Sunday, January 06, 2008

Cats, Mice and Heter Mechira



"I just want to you know that I'm impressed."

My wife paid me this valuable compliment last week.

Granted, I deserved it, but it was nice receiving it regardless.

My daughter "D1" informed me, "You know Abba, you really yelled loudly when you chased that mouse around the house."

About a year ago, our yishuv was plagued by the mouse syndrome. We had no clue where they coming from, how they were getting into the house, or where they were hanging out. Yet the phrase "I smell a rat" was never truer when my wife announced we had a mouse in the house last year (her keen sense of smell is only matched by my sharp instincts for waffles).

We purchased a few mouse trap cages, filled them with salami and peanut butter bait, and started catching mice -- we even managed to catch 2 in one cage. I would don heavy work gloves and drive the mice a few miles down the road and release them into the wild.

If only...if only we had a better solution. And then, one day about 5 months ago, he arrived.

The regal feline would cavort back and forth between our next door neighbor's home and ours
in search of food and affection. Silly me. I thought "adopting" a cat would be a low maintenance
project.

Along with the table scraps we fed the creature daily, we splurged and purchased *cat food* for the beast.

The cat flies into our house every time we open the front door, and then spend a few minutes "shooing" it out of the house.   (Important Oleh Tip: the Hebrew equivalent of "scat" used to shoo away a cat, is "kishtah")

So the cat adopted us, we adopted it, and for the first time since our goldfish died our household had a pseudo pet.

Our disposition changed last week when my wife announced, "I smell a rat" -- and the mice were back. We would growl at the cat, "Hello?! What are we feeding you for?!" We would even invite the cat in to hunt for the mouse, but all it cared about was more table scraps or ready to eat cat food.

The new generation of mice were different -- they weren't fooled into climbing into the traps we set. Not cages, not glue traps...not the lure of Bamba, peanut butter, salami, or even their new favorite dish, avocado -- which we find partially eaten morning after morning, on the kitchen counter (yuck!)

Day by day we got increasingly annoyed at the cat.

Finally, one morning last week, one of the kids screamed in my ear to wake me up; "ABBA! Wake up!! There's a mouse downstairs!"

Tumbling down the stairs, I needed to appear fearless. After all, how could a member of our combat counter-terror unit be afraid of a mouse?

Putting on my heavy work gloves and brandishing a broom, I gingerly opened the bottom drawer of the oven. The grey mouse gaped at me wide eyed; cornered at last! With a killer yell, as I banged the broom in the general direction of the mouse, and it jumped out, scampering across the floor. Continuing the yell, I chased it around the downstairs -- even opening the screen door to give it ample chances to escape. Stupid mouse. It didn't go out the door but kept hiding in the corners of the room.

"Bring in the cat!" I roared -- and the kids tried getting the cat into the house, but to no avail.

The stupid cat had no interest in the mouse whatsoever.

After an aggressive to and fro chase around the room, I smacked the mouse with the broom, and it went into convulsions.

"EEEEEWWWWWW" was the general consensus in the house, while I was very pleased with myself for mortally wounding the annoying rodent.

"Get the cat," I insisted -- "let's show it what its supposed to do." The cat gingerly approached the dying mouse, but turned head on heels and fled out the door.

Disposing the bleeding mouse in the garbage I had no sympathy for it whatsoever. I had given it an escape route out the screen door, given it the opportunity to get caught in a cage -- and I would have released it far away.

Yet what will be of our cat? I shudder to think I just wrote "our" cat. It's THE cat, not ours. But the stupid pet grew on us.

I guess I'll take it to the vet one of these days, get some shots for it, and keep feeding it like we have till now.

However...today I saw on YNET one of the most annoying "religion" articles yet, announcing a "Kosher Cat" that had been halachiklly neutered according to the same principle of "heter mechira". Having written extensively about Shmita on my blog before, I found it offensive that
someone (a layman) "decided" what the halacha is, or isn't, concerning their cat -- "sold" it to a Moslem to be neutered, and then "purchased" it back.

Shmuel Dovrat, a young religious animal lover, recently came up with a creative solution for the halachic ban on neutering pets. Dovrat sold his beloved cat Ponti to a Muslim friend who spayed the feline, and bought it back from her immediately after the procedure.

"Our cat, Pontius Pilatus, reached sexual maturity and started peeing all over the house," Dovrat recounted, explaining this is one of the side effects of sexual arousal in cats.

