Monday, November 10, 2008
The disappearing cats of the Plateau
There is a story going around the Plateau and Mile End area that somebody is stealing people's cats. It started with signs (in french and english) posted on telephone poles around town saying that cats have been disappearing and a mysterious van has been spotted prowling around the alleys late at night. Last week, the Journal de Montreal had an article on it, saying that the police had opened up a case. There were more details. Someone had spotted a white van with two white males in their 20s and that they operate between midnight and 5 in the morning. There was no actual substantiation of any of this. Recently, a new sign went up, going into the same amount of detail as the article.
Now I own two cats, and I let them out and if you'll let me indulge briefly in some revenge porn, I can tell you that if this thing is actually happening, I would make a significant effort to catch the perpetrators. And if I caught them, I would not waste time with our legal system (which would probably be useless in this case, concerning our pathetically weak animal cruelty laws, especially here in Québec).
But let's leave aside such pleasant fantasies for the time being. I am very skeptical of these reports for several reasons. The whole thing reeks of an urban myth. My main contention is what is the motivation for someone to steal cats? The theory put forth in the Journal article (a tabloid and not too well respected here for its journalistic intregity) is that the perpetrators are drug addicts who are selling the cats to laboratories.
I am quite sure there are laboratories that experiment on cats. But are they in the market for stray cats brought in from a couple of junkies? Perhaps there is some evil middleman who is gathering them throughout the region, but even then, what kind of a control group is that? There are mail order companies that supply animals in bulk to laboratories (kittens included, think about that for a moment; thanks cosmetics industry!). Even if there were labs accepting stray cats, can they be paying enough that it would be worth it for these guys to drive all over the place? How many cats would they have to sell to fill a tank of gas, for instance? And as my lovely fiancée pointed out, wouldn't it be much more productive to just breed cats? You'd probably get a lot more, a lot quicker and a lot less riskier than trying to catch cats in the back alleys of Montreal (though if these are junkies, basic logic doesn't necessarily apply here).
The only other theory we have come up with is Satan worshippers. It's possible that with the resurgence in '80s style, Satanism is now trendy. Mile End is the horrific epicenter of this cultural wave and it is possible some charismatic minion of evil is holding sway over a harder core group of skinny, scarf-wearing hipsters. I can see those idiots getting sucked into something like this because of some intense conversation they had with a dude at a Drawn & Quarterly vernissage. But they are so physically frail (skinny wrists and drooping shoulders, like ironic moustaches, seem to be what is considered attractive masculine features among this set) that I can't see them actually doing the work. Though now that I think about it, driving around the Mile End alleys trying to catch cats might be just within their reach.
I will say that, though there are always a lot of missing cat signs around, they seem to really be on the rise these last couple months. If anyone does have some solid information, I'd love to hear about it. I am serious that if this is really going on, I will act to put a stop to it. Webcams can be set up in the alleys, all the labs that experiment on cats could be investigated and the local junkey population (which starts to disappear as the weather gets cold) interrogated. There are steps to take but they should be based on reality and not alarmist paranoia.