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Counting Cats In The Capitol

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Posted: Friday, May 17, 2019 10:46 am

It was a rainy Saturday morning so instead of sitting out on the patio with our two cats reading the newspapers as usual, we sat inside at the kitchen table. To be more precise, my wife and I sat at the table while the cats sat on the table because we have utterly failed in all attempts to train them to stay off the tables and counters. We even tried using a water pistol on them. They just shut their eyes tightly and said, “Come on, tough guy, give it your best shot. We’re not moving. We know where the food is.”

It was a slow news day and a column by Jo Craven Mc Ginty in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Ms. Mc Ginty, who writes about statistics and research, began her column by describing herself as a cat person. She said she has shared her home with as many as three house cats. That makes her an amateur cat person, as far as I’m concerned. When we lived in a larger, suburban place, we shared it with two cats, both of their litters, two dogs, two horses, two ducks, two rabbits, a lovebird and a partridge in a pear tree. (Just kidding about the partridge, but it would have been most welcome if we had a pear tree.)

“Listen to this,” I said to no one in particular, “this columnist cites a 2013 report by scientists affiliated with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that outdoor cats kill an estimated 4 billion birds and 22.3 billion mammals a year in the U.S.”

“So what?” demanded Mimi, our short-haired cat from across the table, examining the remains of my breakfast. “That’s what cats do. Haven’t you ever watched the ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons?”

“Four billion birds a year is bad enough but 22.3 mammals is just horrible,” said Mewsetta, her long-haired sister and a bird lover who wouldn’t harm a birdie if it landed on her head.

“Those mammals would be rats and mice, stupid,” snapped Mimi. “I suppose you’re going to grieve over them, too. You’re such a bleeding heart liberal!”

“I say live and let live. Every life matters,” mewed Mewsetta. “Gick.. gick.. gick..GAACK!” responded Mimi, now on the floor, attempting without much success to digest the remains of my breakfast.

“It says here,” I continued, “that estimates of the outdoor cat population in the U.S. range all the way from 20 million to 120 million.”

“I believe they’re called ‘feral’ cats,” said Mimi, now recovered from her gastric distress, “and they’re natural predators, so did you expect them to be vegetarians? My father was a feral cat and a great hunter,” she said proudly.

“My father was a Persian show cat,” purred Mewsetta smugly. “Anyway, they’re all in the country legally, aren’t they, so what’s the problem?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, “but Mc Ginty says a new project is underway in Washington called the D.C. Cat Count, trying to obtain an accurate count of homeless cats.”

“Why?” asked Mewsetta. “Are they going to build affordable housing for them?”

“I rather doubt that,” I responded. “I guess they just think it’s important enough to justify spending $1.5 million on a three and one-half year study to get an accurate count.”

“Only in Washington can they think up such ways to waste money,” snarled Mimi. “Why don’t they try to get an accurate count of how many illegal immigrants are in the country instead?”

“How are they going to count the cats?” asked Mewsetta. “They’re going to use cameras mounted at various locations,” I replied.

“You mean they’re going to spy on them,” hissed Mimi.

“I believe a better term would be surveillance, not spying,” I said.

“Don’t you need a FISA warrant or something to do that?” Mimi demanded.

“You’re a cat. You don’t have any constitutional right to privacy,” I answered, sagely.

“That’s hateful speech,” sobbed Mewsetta.

“Get those cats down off the table and clean up the mess Mimi made,” interrupted my wife. “Why don’t you stop talking to yourself, finish writing your column and go outside. The rain has stopped.”

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