on human laps.

Yes, they may face dangers such as cars and other predators than companion cats who spend all or most of their time indoors-- but in this regard feral cats are no different from other medium-sized wild animals (e.g., raccoons and skunks). And you don't generally come across anyone suggesting that raccoons and skunks all ought to be killed "so they don't suffer outside".

Okay, wow, that got a bit tangential. Where was I? Oh yeah. At this meeting I saw what was probably the MOST DEPRESSING VIDEO EVER. Seriously, I had to leave the room partway through it because I started crying. :/ I know it had a purpose -- that is, to show the contrast between what happens to cats who get picked up by animal control vs. the happy, healthy lives they can live post-TNR.

But GAH. I don't ever want to see anything like that ever again. I mean, I KNOW what goes on in shelters and animal control when they've got "too many" feral cats. I don't fault the people who made the video -- they didn't DO the horrible things shown, they just documented them in order to jolt people out of complacency. But I wasn't complacent to begin with, so for me it was just like...staring into a bottomless pit lined with graphic images of everything that is fundamentally wrong with humanity.

Again, I can see why the organizers felt the need to show a video like that. And it did ultimately end on a positive note (i.e., happy kitties congregating around their food in a well-managed colony situation). But I figured I would mention the nastier bits just in case anyone reading this ends up going to a similar meeting -- basically, be aware that you may be in for some absolute nightmare fuel if they start up a video about "homeless cats in your neighborhood" or similar.

But again, despite having occasion to get extremely upset partway through, I am still very glad I went to the meeting. I did, after all (as I'd hoped) get to meet some folks with actual trapping/TNR experience and ask them a ton of questions (I wrote copious notes beforehand).

Also, I was quite relieved to learn that no, you don't HAVE to actually go in and trap all the cats in a colony at once. I'd read on various sites that it was BEST to do things that way, but apparently I was taking it too literally. Getting everyone TNRed in one go is the ideal situation -- however, it isn't the most realistic one. Mass trapping days are notoriously hard to organize and while they do tend to make the papers when they occur, they're more the exception than the norm. It's a lot more common to just have a few traps and maybe one or two people helping out the cats.

So now I at least feel like the project I have in mind is actually doable. Because between Matt and his parents, there are certainly enough vehicles and drivers to take in three or four cats at a time in for their surgery. The parents also have a nice garage (not a drafty nasty's got indoor plumbing and plenty of space) where the cats could presumably recover overnight. And I can definitely handle the trapping part myself...that's just a matter of putting the traps in logical places and attending to them once they've been sprung (i.e., covering them with a blanket so the caught kitty can calm down).

On that note, after the meeting I also had a bit of an epiphany about traps, and THIS I think is going to really help make things more feasible. One of the things that was previously making the project feel ridiculously daunting was the fact that I would likely need to rent or borrow additional traps (I've already got one) from the Humane Society or similar place. Which would mean I'd have to work out transportation first to pick up the traps, THEN to transport the cats in them to their surgery appointments, THEN to bring the cats back to the colony, and THEN back to the shelter empty once the cats were released. And just THINKING about the logistics of all that was turning my brain into something resembling melty unflavored gelatin.

But! Then it dawned on me: if it's okay to bring in maybe three or four cats at once (rather than twelve or fourteen), maybe I can just...get a few more traps! I can't afford the really fancy, sturdy ones, but there are plenty of perfectly functional, less expensive models out there. So I did a bunch of Amazon searches using different terms and criteria and eventually found THREE traps (one single and one kit of two) that wouldn't break my budget. They should arrive next week, which means we could be trapping by next weekend, depending on when we can get appointments.

I figure I will just make appointments for as many cats as I have traps and hope I can get one in each. And then there will only need to be two trips made: one to bring the cats to the clinic, and one to bring them home, rather than four trips minimum. That should make things WAY more manageable. Plus, with four traps I may end up being able to help out other locals doing TNR -- I may not be able to drive, but I will certainly be able to lend out my traps!

(Above: Photo of two feral cats from the local colony. Rosie, the grownup cat, is already spayed and ear-tipped so that people can recognize her on sight as a TNR-ed kitty. The small black kitten -- who still needs a name -- is one of the next in line for TNR.)

