Every now and then I just have to whack at the hornets’ nest


I’ve been witness to some really entertaining displays of ecological and scientific illiteracy over the past few days, all because I wrote about one particular species of efficient, effective predator — shown below the fold so as not to offend delicate sensibilities.

20120616_Kitten_621

It went like this: On Monday I found a catted cactus wren in my yard that was missing tail feathers and an eye, and seemed to be going into shock here and there. It ate most of a tomato I’d given it, then disappeared. I haven’t seen it since. I wrote about it at KCET, with the usual admonition that people really ought to consider keeping their kitties inside where possible so that the ecological damage they do can be confined to your sofa, and to the odd plastic bag full of soiled litter heading to a landfill. And the process of getting cows and tuna into little cans. And entire Canadian forests cut down and pulped to print treacly calendars on.

I know better than this. I’ve written about the outdoor cats issue before, and as I said in the article, I know people come unglued when you suggest that keeping the cat inside might not be as “mean” as letting your cat wander around and kill things. Doesn’t matter how much you qualify it, how much you talk about cats you’ve loved, how much you say that not everyone can keep cats inside all the time on account of allergies and other concerns. Certain people come unglued.

There is room for sensible disagreement and discussion on the issue. For instance, take a comment by biologist Madhu Katti in a thread on my Facebork page:

My research on the behavior of birds in cities also suggests that most adult birds don’t really worry about cats too much – at least in species that figure out how to make a living in the city. Yes there are species that are more vulnerable in some places and in some circumstances, and in general it is good to keep cats indoors, but I think there is overreaction on both sides with relatively poor evidence.

I could quibble about disproportionate effects on nestlings and on ground-dwelling species, but the suggestion that evidence is poorer than we’d like is definitely true. I’m also reasonably sympathetic to statements by people who know it’d be better to keep their cat inside but just can’t tell their little beasts “no.” I do understand that, despite the fact that I would never let my cat push me around like… sorry. Just had to jump up and feed someone dinner right away. Where was I?

Anyway, there was some substantive discussion. But there was also this:

the domestic cat is needed to keep the native population at the right sustainable eco level. Lizards rodents and birds can over populate and cause flowers and fruit trees not to pollinate.

and:

Oh Yeah! Like a domestic house cat can screw up the ecosystem! NOT! They get rid of mice and rats. Let them out so they can be themselves. Bet these are the kind of owners that have their claws amputated too.

and especially this:

No,they’re NOT murderers,they are natural born predators,just like any other member of the Feline species.My cat’s 9 years old,she’s been hunting for years,I can’t keep her in the house,it’s nxt to impossible.I don’t like her to hunt birds,and other precious creatures,I feel awful whenever she brings a dead whatever to our door,but what am I to do,wrestle it away from her? Yeah,when pigs fly! Lol Sorry,the way I see it,cats will be cats,dogs will be dogs,we just have to let nature take it’s course,God still rules the Universe,last time I checked,and He knows a lil somethin about how to manage the creatures and the earth’s ecosystem,after all, He created them…

The best one, though, came this morning when USA Today — dutifully following my lead, as they ought — published a surprisingly balanced article on the related issue of feral cats and their effect on wildlife. A feral cat activist referring to himself as “Vox Felina” left a well-rehearsed comment on the USA Today article, but saved what he really felt for his own Facebook page:

I wish these people cared about science. Talk about emotion, they have no science on their side. Even the very basic principals of Darwinism are against them. Where do they find these flunkies? They must see too many Tweety bird cartons as a child and irrationally demonize cats.

I’m guessing the “principals of Darwinism” this intellectual gift to humanity cites are not Biology Magnet High School Administrators, but rather refer to the whole survival of the fittest trope. Why that wouldn’t then excuse feral cat control by humans, who are, at least on paper, craftier and more powerful than feral cats, I do not know.

