One of the favourite themes of the tabloid press is the “rights” of homeowners when intruders arrive uninvited on their property. It’s a favourite theme of the Conservative Party too, and the Prime Minister touched on the subject last October during the Tory Party Conference. As you would probably expect, the PM does seem a little confused on where he stands on the subject, perhaps because, like his predecessor Mr Blair, he so dearly wants to stand just about everywhere on just about everything, “straight kinda guy” that he is. As recounted by the Daily Mail, Mr Cameron “said he believed intruders gave up their rights when they entered another person’s home”. Many people will agree with this view, though I don’t. However, in the very same article we were told that “The Prime Minister says homeowners could stab a burglar provided they are not unconscious” (I assume it would be the burglar that’s unconscious rather than the homeowner).
It seems to me that if the person you have just whacked with a cricket bat has no rights whatsoever (having crossed your threshold), you are perfectly entitled to stab them, even if they are unconscious. When you say someone has given up their rights, you surely mean that they have no rights? And if so, you are perfectly entitled to stab them as they lay at the foot of your stairs bleeding from a head wound, aren’t you? The PM, as usual, has at least two opinions on the subject. One for the “rank and file” of the Tory Party, and one for the slightly more sensible body of opinion that belongs to the general public.
But let’s say you agree with the concept that once you invade someone else’s property you have no rights at all and can be dealt with in whichever way the property-holder deems to be suitable. If you agree with that concept when applied to human beings, I can only imagine that you would also be in favour of it when applied to animals. Surely you wouldn’t be in favour of a crazy situation where an animal has rights where a human does not? No, you aren’t that daft.
So let’s talk about cats.
Someone once said to me that not every person with a cat is mad, but that just about every mad person has a cat. I know Hitler had a dog called “Blondi” and killed it shortly before killing himself. (Bizarrely, you can no longer leave virtual flowers for Blondi on the “findagrave” website as the feature was being continually misused. Don’t you worry ever so slightly about people that want to leave virtual flowers for a dog that belonged to one of the biggest nutters in history and has itself been dead for almost seven decades?) However, I can’t remember whether Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Ronald Reagan had cats, so it’s entirely possibly that the whole thesis has more holes in it than an American school. Regardless, I hate cats, and I hate them with a passion. I hate them like I hate Manchester Utd, reality TV, management-speak and really small frying pans. They serve no purpose, possess not a shred of loyalty, and they shit wherever they want to, which so often seems to be on my property. For cuteness, a puppy beats a kitten ten times out of ten. A puppy will (hopefully) become a dog that will protect you, show you some loyalty, depend on you, give and receive affection from you. A kitten will become a cat that will eat the dinner you put down for it (why does cat food smell so much worse than dog food?) before taking itself off to kill some birds, cough-up a few furballs and shit in other people’s gardens. Hatred is not too strong a word.
Cats are offered protection under the law that no other animal enjoys. They cannot be trapped, injured or killed, as they are someone else’s pet. Well perhaps “someone else” should consider that their pet is not welcome on my property? A burglar is someone else’s father, husband or brother yet there appears to be an alarming number of people who think that it is absolutely fine to trap and injure them before eventually killing them following a prolonged session of torture. What sort of society values the well-being of animals above the well-being of humans?
There is, of course, the question of intent. A burglar knowingly comes into your property to steal your possessions, whilst a cat is not acting in a manner that it knows you would disapprove of when it invades your property and craps everywhere. True, but not much help to me when I’m scraping cat diarrhoea off the geraniums. And not much help to my young son when a summer afternoon playing in the garden is brought to a halt by the discovery of cat shit in the sand-pit. No help at all in fact.
People, nearly always cat owners, tell me “Get some deterrents, you can buy them in B&Q or order them over the internet”. So I have to spend money to keep your pet off my property? Tell you what, why don’t YOU spend the money? If my kid trespasses on your land and I suggest to you that you haven’t deterred him sufficiently well and that it is your problem and not mine I suspect you’d have something to say. Perhaps a burglar can use a similar defence at trial? (“No, M’Lud, there was definitely no “Burglars Keep Out” sign on the front door and the windows were incredibly easy to jemmy open. He was pretty much asking for his TV to be nicked: it should be him in the dock for incitement rather than poor old me for burglary”). You want me to turn my garden into a mish-mash of broken-up CDs on bits of string, chicken wire, plastic bottles half-full of water, orange peel and scarecrows because your “pet” wants to shit wherever it so desires? Are you serious?
Maybe, just maybe, a government that seems so keen on the idea of deceased burglars filling hospital mortuaries to bursting-point will support my proposal that cats should be treated like any other unwanted pests (greenfly, rats, Millwall fans) when they decide that my garden, my property, my very small corner of this green and pleasant land, is where they want to defecate. I should be free to deal with them in the same manner as I may soon be able to deal with an unwanted burglar, if Mr Cameron is to be taken at his word.