Opinion Columns & Blogs

Paws and think about a crazy idea

My colleague — the perspicacious Bob Cuddy — and I have a number of things in column, er, common.

First, we’re both geezers with gray hair, gray beards and glasses — although being younger, I’m more of a geezer trainee, a geezee as it were, than a full-blown geezer like Bob.

And, in addition to sharing a rather large, comfortable and tastefully appointed cubicle here at The Trib, we share a sensibility honed by our respective years as editorial page editors — Bob for the Contra Costa newspaper chain, mine here at the Mother Ship.

Over the years, we’ve chatted (in Grampa Simpson tones, no doubt) about what we previously threatened to editorialize on when no burning issues were at hand. Bob always threatened to write about the need for a cat-leashing law.

Why? I’d bite.

Because it simply can’t be done, he’d reply. There are certain immutable laws of nature that can’t be denied. “The sun rises in the east, sets in the west and cats can’t be leashed. It’s an unchallengeable truism. Look it up somewhere.”


The subject isn’t broached lightly, not since Barre, Vt., recently unleashed the possibility of its town’s toms and tabbies having to undergo the horrors of being harnessed.

As Cheyenne Roberts, co-owner of the Pit Stop Diner in Barre told The Associated Press as Barre’s City Council mewsed over the ordinance: “Have you ever tried walking around with a cat on a leash? It sounds kind of crazy.”

Crazy indeed. Sufferin’ cats, as my grandfather Till used to say.

No less than the august statesman Adlai (‘We Love You Madly’) Stevenson took paws over the issue in 1949 when the Illinois Legislature passed “An Act to provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats.” As governor, he vetoed the act with a sniff: “To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat.” Tut-tut.

Well, what about nature versus the cat? The American Bird Conservancy is on record as saying that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year (although it’s a guesstimate) and perhaps a billion rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and other small mammals annually.

(Our feline friends are such cunning fiends in the eyes of the ABC, it seems, that we should cut them loose to ferret out that freakin’ furry Osama bin Laden.)

Ah, but the Cat Fanciers’ Association Inc., pounces right back: “While no one has reported seeing a cat take down livestock, such as horses and cattle, cats are accused of destroying wildlife. …

But do they?”

The cat people say the bird people have been regrinding their own unsubstantiated numbers and then passing those numbers off as “facts.” The bird people admit that the kill numbers are actually “our projection to show how bad it might be.” (Climate change deniers take note of the junk science assumption.)

The bottom line? Cat leashing probably isn’t feasible; surely common sense would say such a law would be a waste of law enforcement resources. And yet, who saw an ordinance against feeding ducks come paddling down the pike in San Luis Obispo?

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com or 781-7852.