OH. And also. The Humane Society is going to be having some days this month (not sure which ones, I will have to ask) where feral cats can get spayed or neutered for FREE. Which is just awesome, awesome news. So yeah. It may be raining outside right now, but things are definitely looking brighter on the kitty-assistance front!

* Re. the word "tame"...I actually kind of dislike the notion of cats being called "tame", but when I use it here all I mean is "socialized to humans". In general, though, for me "tame" has icky connotations of passivity. And I think that anyone who thinks socializing cats means making them passive or tolerant of being yanked or tossed around by small children, etc., has WAY the wrong idea. But it's shorter to write "tame" than any of the other, more complicated explanations of what I mean by "socialized to humans" so I do it sometimes. For what it's worth.


  1. For whatever it's worth, I prefer "tame" over "domesticated" in reference to cats who are willing to interact with humans. It makes the distinction that cats as a species can get by just fine without us. (While domesticated populations by definition can't.)

  2. I don't really like to say tame or feral, although I tend to use feral more to get my point across. Tame is... after I managed to get along with several feral cats, it seemed to me that it was something different, that "tame" doesn't really work for me. But I don't actually have a word that does.

    I mean the main difference I've found between cats who are "befriended" as kittens vs. as adults is that I think the kittens tend to be more open to being friendly with other people, while the adults tend to be specifically friendly with the person (or people) who took the time with them, but other than that, their behavior toward people is similar even if their operating systems are different.

    Am I even making sense here? I got fixated on your footnote.

    Anyway, as for the rest, that's great. The idea of trapping all cats at once is pretty daunting and almost certainly unworkable in most situations, and I suspect causes all of the cats additional stress that may not be present if only a few are taken and returned at a time.

  3. 403 wrote: For whatever it's worth, I prefer "tame" over "domesticated" in reference to cats who are willing to interact with humans. It makes the distinction that cats as a species can get by just fine without us. (While domesticated populations by definition can't.)

    Yeah, I completely agree that cats as a species can get by just fine without us, and it actively bugs me that someone went and stuck "domesticus" in their taxonomic term (that said, I think "felis catus" can also be legitimately used, though I am not sure what different scientists' preferences or rationales for this sort of thing are).

    However, when it comes to individual cats, I will sometimes use the term "domesticated", because to me that seems like an appropriate way to describe a cat who has spent his/her life completely indoors and would (at least initially) have no idea how to hunt or find shelter if suddenly put outside. But clearly that's more a reflection of experience lack than species potential.

    All that said, I don't get all riled up when people distinguish cats into "tame" and "feral" groups or whatnot, and as stated in my post I use "tame" myself sometimes. It's just one of those words that I don't "like" all that much for whatever reason, and to be perfectly honest it's largely an irrational aesthetics thing. Like the word "tame" synesthetically reminds me of mayonnaise (which I hate) and makes me think of concepts like "bland" and "passive". But again, this isn't something I am liable to get worked up over. What really matters, of course, is that people respect cats, regardless of their apparent "human-approachability" level.

  4. Lisa Harney wrote:
    I don't really like to say tame or feral, although I tend to use feral more to get my point across. Tame is... after I managed to get along with several feral cats, it seemed to me that it was something different, that "tame" doesn't really work for me. But I don't actually have a word that does.

    Yes! This sort of thing. I know exactly what you mean, and I don't have a word for it either. Like I would definitely not think to describe Cora, Brodie, and Shadow as "tame". I mean they will happily sit on me and/or Matt and purr, etc., but they won't (yet) do that with anyone else. Their response to visitors varies a lot, depending on how familiar they are with the person, but in general they seem to need to observe and get to know everyone individually.

    I mean the main difference I've found between cats who are "befriended" as kittens vs. as adults is that I think the kittens tend to be more open to being friendly with other people, while the adults tend to be specifically friendly with the person (or people) who took the time with them, but other than that, their behavior toward people is similar even if their operating systems are different. Am I even making sense here? I got fixated on your footnote.

    Yes, you are making sense to me. There's no real strict line I can see delineating "feral" and "tame" (or "wild" and "domesticated" or whatever terms one might prefer to apply to individuals) felines. More like an "electron cloud" or probability-space, where you have clusters of cats much more *likely* to behave one way or another, but not whose proclivities are "set in stone". Really I think that cats actually have very complex psychologies that humans have so far only been able to get a glimpse of, and that is why it can seem like sometimes they "randomly" choose to trust one person, some, or most humans regardless of how they started out.

