An excerpt from my book "The Madhouse"

An excerpt from my book "The Madhouse"

October 23, 2010
in Category: Uncategorized
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The County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen)… and my cats

The authorities must love me for some reason. During the first week of August of 2010, my half-sister dumped her cats on me since she was going to be ‘preoccupied’ during the next couple of months. I like cats, so that’s no problem – I get her litter box and buy some cat food and sand, expecting care-free temporary ownership of these cats, cuddling them a bit now and then and keeping them fed. I don’t like having my night’s sleep disturbed, however, so when I go to bed I lure them outside and place the food bowls there, then locking the balcony door. My apartment is on the ground floor, and the cats can run out freely through a hole in the balcony, hence it seems just fine in my eyes. Sometimes the cat meow a little when I leave them outside, but I figure this might be a good opportunity for them to go catch rats or something.

Now on the 19th of August, I get this woman from the County Administrative Board paying a visit to me in my apartment, saying she’s from the pet supervision section of this public authority and that they’ve learned that the cats might be neglected (!) in my house. She asks if she can come into my apartment and inspect. I let her do that, being hospitable and all, and show her both the litter box and the bowls the cats usually eat from. She also wants to see the cats, so I show them to her – when she enters, only the female is inside, so I step out on the balcony and look for the male too, and thankfully he shows up as well, so I can let the woman inspect the two cats that I keep in my home. She asks about their age and whether the male is castrated. I’ve not checked myself – to be honest, I’ve never taken too great an interest in cat genitalia and don’t know how castrated cats look. So I lift him up and show that part of his body to her to inspect, and she tells me he doesn’t appear castrated.

She’s pleased to see that they appear to be just fine, but still asks me about how I keep them. I tell her I usually give them dry food since that’s cheaper and that I give them milk since they don’t seem very interested in drinking water. Once a day I give them a bit of wet food, but sometimes I find that the bowl out on the balcony attracts flies when they’ve not finished eating it – the dry food doesn’t on the other hand. She now tells me that the cats are still required to have access to water, but that it’s possible that they might still find that if they can walk outside. The woman also tells me that if I keep cats, I’m required to check on them at least twice a day, and I console her by telling her I do that.

This is not quite over yet though; she’s also concerned about how it will be during the winter if I keep two cats in my 1-room apartment and I can’t keep the door open to let them run out as they please. Then I tell her that I’m only keeping the cats temporarily for my half-sister and that I’ll return them to her long before the snow is here. Now she wants the name and phone number of my half-sister, so I tell her that, and she also hands me her contact information, telling me I’m supposed to inform the County Administrative Board when I return the cats to my half-sister. Naturally I’ll be such a vigilant servant of the state as to do that… Finally, she asks for my phone number as well and I hand her that too. Bureaucrats sure can make it a hassle keeping pets… I wonder if I made the right move in telling her that the reason my half-sister couldn’t take care of the cats was because she’s incarcerated.

Life in Sweden… Is there any wonder I daydream about another life? I guess if you lack company, it’s not very hard to get government employees to come visit you though.

Two cats too lazy to be catching rats.

Why chase rats when you can sleep in your master’s bed all day until you get up and meow a bit to be fed?

I think there must be some essential difference between country cats and city cats. When I grew up in our cottage out in the country, we had several generations of cats, and though we generally provided them with food when they were kittens, as they grew up they went outside and caught rats on their own, securing their food supply that way. They usually came back to our house for the company, or we’d call on them to give them special treats such as perhaps some herring. Our first cat, called Missan, who became the ancestor of all subsequent cats, once even caught a white hare that she brought back to the house in her mouth. If any cat that wasn’t her offspring snuck into the house, she’d make them sorry. I even remember once when a male did just that, and she went after him with such a fury, chasing him across floors and window seats until he got the message that he had to get out.

