What is it about the southern part of Pittsburgh that gets City Council members all worked up about stray cats?
Councilman Jim Motznik of Overbrook, following in the paw prints of Jack Wagner 15 years before him, wants to extend the city's pet licensing requirement to cats.
Like most government intrusions into people's lives, this one comes with the promise that it's for the pet's own good. When an unlicensed animal is picked up, Motznik points out, it is protected for only three days from being euthanized or adopted. A licensed dog gets 10 days.
I'm all for reuniting lost cats with owners, but there are good ways to do that without government involvement. That information is at the end of this column.
It's coincidence, I'm sure, that Councilman Motznik has a backyard pond with large goldfish, from which he has chased more than one fishing feline. He says that's not why he's pushing for $12 annual licenses. Stray cats get into people's rubbish, tear up porch furniture, you name it.
But it should be mentioned that discouraging wandering cats might not be all good. I'm not a cat owner, but I live on a street that Mitten patrols from a house down the block, and I've always liked seeing her. (Or him. We're not that close.) A city in perpetual combat with vermin can use every Mitten, Felix and Garfield it can muster against freeloading and free-roaming mice, though I'll concede I haven't yet met the cat that I'd bet on in a fight with a rat.
When I mentioned this to Motznik, he said, "I've never heard that argument before. If cats can get rid of rats, I'd like to unleash a couple of dozen cats on this floor.''
Motznik doesn't know if he has the votes for this, but there is a lot more this strapped city and region should worry about. I thought as much 15 years ago when friends and I wrote a poem for The Pittsburgh Press. The update here needed only a few variations:
City debt will be growing,
Empty lots need a mowing,
The drivers are restive at PAT.
The spread of pollution
Defies a solution
And Jim wants to license your cat.
The Pirates are down,
Making all their fans frown.
Our children are carrying gats!
You know bridge repair
Is cause for despair,
But Jim says the problem is cats.
Drug deals are brewing,
Casinos are suing
And Downtown, the business is flat.
Bad guys are prowling,
But stray cats are howling
And Jim wants 12 bucks for your cat.
The tax base? Declining.
The talk shows? Still whining.
The pattern is really old hat.
We can live with the crime
Because life is sublime
If Jim thinks the problem is cats.
City dwellers may flee,
We may lose every tree,
Our kids could just get up and scat.
Our budget may strain
But don't you complain
Jim's got a tag on your cat.
Other cities, we're told,
Put these problems on hold;
On cat flaps, they don't even spat.
Sprayed or neutered -- don't matter,
They're not into this chatter.
But Jim is just flippin' on cats.
So let's make a bee-line
For some free-roaming feline
Not currently gnawing a rat.
Consider the fun
In just getting it done:
C'mon, Jim, let's go chase my cat!
Yes, let's not get crabby
Let's keep tabs on Tabby
The bureaucracy's never too fat.
The bridges may crumble
The city we'll fumble
But Jim kept an eye on your cat.
The Animal Rescue League at 6620 Hamilton Ave. in the East End (412-661-6452, ext. 223) will implant a microchip under a cat's skin with a one-of-a-kind identifying number that is recognized worldwide. The cost is $27 once (not $12 a year) and only $22 if you mention this column, executive director Charlotte Grimme said.
By the way, I've seen enough Disney movies to guess the closing scene to this story: Jim Motznik will fall face first in his fish pond, will be spotted by a passing streetwise tabby who will pull him from the drink by his collar, punch 9-1-1 on his cell phone, ride with him in back of the ambulance, and fill out the insurance forms while he's taken to the emergency room.
Solution to last Sunday's puzzle, "People, Places N@"Direct questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1733.
Brian O'Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1947.