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Goodbye Kitty, Hello Diaspurra?

Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel made an indecent purrposal to lessen the street cat population

Marjorie Ingall
November 04, 2015
A cat at the Kotel in Jerusalem, Israel. Tumblr

Israel has a lot of street cats. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel proposed a solution. On Monday, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot published a letter from him suggesting that Israel end its program of spaying and neutering strays, and instead start sending them “to a foreign country that agrees to take them in.” (And where might that be? Myanmeow? Catar? Purru?)

Media reports have stated that Ariel wants to end kitty sterilization for religions reasons: he’s an Orthodox Jew who objects to castration because he believes it defies the Biblical command, “be fruitful and multiply.” A better option, Ariel felt, would be to deport all the cats of one gender. Then the remaining cats would be unable to breed.

But experts find this proposal problematic.

“This is stupid as well as sexist,” my research and statistics nerd husband Jonathan Steuer pointed out in an exclusive interview. “You’re not going to catch them all. So given the fact that you’re going to fail, you need to focus on the consequences of each mode of failure. If you fail to get rid of a few male cats, the failure-to-kitten ratio is much more lower; a single missed male cat could result in lots of kittens, while failure to capture a few female cats would result in a higher failure-to-kitten ratio, meaning fewer kittens. So deporting all the females makes more sense. But it’s really, really mean!”

My feminist activist daughter Josephine pointed out that the proposal could drive lonely cats into same-sex relationships, which would prove equally troubling according to Ariel’s interpretations of Jewish law.

Regardless of the long-term implications of Ariel’s proposal, Israel’s animal welfare organizations got as distressed as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Let the Animals Live told the newspaper Maariv that failing to spay and neuter the animals (presumably while the details of which country would adopt them were being worked out) would cause much more suffering than simply continuing the $1 million a year feral cat sterilization program that’s been in place since 2009. The organization pointed out that the country’s Animal Protection Law currently mandates sterilization and allocates money for it. It noted that Israel’s rabbis have ruled that Jewish law permits the spaying of feral cats, and declared that a government minister doesn’t have the right to change the law on a theocratic basis. The organization swore it would take the fight to Israel’s Supreme Court. And Zionist Union leader Tzipi Livni posted a picture on Facebook with her black-and-white cat, Pitzkeleh, captioned in Hebrew, “No way am I applying for a foreign passport for Pitzkeleh.” Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-On went further, suggesting that Israel deport Ariel instead.

But wait! Ariel had an alternate proposal: using “sprays, powders or pastes” that would block the pheromonal deliciousness of hot lady cat estrus from male cat’s scent receptors. Since how precisely this would work is uncertain, Ariel has re-allocated the entire spay-and-neuter budget toward “research.” A blistering editorial in Haaretz asserts that Ariel had taken “one of the most ridiculous steps imaginable by a minister responsible for anything,” and called Ariel’s transfer-the-cats plan a “Pavlovian, right-wing response” typical of Israeli conservatives who believe “transfer is the answer to every problem, be it Jewish-Palestinian, African refugees, and now cats.”

Stay tuned. But in the meantime, Israeli social media is full of snark. One widely shared image showed a hot girl holding two cats, with the caption, “They are coming to Israel and seducing our single women.” Another mocked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent claim that the former mufti of Jerusalem gave Hitler the idea for the Final Solution. It depicted a kitty wearing a fez, captioned, “And then I convinced Hitler to kill everyone.”

Marjorie Ingall is the author of Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children.

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