Keeping domesticated animals as pets...cruel and unusual?

I have been pondering this question since entering into a discussion on this thread about declawing cats.

Is keeping an animal as a pet a cruel act? If we’re talking about a wild animal that is caught and kept in an artificial environment, it seems pretty clear that at least some people might find that cruel. But what about a domestic cat? Is that different? Is it okay if it is allowed outdoors to hunt and defend its territory?

It seems to me, though, that in feeding a cat prepared cat food, giving it a place to come in from the weather, vaccinating it against various diseases, and causing it to become accustomed to human contact, I have created an artificial environment that would seem to change the cat’s nature. Is this wrong?

Obviously, we aren’t going to find any sort of agreement here. Rather, I’m interested in where various people draw the line. If declawing is cruel, what about neutering? Is keeping a cat indoors cruel, even if it provides that cat with a longer and healthier life?

Long ago, I adopted two cats. These cats lived pretty good lives, but being outdoors does have its risks. One disappeared for three days once, and came crawling back home with the side of his face smashed in. He’d been hit my something small that took a triangular divot out of his cheek and blinded his eye. He recovered, and continued to catch birds one-eyed. The other had to see the vet several times for infections resulting from fights he got into.

Even longer ago, my childhood pet was a cat. He was an outdoor cat until we moved. Our new house was on a busy street, not backed by woods as our previous home had been. At first, we kept him indoors. He spent a lot of time mewing at the windows. Eventually, my mom explained that she would let him outside after all, because even if it meant he died sooner, his life would be more pleasurable. He managed to survive town life; we moved to a more rural area, and he was eventually hit by a school bus when he became too blind and slow to get out of the way.

When we decided to adopt cats again a few years ago, it was with the understanding that we would not be able to allow them to go outside. (We live on the second floor of a 2-family and cannot use cat doors because we have a problem in our area with rabid raccoons.) I imagine that some people might say that we should simply not have adopted them, as we could not provide them with an adequate environment.

I am truly interested in people’s viewpoints on this issue. I hope that the discussion can remain civil and allow us to explore this complicated issue.

I started a thread like this a while ago (maybe I can dig it up). Basically, the consensus seemed to be that already domesticed animals (cats, dogs, tank-borne fish) are ok to keep whereas it is wrong to keep wild animals as pets. Lots of gray area here.

I apologize if this has already been thoroughly debated, Phobos. I did a search, and found that it had come up as a side issue in various threads (most of which seemed to degenerate into vegan-bashing) but didn’t find one that addressed if specifically. If you could find the link, I would greatly appreciate it.

here it is…

looking back at this thread, there wasn’t much discussion…maybe you can get more discussion out of this topic than I did

pldennison, who as we all know loves his animals, had a view on this that I liked. He essentially said that since we have domesticated animals for centuries, we have an obligation to care for them. He is correct that a good portion of the domesticated animals would be meat back in the wild, to my knowledge.

Yer pal,

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Geez, Satan summed up my own position better than I usually do . . . Damn you, Dark Prince!!

Basically, that’s it. We took it upon ourselves to remove some of these species from the natural selection loop, as it were, and I believe we have a moral obligation to be their caretakers. Part of that involves providing comfortable environments, protection from harm and disease, and helping to control their population through humane means (spaying & neutering as well as “capture, spay and release” programs).

From the time dogs and man teamed up and shared meat for mutual benefit, dogs have made a choice from an evolutionary standpoint to share their fate with man. Down here on the farm my dogs keep up their end of the bargain, providing companionship, watchfullness, and protection. I try to keep up mine, and show them love, food, and a good home.

When mankind accepted cats for their vermin catching utility and made them welcome in our homes, we established the same kind of bargain. We have become their slaves.

Horses and other farm animals have not achieved the status of partnership enjoyed by cats and dogs IMHO, and I don’t consider them pets.

Fish, and birds, and whatnot are really curiosities (though they may provide companionship,) and also don’t have the partnership status.

I very much trust Phil on this issue. He simultaneously submarined me and wowed me some time back, when he drew a parallel between treatment of people and of animals as his rationale for adopting a libertarian political philosophy.

Here is how Runt came about.

A dear friend, a lady with whom Edlyn and I work, was sitting on her back porch when a young, stray, and very pregnant cat walked up to her. Her house is fronted by a very busy street with a blind hill and careless fast drivers. The cat must have come through the municipal golf course behind the house, since she likely would not have survived crossing the road. Chiefette (the dear friend) took the cat inside her home, but her beagle (a pet she rescued from the pound) was deathly afraid of the cat, especially after the cat snarled, hissed, bowed her back, and dug her claws into his head.

Chiefette brought the cat to our office where we all shared in caring for her until she delivered her kittens. They were born in our presence, and have known the companionship of people all their little lives. Edlyn and I have an eight-year-old male house-cat named Jane, with a remarkably calm and domesticated nature (almost like a blood hound). We believe that Jane would appreciate the companionship of another critter while we are at work, and so we have decided to take in one of the kittens produced by Mao (the stray). We are taking the runt of the litter (thus, we named him or her “Runt”) and the rest, along with Mao, are being taken by a local charitable animal rescue shelter.

Jane does give us companionship, but in return, we tend to his every need, and provide him a luxurious (by cat standards) home with a love so rich and doting that he greets us at the door when we come in, and nestles with us as we relax and play piano, watch TV, or read Straight Dope. Yes, he functions quite differently than he might in the wild, but you will forgive us if we give an incredulous stare to anyone who calls us cruel for our efforts.

Anyway, were it not for the original merciful act of Chiefette, there might be no Runt. These are the cards on the table before us, and we’re just going to play them as best we know how.