The two cats I have now have not caught a single rat during the four weeks or so I’ve had them, they rely on me exclusively for food even though I let them go outside. And naturally the food I give them isn’t good enough for them, they keep meowing and I have to figure out just what they want now. Every morning I wake up, they’re sleeping on the quilt out on the balcony, waking up and rushing inside as I open the door. Now and then other male cats in the neighbourhood walk up to the balcony when they see my female cat. When my male cat spots one of them approaching, he runs for safety instead of chasing them away. The cats sleep for 20 hours a day and spend at least an hour each of the remaining time washing themselves or eating the food I serve them.

I want country cats instead…

31 August 2010 update

Well, what do you know. This morning the female actually ran into my apartment with a bird in her mouth, as if she’s sensed my dissatisfaction in the two. It managed to get loose from her jaws and fly around a little inside before the male cornered it and took it instead, without the female noticing. Now she’s meowing and searching for it in my apartment, poor girl. Maybe I should give the male less food so he’ll learn to catch his own prey… But then I guess I’ll get Länsstyrelsen on me again.

 

7 September 2010 update

Today I received a written confirmation in the mail of the inspection two weeks ago. To quote:

“Inspection in accordance with djurskyddslagen [the law on the prevention of cruelty to animals]

Date 2010-09-02
Day-book number xxx-xxxx-2010″

The bastards actually made an official document out of the inspection…

The cats have come right in from outside and already one week after have managed to soil the paper to this state where it was lying. Sometimes I think they can read, and that they’re simply showing the authorities the proper respect.

“Two cats, one female and one male, 2 years old were kept in an apartment with the option to walk outside through the balcony. There was dry food and canned food, water was however missing at the time of the inspection. The cats were in normal shape and appeared alert and harmonius. Daniel Hammarberg took over the cats from his sister a couple of weeks ago, the cats will return to her in about two months.”

Maybe the government should put the cats up on Facebook so everyone in detail can follow the events of their lives. What kind of government business is it just when I return the cats?

“The cats should have free access to drinking water. There may be deficiencies that weren’t noticed during the inspection. No fee is charged during this inspection.”

Thanks for the suspicion… Just because you see that the cats are all-right doesn’t mean that you can’t bee too sure. I guess I was lucky not to be charged for the unannounced inspection.

I was also given a printed 14-page colour brochure from the Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket).

To quote:

“In this brochure you can read about how to keep and take care of your cat.”

Oh, and I didn’t know how to do that until the government told me.

“Your animals depend on you to follow the rules on animal protection. The regulations establish a minimum level and declare what has to be at least fulfilled for your cat to feel well and act in a natural way.”

Man has kept cats for thousands of years with their enthusiasm intact. Now in 2008, the Swedish government decides this must be regulated under law.

Ok, the bold emphasis of the words “you will” in the following quotes isn’t present in the brochure, but is simply me highlighting the outrageous language.

“From 1 May 2008, several new rules apply to keeping a cat, among others the following:

  • You or someone else will look after your animals at least twice a day. Young, sick or injured animals shall be looked after more often.

  • Cats will have their need for social interplay met.”

Etc, etc…

“If several cats are kept indoors without the possibility to go outside, you have to make sure that there’s at least 1 litter box per 2 cats.”

You will also make sure that your cat doesn’t become obese or underweight. If several animals are fed together, you will make sure that they all are able to eat in peace and quiet, without disturbing each other.”

These rules and this trust in me on the part of the government makes it so much fun keeping cats…

“The Swedish regulation on breeding makes clear what is acceptable as far as animal protection goes when it comes to breeding cats. It also supports the means of controlling genetic deficiencies that today take place within many race [breeding] clubs.

Breeding that can bring about suffering to a cat is forbidden. The cat may not be used for breeding if it among other things

  • has a disease or a disability that may be inherited

  • is carrying or can be assumed to be carrying certain dispositions for disease

  • has behavioural disorders such as exaggerated fear and unprovoked aggression”

Eugenics for cats… Maybe this is why the country cats I grew up with seem gone these days – some government planner decided that cats weren’t allowed to be self-sufficient. If they had been, these pet inspectors wouldn’t have jobs. Maybe the mere existence of cats is a thorn in the eye of bureaucrats, not needing any supervision or government. You just can’t let anything to unregulated….

