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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Survival for cats
a sole issue

SOME people like to say "there's more than one way to skin a cat" but they never offer details.

How many ways are there? Can you use basic lawn-care implements or do you have to secure the services of professional cat skinners?

Considering Honolulu's feral cat problem, these are not just hypothetical questions. The state Health Department is pushing a law that would make it illegal to feed stray cats. That seems to indicate that the Health Department would like to see all these stray cats croak. The department hasn't taken a position, as far as I know, on whether the stray cats should be harvested for their fur.

It's disgusting to think that some people would actually kill cats for their fur or skins, but it happens.

According to a recent wire service story, more than 20,000 cats a year are stolen in France, many of them turned into baby shoes and luxury slippers.

"French animal lovers believe that the cat rustling is the work of professionally organized gangs, who work in almost complete impunity. Police say they have little time to devote to such a low profile crime," the report stated.

Just the term "cat rustling" causes a cold chill to go down one's back. It brings to mind a bunch of French catboys hanging out in a saloon, drinking whisky, taping up nasty claw injuries and sharing harrowing tales of rustlin' cats on the prairies of Cherbourg.

THIS report really shocked me. Not that the French would steal cats for their skins. When I saw the headline about French cat stealing, I assumed they were eating them. The French have a penchant for consuming the innards of small furry animals. Any culture that considers an acceptable dinner to be a bunny whacked up into pieces and shoved into a crock to sit for two days probably doesn't have a high regard for cats. (In Paris, this dish is called "Civet de Lapin" which sounds a lot more civilized than "jugged rabbit.")

What shocked me was that cat skin can be used to make baby shoes. You'd think it would be better for things like baseball mitts and wallets.

That's apparently not the case. Authorities raided a tannery in western France and found 1,500 cat skins being used to make baby shoes. Of course, the shoes are not marketed as being made that way. Even the French don't put out a line of "Hey Kitty" shoes for kids. Instead, the feline footwear is passed off as shoes made from other kinds of dead animals, like cows or iguana.

I bring this disgusting enterprise up because it could affect Hawaii. Obviously, France does not have a feral cat problem. If cat rustlers have to steal pet cats in order to supply the lucrative Kitty Kiddie shoe market, that means all the free wild cats have been taken.

In a bad economy, with people looking to make a few bucks any way they can, it's just a matter of time before Hawaii entrepreneurs discover there may be money to be made in the cat hide industry.

The way to get the public to accept cat harvesting is to convince people that cats actually are pests, not pets, with no socially redeeming value. You could start doing that by passing laws to make aiding and abetting feral cats illegal. That gives people the idea that cats aren't worth caring about.

Next come suggestions that the feral cat population needs to be thinned through hunting. After that, finding out how many ways there are to skin a cat -- and make money doing it -- is only a few baby steps away.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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