On Cats and Altruism
I spent last year on the second floor of a shotgun apartment in South Philly. I was right on the edge of the gentrifying process in that neighborhood. Next to my apartment were three abandoned buildings that included one large, empty lot. Our windows looked over this space.
In this lot were several feral cats. I would watch them when I was home - they would hunt in the space, play and sleep. I grew attached to them and I knew their schedules. I began feeding them.
At first, it was whatever I had on hand. Hotdogs were the most common - I could throw it over the fence easily (although some missed and would end up in our neighbor’s yard). Lunch meat, pepperoni - whatever. I eventually went and bought wet and dry cat food. I would sneak into the lot and place it out for them. I only did this when I saw a cat - I didn’t want to attract any other animals that might be in the neighborhood.
I started feeling really guilty. It soon became winter and I worried about there well-being. I was broke and in order to have a pet in my apartment I would have to pay a flat rate of $300. There was just no way (let alone the fact that I couldn’t adopt all 6-8 of them). I continued to feed them, but I soon became conflicted about that as well. Was I helping them? Or was I just helping myself feel better?
This kitten showed up at my doorstep one day. I started feeding him off my porch - I would open my door every morning and he would be there. He was cautious, he would only get close to me when I had food. Eventually he let me pet him but even then if I made a sudden move he would run away. I was lost - I had to adopt this one, he was hungry and defenseless. Fuck the deposit. I went and bought everything I needed and started the process of trying to capture the cat.
It didn’t work. I got him as far as my door upstairs one day. He was too scared and too unsure - he wouldn’t come inside. I would try to pick him up and bring him in - but he would claw me and run. One day he disappeared and I never saw him again. I hope some other person adopted him - but I really don’t know.
Altruism - the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
I was not being altruistic (although I convinced myself I was). I was probably hurting the cats - they stopped hunting and became relient on my care. But I had to do it. I felt better each day I feed them. I had to do it for my own well-being.