“A permit is required for whoever”

  • ”breeds 3 or more litters per year”
  • ”stores or feeds 4 or more cats”

”Whoever hasn’t applied for a permit is in violation of the law on the prevention of cruelty to animals and risks facing criminal charges.”

“If you intentionally or inadvertently violate the rules on animal protection, you can be sentenced to a fine or prison for up to two years.”

On the last page under the heading “legislation,” the brochure refers to eight laws and regulations that contain the full ordinances on keeping cats, with this brochure being only a summary.

Reading The ordinances and general advice of the Board of Agriculture on the keeping of dog and cat, SJVFS 2008:5, I start to wonder if these legislators have even seen a cat with their own eyes. Is it any surprise that most of the pictures of cats in the brochure are from the free stock footage website www.sxc.hu? They’re actually tagged as such… I guess whatever cats the government workers had must have run away. To quote said legislation:

”17 § Dogs and cats shall have their need of social contact catered for.”

”Contact with people should take place a couple of hours every day through activation, exercising or other occupation.”

What if I don’t have three to four hours available every day for petting my cat? And what if I simply don’t want to spend that much time with him or her? Does that mean I’m not allowed to keep a cat?

“19 § Dogs and cats shall be kept sufficiently clean and their fur shall be attended to.”

I know dogs are quite helpless animals and can’t take care of their own hygiene… But cats? Haven’t you seen them clean themselves all the time? Some of the rules are quite silly, such as for example:

”7 § Indoor spaces for dogs and cats shall be equipped with lighting. The lighting mountings shall be placed and the lighting amplitude regulated and aimed so that the animals that reside in the space are not subjected to discomfort.”

”13 § Breastfeeding bitches and breastfeeding female cats shall have access to a calm and undisturbed location for themselves and their kids.”

To think that this would never have occurred to me on my own… It’s my experience that the cats take care of this themselves too, usually finding an open closet or something similar.

“3 CHAP. SPECIAL REGULATIONS FOR KEEPING OF CAT”

”3 § Breastfeeding female cats shall have access to a special sleeping place that’s inaccessible to the kittens.”

I guess they project their parenting styles onto the cats… ”I can’t stand having my children around me all the time, so surely the cats can’t either.” Feminism for cats…. “Cat mum needs her night out!” I wonder how long it takes until they introduce mandatory public daycare for kittens?

6 §:

“Cats with low rank in their group shall have the opportunity to eat and drink without stress.”

“There should be food and water bowls in different places and different heights so that cats with low rank have the opportunity to eat and drink undisturbed.”

I think these legislators ought to take the personal integrity of the cats into account too… Don’t you think it’s insulting to them assuming that they can’t fend for themselves just because they’re of “low rank?” Typical socialist condescension.

On a related note, the wording of some of the legislation under ”2 CHAP. SPECIAL REGULATIONS FOR KEEPING OF DOG” becomes really funny when translated into English (my apologies if women find it offensive):

”17 § Forced mating of bitches may not occur.

With forced mating is meant forcing the bitch to mate by holding on to the bitch in spite of the bitch expressing discomfort or attempting to get away.”

If anyone wants to inspect this insane document for himself, search for ”SJVFS 2008:5” and enter that URL into translate.google.com.

But, back to cats. I think it’s a valuable experience for kittens fighting over the food, it teaches them to grow up and become real hunters. When I was a child, I was delighted to see some of the cats hogging all the food and not letting anyone else have any until they were done. I guess that makes me cruel towards animals by today’s Swedish standards. “Grow some balls, or go hungry!” Some cats have such cute ways of establishing their position in their litter…

I once had a kitten who defied both other kittens and adults when it came time to be fed, by not confining himself to only stand outside the bowl when he ate, like the rest of them; although his back paws were outside the bowl, he had half his body inside it, eating from the centre and effectively covering the rest of the hard food with his front paws extended to his sides, to send the message that no one else could eat while he was doing it. Oh, I wish I had taken a picture. I could have sent it to the legislators now and written something like: “Watch me follow your regulations, bureaucrats!” Hmm, that might be a bit corny I suppose.