  5. If there is any way I could help financially with your TNR efforts, send me an e-mail:

  6. Anne: Like the word "tame" synesthetically reminds me of mayonnaise (which I hate) and makes me think of concepts like "bland" and "passive".

    I can relate to this. Someone asked me why I don't like a particular word the other day, and I said "it tasted sour and bitter." I have so many words like this, good and bad.

    As for cats, they're social creatures (despite having a reputation for being solitary loners - where do people come up with this?) so they socialize with people, sometimes. I think a lot of them learn to distrust, fear, or hate people because of bad experiences, and ... that's not even getting into the array of personalities cats can display.

    I think they have complex psychologies, too. I used to think that, because I could interact with them easily that they were not so complex, but watching them over time makes it obvious, even if the nuances of that complexity are not.

    I have seen some feral cats socialize obviously differently to humans than cats raised in a human home - one would nip at people to try to get them to play and had somewhat different body language, too. He's a really sweet cat, though. Just approached humans in an unusual (for cats) way.

  7. I also like your electron cloud/probability space metaphor. :)

  8. CPP: Thanks so much for the offer, but I think (especially given the free upcoming S/N days at the Humane Society clinic) we're okay here as far as finances go. But the thought is certainly appreciated!

  9. Lisa Harney: Synesthesia is a fascinating topic in and of itself. It's one of those things I read voraciously about whenever I can find stuff on it. My own synesthesia seems to be a lot more...random than what I read about in studies and articles, though. Like I do associate letters and numbers with colors, etc., but not in a manner that is 100% static and consistent. Also, for me, synesthesia seems to happen on this weird slightly-subconscious level most of the time, where like it doesn't even always occur to me to consciously notice that it's happening. E.g., I will hear a song that seems like overlapping shades of yellow/gold, but it will just seem completely normal and unremarkable until (for instance) I see a video of that song someone has made that uses entirely different colors, and it will seem incredibly jarring.

    Woo, tangent!

    Anyway...cats! I agree that they are indeed social creatures. They're just not "typically" social, at least not most of the time (though I have met a few incredibly extroverted kitties here and there).

    I think they get a reputation of being "solitary" because they usually HUNT alone. Being small predators, they hunt even smaller prey -- and a mouse isn't exactly a family size meal. And of course they're territorial, but there's lots of research indicating that feral cat colonies (for instance) are at least somewhat organized, generally in a matriarchal fashion.

  10. Lisa Harney also wrote:

    I think a lot of them learn to distrust, fear, or hate people because of bad experiences, and ... that's not even getting into the array of personalities cats can display.

    Oh yeah. One thing I've noticed about cats is that they have VERY long memories for significant experiences (both good and bad, but especially bad, which makes sense from a survival standpoint). Thankfully I've not often dealt with cats who were actually abused, though I've met a few strays who seem like they've probably experienced some rough treatment. :/

    But I have seen a wide array of personalities (as you refer to), and it seems pretty clear that (just like with humans) feline character develops in certain ways due to both genetic and experiential factors.

    That's one reason it's been fascinating watching my three youngster-cats grow up...they've got plenty of similarities but are such different people, despite being born and raised in the same environment(s) with the same humans. And they vary in ways you wouldn't necessarily expect, e.g., Shadow being so much less skittish than Brodie, even though Shadow was trapped three weeks later and hence got to be nearly three months old with no human contact/handling at all.

    Nikki, meanwhile, was extensively "socialized" as a kitten and grew up in a household with two other cats, at least four humans of varying ages, etc., but has never been the sort of cat people tend to describe as "friendly". I suspect this is at least partly because she's got an extremely fine-tuned nervous system, even for a cat, and gets overwhelmed easily. Plus she's got this whole "defend and protect" side to her (which I greatly respect and admire) that is expressed a lot more often and more strongly than her "cuddly" side (which, yes, she does have, though it doesn't seem the thing she'd ever actually admit to if you could ask!)

