“We stand for our rights and we roooooooooar!”
— From the Manifesto of Catopia, by Ivana Filip and Catpeople
Free roaming cats are cats who were once pets, but were lost or left outside and cats born outside, with no or very little contact with humans. Authors of the book Zoopolis Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka call them liminal animals. They are in between.
This week I had the honour to participate for the second time in the symposium by the Center for integrative bioethics in Split, Croatia, with my artistic research about free roaming cats in Split.
When I moved to Split from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, I was shocked by the number of cats I met in the streets. Some were sick, some scared, some fed, some fine and friendly. But those who were not looking healthy I felt worried for. There is no cat shelter in Split due to the lack of interest and political arrogance of the city council, but there are few associations who try their best to help cats in need, take them to vet and feed them, mostly from their own pockets, with scarce donations. Earlier in my life I used to volunteer in a shelter, adopted a few cats, these days we feed them when we can, but not persistently and I wonder how can I be of help. There is help in food and in care, in money and in dare, but when you see so many of them, you break, I broke.
Photo: Ivana Filip, 2021
There is always more to be done, more awareness to be brought to a table of communication and this is what I wished to do with my artistic research. Animals (I use this word as the equivalent of nonhuman animals, meaning beings equal to humans in their rights and intelligence, neither higher nor lower in their importance) are the focus of my artistic practice and I am mesmerized with their beauty, intelligence and compassion, and even more by the gentle relationship between animal and human, the understanding and community. What a lonely species we would be without them! They are our family, friends, helpers, therapists, unfortunately, we use them for food and fight, war and medical research. But sometimes I trust that there is a higher source, arranging it all and that there is a higher intelligence that I, at the moment, may not be able to comprehend. Sometimes I feel that all is good, but sometimes I am devastated by the pain I feel in every cell of my body for the pain we cause to those Others. It is unexplainable and indescribable. It had been growing in my mind, body and soul, that compassion for Others, that at some point, I could no longer ignore it and pretend that it did not exist. It was so irritating that it was following me like a boring grey shadow, whispering into my ear, as annoying alter ego, crazy bully. One day it was too much and I lost it, and I surrendered to it. I offered myself fully to that voice to hear what it wanted from me. And here I am today, researching the affection and affect that we feel towards our animal companions, compassion and care, love and companionship.
Therefore, one of the ways to help is to spread the news and share their voices, even though we are creating these voices occasionally. But, if we take in mind that every being would rather avoid pain then we can say that we know what some of those voices would say. My research with free roaming cats in Split was one way and for that, I am grateful to Kicho and the community of 8 for accepting me into their tribe. Being free human with free roaming cats helped me to learn to listen, stay silent, re-wild and share their stories.
Thank you for reading! Today I remember all my dear ones, both human and nonhuman!
We stand for our rights and we roar!