ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I was disappointed in your reply to the owner of the “trophy hunting cat” in the July 19 Albuquerque Journal. While you made good points about diseases transmitted to pets and potentially to humans, you missed the opportunity to address another serious issue: birds, small mammals and reptiles killed by domestic and feral cats. This cat owner should have been chastised for allowing this cat to kill “helpless animals.” They seemed to be proud, while they should really feel ashamed. Animal species are declining and (the numbers of) many bird species are plummeting. I also love cats and have two of them. They go out with bells around their necks and are supervised. We all need to do our part to save wildlife.
Dr. Nichol: Cats are actually not native to North America. They were brought here to control rodents – hundreds of years before you and I were born. They’ve become mighty special to people like you and me. Nobody’s going to send them back. Let’s play the hand we’re dealt while taking better care of Mother Nature.
Predation is certainly an essential part of normal feline behavior, but this requirement can be satisfied without cats killing or maiming anybody. Indoor kitties are delighted to perch on a tall cat tree located against a window with bird houses or feeders suction-cupped to its exterior surface. Chattering and salivating with murderous intent, they come away feeling deeply satisfied, even victorious. The birds don’t even suffer hurt feelings.
To protect varmints and birds from meeting their maker before their time, outdoor kitties can wear a bell, a cat bib, or a colorful puffy fabric collar to warn their potential victims. To us, this might seem like fishing without a hook, but cats will stalk and pounce, enjoying the thrill of the hunt, without ever bagging the prize.
Thanks for your comments. Most of my readers return each week (remarkably) for another helping of my drivel. Your letter has captured an opportunity to educate them on caring for our fragile ecosystem. Scolding would be counterproductive. Illuminating the issues and providing solutions will encourage others to help preserve our planet’s diversity.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Post questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.