This recent question has been through a few edits (at the time of writing - I am hoping it gets some more).

The original title was "Is Israel's stray cat problem due to the British?"

I edited it to "Did British people introduce cats to Israel in the first half of the 20th Century?"

Then it was edited to "Are the British to blame for Israel's stray cat problem?"

I would like to acknowledge that my edit wasn't good enough, and hurt the question. My intentions were good - I was trying to make it answerable. But that doesn't change the result: a milquetoast question that no-one cared about the answer. I apologise. I would like to help make this question better again so we can reopen it.

I also thank the people (@mari-lou-a and @malper) who put the effort in to re-edit it. I am not content with the question yet, but being bold and trying to fix things is exactly what we want to see on the site.

So why aren't I happy yet? I have several concerns.

My main issue is it doesn't make any sense to assign blame to a single cause. It is calling for a single cause fallacy.

It isn't hard to find a dozen different propositions that are required to be true to have a large feral cat population.

  • The abundance of food for feral cats is a cause (and that is an area which can be similarly broken down into several subcauses)
  • The genetic ability of cats to have large litters is a cause.
  • The lack of a population of feral wolves is a cause.
  • The lack of a bounty being offered for cat tails is a cause.
  • The lack of a systemic neutering process is a cause.
  • Urbanization of human populations is a cause.

I have been trying to explain that there isn't going to be any serious evidence that blames "the British", because it is meaningless to do so.

Policies by the British-controlled government might have contributed to the problem [I have no position on this - I have zero knowledge about the Israeli feral cat situation.] but wholly assigning blame this way makes no sense.

Another aspect is that the claim is prejudiced. It wasn't the entire population of Britain that was involved in the actions of the cat importers, and it is inappropriate to bundle them all together. It is clear that not every Briton is to blame for the number of cats in Israel.

Some academics define the term "racism" to also require power, while other users of the term don't. I don't want to get into who had power in Israel, or which definition to use, so I am just avoiding the term.

This is not to say we don't have questions about racist claims, but if we can we should try to focus the question in this sense.

When I was originally editing the question, I wanted to bring it back to the quoted claim.

Ever since the British first brought cats over to Israel (then Palestine) in the first half of the 20th century to combat the rat problem, cats are a frequent sight on Israeli streets [...]

This is probably a bad example of the claim, and perhaps we can find better ones.

It wrongly suggests that the British were the first to bring cats to Israel, and led me astray when focussing on that aspect of the question.

It also doesn't say "The British are at fault", but merely that the timing of the existence of feral cats coincides with the import of cats. I think the implicit claim (that the feral cats come from the British cats) is pretty strong, but if we are going to find better notability claims, it would be nice if it were explicit.

How can we repair this question to make it match a notable claim that can be meaningfully answered with empirical evidence? (Alternatively: Are my concerns misplaced? Should it be re-opened as is?)

  • Noting that: no, the concerns are valid, and 2: see again & make another mark in the diary, the HNQ devastation to 'the model'. —> How to fix the Q-problem & the A-problems ensuing? — That's to amplify the meta-question, really marking another one in the dust; / nowhere near tackling the mainQ. // How long do we take to diff between sub-par questions and problems with audience reception (here: 'glib answers', ie: user behaviour problems)? Concrete mainQ needs far more fundamental 'chat' to improve (if that's possible)? Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 22:46
  • 1
    @LangLаngС: Once again, I am afraid I don't know how to parse your comment, so I can't give your ideas the consideration they deserve.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 4:07

2 Answers 2


Honestly I don’t think there was much wrong with the original question. The single cause fallacy issue that oddthinking highlights is not a problem with the question, but a problem with the notable claim that is being questioned. It is something that a good answer can address.

The same is true of the issue with the claim being biased against the British.

The original version of the question was essentially asking if there was any ground of truth to this dubious claim. The are a number factual elements to the claim that can be addressed in an answer:

  • Was there a “rat problem” in Israel at the time of the British protectorate?
  • Was there ever a policy instated by the British to import/keep cats to combat this problem?
  • Did this policy contribute to the current feral cat problem in Israel?
  • Are there other significant factors that contributed to the feral cat population?
  • Is the feral cat “problem” in Jerusalem actually worse than other Mediterranean urban areas?

I think asking "who to blame" doesn't work on our site in general. This is far too subjective and asks a question that is quite far away from the pure facts. So I agree that the original framing is a problem.

My first idea was to focus on whether cats are an invasive species in Israel and not a native one. But that's pretty much the same thing you did, and that was met with quite heavy resistance. My instinct is still that this is the proper way to look at it, I don't think you can reasonable import enough animals to tilt the balance in the way suggested by the comments. But that's not a sufficient base for moderating the question in this way, I'm simply not sure enough that this argument is ill-framed.

I think something along the lines of "did the introduction of cats by the British to do XYZ cause the large stray cat population in Israel" might work, but it's quite awkward and still doesn't address all issues. "Introduction" is not really correct if you make the argument that cats were already there, but this event somehow increased their population enought to cause issues.

  • If the claim in question is that X is responsible for Y doesn't it do disservice to change the question to be more politically correct?
    – Joe W
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 19:37
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    @JoeW this works if the responsibility is pretty direct, in this case we have a situation that spans a large amount of time, making the question "who is responsible" more fuzzy than in other cases
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 19:42

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