Yesterday, a friend of a friend on Facebook posted this article: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/06/man_likely_sickened_by_plague.html
In case you’re too impatient to read it, the story is that a man in Oregon is suffering from one of the three forms of plague (who knew there were three kinds?), the fifth case in Oregon since 1995. This occurred after the man was bitten by a feral cat while trying to take a mouse away from it. The FOF’s comment was, not to mention that cats kill 500,000 songbirds a year.
I instantly jumped to the concept of, what sane person would try to take a mouse away from a feral cat?
Let’s go back to the 500,000 songbirds a year. Is that in Oregon? Is that nationwide? Or is that worldwide? And is that even true? Who said so?
Last week, I heard a story on NPR about migrating songbirds becoming confused by the flashing red lights on TV and cell phone towers. Sometimes they die by the thousands, especially in bad weather, in a single night. They become disoriented and fly until they exhaust themselves or start running into each other. Then they either drop to the ground and die of exhaustion and stress, or are picked off by predators. I knew this already, but the new thing is that the FCC has determined that solid red lights (which don’t seem to bother the birds nearly as much) are completely sufficient to warn pilots of towers. They are not requiring the removal of existing ones, but requiring that future towers be built without flashing lights. My conclusion is that people are more dangerous to birds than cats are. Think Silent Spring.
In about forty-three years of owning cats, I’ve had ONE cat who killed ONE bird, and that was more or less by accident. I figure that any bird who allows itself to be killed by a cat deserves to be chopped from the gene pool. Birds have a major advantage. They can fly. A cat who kills a bird did the bird species a favor. It’s like catching fish. You only ever get the slow and dumb ones.
In that same forty-three years, I have never kept a cat inside. I’ve had cats who roamed, and cats who could barely be coaxed to go outside. But it would take a heap of cats a heap of years to kill half a million songbirds. And then they could write Shakespeare too, given half a million typewriters.
One of my friends commented that anyone who lets a cat outside should at least bell it. I actually tried that once, and it was horrible. The cat was so terrified by the bell that it wouldn’t move and practically clawed itself to death trying to get the bell off. If a bird can’t detect a cat, a bell isn’t going to help anyway.
I think it’s just the way nature works. It’s ugly and bloody, but everybody has to eat. We kill millions of cows every year but we do it in a “civilized” way, so that we can avoid the blood and gore and get cow parts in a shrink-wrapped package from the grocery store.
These days it seems like having a cat carries some sort of special responsibility to the Planet. I object to that.