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Highly recommended tv program on cats

CBC-TV’s “The Nature of Things,” a long-running science show hosted by Dr. David Suzuki, has an episode available online on cats. Some of it shot at the RAPS cat shelter, here in Metro Vancouver, which I’ve written about in an earlier post. The show is 44 minutes long. A YouTube teaser:

the full program can be streamed from either of these links:

do you think of your cat as a non-human person?


We share our homes with them, talk to them, play with them, and consider them family and sometimes our best friends. But can we claim them as non-human persons, philosophically or legally? A landmark case in Argentina has brought renewed attention to this debate. Colin Schultz, writing for The Smithsonian:

Sandra was born 28 years ago in Germany, and for the past two decades she’s been living as a prisoner in Buenos Aires. Trapped by an unjust system, her freedom systematically restrained, Sandra had spent her life living like a caged animal.

Mostly because Sandra is an orangutan, and she was living in the Buenos Aires zoo.


The story as reported by the BBC:

Lawyers for Argentina’s Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) said Sandra was “a person” in the philosophical, not biological, sense.

She was, they argued, in a situation of illegal deprivation of freedom as a “non-human person”.

They had filed a “habeas corpus” writ in her favour last November over “the unjustified confinement of an animal with probable cognitive capability”.

Afada lawyer Paul Buompadre was quoted as saying by La Nacion newspaper: “This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories.”

BBC World Service report (2 minutes audio).

For more background on the philosophy of non-human rights, watch my interview from 2013 with Gary Steiner.

What do you think? Should great apes be granted some limited form of human rights? Should this eventually be extended to other sentient beings? Will owning an animal be considered a form of slavery or unlawful imprisonment, no matter how comfortable and loved they are? With human rights come human responsibilities: do we give animals the right to vote next? Love to read and share your thoughts.


Raju–and an affirmation


This isn’t a story about a cat, or even a pet in the usual sense of the word: but a pet is a kept animal, and although most of us treat our pets very well, usually as a member of our family, and love them dearly, we know there are cases where animals are kept in horrible conditions, against all norms of decency and kindness toward another living being. Raju was such an animal, an elephant, stolen from his mother when he was young, illegally bought and traded many times by unscrupulous dealers looking to make income from him, by forcing him to “beg” on the streets in India. His legs were chained, with spikes digging into his skin.


Finally, after fifty years of captivity, cruelty, and daily beatings, he was freed in a rescue operation. His story is told in this CBC Radio documentary, and by the organization that saved him, Wildlife SOS India.

"After Raju had been traumatized by his owners, we worked hard to gain his trust.  After several hours of giving Raju fruits and encouragement, he was able to get loaded onto the truck." Wildlife SOS

“After Raju had been traumatized by his owners, we worked hard to gain his trust. After several hours of giving Raju fruits and encouragement, he was able to get loaded onto the truck.” Wildlife SOS



In August, people who were following this story were horrified to read headlines like this in the Daily Mail:

Raju the crying elephant faces life back in chains after cruel former owners launch legal battle to win him back

But on 2 December this year, the Daily Mail reported–

last night after a series of hearings, an Indian court ruled that Raju must stay with his rescuers from the British charity Wildlife SOS.

Founder of the charity Kartick Satyanarayan, who led the daring, midnight rescue to save Raju said: ‘We are beyond overjoyed that Raju is finally saved.

‘This is a huge victory, not only for Raju, but for every elephant suffering in pain silently.

Link to full story.

The Dodo (, an online journal about animals, has a heart-warming follow-up story on Raju. The former owner of Raju went to court to get him back, claiming he was stolen by Wildlife SOS. Fortunately the courts turned him away.

"Raju celebrates by playing in the water at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in India after it was ruled he is finally free of his former abusive owners." --Press People/Wildlife SOS

“Raju celebrates by playing in the water at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in India after it was ruled he is finally free of his former abusive owners.” –Press People/Wildlife SOS

Raju now is among other rescued elephants. Elephants, long-lived intelligent animals with large brains, have strong ties to their extended families, and yet they are still hunted in Africa for ivory (for Chinese customers) and captured to be used in circuses worldwide.

We don’t just value our cats, our dogs: the welfare of all animals should be our concern. This is why I stopped eating meat, why I believe cats should be kept indoors, and why I cannot abide cruelty toward any animal–or human! I don’t understand cruelty, I don’t know where it arises–ignorance, certainly; poverty of imagination and empathy, possibly; a feeling that we humans are privileged and that the world is ours to use and abuse.

