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Cats clawing their way to major threat status

February 06, 2013|By TIM ROWLAND | timr@herald-mail.com
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

Cats kill things. Pretty sure I knew that already.

But it took a study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm the notion.

The news is that U.S. cats kill more wildlife than people thought: 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year. According to the New York Times, that makes them “one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation.”

(So why do I still have mice in my chicken coop? Since my cats can’t be bothered, I got one of those plastic “happy traps,” and they didn’t work, so I used a medium-sized spring trap, whose bail wasn’t large enough to take down the beast once and for all. Finally I went with the Farm and Warehouse Industrial Rodent Trap that killed the rat all right, but went off with such a concussive force it about brought down the whole shed.)

Of course the first thing that you notice about the Times’ story is the phrase “human-linked threats.” I suppose that’s because to a liberal chum bucket such as the New York Times, every calamity is perpetuated by the likes of you and me.

So I guess we are supposed to assume that if it weren’t for mankind, cats would be going around all day eating salads.

The Times frowns with concern at people who allow their cats to go outside. Cats, the story suggests, should “not be allowed to prowl around the neighborhood at will” any more than dogs, horses or pigs.

That’s fine, and the New York Times is more than welcome to come sit in my living room any time it wants and try to tell Juliet the Opinionated Siamese that she is no longer allowed backyard access. I will even supply the bandages the New York Times will need once it has been raked once or twice across the face.

For the record, I do not believe Juliet is the type of cat the Times is worried about, because mice and birds aren’t much worried about her, either.

But I remember cats we had when I was a kid, and the prolonged “talking-to’s” they would get whenever they returned from the hunt with a cardinal or nuthatch. We didn’t mind quite so much about robins or jays, since they were considered pests that bullied smaller birds off the feeder.

And we would outright congratulate cats that bagged a grackle or starling. Come to think of it, this was all pretty confusing for the cat, who we were calling upon to make value judgments that were well beyond her capacity. That, or she would have to lug an Audubon Field Guide to North American Songbirds with her every time she ventured into the bush.

Of course the whole news cycle dedicated to cat bashing was bound to have a backlash of its own. Cat people have Very Strong Feelings about their pets, and if you diss Daisy, you must be willing to pay the piper.

Matter of fact, I got a link to Alley Cat Allies, which says the report “recklessly perpetuates a bogus debate,” and that it “was authored by researchers with an anti-cat track record.”

If you, as a researcher, get that kind of rap, I would think it’s pretty much over.

“Hey, Phil’s data clearly show that the Earth’s temperature climbed another .6 degrees C over the past decade.”

Yeah, but you know Phil — he’s anti-cat.”

But I noticed that NBC news did break down and offer a somewhat tongue-in-cheek apology. I guess if you take the report itself seriously, you have to take the reaction seriously — even if they both sound as if they originated on the Planet Mars.

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