True Malarkey

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In the Criminal Minds episode *True Night (2007, Season 3, Episode 10) Dr. Spencer Reid utters an incredibly biased falsehood about stray/feral/”alley cats.” Because Dr. Reid is a fictional character, I can only surmise that the writer of this episode got some very wrong information about outdoor cats.

“Did you know that a domestic cat loose in an alley is the equivalent of a small scale ecological disaster? They’ll kill anything they can: Bugs, rodents, birds, other cats, small dogs if possible–anything.”*

I just watched this episode again for maybe the sixth time and I wonder again how many people who are so virulently anti-cat get some of their wildly false information from television shows like this, where a feral cat is used as a dramatic comparison and the writer either doesn’t fact-check or plays fast and loose with the facts. I’m going to just debunk Dr. Reid’s statement off the top of my head.

  1. “A small scale ecological disaster” – Seriously? One cat in an alley? If a feral cat is living in an alley, it’s because he’s scavenging food from trash cans and dumpsters and/or being fed by people on the block. I don’t think there are a lot of birds and small dogs (the only creatures the anti-cat movement might possibly be concerned about) hanging around in alleys.
  2. They’ll kill anything they can: Bugs, rodents, birds, other cats, small dogs if possible… ” This is patently absurd. It’s been proven by multiple scientific studies that the main prey of feral cats are lizards and frogs. Yes, feral cats do eat a lot of rodents, mostly very small rodents like voles, and that’s a good thing because rodents spread disease. Feral cats do NOT spread disease to humans or other animal species. I think I’ve read of two cases of a confirmed rabid feral cat. Feral cats do not spread toxoplasmosis. Feral cats are more likely to run away from you than attack you. How are you going to get a disease from a cat running away from you? But cats kill rats that carry bubonic plague fleas, and bubonic plague is still with us in the 21st century. I’m glad that feral cats kill disease-bearing rodents. That alone should give ferals protected status. Small dogs – that’s just asinine. I have never in my 43 years heard of a cat killing a dog. And the “if possible” makes it sound as if feral cats are lurking in wait for some toy poodle to toddle away from its owner so they can pounce on it like, well, vampires.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love Criminal Minds and Spencer Reid is one of my favorite characters. But the wrong information in this brief segment troubles me. Many people accept the dialogue recited on shows like Criminal Minds as truth. “A TV profiler said it, it must be true!” No, no, it’s not.

Why did I bother writing this post? Because this episode plays over and over in reruns and this false information is repeated over and over and that bothers the hell out of me. Because that bit of dialogue is dangerously wrong and should be struck from the episode. Because anti-cat fanatics use wrong information like this to back up their nonsense arguments.

Because it’s time for writers of fiction to start being responsible in regards to feral cats and a lot of other issues. Science has proven so many old theories about so many subjects false, and it’s time for us to check our facts and not spread misinformation to mistakenly fearful people for the sake of dramatic effect.

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