Are Exotic Cats a Threat to Public Safety? Why Exotic Pets Are Not Dangerous

I would like to address some of the statements I have found on the web and in proposed ban bills portraying servals and other small wild felines as unpredictable and dangerous creatures. This is a clear case of “what you don’t know you will fear.” First of all, I would like to clarify for everyone that we are talking about tame, hand-raised pets bred in the United States. It’s not like you take a trip to Africa, rope yourself a serval, and drag it home hissing and spitting!

In his best-selling book Fear Less, security and threat analysis expert Gavin de Becker writes “Unfortunately, when it comes to security, the American way has often been to implement procedures that are more relevant to assuaging public anxiety than they are to reducing risk.” Ban laws are a prime example of an action that may ease anxiety, but fail to make the nation safer.

By saying that tame wild cats are “extremely unpredictable and dangerous creatures,” people show their lack of understanding of animal behavior. These statements are wild exaggerations of the reality. Even wild animals in-situ (i.e. roaming untamed in the wilderness) do not behave in a dangerous, unpredictable fashion. Every animal has species-specific behavior patterns. These behaviors can be learned and understood by the owners of such animals in captivity, especially since they are very similar to the behaviors of a domestic cat.

These behaviors are not greatly different from domesticated animals. For example, the pattern of naturally occurring behaviors in wolves and domestic dogs is virtually identical. A poorly socialized domestic dog with a careless or un-informed owner can be far more “dangerous” than a serval or a caracal.

Our society’s standard for a safe and lovable pet predator seems to be the domestic dog. However, even man’s self-proclaimed best friend has been known to injure and sometimes kill us. Statistics suggest that between 2 and five million dog bites occur yearly. In fact, during the five-year period between 1989 and 1994, domestic dogs killed 45 children. Why doesn’t this sad figure shock us more deeply?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that during a similar length of time, an estimated 4,605 children were killed by humans (Lindsay, Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training). Approximately 5 children lose their lives every day due to maltreatment and child abuse homicide (U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995).

To further put this in perspective, we must now consider the fact that even with the enormous number of dog bites each year and the number of fatalities due to dog bites, a child is statistically safer in the presence of the average pet dog than with its own family! The number of children murdered each year by their own parents and guardians overwhelmingly overshadows the number of people killed by dogs. We ourselves are the most dangerous and unpredictable animal on the planet.

Am I saying that servals and other exotic cats are not dangerous? No, if we define “dangerous” as having the potential to cause injury to a human being. Every animal can be dangerous, and every human can be dangerous. One thing I teach my dog behavior clients is that all dogs have the potential to bite. They will show aggression if placed in the wrong situation, just as even the most benevolent of humans will react with violence when sufficiently provoked.

However, these cats are certainly no more inherently dangerous than a domestic dog of comparable size. In fact, they are probably safer than domestic dogs; there has never been a report of a serval killing a human being, and their owners are generally very responsible about keeping them controlled.

Whether a dog, a person, or an exotic cat eventually injures someone depends on an uncertain balance of genetics, temperament, environment, and the unique circumstances they find themselves in.

Horseback riding is an example of a far more hazardous animal-related activity. In fact, many stables and equine event centers post signs informing patrons that participation in equine activities is inherently dangerous. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 1218 people died while riding an animal between 1983 and 1994.

Horses have been known to viciously attack and kill their handlers and even people entering their pastures. A single kick from a horse can cause serious injuries or death. Horses are so powerful that even the strongest person stands no chance of restraining one if it is determined to break loose. When frightened, they flee and can easily trample one to death. Yet, horseback riding remains a popular youth sport.

Why doesn’t the neighbor’s 1200 pound horse or his Great Dane inspire as much fear as his cougar? I think two factors are involved: fear of the unknown and fear of predators. One of man’s most primal fears is that of being eaten by a wild animal, of being the hunted rather than the hunter. Police canine units are so effective in subduing violent individuals that officers report that criminals are often more afraid of a dog than a gun. Offenders are more willing to risk death than a non-fatal bite from a German Shepherd.

