Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker
tigertoy

"Do they make good pets?"

Just as I was leaving EFRC today, a Girl Scout troop was finishing their tour, and Jean was giving them a short lecture in response to the leader asking for a statement about whether exotic cats make good pets.  Jean explained how they are wild animals, and never completely safe.  It was one of those answers that our society gives to children when they don't think the children are ready for the complexity of the real answer, which bothered me a little bit, but I guess it's necessary.  But I got to thinking about how to give a more nuanced answer to an adult, and this analogy popped into my head.

Think of owning a domestic cat as like having a car.  It requires some care and responsibility, but most people can manage it OK.  Having a small cat like a bobcat or a serval as a house pet is like having a private plane like a Cessna.  It costs a lot more than a car, it requires special knowledge and training, and it's not really practical all the time -- but it does get you something that a car doesn't, and fairly ordinary people can be successful at it if they work hard.

A pet tiger is like having your own F16.  It's insanely expensive, and in addition to a much higher level of special knowledge and training, it requires innate qualities that a lot of people don't have, and it tends to give your neighbors and the government the heebie geebies.  Very definitely not a good choice for the ordinary person -- but there are a few people who could do it.  It might kill them in the end, but to them, it's worth it.

As a final touch to the analogy, having the exotic cat but just keeping it in a cage all the time, never interacting with it hands-on, is a little like owning the plane but never having it out of the hangar -- it's a shameful waste, but it's where you'll end up if you get the cat before you learn how to "fly" it.
Tags: cats, philosophy
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