In this inter-connected world, as John Donne (1572 – 1631) wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Any animal’s death pains me. To see a raccoon that has been hit by a car, to see a truckload of frightened cattle as it travels toward the slaughterhouse, to hear the howl of a dog chained in a yard hour after hour, day after day: the only way we can build a kinder, gentler world is by considering all life precious, because we are all expressions of God.

Katze Ball

“Your cat will figure it out.” This is the catchy tag line from the designer of the Cat Ball, a fabric dome or cat-cave which Jennifer Schmidt came up with while working as a costume designer. This is one of the few things I’ve bought Miss Picky and Persnickety that she actually likes and uses. Designed by Jennifer Schmidt, available from her website, it is a hexagonal (six-sided) fabric ball with a large entrance at one end and a smaller exit at the other.

Photo courtesy Jennifer Schmidt, the

Photo courtesy Jennifer Schmidt, the

I wrote Jennifer:

For a few weeks after receiving my Cat Ball, Pumpkin basically ignored it. She saw it, she sniffed it, but she wasn’t interested in climbing into it: I put it on the bed, on the floor, on the couch. I was resigned to it being yet another purchase that she turns her nose up at like the three different scratching things, or the food dispenser/toy, all of which have been donated to cat charities.

But then I came home one day to find her sleeping in it. And tonight, after a monumental man versus cat struggle to get her into the cat carrier (wounds inflicted, ego bruised, you guess which is which), in order to get her nails clipped at a local vet, she came home (with me) and hid under the bed. I know she appreciates having shorter nails which don’t get caught up in things, or maybe she’s really pissed off at having shorter nails, who knows, but she did agree, a few hours later, to some play time.  And surprised me by basically lunging into the Cat Ball. We played a string game in and out of it. She had a great time twisting and turning around inside it as I passed the string by one hole and then the other. She’s curled up in it now, asleep, as I type this.

Pumpkin asleep, after playing in the Cat Ball.

Pumpkin asleep, after playing in the Cat Ball.

Jennifer replied:

Sometimes I wonder why we keep these silly animals. I have plastic wrap all around my dining chairs, which it turns out were designed to be tall, fabric covered and totally stable, so the cats started scratching them. Actually, take KITTENS started mountain climbing them, and it went from there. It’s a battle we can only fight with stuff like plastic wrap and that sticky tape stuff. I guess I’m thinking of your ego bruising after this epic cat carrier battle. Maybe the vet techs have tricks- and if they do, please tell me! Getting a cat into a carrier can be so hard.

If you could have only been a fly on the wall the day Pumpkin walked into her previously ignored Cat Ball! I get so curious when I hear a story like this. What finally motivated a cat? In any case, I really appreciate that you took the time to write to us! Such a sweet story, and it does have a happy ending!

I asked Jennifer to tell me how she came up with the design:

I believe that accidental collisions of two entirely different worlds can result in innovation. In 2009 I was employed as a costume designer and had been hired to make three adult size soccer ball mascot costumes. I had never done anything like this before so I decided to start with a miniature prototype. The miniature sat around my workshop while I made the full size costumes, and after getting two tiny orange kittens I had the brainstorm to turn this prototype into a kitten bed.This costume prototype had two openings that corresponded to the head and feet of the actor.

I named this bed design “Cat Ball”, and added it to my Etsy store. Eventually I received an email from Kate Benjamin at (her blog was named at that time) informing me that she’d posted my Cat Ball® beds to her blog, and I should expect to get increased store views as a result. I was flooded with responses! The two Cat Ball® beds I had made sold out and people were writing and asking for more! Customers were actually buying Cat Balls® from me before the fabrics had been selected. It looked like I had developed a viable product so I bought a business license.


Sewing the novelty Shark Bed (now sold out)

One thing I hadn’t thought about when I developed the product was the territorial nature of cats. I received a message from a customer, who had just received her Cat Ball®, that she was immediately buying another unit, saying, “the cats won’t share!” It’s a funny situation that I hadn’t forseen, but it does affect my sales! I also like to get creative and make novelty designs. These creations are a great way to attract interest and our most popular novelty design is the great white shark Cat Ball® bed.

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