  11. Yeah, I've got a handful of associations - music -> color, color -> flavor, words -> colors/flavors/shapes/things, voices -> textures, singing voices -> color and texture. Like a musical note might be a flash of yellow, but a human voice singing the same note might be like yellow cloth. And I've been finding it pretty fascinating to read about - especially learning that some of the reasons I was skeptical about having synesthesia are actually pretty common synesthetic traits - like colors related to musical notes are darker for lower notes and brighter for higher notes.

    That's a good point about hunting alone, and I think cats as pets tend to be kind of solitary when they don't have companions - and even when there's more than one cat in a household they sometimes arrange themselves in patterns where none of them are near each other but they can all watch the humans.

    I did rescue an abused kitten from a shelter once. She was skittish around people for the longest time and took a very long time to get to know people. She trusted and liked me but even had an upper socialization limit with me.

    It really amazes me when some people have this idea of cats basically being a particular way, not really seeing them as having distinct personalities/thoughts/behaviors, just seeing "cats" as a homogeneous group. Or of not even displaying emotions. I just assume they've either never been around cats or not paid attention to them when they have been.

    I guess even weirder to me is anthropomorphizing them.

  12. Re. anthropomorphizing cats, yeah, that weirds me out too. As does that annoying thing where people seem to think the only ways to relate to cats are to anthropomorphize them OR treat them like...automatons, or something, that operate only on a "stimulus/response" basis and can't possibly have complex inner lives. It's like some people can only see them as "human baby analogue" or in "behaviourist" terms, neither of which to me seem either accurate nor adequate to encompass the catness of cats.

  13. Yes, the "automaton" explanation is at least as bad, if not so much worse. I think I mentioned an argument I'd had a few years ago (around the same time I started reading Amanda's blog, actually - precisely around that time) with someone because she kept insisting cats are incapable of feeling anything but negative/simple emotions and hunger, and that cats only hang around people so they can eat. It made literally no sense to me.

    Only, in order for this behaviorist automaton model to work, cats have to be capable of manipulative behavior and understand that being nice to humans gets them food, so it's inherently contradictory.

  14. Lisa: Ew, yeah, the "cats are incapable of feeling anything but negative/simple emotions and hunger, and that cats only hang around people so they can eat." thing is exactly the sort of "automaton" nonsense I was referring to. OF COURSE cats may hang around where they can get food, but then again, so do humans (and everything else that happens to be alive...I mean, we all need to eat!).

    But that doesn't mean there can't be more complex stuff layered on top of "basic survival" stuff. And trying to put everything in terms of "oh, [cats] just want food" seems like way more of a stretch than supposing maybe there are other factors at work -- some of which we (humans) may be aware of, and some of which only the cats themselves are privy to.

    I would also like to know how the "automaton" theory accounts for things like...when my cats bring me their "killed" toy mousies.

    I'm guessing some would say something like "oh that's just instinct", and certainly there's an instinctual component there. But seeing as the toy mice are NOT actually real food (and the cats clearly know this, otherwise they'd try and eat their toys, which they don't do), the whole thing takes on a kind of ceremonial significance. IMO it's a wonderful example of feline creativity -- that is, they're taking one of the things they can do by virtue of being cats and adapting it to serve as a friendliness signal to a member of another species.

    Oh and the "it's all stimulus-response, but cats are still so MANIPULATIVE!" thing is typical of extreme behaviourist sentiment, in my experience at least. I've seen the exact same things being said about autistic children -- like, these kids are at once presumed to essentially lack sentience except when it's convenient to suggest they are "acting out in order to manipulate [adults]" or "doing [thing] just to get attention". It boggles the mind anyone could see that sort of thing as "scientific"!

  15. Yeah, that was not a fun discussion. It was interesting at the time because I was in this argument about whether animals can truly feel a range of emotions and have any level of self-awareness (I question the test used for self-awareness, too - using visual cues for animals that don't rely on vision) on the one hand and reading Amanda's posts about her cat on the other hand (and you know having the experience of for the first time seeing someone talk about cats in a way that made sense to me).

    The weird part about this was the woman making this argument was a vet tech. I could not understand how someone could be around animals and not catch signs of anything beyond this extremely reductionist behavioral model.

    I mean, like, to me, a lot of animals have pretty obvious body language. I can usually see how a cat or dog is approaching me and respond appropriately. How is it that someone who makes animals her career can't see these signals?

