Many a witch shares her life with a familiar, and from what Iâ€™ve seen and heard, cats, snakes and dogs are top favorites among the Wiccan demographic. Since they are such dear friends and companions, we sometimes get a little carried away in wanting to see them as something they are not: humans. Yes, pets definitely have distinct personalities just like people, but please try to remember theyâ€™re animals. That is exactly what is so valuable about them! They bring a completely different energy into our lives. I thought Iâ€™d share with you not one, not two, but three strange news stories I came across today concerning the anthropomorphization of pets.
First, it turns out that dogs love to watch TV. Especially when the TV program is a soap opera whose cast is entirely composed of fellow canines! This article introduces you to people who leave their dog in front of a TV all day, and the happy solution they created to make this tolerable to the pooch. I have mixed feelings about this; obviously pets stay home all day and get bored, but I wouldnâ€™t want to leave the TV on all day, myself. Still, itâ€™s fascinating to think that dogs might get just as addicted to TV programs as people do.
Next up, a decidedly worse habit: a snake who smokes cigarettes. Seriously? Maybe itâ€™s a stunt, but in this article on Treehugger.com the Taiwanese snakeâ€™s owner claims that her snake smokes one cigarette in the morning and one at night. Kids, let this be a lesson to you at home: donâ€™t get your snakes hooked on nicotine. Just keep the cigs away from them in the first place! Let them watch TV instead â€“ maybe someone will develop a snake soap opera for them. (Dayssss of our Livesssss?)
The final story is the most disturbing one, in my opinion: a woman in Pennsylvania was charged with animal cruelty for creating and marketing â€śGothic kittens.â€ť What do I mean by â€ścreating,â€ť you may ask? As if a sweet black kitten werenâ€™t Goth enough for some of us, this woman took it upon herself to give the cats multiple piercings.
Now, most of us with any interest in both Paganism and cats will know that statues of cats in ancient Egypt showed them wearing necklaces and gold hoop earrings. (Whether the cats actually lived like this full time is debatable â€“ even if you pierced a catâ€™s ears, just think about how long they would put up with that before clawing or scratching them off. Or worse â€“ snagging them onto something while running, hunting or playing, thus yanking the earring right out of the catâ€™s ear.)
However, the â€śGothic kittensâ€ť were taken to an obscene level. First off, their ears were not pierced with thin, light-weight, golden hoops or studs; these cats had fourteen-gauge barbells in their ears, the back of their necks and the base of their tails. In the photos published on the internet of these unfortunate kitties, you can clearly see the catâ€™s ears are folded over under the weight of the barbells, making it hard to move the ears for detecting sounds. If youâ€™ve ever watched a catâ€™s ears rotating like a satellite dish, picking up every sound in the house, you can imagine what a handicap these heavy barbells would impose on their hearing. As for their necks, one veterinarian was quoted as saying that when a mama cat picks up her babies by the scruff of the neck, this stimulates a submission response. Imagine how those cats felt with a piercing constantly there! Translation: living your life in constant submission, not being able to hear well. It canâ€™t feel good.
She also was trying to dock one of the catâ€™s tails, tying a rubber band to the base of its tail so that, lacking blood flow, it would die and fall off. Apparently docking is still in use with some types of dog breeds, and there is no federal law regulating its practice, though some states have banned it. Still, it is frowned upon in general and only performed by veterinarians.
Was this woman a trained veterinarian, with antibiotics and sedation at the ready? No, she was a pet groomer. Apparently her love of aesthetics overcame her concern for the wellbeing of the animals themselves. One cat had even torn out an earring and she was waiting for it to heal so she could re-pierce it.
In closing arguments at her trial, defense attorneys told jurors, “Parents take their kids to get pierced at a young age. That’s not a crime! If you say it’s wrong to pierce a cat’s ears, then you’re holding the cat to a higher standard then children.” Iâ€™d like to see a parent argue that itâ€™s OK to pierce their newbornâ€™s ears with huge barbells, pierce their necks, and pierce their skin just adjacent to the base of their spine! Babies are generally pierced responsibly, with small studs that canâ€™t be yanked out or caught in something. Babies also grow up to be people with fingers who can take out or put in earrings at will. Not so for these â€śgothic kittens.â€ť
In the end, I think we should look at the Wiccan Rede in this situation: harm none. She did harm to her cats, not for health or safety reasons, but to make money, and was found guilty on one of the three charges of animal abuse. (She was confused herself as to why she was only guilty in the piercing of one cat rather than all three, but perhaps this was the juryâ€™s attempt at leniency, since even that one charge could possibly land her in jail for five years. Sentencing will take place in March.)
Also, remember free will; it is just as important to respect free will in the mundane world as it is when casting spells. You should never take a choice away from a sentient being who could make that choice themselves; you should only step in when that being can’t make a choice and you’re protecting it from harm.Â A young child can at least say â€śyesâ€ť or â€śnoâ€ť when Mommy or Daddy asks if theyâ€™d like to have pierced ears; if theyâ€™d like to take them out; if anything hurts. Please donâ€™t take free will away from your pets unless itâ€™s truly in their best interest â€“ not for your entertainment or profit. Or to make them seem more like you.