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