Shady went for a stroll one evening, six weeks ago, in the town of Swindon, England, and never came home.
Her “owners” are very worried. But there’s a problem: Swindon does not recognize cats as pets. Instead, they’re classified as free-roaming semi-wild animals, who cannot, therefore, be “owned” by humans. Dogs, by comparison, are fully pets.
The town does host a web page where people can post messages about missing cats, but while, for example, you’re required to report to the police if you run over a dog, you’re not required to do this if you hit a cat.
The Brits are known as a “nation of animal lovers,” but love can mean different things to different people. And how people relate to cats is a good example of this. In the United States, most humane societies won’t even let you adopt a cat if you plan to give her the freedom to roam out of doors. In the U.K., by contrast, a lot of humane societies won’t let you adopt a cat if you plan to keep her confined indoors. They consider such confinement to be a form of cruelty.
Hence the situation in Swindon, where Shady’s people, Lucy Thomas and Alex Field, are beside themselves with worry over what’s happened to Shady, who, they say, has a bushy tail and golden eyes.
“She used to go out quite a lot,” Lucy said, “but would always come back and quite regularly as well.”
But neither of Shady’s guardians are kicking themselves for not keeping Shady indoors. While Shady is spayed and microchipped, keeping her indoors just isn’t part of the way people look after their cats.
The majority of Brits feel that it’s wrong to keep a cat cooped up indoors. But they’re not sure whether that means that cats shouldn’t even be classified as pets in the same way as dogs, and Shady’s story has been making some waves around the country.
What do you say? Do you tend more to the American view that cats should be kept indoors or in an enclosed outdoor space? Or to the British view that cats need to be free to do their thing, even if it puts them in some danger? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.