Allowing cats to hunt brings disapproving clucks

It appears I opened a can of worms with my last column. I received several emails stating disapproval of my choice in allowing my fat cats to hunt.

Most of the emails stated frustration due to the fact that cats kill many songbirds, rodents and lizards. Other issues described annoyance with the presence of abundant cats roaming suburban neighborhoods.

One response stated, “I don’t think your advice to cat owners in general was responsible not only for the pets’ welfare but from the standpoint of being a good neighbor and co-existing with wildlife.”

I always appreciate responses to my columns, and am open-minded to variable critique from diverse points of view. I do understand the realities addressed and appreciate many of the important issues presented. Responsible pet owners should adhere to their parameters regarding their animals and respect those around them.

As I reflected on these different points of view, I also did some research on the subject.

A study conducted by the University of Georgia and the National Geographical Society revealed some facts about domesticated cats preying habits. The article about the study can be found at care2.com, which discusses the experiment and its results. The researchers sent 60 cats out wired with little “kitty cams” that recorded their activities.

Interestingly, 30 percent of the cats killed other animals on the average of 2.1 per week. Nearly 41 percent of the prey were lizards, snakes and frogs and 25 percent were mammals. Birds were killed 12 percent of the time.

George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy stated upon hearing the results of these findings: “If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds.”

What if those 4 billion creatures lived? Recall the expression, “multiplying like rabbits”? Would those 4 billion animals have survived without the cruel hunting practices of our feline friends? Are some of the animals weak or sick and would die anyway? What havoc would that large number of animals create on our ecosystem? What statistics would be revealed if cats didn’t hunt?

The feral cat population continually creates a flurry of discussion within many communities. These cats must hunt for survival, solely.

I read an article last winter described the controversy involving people feeding the feral cats at a park in Denver. Many said those feeding the cats were encouraging their survival, while others argued these animals were a nuisance to society. Like my Tom cat, deserted by his family, left to survive only on his hunting abilities — a nuisance? How many kind-hearted folks out there are feeding abandoned cats from in a dish on the porch?

I love the little birds. The meadowlark’s beautiful song at daybreak instills a quiet peace as the day begins.  I witnessed a swallow nosedive into a crow’s face the other morning, I laughed out loud as the big black bird shook its head in bewilderment. I do not like chasing birds in my house. I also do not like the neighbor’s dog killing my chickens. While the little bunnies are precious, I do not like them munching on my lettuce and other vegetables growing in the garden. I do not like the mice that chew holes in the drywall. I live in the country and perhaps my parameters are different than those of other pet owners.

Conceivably, some readers view me as an irresponsible pet owner because of my choice to allow the cats to hunt. But my two fat, middle-aged cats hunting mice is not the issue. The accountability lies within respectfully living in harmony with each other while tending your own responsibilities pertaining to your animals.

If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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