A delicate subject

I talk about it every year; my love-hate relationship with cats. They are such funny fuzzy animals. At friends’ houses I always quietly pray that they pick me to sit on my lap to cuddle. But this is a painful topic that we have to tackle. You critisize people’s pets and that is something like saying something about their child.

Someone I talked it over even said: “Would you like to argue with basically everyone?” It is a sensitive subject that I have a lot to say about, that you will not entirely surprise you, given my work. As an animal lover, I looked purely at the figures. I would ask you, if you have a cat, to be somewhat open to these figures and facts. Our dear cat friends have an instinct. A murder instinct. Of course we can’t discuss this with our kitties. I won’t argue with the fact that your cat is the most amazing animal on earth, because that he or she it! What matters is that your cat can’t help killing birds, but you can.

credit Alex Solis

So every year I think that we as fans of cats have to take our responsibility and think of a collars with little bells, or people have to keep them inside. Nowadays there are the great cat balconies and catios. Especially in the months when the gardens are full of young birds and their stressed parents, this is important. A cat behind glass can already mean enormous sense of panic for birds. Research from different organizations shows that it often seems that they may not be the biggest threat, but that cats have a considerable influence on bird life. If the numbers are correct then it is quite serious. Why do organizations not take greater advantage of this? Well, maybe because of the popularity of the cat and well, that you will start arguing with everyone. There I go!

Het is de natuur

In the discussion you often hear: “It is their nature!” Let’s talk about the nature of the cat. That is in most cases a hunter. The cat can’t do much about it. You can not train a cat not to kill birds. It is not the fault of the cat. But the cat is also not a part of the food chain. The cat’s food does not come from nature. There are no humans part of the food chain that the Dutch birds are in. Of course, we sometimes eat a pigeon, but because of our number, we have to come up with other solutions. We do not take our food from nature anymore. I think that we are also represented by our cats, and they are invading the food chain because we let them. If you say that it is in their nature, then a side note must be added. Yes it is the nature of the cat, but it is not part of our Dutch nature.

The shocking numbers

In the infographic of cat-worshipper The Oatmeal (you only see a part of it below, please look at the whole infographic ) you can see research named Kittycams that you can read here . The University of Georgia and National Geographic hconducted it. They have outfitted a number of cats with a cool looking camera and observed what the average cat does. They saw that not every cat kills – about 1 in 3- and not every day. The average was 2x per week. The conclusion was that 84 million American domestic cats kill 2.9 billion (!)  wild animals. If we extend this relationship to the Netherlands we come to the following: The Netherlands now has 2.8 million cats, which would mean that 97 million animals are killed by Dutch cats annually. I have to say that it seemed a lot to me too, but who am I. And let’s make a meager rough estimate. If even 1 out of 6 of the cats kill, and that only happens every other week, you still end up with 36 million dead animals. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Well no, let’s a million, still a lot. And useless, because Whiskers or Lucky gets good food at home.

They only take the weaker birds

According to a study by the British RSPB, cats kill 55 million birds a year. The precise state of the birds when they looked their fate in the eye, is unknown to me. It is likely that the 55 million birds who died from the British cats were not all just weak. Cats simply are good hunters. If they weren’t and birds could always escape, then there would be no more cats. She could fend for herself all that time. All other big cats, such as leopards, lions, etc. prefer to choose a weaker specimen to save the power, but do not do so exclusively. And consider that in spring when the birds raise their little babies they make for another generation to raise new babies and sustain a certain amount. There are other enemies, natural enemies that they are food to too. So what are the weaker birds in that period? That is the new batch of birdies that cannot fly yet. What is also interesting to know is that the top 5 of killed birds contains the blackbird, house sparrow and the starling. Birds that are not doing very well in Europe.

Not entirely fair

credit: Simon’s Cat

I grew up with dogs myself but also really like cats. I thought it wise to mention that, because I’m going to talk about the inequality for cat owners versus dog owners. There is inequality enough on this earth, but also between rules for cats and for dogs. You could of course say that if a dog bites, that is also their nature. The defense of the territory or the owner has for years been a reason for strict regulations and separate areas for dogs without a leash. We find that quite normal. When I see a picture of a dog with a young deer in his mouth, I immediately get angry. Do you not get that you have a dog with an instinct even if at home he’s sweet? (See this article) Do you also get that your cat has a hunting instinct and you do not have to keep it with you?

credit: Twitter @travelingsuus

Then there is also the issue of dog poo that you have to clean up and dog tax here in the Netherlands. There are no rules for cats. Many neighbors’ rows start with cat poo. Now I realize that if there is a set of rules put into place today that you are responsible for the deaths and injuries your cat inflicts, many people will get into trouble and cats will probably be dumped. A route that we do not need to take at all. But of course it is skewed. And someone must take responsibility, right?

Another inequality; we know that the number of birds is decreasing and that should lead to action and solutions. If there is a strange fish in a pond or there are Chinese crabs in our coastal waters because of the dumping weight water, we see that the food chain is going to be disrupted. We do not want that and for these intruders we devise plans to limit their numbers. Why is a cat exempt of that feeling of invasion? It has no place at all in the food chain because they already get food at home. Nor do they have natural enemies that limit their number in a healthy balanced way (really, I would not want your cat to be picked up by a buzzard, or part of a catching program). Whoever was first; the balance is gone and we need to do something about that.

Some ideas

If you also want to contribute to reducing the figures, there are many websites with tips. The Canadian nature organization Nature Canada has a website with tips: Together we will improve the well-being of cats & birds!  Just like the British RSPC: Five Neat Tricks To Keep Your Cat From Attacking Birds. Or start a revolution and walk our cat; het aan de lijn lopen met je kat.  Or how about a hip catio?

credit: Idea via Pinterest

What do you think? Am I missing something?