    And yeah, I don't see simple instinct playing into the way cats play with toys. They clearly develop favorite toys, they have a kind of, I don't know, relationship with their toys that goes beyond just "tiny thing, must swat," I think. I mean not in the same way that a human child relates to their toys, but that there's a thing going on with them, and it has to do with stuff like bringing you their "killed" toy mousies.

    Or like - I forget which cat of yours did this - figuring out how to get things out of a pill bottle by I think picking it up and dropping it on the floor? That's not instinctual, and it's edging into actual tool use. And I mean, I had a cat once who worked out if he sat on the remote control he could turn the television on and off, and he would do it over and over and over and over and over and over again. He also knew how to turn doorknobs, but could not implement this knowledge without thumbs.

    Yeah, the things I see people say about autistic children - even autistic adults - are pretty incredibly beyond ignorant, they're hostile. It's eerie how so much talk about autistic people, self-awareness, theory of mind, etc. parallels the talk about animals and the same categories.

    It seems like there's an extremely narrow definition of acceptable minds and anyone who does not fit becomes, well... instinctive, stimulus-driven, manipulative, attention-seeking, and so on.

  16. Sounds like a good class. Thanks for the warning about the video, if they have such a class up here I'll have to inquire if they are showing it, I know people who'd probably go into a full-on PTSD episode. I'd just bawl and have insomnia for week. It is a tricky thing I've thought about a bit. In such a venue, they are probably "preaching to the choir," as the audience self-selects as cat lovers. Such a video may be more effective for things like city councilors or other situations where you are trying to actually inform and convert people. Not that I fault them for showing it, but giving people a warning and having it either at the beginning or end of the discussion so people don't have to see it would help.
    Harbor Freight has cheap traps, sounds like you already got some, but you never know.
    I guess I was pretty much raised by kitties so I never even had to contemplate if they had feelings or personalities or not, it was quite self-evident on a daily basis. So many people use the idea that all non-human animals are just creatures of reflex and instinct to rationalize their abuse and mistreatment, it is quite appalling. Sociopathic lack of empathy, reinforced by many church's doctrines and those of other institutions. It is easier to torture and kill things if you think they are not going to experience suffering in the same way that you would in their place. They even use that thinking to make the killing of other humans more acceptable. "They are not like us, they are used to such things." That sort of thinking I recall being used in the Vietnam conflict, I'm sure it still is in more recent times. Sigh.
    Anyway, I've always been plagued with some pretty strange synesthesia, some of which I relied on as aids in memorizing things. Still have some serious problems from it, sometimes. Mixing up pink and yellow, certain numbers, movies, songs, or people that give me the same "feel," even if they are quite dissimilar to everyone else. I guess the brain has a lot of stuff to file and retrieve, it develops some strange systems for doing it, especially if you are dyslexic and highly qualitative in your thinking.
    Hope all the kitties are doing well!

  17. Oh, and if any of them have super gross eyes, I and other people who work with ferals are seeing Thelazia californiensis, or eyeworms. Have spent a small fortune on conjunctivitis meds when I should have been using anti-parasitics. All sorts of stuff about it on my facebook page, if you need to know more, or just enjoy looking at gross worms. I need a better microscope! : (

  18. missmoppet: Hi! Yeah, one of the presenters indeed said that showing the video in a meeting like that often ended up being "preaching to the converted". The real target audience for something like that consists of those people who think shelters (and Animal Control) are like this magic find-a-home solution for ALL cats who end up in them (feral or otherwise). When in actuality the majority end up meeting a much grimmer fate. :(

    Re. Harbor Freight, I actually checked there first for traps in their physical store (one recently opened up in my hometown). They carried them, but were out of stock on all but the really tiny ones (like rat-sized traps, too small for kittens even) and one huge one (which would have been overkill; it was more "giant raccoon" size). So I just went ahead and ordered from Amazon, and that worked out fine.

