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Domestic cat and wild animal coexistence

By Gay Published: June 8, 2009

Someone anonymously sent me a flyer about the effects of cat predation on our native wildlife. An article about our Frogger in the local paper led to this, and while I deplore the cowardly manner in which it was sent, the fact sheet had many very good points, which I would like to share with you.

Our Frogger couldn’t catch a cold, he is so lame and heavy. The other cats we have at present show no desire to hunt, but I have had cats who hunted and killed squirrels, chipmunks, and moles (much appreciated by one of my neighbors) and the very occasional bird. Their primary targets were rodents, however. I felt especially bad when they brought back a bird.

All of our cats have come to us by other than ordinary means. They are the cats that wander into our yard, starved and homeless, which we adopt. Sometimes, we find kittens, and our rule is that if they come to us, we keep them. If we get a very young kitten, we do our best to keep it a house cat so that it will not hunt. With older cats who have relied upon their predatory instincts, it is harder to keep them in. We had a female who tore through screened windows, even from the second storey. So anxious to get out, she pulled and tugged on the window and went through, dropping to the chimney and crawling part of the way, but she had to jump quite a distance. She was neutered and well-loved and cared for, and she was good friends with all of our animals, but she was determined to get out. Short of barring the windows, we could not keep her in. She did not hunt, or at least, we saw no evidence of it.

House cats are not native to North America. That is, the domestication of cats began long ago and far away. Early settlers brought cats aboard ship to keep down the rat population, and they kept them in their barns for that purpose and also, as pets. Cats have a devastating effect on wildlife, it must be noted. Not only do they kill songbirds, but by depleting the rodent population, they take away prey from hunting birds, such as hawks and owls. But they are not as devastating as humans who develop huge plots of land for housing, shopping malls, and the like.

It is a dilemma. I love birds, and we do what we can to protect those who have been so kind as to set up nests near our house. One enterprising mother bird made a nest in a grapevine wreathe I had by our back door. The cars went by, and she flew out every time we came in and out. We solved that by parking closer to the street. We make sure there is not an easy way for our cats to climb near a nest, sometimes requiring the sawing off of a nearby limb. We bell the cats (which isn’t that useful). We train the cats to leave the birds alone, as well as we can. Our bird feeders are not accessible to our cats.

I must admit that I hate crows, and I wish them gone. They prey upon smaller birds’ nests, but they are usually too large for a normal size cat to approach. We have had five extremely large cats besides Frogger, who were active hunters, and they would on occasion, bring down a crow.

The most desirable state is to keep your cats in. My daughter’s cats were found by her when they were very, very young, and they go outside only on a leash and only rarely. One has to balance the good and bad: cats do kill birds, and that is regrettable. They also kills rodents which are hunted by predatory birds, and it makes it harder for those birds to get a kill. But, no one wants mice and rats, and they do keep down the indoor population of unwanted wildlife.

Our wonderful Smith was hanging around the dishwasher, making strange noises. I opened the dishwasher to put in a dish, and quick as a snap, Smith was in the dishwasher, out of it, and had in his mouth a large mouse. We also had a family of raccoons who took up residence in our fireplace. The mother brought them down the chimney, one by one, and daily left them there as she searched for food. When they were grown, she took them up and they left. We had the chimney capped so it wouldn’t happen again, but none of our animals exhibited the slightest interest in the mother or her kits.

Animals can co-exist, but we have to help them find ways to do so.

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