Monday, February 2, 2009

Killer Kitties

On days when I can't get out to the woods, I console myself with our resident wildlife:  Penny (on the table), Finn (at the end), and Selene (asleep in the chair).  They're taking a break from watching their IMAX of birds and squirrels at the feeders.

Those are pets, you say, not wildlife.  Yes, yes, they are pets (but don't tell them that; they think it's the other way around).  But it's also true, that if we booted them out, they  could fend for themselves almost as well as any lynx or bobcat.  I'm not saying they'd eat every avian, rodent, or lagomorph in a six-block area, but they'd probably make quite a dent in the population. Conservative estimates of the number of songbirds killed by outdoor cats each year come to at least a billion.  And that doesn't count baby bunnies.  That's why we keep our cats inside.

But isn't that cruel to the cats? I don't think so, and neither, it seems, do they.   They have each other to chase and pounce on and show who's boss and wash behind ears and snuggle up next to on cold winter nights.  The two girls spat some now and then, but even that is good feline intraspecies behavior, keeps them from getting bored.  Penny and Finn were both shelter kittens when we got them, so they never knew life outside. 

 Selene was living outdoors, in a muddy hole under the mobile home of one of my Hospice patients.  Each day when I came she would hop to the porch rail, stand up on hind feet, place her furry little arms around my neck, and gaze at me with the most gorgeous emerald eyes I have ever seen.  How could I resist?  And I'll tell you this:  ever since she's had regular meals and a clean dry home, she's never once asked to be let outdoors again.

Oh, we do let them out on short supervised visits to Mother Nature when spring comes around.  They creep to the edge of the porch and sniff all the burgeoning smells.  They venture down onto the grass and take some nibbles -- kitty salad!  They chase a few bugs and dig in the garden a bit.  But then, at the first blue jay scream -- CAT!!  CAT!! -- they tear back into the house and that's where they stay the rest of the year.

Once in a while they catch some prey.  We live in an old house.  We have mice.  Or used to have, anyway.  The cats don't eat these little mousey corpses.  They leave them for me to step on in the kitchen.  Before I've had my coffee.

Postscript:  My husband just took me to task for implying that housecats could be as adept as bobcats at catching prey.  They're not, of course, and abandoned pets suffer terribly when left to fend for themselves, though they still kill lots of wildlife on their way to an early grave.  But even well-fed pampered cats kill birds, if allowed to roam.  My point remains:  keep your cats indoors.


Jens Zorn said...

Those cats basking in sunlight streaming through your new kitchen windows... what a warm feeling!

swamp4me said...

My wildcats number four and they, too, are all indoor felines. Luckily for us, they let us stay in the house, too. (Your Penny looks a lot like my Wicket.)