The Feline QuestionTuesday, July 18, 2006
Since I was a child we always had some sort of pet in our house. Perhaps it was because of our large Buenos Aires garden. Uncle Tony would bring the pets that his wife, Sarita, would reject. They lived in an apartment. So I remember having a deer, a collie (she was called Sweetie), a giant brown unshorn poodle (Moro), rabbits, lizards, toads from Corrientes, a snake, an Argentine bird called a tero (our male had very large spikes on its shoulders and it had its wings broken by Moro), and a turtle that I unknowingly cooked when I set fire to a pile of fall leaves from our fig tree. My turtle hibernated under them. We had a parrot from the Province of Corrientes called Carlitos who lived for over 50 years when we gave him away. But we never had a cat. I remember insisting on bringing a white kitten that I found in a friend's house. My mother put the cat in her purse and we took the 60 bus home hoping we wouldn't be caught. The cat somehow disappeared soon after and I never asked my mother what happened.
A couple of years ago Rebecca, Rosemary and I went to Buenos Aires. We had to visit the Jardin Botánico Buenos Aires. Our reason was not necessarily to see the unusual plant specimens or the wonderful statue collection. We went to visit with the over 800 cats that live in the downtown park. They are obviously well fed. There are rumours that a little old lady feeds them. There are also rumours of the "disappeared" cats. If we Argentines can make people disappear efficiently I guess cats present no problem. It seems that the cats are rounded up and put in bags. They are then taken to the bank of the Rio de la Plata. Here they are, allegedly, clubbed to death.
When Porteños no longer want their unruly kittens, the Jardin Botánico is a neat solution. In the garden we saw all kinds of cats and even some exotic Siamese. Every few years Buenos Aires has a "feline question". This might explain the high turnover. While there, Rebecca and Rosemary must have petted and picked up every cat in sight.