A call for compassion for cats

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May 24, 2010
By: Tom Hoch
Tom Hoch
Art and life frequently intersect. The art we experience, whether a painting, photo, book or song or work of theater, often can lend fresh perspective to our world and to the situations we encounter in it.

To borrow from Leonard Bernstein’s “What Makes Opera Grand?”: “Any great work of art ... revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world — the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.”

One of the longest and most successful musicals in Broadway history has done this to a remarkable extent. Earlier this month, Hennepin Theatre Trust presented a return engagement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” at the Orpheum Theatre. Many of you are probably familiar with this venerable production, which is based on a poem “The Naming of the Cats” by T.S. Eliot and makes the audience a part of a highly fictionalized world of cats.

So, in that intersection between that production and life — “Great art picks up where nature ends,” writes Marc Chagall — I am not only involved in presenting “Cats,” but I’m also on the board of the Animal Humane Society (AHS). It’s probably fair to say that I love both theatre and animals; I’ve learned a lot from both.

Cats are cute on stage, but in real life we have a serious feline overpopulation issue.

Here are some disturbing facts:

Each year, AHS receives and cares for almost 35,000 animals, representing just over one-third of animals being surrendered to animal welfare and animal control agencies annually. So all together, some 100,000 animals are given up each year. Nearly 65 percent of the animals received by AHS are, you guessed it, kittens and cats.

AHS sees a large increase in the number of unwanted cats during the summer months. This is a huge challenge for the organization, with the sheer numbers making it difficult to care for and find homes for these furry creatures.

“Kitten season” used to be two or three months but now, it extends for up to five or six months, increasing pressure on the AHS’ resources.

There are so many cats received by AHS, that nearly 40 percent of them are eventually euthanized, mostly because homes could not be found.

Sterilization of felines by their owners would significantly reduce the number of animals that are surrendered and/or euthanized and would improve the overall health of those awaiting adoption.

Back to my “art and life” point, in connection with the return of “Cats” to the Orpheum Theatre, we’re promoting a way to ramp up the adoption of real life cats with AHS. Beginning June 15, you can adopt one cat at the regular adoption fee and the fee will be waived for the second cat. We call it “Double the love and help reduce cat overpopulation!”

If you or your family might consider adding to your family, now is the time to do it. To borrow again from a greater wordsmith, “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Tom Hoch is President and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, owner of the historic State, Orpheum and Pantages Theatres, a nonprofit organization devoted to enriching the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the Twin Cities. Please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org for more information.