Friday, April 29, 2016

Encounter With a Cat-Hater


Understand that I've started up a club to promote my new breed of kitty-cats, which meets every Sunday noon in Kell Park, next to the Buckeye downtown library.  While waiting for interested cat-lovers to show up, I display three or four of my cats in a folding cage, set out cheap soft drinks and play cat-themed songs -- of which I have almost enough to make an album by now.

I hadn't realized that I, and especially my cats, had an enemy.

So I was sitting on the bench in Kell park, singing cat songs, when this woman came walking by.  She was middle-aged, with the kind of discreetly chic clothing and jewelry that whispers of money.  She gave me barely a glance, but she stopped to look at the cage with the three silver cats in it, frowned, and asked me what I was doing there.  I explained that this was a meeting of the Silverdust cat club, and I was waiting for the other members to show up.  She asked what sort of 'cat club' it was, and I explained further: that this is a new breed of cat, and I'm seeking out other cat-lovers to help develop the breed.

That set her off.  She launched into a tirade about how nobody should be breeding cats, we should be spaying and neutering them instead -- all of them, since cats are an "ecological disaster".  She claimed that "cats kill songbirds", that cats "kill billions of birds and mammals every year" and "have driven 35 species to extinction", and more, and more.  She was working herself up to a serious hysterical rant, and when she started arching her fingers -- with their inch-long red-painted nails -- into claws, I grew seriously afraid that she'd attack me or my kitties.  I didn't say anything, but I discreetly slid my hand down to my belt-purse and gripped my gun.  I don't know if she saw that or not, but she checked herself, gave me a poisonous smile and said "Think about all that," and turned and hurried away.
 

Well, that was upsetting enough to remember clearly.  After another hour with nobody else showing up, my husband helped me pack up and take everything home, and I went straight to my computer to do some research.  It turns out that there are a lot of people -- including, under their supposedly animal-loving exterior, the PETA people -- who believe all that vicious nonsense.  And nonsense it is, carefully crafted and spread by people who clearly hate cats -- including, if you please, some veterinarians!  Just why they hate cats I can't say, but their hatred is genuine enough to motivate them to some amazing lies.

For example, that one about "cats kill billions of birds and mammals":  depending on who you talk to, there are between 74 and 93 million cats in the US.  The vast majority of them (the 74 million figure) live in human households, where they get regular meals and have no need to hunt.  Cats, like humans, who hunt for sport don't kill very many prey.  As for stray/feral cats (probably the other estimated 20 million), they live around human settlements and mostly feed off what humans produce -- including large populations of rats and mice.  Now a billion is a thousand million, and there's no way that even 93 million cats could kill one billion -- let alone two or more -- birds and mammals.  The only way to get that figure is to add up, or estimate, the number of prey of every species of cat in the world:  not only house-cats but bobcats and lynxes, ocelots and margays, leopards and cheetahs, lions and tigers, jaguars and cougars, and a dozen species more. 


Then there's that one about "driven 35 species to extinction".  I couldn't find any solid proof of that statement, just claims of falling prey-animal populations with no proof that house-cats were the cause.  Also, some of those "species" turned out to be only sub-species -- breeds -- such as a local brown-footed variety of a usually white-footed mouse.  This is bad science.

As for the charge that "cats kill songbirds", that can be disproved just by observing birds.  Except for the raptors -- owls, hawks, eagles -- birds have eyes on the sides of their heads, so that they can see almost completely around them without moving their heads.  And they do move their heads!  It's very, very difficult to sneak up on a bird;  the only animals that seem to manage it consistently are snakes -- not any kind of mammal.  For another thing, 99% of all birds on Earth can fly.  In a split second, a bird can thrash its wings and be ten feet up in the air -- and I've never seen a cat that could jump higher than eight feet up.  Third, birds are fast.  Their metabolism and reaction time is faster than any other order of animals.  In fact, the fastest-moving animal on Earth is a bird -- the hummingbird, to be precise, which usually beats its wings twice a second.  A bird can easily fly faster than a cat can run -- or jump.  Now some people worry about cats climbing trees to get at nests and eat the eggs or baby birds, but consider that most birds raise their young as pairs -- one parent to tend the eggs or babies while the other hunts for food.  That means that the nest is always watched by at least one bird, who can quickly call the other for help if a predator approaches.  Two angry birds attacking one cat, who also has to worry about falling, is no contest.  The result is that cats very rarely manage to kill birds, and then only those too sick or injured to fly.  The chief predator of birds is other birds -- hawks, owls, eagles -- with snakes coming in second and mammals (all mammals) a distant third.

