Let me start this article with an upfront admission to owning four cats, although we have had as many as five in the house. The initial motivation was rodent control and then, well shucks, we got addicted to kittens. They do keep the mice from getting out of hand but I’m not blind to the fact that they also love to snag the bats as they attempt to emerge from their roost upstairs and occasionally show up with a bird in their mouth. It’s a hard fact to live with.
Interestingly, the village of Omaui in New Zealand is proposing to ban all domestic cats – all the local felines will be neutered, micro chipped and registered. Owners will not be permitted to replace their pet once it dies.
Cats have been blamed for 63 species extinctions around the world and this is even worse in places like New Zealand with sensitive ecosystems. To put the carnage into perspective – there are about 86 million cats in the US (approximately one in every three households), and each year they kill four billion birds and 22 billion mammals.
Councils and state governments in various countries have been implementing measures to try to reduce the damage done by felines – night-time cat curfews, for example, or setting household quotas on pets. In Australia last year $5 million dollars was budgeted for the culling of 2 million feral cats by 2020, using traps and humane euthanasia.
A birdwatcher cat owner from Vermont was horrified by her cat’s killing and felt powerless to stop him. Then she remembered that birds have excellent colour vision so she created a bright, multicoloured ruffled cover for his collar – his bird-catching ways immediately ceased. Intrigued, a cat-loving ornithologist at St Lawrence University did a controlled experiment and discovered that the cats in the control (uncollared) group killed 19 times as many birds as those wearing the bright collars (see the website “Birdsbesafe” for more information). A potential home industry for someone?
Photo credit: Sally Adam