One perennial truth in the world of cat lovers is that nothing generates as much passionate and even heated debate as the decision about whether to get your cat from a rescue or a breeder. My answer is, "I really don’t care where you got your cat, as long as you provide that cat with a loving, safe home and good care for its entire life."
That’s not to say I don’t care about cats who suffer in kitten mills or die on the streets. It’s certainly not to say I don’t care about the appalling number of cats who are killed in shelters simply because the constant influx of homeless cats makes it nearly impossible for open-admission shelters to have enough room to keep cats more than a week or so. But if you think rationally for a moment, you’ll realize that the problem of homeless cats is not the fault of responsible breeders — and it is certainly not the fault of people who decide that they want to share their home with a purebred cat.
You can’t honestly think that if all the breeders on the planet suddenly disappeared, the millions of homeless cats would disappear along with them.
The only way there are going to be fewer homeless cats is if we educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering (starting as early as elementary school) and provide easy, affordable access to spay/neuter services — and if we start advocating for and implementing large-scale trap-neuter-return operations to control the feral cat population.
And when I say “educate,” I don’t mean “explain in a patronizing tone of voice why they’re wrong.” I mean “be friendly and articulate, and meet people where they are.”
The only way we’re going to stop kitten mills from selling unhealthy and poorly socialized "purebred" cats is to educate people about the fact that there are kitten mills. Most people know about puppy mills, but very few people realize that the purebred kitten in the pet store probably came from a kitten mill or a backyard breeder.
In order to implement these real solutions, we need to stop judging and shaming people who buy purebred cats. No matter where or why the caretaker of a purebred cat got that cat, it’s a pointless waste of energy to sit on our high horse and sneer at them. Instead, let’s welcome responsible breeders and purebred cat owners into the circle of people working to improve the lives of all cats.
And now someone’s going to say, "There’s no such thing as a responsible breeder!" Oh, come on! That’s about as rational as saying, "There’s no such thing as a good rescue" after hearing about Caboodle Ranch or some other rescue that became a horrific hoarding situation.
We in the cat rescue world tend to be entirely too judgmental in general. Whether we’re judging shelters for being "kill shelters" or judging people for buying their cats, or, worse yet, judging the shelter in the next town over because they don’t do things the same way our shelter does, we’re wasting energy that would be put to much better use coming together to save cats’ lives.
If we want a real and long-term solution for the suffering of homeless cats, we need to involve all cat lovers, not just the ones we deem worthy of being our allies. We need to understand that there will always be people who want purebred cats in their lives and to encourage those people to buy their feline friends from a responsible breeder or to adopt from a purebred rescue group.
Most of all, we need to stop the shaming and blaming.
What do you think? Lay it on me in the comments, flames and all. I’ve got my asbestos suit on!
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