A couple who want to remain anonymous have written to tell me of a strange development at the Tarzana condominium of which they share ownership.
"Knowing your love for cats," they say, "we thought you might enjoy this letter from our condo homeowners' association. My wife and I did a double take when we first saw it!"
They enclosed a letter to homeowners from Carrie Ford, property supervisor for the board of supervisors, California Place Homeowners Assn.
"There has been a recent sharp increase in the number of complaints regarding cats at California Place. We have many strays which appear to have adopted the property as well as many resident/owner pets roaming about.
"Unfortunately, the cats (domestic and alien) have begun to despoil the common areas in increasing numbers. Dog owners have (correctly) pointed out that they are required to walk their pet on a leash and also to pick up their waste. Your association's documents make no distinction regarding dogs or cats. All are to be leashed.
"Therefore, it is the decision of your board to henceforth require a leash on all pets from Nov. 1, 1985, onward. Cats found running loose on the property will be picked up and turned over to the Los Angeles Animal Shelter on a regular basis. . . . "
I wonder if Ms. Ford or any of the directors of the California Place Homeowners Assn. has ever tried to leash a cat. You might as well try to make a house pet out of a rhinoceros or an ostrich.
If you put a leash on a cat it will spit, hiss, scratch, bite, roll up into a ball, vomit on your leg, and, as Penny Ward Moser pointed out recently in Discover magazine, if really irritated it will pee in your shoe.
Evidently Ms. Ford and the board of directors have never read Adlai Stevenson's celebrated veto of a bill passed by the Illinois Legislature requiring cat owners to keep their cats at home.
It was simply the most graceful document ever penned by an American politician since the Declaration of Independence, and I am happy to have an excuse for quoting from it again.
"I cannot believe," Gov. Stevenson wrote, "that there is a widespread public demand for this law or that it could, as a practical matter, be enforced.
"Furthermore, I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor's yard or crossing the highway is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. Many live with their owners in apartments or other restricted premises, and I doubt if we want to make their every brief foray an opportunity for a small game hunt by zealous citizens--with traps or otherwise.
"I am afraid this bill could only create discord, recrimination and enmity. . . . Moreover, cats perform useful service, particularly in rural areas, in combatting rodents--work they necessarily perform alone and without regard for property lines.
"We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats can destroy some birds I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation, who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age-old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm.
"For these resons, and not because I love birds the less or cats the more, I veto and withhold my approval from Senate Bill No. 93. . . . "
Of course the California Place Homeowners Assn.'s fiat against cats does not even have the virtue of being intended to save birds. If the truth were known, I imagine the association is just as much against birds as cats, since birds can also be a nuisance.
But I can't believe that Ms. Ford and the directors are naive enough to believe that cats can be kept on a leash. So, in effect, their new rule simply means that cats may not be kept at all.
Whatever their motives, they are in for a lot of trouble. It is not only impossible to keep a cat on a leash, it is next to impossible to catch a cat and take it to the animal shelter, especially if it is what Ms. Ford describes as an "alien" cat. By alien I assume she means wild, feral or stray.
It isn't that easy to catch a cat. We were feeding 13 wild cats on our front porch at one time, and hired a young woman to catch them, one at a time, and take them to a veterinary to have them neutered. She was at it off and on for weeks, and caught only five.
The old mother cat, who has scattered half a dozen generations in our neighborhood, at least, remains wild and uncapturable to this day.
Also, if it becomes widely known that cats are "picked up" at California Place and taken to the animal shelter, many people who live in the Valley and have more cats than they need are going to start dumping their cats at California Place, knowing they will be taken care of.
It seems to me that the homeowners of California Place would be content to know that their condominium is rodent-free, and leave the cats alone.