Dovrat and his wife realized that without spaying Ponti they would not be able to keep him, but every halachic ruling they consulted made it clear that neutering an animal was strictly forbidden.

Throwing Ponti out into the street would have been cruel, and leaving him in the current situation would have also caused the cat to suffer, said Dovrat. And so, he and his wife decided to explore halachic sources in a bid to seek a solution to the dilemma.

After thoroughly reading through the rulings of some of the greatest Halacha adjudicators, Dovrat came to the conclusion that the halachic ban on neutering refers to farm animals, and not to pets.

However, in order to be absolutely sure his actions did not violate Jewish law, he decided to sell Ponti to a Muslim friend and have her take the cat to the vet for the operation. Once the cat has recovered, Dovrat bought it back from the friend, paying the same price he got for selling it earlier, and also reimbursing her for the cost of the operation.

"I have no doubt that an adjudicator knows more about the Halacha than I do, but I feel uncomfortable with some of the rulings. I don't like to be fed halachic solutions with a spoon. It's always important for me to know the source and understand the process that led to the ruling," Dovrat explained.

However, Ramat Gan's Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, who about a year ago ruled that surgical neutering was forbidden by the Halacha, said he did not agree with Dovrat's solution.

Ariel explained that while the great adjudicators indeed allowed Jews to let their Muslim neighbor spay their animal for them, if he wished to do so, they were never allowed to initiate such a moved themselves.

Ariel, who supports "hormonal neutering," also rejected the claim that refraining from spaying a pet constitutes cruelty to animals. "People buy dogs and cats in order to entertain their children, and not out of concern for the pets' welfare. If they are worried that the animals might have puppies and that no home could be found for them, they should find another form of entertainment to begin with," he stated.
R' Kook would be mortified...I'm disgusted.

PS: There's a legend that the cats of Eretz Yisrael are all gilgulim...



Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

18 comments:

Jack's Shack said...

Rumor has it there is video of Jameel the Broom Killer chasing mice. You ought to upload that so we can really share these moments together.

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

"After all, how could a member of our combat counter-terror unit be afraid of a mouse?"

There was an SNL episode a while back in which al-Maliki tells Bush through a translator that all of the Iraqi police's cars have been stolen and turned into car bombs--so they got them horses, and camels, but these were also stolen and turned into horse and camel bombs--and near Basra, a mouse bomb was deployed, and blew off a policeman's big toe. So you see, there's a serious terror component to this whole mouse thing.

I am glad to hear you have a cat--feed it in good health.

I think someone needs to give Rabbi Ariel a refresher course on biology. No one is neutering their cat because they are afraid it will have puppies. (I would say more, but am not.)

Gilgulim? So I may end up as one of those tabbies Rahel is always taking pictures of?

yingerman said...

You actually expected a cat(gilgul of a jew) to eat a non kosher animal?

Lurker said...

OK, 'fess up, Jameel. Were you the "Muslim friend" in the article?

tnspr569 said...

ROTFL!!! Wow, I wish I could have been there to see that. I'm surprised none of the Muqata boys went after the mouse, though.

Please send my best to the rest of the family!

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

When I had a cat, our posek told us that we could take the cat to the Atarot humane society (aka the dog pound, where they also have cats) and the pound would sell the animal to a non-Jew, do the surgery, and then buy the cat back. If he said it was mutar, it was mutar (Jameel you can ask me off line who my posek is). We never did it though, because we were not comfortable with such an obvious fake sale. Calvin-the-cat (he was much too hyper to be a Hobbes) lived outside, and when we moved he stayed there. By the time we moved away he was disappearing for days at a time and living a tough, guy-cat life. We read "The Incredible Journey" and we decided that taking him with us would have been cruel. I still wonder what happened to him.

Starve your cat and he will be more inclined to go after the mice.

~ Sarah ~ said...

israeli cats are different to cats in other countries! mabye mice are too. hope you can get rid of the mice more easily if there's a next time.

our cat(s) adopted us also. he's pretty good at catching rodents when he's not being lazy.

Lurker said...

Ariel explained that while the great adjudicators indeed allowed Jews to let their Muslim neighbor spay their animal for them, if he wished to do so, they were never allowed to initiate such a moved themselves.

This is patently incorrect. The poskim who gave a heter for this practice most definitely allowed the Jew to initiate the transaction -- otherwise it never would have taken place. Its like suggesting that the heter that allows you to sell your hametz to a non-Jew applies only if the non-Jew initiates the purchase. Which would be ridiculous -- why would a non-Jew wish to initiate such a transaction?

