As you have probably heard from the show, I am a crazy cat lady. My husband and I share the house with six cats, and while we don’t send them to the spa, buy them jewelry or serve their dinner in crystal dishes, I would daresay that they are pretty spoiled. They live in a home large enough that they could fairly easily stay out of each others’ way all day, and there are plenty of comfy places to lay about . They are each brought to the vet at least once a year, if not more, and never have to worry about suffering through wind or rain or snow.
Breakfast of wet food it served every day for the four that like the canned stuff, and kitty crunchies are around all day in two separate rooms for grazing. Not only do they have a frequently changed large water bowl, but whenever one of us in the bathroom, the two that like to drink from the faucet are treated to a slowly trickling faucet of fresh water. They cuddle with our warm bodies when we are asleep or resting, and there are toys, cat treats, sun-filled windowsills and gentle brushings to look forward to every day. We even put bird feeders outside close to the windows so they have something fun to watch. I mean, our house is pretty much cat heaven.
The reason I am chronicling all of the comforts and necessities available to our cats, is not so that I will worsen my crazy cat lady reputation or be put on the ASPCA four star accommodations list. It’s to explain the seed of a thought has recently been haunting me, which I cannot quite push aside: My cats have access to better living conditions than millions of people throughout the world.
According to the World Health Organization (the non-guitar smashing WHO), approximately 780 million people throughout the world do not have access to clear drinking water daily. Read that again – 780 MILLION. Two of my cats, Monster and Sweet Pea, need only barge in on me while I’m on the throne, hope up on the sink, and they get as much water as they can lap up before I’m done with my business. But in countries all over the world, having water, much less clean water, is a daily struggle.
I recognize that feeling guilty about the privileged life afforded my pets is a very “first world problem”, but I wonder how many people in the United States and other “first world” countries ever stop to think about that? According to water.org, my morning shower uses up the amount of water that people in some third world countries would use all day, for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. I watch my beloved cats enjoy their turns at the water faucet, and imagine the faces of the people without such a very basic human need if they were to watch animals getting better treatment than their own children. I imagine incredulity and disgust on their faces as they see our obviously healthy pets eating their own food, treats and occasional table scraps when their own children starve – and I feel somewhat ashamed.
Now, I realize that poverty and starvation have been part of the human condition for as long as human history has been recorded, and shows no signs of being irradicated in our lifetime, and I’m not on a mission to save the world. But I am thinking more about the divide between the haves and have-nots of the world. And for all our whining about traffic, work issues, relationship problems and such, at least our basic human requirements are being met daily, and I know at the end of the day that I get to eat dinner in my own safe, warm home.
In my privileged life, I am sure I cannot begin to imagine the depths of despair that poverty, war, hunger and disease will drive a person. The constant stress of trying to stay safe and alive every day in the most desperate of conditions must be like a living hell. What lengths would I go to, to get out of a situation like that? What would any of us be capable of doing? If in the depths of despair, you knew of a place that had everything that you needed, everything you wanted – no, more than you needed and wanted – and you found that there was a way to trick the more vulnerable and desperate of that place to give you what you needed, what lengths would you go to?