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Post No.: 0340dogs

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Hey you’re a cat and I’m a dog – well no ordinary cat or dog – but I really think it’s time we should talk about cats and dogs from a welfare perspective because many people around the world have our brothers and sisters as furry, fluffy or fuzzy companions.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

I think that’s a brilliant idea! At least we understand who we are better than most. But it’s not just because of who we are or the arrogance in thinking that being born as something means that we’ll automatically know everything about that something – we’ve also expended a lot of time and effort into deliberately studying our own spirit species.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Would you like to start?

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Okey-dokey.

 

Family pets provide comfort and companionship to many people, including children as they go through the challenges of growing up. People with cats or dogs tend to feel happier and less stressed when their pets are with them. Dogs and cats are usually furry or fluffy to stroke, cuddly and are relatively non-judgemental compared to human friends, with all the mental and physical health benefits this brings. They are unconditional friends who are generally happy to see their owners.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Yes, so if a person decides that he/she wants a pet cat or dog, there are enough benefits to justify the costs of looking after one properly, such as the food, equipment and veterinary bills. One must factor in all of these monetary, as well as time-related and other cost commitments before looking to own a pet – for their welfare and quality of life is paramount and is an ethical (and legal in some places) duty in return.

 

Can you responsibly afford to pay their expected and possible unexpected lifetime costs? Will you have the time and are you willing to dedicate the time and effort for taking them to get regular health checks, for cleaning and brushing them, for cleaning the litter trays for the cats, for walking and playing with the dogs, and so forth?

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

The five basic welfare needs for pets are the need for a suitable environment, the need for a suitable diet, the need to be able to exhibit their normal behaviour patterns (which includes cats scratching things to shed their outer layer of claws or climbing heights), the need to be housed socially with or apart from other animals as appropriate, and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, which includes preventive healthcare, vaccinations, micro-chipping and sometimes neutering.

 

Although we can tell you that neutering cats or dogs seems as bad as neutering people – unless ordinary cats and dogs can somehow learn to use contraceptives – neutering is on balance important in many places in the world because there are currently far more cats and dogs than owners in the world, according to how many animals there are in shelters, as strays, or puppies or kittens who are simply dumped somewhere to die :’(.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Those poor little critters :’(.

 

These basic welfare needs are on top of their quality of companionship with humans and their general quality of life. Love means all of these things and perhaps more – yet love doesn’t mean overfeeding us, keeping us indoors all of the time or carrying us around all day in handbags!

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

I feel sad when I see dogs or cats being ‘loved’ in these ways.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Cats and dogs aren’t always seen as companions though. In some parts of the world, free-roaming dogs and cats are a major source of zoonotic disease transfer (e.g. dogs and rabies) and so are feared, banished and cruelly treated or killed. Many dogs and cats in all parts of the world are also neglected, abused or abandoned as if they’re merely like any other property in a throwaway culture. Dog and cat meat consumption still happens in some parts of the world too – although this is generally in decline and, although we’d personally not want to see dogs or cats ever being consumed, it does raise the debate of why certain other animals are alternatively acceptable to eat?

 

The human relationship with cats and dogs around the world is therefore complex, thus humans need to learn to see the world through the eyes and other senses of cats and dogs.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Estimates for when dogs and cats were each first domesticated vary enormously, but for pretty sure dogs have been domesticated for far longer than cats have been. (The process of domesticating dogs perhaps started at least 20,000 years ago.) Dogs have been selectively bred to fulfil many different roles for humans, such as guarding, pointing, retrieving, shepherding or pest control. Domestic dogs exhibit a huge range of different sizes and body types as a result of this selective breeding.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

And I would like to add that – because of this selective breeding for both physical and behavioural traits – it’s generally unhelpful to compare domesticated dogs to wild wolves! It’s almost like using chimpanzees to learn about humans(!) Dogs are in many ways similar to wolves but we’re not the same animal.

 

So wolves are no more dogs than chimps are humans. Dogs and cats are not little people either. Dogs should be understood as dogs and be treated according to what’s best for dogs, and cats should be understood as cats and be treated according to what’s best for cats.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Cats have been, and to an extent still are, considered sacred or mystical creatures in many cultures, and the Egyptians started to select them for their small size, attractive markings and temperament. Cats probably started to get routinely close to humans after agriculture began because they naturally picked off the vermin, with the relatively friendlier and less reactive cats being more accepted into the houses of humans. So maybe this mutually beneficial relationship is how we gained access to human households.