Ariel, who supports "hormonal neutering," also rejected the claim that refraining from spaying a pet constitutes cruelty to animals. "People buy dogs and cats in order to entertain their children, and not out of concern for the pets' welfare. If they are worried that the animals might have puppies and that no home could be found for them, they should find another form of entertainment to begin with," he stated.

While it is certainly true that established halacha prohibits neutering, R. Ariel's statement is incredibly simplistic, and doesn't address the issue of the tza'ar ba'alei haim that results from animal overpopulation in urban environments. His quoted comments indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the problem.

(Note: Being that this is from the virulently anti-religious YNet, it is entirely possible that R. Ariel had more to say than what was cited in the article, and that his position was misrepresented.)

R' Kook would be mortified...

Why, what did R. Kook have to say on this subject?

tafka pp said...

I think R. Kook might be mortified by I was very pleased with myself for mortally wounding the annoying rodent. too... or maybe that's just me- we used to keep these "annoying rodents" as pets...

annie said...

LOL! Very funny picture you paint of your mouse hunting adventures. If you need any advice, call my dad. He killed a rat! (not just a stam mouse) outside my front door a few years ago with a few whacks of a broomstick. We were very proud of him - and he of himself :-)

Regarding neutering cats, I think the problematic issur is with male cats, not with females. In any event we spayed our female cat on the basis of tzaar baalei chayim - a non-spayed female cat has a very high chance of developing cancer amongst other nasty diseases.

General Arafat said...

If you ever have such an issue in the future, I can loan you a rat zapper..

Holy Hyrax said...

>The stupid cat had no interest in the mouse whatsoever.

You fool. That cat is probably smarter than all of you. Why does he need to chase a mouse when you have been feeding it.

The back of the hill said...

Feeding the cat discouraged it from eating mice. Possibly.

Israeli cat-food must be really good - our cats (over thirty years ago) NEVER passed up the opportunity for rodent slaughter. Given the rank smell of cat-food in that day and age, this was not surprising.
.
.
.
I cannot possibly describe the "delight" of waking up with a dead mouse on my face, that being a frequent token of affection from one of our cats (Dorothy, the murderous feline slut).

I never did get used to it (but I accepted it in the spirit in which it was given).

To this very day I have no taste for dead mice.

nikki said...

i think maybe your cat is a little spoiled... don't feed it so much, it will probably be more inclined to stalk it's prey. and they don't really eat the catch -- they actually "present" it, dead, to it's owners as a gift.

Shmilda said...

"People buy dogs and cats in order to entertain their children, and not out of concern for the pets' welfare. If they are worried that the animals might have puppies and that no home could be found for them, they should find another form of entertainment to begin with,"

Couldn't have said it better.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

The Ynet article was, unfortunately, plain stupid.

During the years I was at Mercaz Harav, we always had a few cats. Neither Rav Yisraeli nor Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ever suggested it was okay to sell them to 'neuter' them. Our vet, Dr. Sekeles used to give me a prescription for birth control pills for the females we had. He didn't like it, but he knew I wouldn't 'neuter' them.

Since I've been in the States :P, I've been exposed much more to the idea of selling an animal in order to neuter it. I discussed this at length with an older, veteran Av Beit Din who pointed out that there were communities in Europe where this was more common with farm animals 'ltzorech gadol'.

BTW, cats just get spoiled. We have mice in our henhouse. I once picked up our cat, put him on the worktable right in front of a mice, and he showed no interest at all!

Of course, when HE felt like it, he'd bring some squirming little prize into the house to show off... :P.

Batya said...

It's the cat food that wimps them.
The cat should be vaccinated. I used to give ours birth control pills. A sympathetic doctor gave me a prescription.

We've been catless for a number of years.

Anonymous said...

Your original post puts me in mind of an old joke:
Three rabbis, one Orthodox, one Conservative, and one Reform (only in America) were comparing notes about their problems with the mice in their shuls.
The Orthodox rabbi said: "I bought some of those humane traps and then released the mice in the park across the street. Within a week they were back"
The Conservative rabbi said: "I did just the same, but released them across town. Still they were back in a week."
The Reform rabbi said: "I don't know what your problem is. I use the same traps, but then I give each mouse a bar mitzvah - and I haven't seen a single one since."

On a more serious note. Mousing is a learned behavior. Unless they are taught as kittens, by their mothers (or some surrogate), they never develop much of an interest or any skill.
Elisha Ignatoff

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