I freely admit it surprised me how quickly I succumbed to a condition common among cat owners: softening of the brain.
It must be a year ago I adopted my cat, because here I am reading an e-mail from the government listing the penalties for not renewing his license. Well not so much reading the e-mail, as reading it to the cat who, as I explain to him, seems a more reasonable target for the threat of incarceration that the e-mail brings.
As any cat owner can and will time and again tell you, cats are intractable individualists. So it seems to me cats themselves should be the first to decide whether they should or should not have a license. In the case of my cat, I don’t think he would want one. He spends all his time indoors because there are coyotes outside that look like wolves. Or wolves that look like coyotes — how would we know? But there are such lethal predators not to mention diseases that are unspeakable in polite company that my cat, if he only had all the facts, would choose not to go outside I’m sure.
Because it’s not at all these potentially terminal outcomes that a license will protect him from. The license, it seems, is to protect him from being officially decommissioned if he were caught without a license. A self-fulfilling instrument if ever there was one. The licensing people are running a protection racket, and I wouldn’t put it past them, since they know my address, to come round and kidnap my unlicensed cat and demand a ransom.
Which in effect is what they do because if I don’t license him immediately they say there will be penalties amounting to twice the original fee.
All this goes straight over my cat’s head. He has no interest in local government or the revenue they enjoy as a result of people like me adopting cats. In fact I think he would happily take his chances out in the world without the required paperwork; he’s certainly shown no interest in any other rules that have been explained to him many, many times over.
I do know that if I did let him out, he’s far more likely to be killed by a coyote-wolf, a car, or most dogs bigger and faster than a Basset hound than he is a government employee who failed to find him in the ‘licensed cat’ database. They were so happy to have me save one of his nine lives by adopting him that I can’t believe they’ll likely carry out their e-mail threat to re-impound him if I don’t get a license.
And having spoken with the cat about it, neither does he.
So I think we will continue to go unlicensed. One day a fluorescent-jacketed clipboard-carrying pet licensing official will arrive, peer through the window at the cat, and knock on my door to ask a rhetorical question regarding the license. I will claim I know of no cat, the official will nod toward the window, and I will appear surprised and offer to do my best to track down the owner.
This sort of behavior on my part may seem petty, but you know what? I learned it from my cat.