It's about time, okay, way past time, that I revive this blog! I'd like to start out by introducing my feline family members, over the next few months.
My partner and I live with eight feline refugees, and I am also involved in the lives of five more who now live with my ex. Why do I call them "refugees"? I consider them refugees from a society in which they, like other nonhuman animals, are property. While they are still legally our property, we have taken these individuals into our home in order to do our best to restore their personhood and give them the care that they need, what we owe them as persons with moral rights.
As "domestic" animals, they are animals who are dependent on humans, whose existence has been engineered, facilitated, or simply allowed by humanity in order to fulfill certain functions -- in the case of cats, generally "pest" control, companionship, aesthetic qualities, and also as food or for clothing in some cultures. These relationships are based on the fact that they have the legal status of property; they are exploitative, and although there are many "companion animals" who are treated very well, they still have no legal rights.
The weak animal welfare laws that do exist for "companion" animals do not mean that they have any rights -- as the owner of the animal, one could still bring their healthy cat or dog to a veterinarian to have him or her killed at any time ("euthanized", a misuse of a word that should only apply to ending the terminal suffering of someone who is dying painfully, human or non-). Breed-specific legislation like pit bull bans that allow for dogs to be seized and put to death make it all the clearer that so long as animals are our property, their well-being will never be entirely safeguarded.
Nonhumans' status as property precludes them having any rights; whereas if we humans were to accord them the personhood that they should have as sentient beings, this would preclude our using them for any unjustified purpose, including our continuing to breed them for companionship. Even though I love living with cats very much, as much as anyone could, if I had the last two fertile domestic cats in existence, I would not breed them and continue perpetuating this unjust relationship where they are dependent on us for all their lives.
As you can guess, then, none of our cats were bought from breeders, pet stores, or people who "oops" didn't spay their cat and now have kittens for sale. But there are still all too many stray, abandoned, and feral cats in shelters and on the street, whose situation has been caused by humans and who are in desperate need of homes. The justice we owe these nonhuman persons already in existence includes providing them with care.
Why do I live with cats rather than dogs or guinea pigs or other nonhumans in need? Well, they are all equally deserving of restored personhood, but I began adopting semi-feral and stray cats in need directly off the street (in fact directly at my window) while I lived in Montreal. Not to mention that I'm quite familiar with cats and for that reason (plus the fact of living in an apartment), I can care for more cats than I could, say, dogs.
So, as I mentioned, I'd like to introduce these nonhuman persons who are part of my family. I'll do so in the order in which they came to live with me. Each one has a story, each one is an individual, each one is a sentient being who should have the legal right not to be property, as should other nonhuman animals. Veganism is the moral baseline of what we owe other animals in general, but additionally, in the case of domesticated nonhumans in need, I believe the virtuous thing to do is to provide them with a home and proper care, when we have the ability to do so.
Several if not most of the cats' stories will contain some disturbing and sad parts, but unfortunately that tends to be unavoidable when it comes to humans' exploitation of nonhuman animals, and I would like to present as complete and honest examples of results of the domestication of nonhumans as I can.