I can’t stress just how grateful I am to my esteemed government for blessing me with its enlightened and important legislation… What would I do without you?

I propose a class action lawsuit on behalf of all cats. Self-sufficient and proud cats just don’t want to be subject to the same legislation as stupid and helpless dogs. I suggest a suitable compensation would be for the cats to be given the legal right to dispose of their excrement on the lawns of these legislators, to atone for the psychological harm the cats have been subjected to due to this association. Let no one compare noble cats to puny dogs again.

I’m called Mimmi and I support this motion. I can be so hyperactive at times that my master found it hard getting a clean shot of me today.


 

To get the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Madhouse-critical-study-Swedish-society/dp/9197936219/.

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Daniel Hammarberg

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  • Daniel Hammarberg

    Oh my, just now on the 4th of November, I get this call from the pet inspector again, asking me about the cats. I told her I returned them to my half-sister a month or so ago and that made the pet inspector wonder if she should call her. A meaningful use of taxpayer indeed, keeping track of cats.

  • Anonymous

    This is hilarious. I'm posting it on my Facebook so all the US can have a laugh.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    I'm glad you like my sense of humour. 🙂 And yes, government here can be quite ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    I live in Sweden, I have cats, but never once have I heard about these silly laws. No vet ever told me. So how are we supposed to know when we are breaking all these ever sillier laws popping up everywhere? We are not, so anytime, anywhere a law abiding citizent will find himself to be a criminal – when it suits them to proclaim you as such. This is the Orwellian nightmare come true.

  • Daniel Hammarberg

    Yep, I was really taken by surprise too when this pet inspector showed up. I guess you can never be certain in this society, at any time you could be interrogated over something and have government inspectors demand to come into your home. Like what is the case with the TV license for example.

  • Miller

    This is nothing unique to Sweden at all. We have the same thing in the US – it’s called Animal Control. They, among other things, enforce animal welfare laws and respond to calls about neglect and abuse of animals. They too go to people’s homes and check that the animals are cared for and take them if they are mistreated. A lot of US cities and counties also have laws limiting the number of pets you can have. I can only have two cats and two dogs and have to have a license from the state for the cats I foster.
    As someone who is involved with rescue of cats and dogs I’m very happy that animal welfare laws exist. They were not made to ensure that everything is perfect but to ensure that animals are not mistreated and believe me, many are. I once found a dog tied up in a back yard in the middle of summer with no food or water and he probably hadn’t had any for over a week. He was skin and bones, looked like a skeleton with fur. He was starved and the people that had him didn’t care. They claimed that they didn’t have money for dog food but they had plenty of money for beer. Maybe Mr. Hammerberg feels that this is their right to treat their dog however the choose and the government should butt out. Animal Control shouldn’t have come into their yard and taken their dog. They should just have let him starve. The government shouldn’t make laws that people should give food and water to their pets and give agencies power to act when people don’t. That’s abuse of power, right? Pets are property and nothing the government should interfere with. Is that how you think it should be? I don’t find anything wrong with Lansstyrelsen coming to check on your cats. Someone apparently saw them crying by the door and made a phone call and I’m glad they checked to see if the cats really were neglected. They checked and it turned out that they weren’t being mistreated but they could have been and someone should be there to help if that happens. Do you disagree?

    • Adam M.

      Miller, what in the world are you talking about? It’s nowhere near as bad in the states as it is in sweden. We don’t have elaborate animal welfare laws in the US. They’re simply ridiculous. Now it may depend on which state you live in but in my state (North Carolina) the government leaves you alone when it come to animals, as well they should because animals are private property. I’m not for abusing animals at all but to have a department set up like they do in Sweden is over the top and retarded.