Horses and dogs are deeply familiar to us; we’ve lived with them for centuries, watched them on TV, read cute and fuzzy stories about them, and associate them with companionship and service. When one happens to attack or kill us, we see it as an anomaly.

We know little of exotic cats through direct experience; for most of us, exposure is limited to nature programs emphasizing their killing power and the occasional sensational news article announcing the mauling of some hapless zoo employee. When you think about it, it comes as no surprise that we develop a disporportionate fear of these animals.

The text of a failed Oregon ban bill stated “It is almost impossible for an exotic animal to adapt to traditional household settings” and that “Exotic animals are by nature wild and dangerous and do not adjust well to captivity.” These statements are both contradicted by the many thousands of examples of exotic companion animals living healthy, happy lives with Americans nationwide.

I would challenge anyone who truly believes those words to observe my serval Sirocco as he greets me with ecstatic purring and rubs against my legs when I come home from work, and then to watch him curl up beside me purring and licking my face as we watch a movie together. This is not rare; in fact it is typical of the experiences of the majority of exotic cat owners. This cat is as much a member of my family as the domestic dogs and cats you yourself may have lived with and loved.

The failed Oregon HB 3065 stated, “This 2003 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety, an emergency is declared to exist.” There is no emergency. Try to find any evidence of a public health or safety crisis being caused by the ownership of exotic animals. I assure you that you will find none. The number of people in the general public killed by escaped exotic cats in the past decade, across the entire United States, is believed to be zero. This includes not only small felines like servals, caracals, and bobcats but also lions, tigers, and cougars.

Now turn your attention to how much death and destruction has been caused by drunken drivers, parole violators, shoddy building contractors and even catholic priests. Shouldn’t we as a country focus our efforts on legitimate public safety threats, rather than discriminating against the safe and legitimate activities of the citizens?

These bills are redundant. There are already laws in place providing for the criminal prosecution of those whose actions (and the actions of their animals) recklessly endanger the public. Our civil system is already a more than adequate means to punish those whose animals harm or otherwise disturb members of the public and to provide restitution to those who have been harmed. The extremely low number of incidents involving exotic animals proves the effectiveness of these current laws.

This article may be reprinted in its entirety only. Permission is not granted to reproduce in edited form or to support the ending of exotic pet ownership.

The Cleanest Pets For Your Home

To their owners, pets are a source of companionship, comfort and love. They become a part of the family. Some are house pets and some live outside. When deciding to get a house pet, cleanliness should definitely be considered.

Someone is going to be responsible for keeping the pet and its area clean and so finding out what pets are the cleanest is one step in making a choice.

Cats

Not many people would argue with the fact that cat’s are clean. They are constantly bathing themselves and they use a litter box for their bodily functions. Unless the cat refuses to be trained to a litter box, they are very clean pets.

The downside to cats is hairballs and shedding. Hairballs are accumulations of hair that builds up due to the constant bathing a cat does. Eventually the cat will regurgitate them, not a pretty site and quite gross to clean up. Shedding isn’t gross, just a nuisance because it gets on clothing, furniture and helps create dust bunnies.

Another factor that plays against the cat is their curiosity. Cats are notoriously nosey and their ability to jump combined with their curiosity is a mess waiting to happen. Glasses knocked off counters and fish bowls turned over are some examples.

Dogs

Dogs are messier than cats, that’s a given. They are somewhat harder to train and have to be taken outside often. This means that if left alone there will be the possibility of accidents happening in the house.

Dogs have to be bathed and groomed; they aren’t able to groom themselves. If not bathed, they can develop odor which is not good for the house. Dogs also shed; even those that are labeled non-shedding will lose some hair.