 

The selective breeding of pedigree cat breeds only started a couple of hundred years ago or so, but because a far smaller proportion of extant cats are pedigree compared with dogs, the variation or range in sizes and body types between different cat breeds are far smaller than with different dog breeds. Intense artificial selection led by humans, rather than natural selection led by the animals themselves, has led to the extreme size differences between Chihuahuas and Great Danes.

 

When cats are selectively bred, it’s often just for aesthetic reasons rather than for serving specific functional roles. However, in recent decades, breeding (or inbreeding) for merely aesthetic reasons has become true for dogs too, with dire health consequences for certain breeds of both dogs and cats, such as breathing problems and inherited genetic diseases.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

It’s a major and cruel problem. People playing god but not to make the world better – just to serve their own superficial aesthetic wishes rather than the function and health of the creatures they shape.

 

I also hate that the term ‘mongrel’ is often used disparagingly, even though mixed-breed dogs are, on average, healthier and live longer than purebreds due to their greater genetic diversity.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Humans make **** gods when their intentions are narrow and purely selfish. It’s all a warning sign for if/when people can freely design their own babies! It’s also a warning sign to those who think that a ‘pure race’ spawned through eugenics would be stronger(!)

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

It’s also interesting to note that, according to modern silver fox domestication experiments – selecting just for tameness results in other physical side-effects, such as fur colouration changes, floppier ears, shorter legs, shorter and rolled tails, and under/overbites. This suggests that the genes for tamer behaviour control multiple other phenotypes too (pleiotropy) – generally those that make an animal more paedomorphic or juvenile-looking. Well juvenile mammals, including humans, tend to be relatively far less aggressive, and more amenable and trainable, than adult versions of those same animals.

 

This suggests that we cannot absolutely selectively breed for one trait (physical or behavioural) without potentially affecting other traits – if we think we’re just going to change one thing then it can actually bring unexpected side-effects. For example, depigmentation (merle) is linked with nervous system development in some dog breeds.

 

Hence, although current selective breeding practices with dogs and cats don’t involve direct gene manipulation, this highlights the potential risks with genetic engineering in general – it needs to be extremely carefully regulated.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

I think the worst thing in this story is people intentionally selecting for physical appearance characteristics – usually to increase the human conception of ‘cuteness’ in this case – over physical fitness or mental health characteristics. It’s human vanity and superficiality, expressed via ‘designer breed’ market supply and demand, such as brachycephalic breeds of cats and dogs with shortened snouts, perhaps to look more like human baby faces. And it brings so much harm to these individual animals, whom had no say in how they were born.

 

Breeders and owners often don’t understand that an animal has a welfare problem and think these abnormalities are just normal for the breed. Some pets are thus essentially specifically bred to lead a painful existence because of the shallow, short-sighted and strongly arguably purely selfish choices made by humans and forced upon the animals.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

It’s also a problem when people select a healthy dog breed for its fluffiness and cuteness but don’t understand how energetic they are and how much exercise and mental stimulation they need, hence soon abandon them when they find out they’re ‘too boisterous’. Too many people still treat dogs or cats as if they’re ‘just for Christmas’ – to play with for a bit but then dumped once they get bored, like a toy.

 

A similar situation occurs with domestic cats being crossbred with wild cats (hybrids) and the problems of people again selecting for aesthetic reasons without primary consideration of the resultant animal’s health, behaviours or fit for the domestic environments they’re expected to live in. People essentially expect these wild animals to live happily domestically.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

It all poses a few ethical questions, such as whether humans even have a right to selectively breed dogs or cats? Maybe you can share your thoughts on this by using the Twitter comment button below?

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Indeed.

 

…It’s a sombre or serious tone to end the post and to ponder on but I think we should leave this subject of cats and dogs for now. We’ll return to it very soon.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Absolutely. What we want to share will probably span several posts but let’s get some fresh air for now…

 

Do you fancy a game of hide and seek?

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Woof! I’m seeking first! 1, 2, 3, 4…

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Meow!

 

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