Feral cats invade Oakland Coliseum, Chad Gadya reference ensues

An Oakland City Council member may have confused some listeners on a public Zoom call last week while discussing a hairy problem affecting the Oakland Coliseum.

The home stadium of the Oakland A’s has been overrun with feral cats in recent months: Press reports estimate anywhere from 30 to 100 kittens and adult cats have taken shelter, and found plenty to eat, inside the walls of the concrete behemoth built in the 1960s.

The cats pose a number of problems, particularly as they are not socialized to humans, and may, of course, sprint onto the field of play at the sight of a bird.

And yet Oakland council member Rebecca Kaplan, a former mayoral candidate and proud Jewish day school graduate, acknowledged at least one silver lining.

“I’m certainly glad it’s cut down on the rats,” she said, speaking during a meeting of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority on Friday. Stadium official Henry Gardner affirmed her point in an interview with the Oaklandside, giving the cats “an ‘A’ for dealing with the rodents.”

Rebecca Kaplan stands in front of a lake wearing a rainbow tallit and speaking into a megaphone
Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan speaks at a memorial honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Lake Merritt, Oakland, Sept. 20, 2020.

Yet, “as it’s almost Passover,” Kaplan cautioned, “I hope we won’t get into a spiral of — we bring in dogs to chase the cats. And then — what — lions to chase the dogs? And then we could have an entire chain,” she said. “Perhaps ending with a goat.”

ABC7 reporter Casey Pratt clipped the excerpt and shared it on Twitter.

Kaplan — a self-described Torah enthusiast who attends “Queer Torah Camp” organized by the LGBTQ+ yeshiva Svara, and has earned the admiration of Black church leaders in East Oakland for her ability to recite Old Testament verses from memory — was referencing “Chad Gadya,” a song originally written in Aramaic and sung on Passover.

Though the quip did not garner much of an audible response during the meeting, it did seem to amuse Kaplan, who went on, in seriousness, to plead with listeners to spay and neuter their pets, and if considering adopting a pet, to please take good care of it.

It’s not the first time “Chad Gadya,” which translates to “one little goat” or “an only kid,” has broken through into the wider culture: the actor and singer Jack Black recorded a memorable (and illustrated) rendition a couple of years ago, adding his over-the-top rock vocal style to the medieval-era ditty.

The song is believed to have been incorporated into the Passover haggadah in the 15th century, according to the Jewish Music Research Center at Hebrew University. With a nursery-rhyme melody and a circular song structure, it tells of a chain of events — a father who buys a baby goat, which is then eaten by a cat, which is bitten by a dog, which is beaten by a stick, and so on — culminating with God, who smites the Angel of Death.

Kaplan’s reference earned nods of recognition from Jews on Twitter. Aiden Pink, a rabbinical student and former writer for the Forward, coined the phrase “Operation Chad Gadya” to refer to Kaplan’s hypothetical.

As for the cats, city and stadium officials don’t plan to send in any dogs to chase them away, nor have they (thankfully) solicited the Angel of Death. Instead they hope to capture the cats, spay or neuter them, and then return them back to the stadium. The kittens, they pray, will be adopted.

“It’s a complicated situation, but those cats are out there and it is their home,” Ann Dunn, director of Oakland Animal Services, told ABC7. “So being able to have them stay there is the goal.”

The A’s host the Baltimore Orioles Monday for their home opener at 6:40 p.m.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.