Now the chief prey of house-cats -- or other small cats in the wild -- is small rodents: mice, rats, voles, moles, gophers, ground squirrels, sometimes tree squirrels, and even small bats.  Snakes and raptor-birds also prey on rodents, and in the wild they keep the populations of rodents under control.  In the human-ruled part of the world though, the ratios are different.  Tree-squirrels may live in our suburbs and other rodents out in farming country, but in our cities the most common rodents by far are mice and rats.  Likewise, the closer you get to urban areas, the fewer the species of predators are.  In fact, the only serious predators of urban or suburban rodents are -- guess! -- small dogs and cats.  Get rid of the cats, and the small dogs (as the PETA people love to do), and it will be a race between the rats and the mice as to which species takes over the city first.  Once the rats or mice have moved in, it will take a lot of cats and small dogs -- and snakes, if you can get them -- several years to drive them out again.  Just ask the city of Apopka, Florida.

So there are not too many cats -- or dogs -- in the world.  There are too many rodents, and that is the doing of man -- and has been, for the last 10,000 years: ever since humans started farming, and provided rats and mice with a reliable smorgasbord.  The ancestors of house-cats, following the mice and rats, moved in with humans not long afterward.  We've had a good working relationship ever since. 


As I said, I don't know why the cat-haters hate cats -- Chinese legend says that such people were rats in a former life -- but they do us no favors with their lies and half-truths and attempts to get rid of cats. 

If that crazy woman comes back on Sunday, when I'll be out in Kell park with my guitar and my cats, I really don't know what I'll do -- but I know I won't let her harm my little creatures.  And I always wear my gun.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

8 comments:

Ori Pomerantz said...

A song to mock her might be in order.

Paradoctor said...

Packin' heat for a PETA creep... I second Ori's suggestion.

True about most of her figures. Still though, housecats can and do predate on birds; a remarkable achievement. Also they have been responsible for extinctions of species on islands.

But on the third hand, damn straight about rodent control. My own cats don't need to hunt them; when the mice sneak in they smell the cats and sneak straight out. So my cats get rid of mice merely by existing. What a sweet gig!

PETA creeps me out. Their solution to the pet and livestock problem is the final solution.

Eric Wilner said...

That's not a cat-hater, it's a humanity-hater. Cats (or any other pets or livestock) are just a proxy.
As to the delicate balance of nature, it's worth reviewing Mr. Darwin's observations on cats, mice, bees, and clover: remove the cats, the mouse population increases, the bee population drops off, and the red clover goes unpollinated.
And now it's time to give my housecats some outdoors time, so the birds can tease them. They have no prospect of catching the wild birds, and the birds know it. (Bluejays, on the other hand, can and do catch and eat little songbirds. But you can't expect PETA types to know that.)

Technomad said...

Any chance of a cat-themed album in the future?

Aya Katz said...

A cat-themed album is a wonderful idea! I second that!

Cats do kill birds and try to give them as special thank you gifts for the humans they love. I had a cat on my property who tried to court me that way. However, birds also kill cats. I saw a recent video of eagle parents feeding a cat to their eaglets. Humans, too, can be both predator and prey. People seem to forget that because we lead such sheltered lives.

Gunnar Zarncke said...

Sad to hear about your encounter what that cat hater. Whether cats kill wildlife or not is no reason to harass any cat owner. Maybe discuss the question like civilized people. Cats are my favorite animals and even if they kill wildlife (and it does look like that, see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat#Impact_on_prey_species https://abcbirds.org/article/kittycam-reveals-high-levels-of-wildlife-being-killed-by-outdoor-cats/ ) what does that mean compared to the impact by humans? Can be said about basically any domestic animal. One dog is said to have the environmental impact of an SUV for example.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Ori and Nomad. Now that's an idea. Rasty has been leaning on my to put out an album of cat songs...

Hi, Nat. Hell, yes! The PETA perverts have privately declared genocide on domestic cats, and dogs. They've been declared a terrorist organization in some states, and I wish it were all of them.

Hi, Eric and Gunnar. Yes, people tend to forget that cats were originally wild animals, and what did they eat then? There still are plenty of wild species of small cat, and what do they eat? The same is true for dogs; look up the eating-habits of African and Asian wild dogs, not to mention foxes and coyotes. Isn't it interesting that the people who complain the loudest know the least about animals in Nature? ...And BTW, how do naturalists calculate the populations of wild birds and rodents?

Hi, Aya. I've noticed myself that cats kill rodents (and small reptiles) much more often than birds. In the 30+ years that I've been raising cats, I've seen them manage to kills birds (pigeons, every time) all of 3 times. They must have killed 50 times as many rodents, at least. Has anybody calculated what would happen to the rodent population if all feral or outdoor cats were exterminated, as the govt. of Australia is trying to do?

--Leslie <;)))><

Paradoctor said...

"Cat songs"?
mmmmmMMMMRRRRAAAAAOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL!

Re PETA: it demands that humankind be equal to nature, yet better than it. I call this contradiction the PETA Paradox.