Birds

Birds aren’t that messy in and of themselves. However, they do have to have their cages cleaned and some birds will spit their sunflower seed shells out of the cage and onto the floor. They are a fairly good choice for someone looking for a pet with minor upkeep. Clean water and food and a cage cleaning on occasion.

Hamsters

Hamsters are cute but they do make a mess in their cages. Being nesters, they move things around all over the cage. They aren’t particular about where they relieve themselves and so the entire cage tends to smell if no cleaned often. They don’t require a lot of attention but their cage does, at least on a weekly basis.

Snakes

The cleanest pet for the home is probably the most unlikely choice for the majority of people. While there are many people who have them, snakes, such as ball pythons are not a favorite pet for most people. In fact, many people won’t go near them. However, they require little attention, don’t shed hair and the minute amount of body waste they have is simple to clean up.

Beta Fish

Along with the ball python, the Beta fish would be the other cleanest pet for the home. These fish do not require aquariums with filters so there is little cleaning involved. All they need is a bowl of water that is changed occasionally and some food dropped in daily.

The cleanest pets are not the pets most people are going to choose, but they do exist. Pets are like most everything else, the more they require the more they give back. No one can argue that having a puppy cuddle up beside them is anywhere near having a Beta fish swimming beside them in a bowl.

The Responsibilities That Come With Having Hedgehogs As Pets

If you are familiar with how hedgehogs look like, you will agree that their unique cuteness alone can make you want to own one. Having hedgehogs as pets can be a great experience. They are wonderful and very entertaining creatures. Adopting them is best when they are about 6-8 weeks old and have already been weaned. When choosing, look for ones with bright clear eyes, well-rounded body that show great energy and alertness.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are up most of the time at night. They spend the day sleeping. If handled properly and when their quills are not up, they are very cuddly and friendly. The quills are a defense mechanism that goes up when they feel threatened. But they are known to have good temperament. Most pet hedgehogs live in cages or aquariums, but under supervision, you can occasionally set them free and run in the house after they have been litter-trained. Litter training of hedgehogs is surprisingly easy.

If you plan to adopt one, you need to be prepared for the responsibilities that come with caring for one. It may be good to note that if you are allergic to cats, then hedgehog may not be for you. Typical small pet care involves time and effort. You will have to clean the pet’s cage, feed it, and spend bonding time with it. You will need to provide its needs regularly such as food, a cage, a litter box and more. It is basically the same with having hedgehogs as pets. They like human affection. They are wonderful swimmers, too. Give them a shallow pool and they will enjoy swimming in it. They go bananas over hiding their heads, a playtime they enjoy so much. You can give them toilet paper tubes for this. Exercise wheel is something they also enjoy so put one in a cage for your pet to enjoy.

To help them not to become bored with the food that you give, treat your hedgehogs with their favorite bananas on an occasional basis, like two times a week. You may also serve bugs as they are in general, insectivores. They eat snails and worms and insects found in gardens. However, don’t just let them loose in your garden if you use insecticides on your plants. Plant insecticides can seriously harm them. It is better to exercise caution by purchasing feed from pet stores made specifically for hedgehogs. These cute balls of fun are prone to parasites. Milk and other form of dairy products should never be a part of their diet because they cannot tolerate them.

For those wanting to have hedgehogs as pets, they should know that to help the animal enjoy playtime, extra space in the cage should be provided. Put divisions inside to make room for sleep time or nesting needs and some areas for activity time. If you plan to keep more than one hedgehog, make sure to provide separate quarters. They like their own space as they are very territorial in nature. An additional member in its marked area could result in fighting that could harm them. You should get one as young as possible, and then slowly introduce the new companion in a stress-free way.

Being quiet animals, these creatures are ideal pets for persons living in apartments. Since they are small, all you have to provide is a cage spacious enough since they move around a lot. They make snuffling noise when they breathe and grunts or chirps occasionally when frightened or upset. Other than that, they are quiet and peaceful. If you are the quiet type and you like the companionship of a pet, then adopting one or two hedgehogs as pets may be ideal for you.