If a cat parent does not enrich the life of their animal through play, the cat parent is solely responsible for that animal’s boredom and any behavioral consequences that arise from that deficiency. Cats can have just as fulfilling a life indoors as they do outdoors, but it takes more work on behalf of the owner.
While our dogs and cats might not lie awake at night worrying about climate change and the fate of billions of factory-farmed animals, nor are they responsible for purchasing the food that funds these problems. That burden lies with us, their owners, and, happily, it’s never been easier to buy out of unethical pet food production.
Ultimately, we don’t know for sure that invertebrates suffer in a comparative way to other animals, but given that at any moment the earth contains a billion billion insects, it seems prudent to take the precautionary principle. The potential for these insects to consciously experience some kind of suffering must have an impact on how we interact with them, and our crop fields are a very good place to start.
Deeming something bad/unacceptable simply because it is unnatural, or something good/acceptable simply because it is natural, is known as an appeal to nature. It is the justification of some negative responses to the notion of wild animal welfare stewardship.
For species diversity, TNR (or any feral cat management method) appears only effective in specific situations. For the welfare of the individual cat, TNR seems to produce better outcomes than being baited, shot or left in the wild without vaccination. For the welfare of all the individuals within an environment, the impact of TNR is currently unknown.
A wager for the suffering of bugs would turn insecticide use and silk clothing into animal welfare issues. It would make us think twice about how we dispose of food and how we maintain our outdoor spaces. However, since the vast majority of insect suffering is likely not human-caused, the main implication would be that we ought to research, advocate for, and eventually implement effective and sustainable large-scale interventions to reduce it.
Wildlife rehabilitation centers take injured or otherwise unwell animals, treat and rehabilitate them with the appropriate veterinary care, and then release them if it is suitable to do so. Working in harmony with and benefiting the natural world, they currently have widespread public support. What does this mean for our nature ethics?
Not only does it cause a significant amount of suffering for infected animals, disease is also extremely widespread across all species and populations. As such, reducing, controlling, and eliminating diseases impacting wild animals has a huge potential to alleviate suffering and improve lives.