    Re. cats and their feelings/personalities: yeah, that's always been really glaringly obvious to me. I only really had one cat growing up (he didn't like other cats) but plenty of relatives and some of my parents' friends had cats so I got to know a number of them as a kid and they were all clearly individuals. And I agree that people rationalize abuse by denying animals are in any way truly sentient, etc., which is awful. :/

    I read a book recently called "The Sociopath Next Door" which talked about how even though some people lack conscience "across the board" (these are the ones who are more readily identified as "sociopaths"), lots more people are capable of selectively turning off conscience when it comes to particular groups of humans or non-humans. This can happen both when people feel pressured by some perceived authority (e.g., "just following orders") and, IMO, when people for some reason consider it a threat to their own status to grant certain kinds of respect to someone they perceive as being "unlike them" in some way.

  19. missmoppet: (continued), re. eyeworms, GAH! Of all the things that shouldn't go together, "eye" and "worm" are pretty high on the list! I'd never heard of that before. Hopefully none of the colony kitties get eyeworms.

    Some of them have bouts of runny eyes/noses, but that looks more like the standard sort of upper respiratory infection that spreads easily between cats. I've only ever seen that sort of thing get bad enough for medical attention two or three times; Toby, the first feral-born (but now totally socialized to humans) kitten I caught, had really goopy eyes that took a lot of cleaning with a wet washcloth for her to even be able to open them all the way. She was also sneezing a lot, and sometimes it was bloody. She ended up needing two rounds of antibiotics. But that's a rare case; mostly "cat colds" I've seen just run their course in a week or two and then they're fine.

  20. Yes, it seems that any horrifying thing that can be imagined exists somewhere in nature. Apparently the ivermec medication called "heartguard" will work for eyeworm. I already ordered Revolution for Andre, but edible heart guard seems to be preferred among feral trappers. I guess humans get it sometimes. Knowing that makes my eyes itch!
    Regarding "The Sociopath Next Door," Sounds like a good read. I guess it is true, for many situations and professions one must be trained to shut off their conscience. The army and police force, for instance. CEOs and politicians seem to be able to as well, although they may just be the regular kind of sociopaths who don't so much turn it off as fake nice and hire people to write nice sounding speeches for them so they can "pass" when necessary. If you have enough $, you can just be a 27/7 sociopath and have fun with it, I guess!
    Even though I can stand to do things like butcher chickens myself as an adult, it really bothers me to hear about people forcing their kids to do such things as some kind of twisted rite of passage. I think most healthy children have an aversion to such things and a natural fondness for animals. If they grow out of their squeamishness about processing chickens and such later in life, that seems fine, but stories of children being made to kill or eat animals they considered "pets" are especially terrible to me. Good way to create that type of sociopath; forcing them to kill and/or eat something they love. I heard once that there is some special unit in the military where they make the recruits raise a dog from a puppy, then kill it on command. Hopefully it isn't true, but honestly, it wouldn't surprise me a whole lot. Really seems to be the way lots of people end up having sociopathic behavior.

  21. missmoppet: Oh yeah, I actually nearly went on a tangent in my last comment about the difference between sociopathic abuse/killing and killing for food (whether one's own or on behalf of others). While obviously I don't LIKE it when anyone or anything dies, the way the ecosystem on Earth has evolved wouldn't even allow for every creature on the planet to suddenly become vegan.

    I don't personally really enjoy eating meat because the textures of things like fat and gristle (ugh) set off my sensory issues and make me gag, but I'm not a complete vegetarian by any means, simply because (a) I am kind of crap at meal planning and would not be able to consistently get enough protein if I tried to center everything around beans or tofu or whatnot, and (b) I think my energies can probably be better spent than scrutinizing everything I eat for the tiniest amount of chicken components, etc.

    Still, the net amount of animal parts I personally eat is pretty tiny. But living with four obligate carnivores, I now buy a fair bit of meat on their behalf. Which has led me to do a lot of really heavy thinking over the past year regarding all sorts of ethical conundrums (conundra?). And there just seems to me to be a really non-trivial difference between people who deliberately hurt (or thoughtlessly neglect) animals versus those who kill them sometimes because they, their families, or their companion animals would otherwise die of malnutrition. It's a whole different attitude and approach. This might sound silly, but whenever I'm (for instance) cutting up a chicken for the kitties, I often (knowing full well it can't actually hear me, what with being headless and dead and all) will *thank* the chicken. And apologize to it. And I will tell my cats to do the same (though again, more in a "ceremonial" sense on my part than anything else). Maybe it's just some weird rationalizey thing my brain is doing but so far it's all I CAN do that seems to make any sense at all.


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