Oh! One more comment from the KCET Facebook thread, which I just had to “like,” if not like:

Seriously?? Cats destroy eco system ? Clarke is just another educated idiot wading through the shallow end of the gene pool.

There are a few tentative lessons that I think could be taken from my inadvertent exercise in stirring up the rabble:

  1. Why the hell am I wasting the precious remaining seconds in my one life reading comments on USA Today and random Facebook pages?
  2. Using a nym containing “Vox” seems increasingly correlated with attempts to think using an organ not generally considered part of the central nervous system
  3. There are a lot of people out there who know almost nothing about ecology and its related sciences, and they’re not afraid to display that fact at the drop of a cat.

That last is a little daunting, given that my business plan for the rest of my life is pretty much “write about what’s actually happening out in the environment and get paid for doing so when possible.” Though perhaps they’re not my real target demographic.

Comments

  1. Rodney Nelson says

    None of the cats we had who were outdoor cats lived past the age of 10. All of the indoor cats we had live to at least 15. Anecdotal but still data.

  2. says

    I don’t understand how someone who claims to love cats can accept them living outside, especially in a city setting. I live in an urban neighborhood, and I can’t sleep at night until I’ve done a head-count to make sure my inside cats are still inside. I don’t care about ecology other than I don’t want my kids to be a part of it.

    And trust me, the cats totally want to go outside and hunt and run and play and whatever. I’m totally happy making them slightly miserable on that score for the entirety of their long, healthy, danger-free, well-fed lives.

  3. Ichthyic says

    *looks at Chris’ 3 lessons*

    yup.

    you know what’s really fun?

    starting this exact same debate over on Jerry Coyne’s blog.

    where supposedly rational supporters of good science and evolution LOSE THEIR SHIT when you mention cats in any remotely adverse context.

    I know this is often treated as if it were a joke, but really, for many of them, it soooo isn’t!

  4. markr1957 (Patent Pending) says

    My wife used to have an (adopted) outdoor kitteh, but he had to wear a bell on his collar; which put the dampers on his predatory ambitions. We now have another adoptee who is an indoor cat and always will be, but even so he kills any lizard or mouse foolish enough to come indoors, and who chases down and kills every bug he can catch.

    Since I love feeding the humming birds and I try to feed the resident flying squirrels (while trying not to feed the day shift) I really don’t want to create a fattened population of cat feed around the house – it was bad enough that we had a barred owl take up residence a couple of years ago taking advantage of the supply of well fed wildlife, but that’s nature in action – and they were beautiful creatures to watch in flight when they were hunting my squirrels :-)

  5. Ichthyic says

    My wife used to have an (adopted) outdoor kitteh, but he had to wear a bell on his collar; which put the dampers on his predatory ambitions.

    BTW, I’ve been looking for a study that examines the effectiveness of that.

    anyone run across a reference?

    Chris?

  6. Ichthyic says

    That’ll teach you.

    well… yeah.

    it taught him at least 3 things in fact.

    didn’t he even list them?

  7. Ichthyic says

    “the shallow end of the gene pool”

    anyone else really tired of that useless phrase?

  8. dexitroboper says

    But why don’t anti-cat people consider that feral cats are replacements for the lost megafauna of the Ice Age? Start breeding them bigger and you can have an ecological restoration. The occasional loss of a 3 year-old is a small price to pay.

  9. kraut says

    I control the feral cat problem myself. I live on 75 acres 15 mile from the next town, and people seem to think that the edge of my property is a good place to release cats when they and the kiddies go for a holiday..
    I like cats, but I do not like cats especially when pregnant multiplying on my property without my permission.
    The last time it happened I noticed a cat in spring roaming around. By thew end of fall I had twelve cats or more running wild an unapproachable on my property.

    I live outside the animal control area, so a .22 and some precise shooting solved the problem.

  10. says

    I have to keep my kitty on a little 15′ leash when I let her outside or I’ll get a fine. She needs rabies shots, or I’ll get a fine. She needs a license, or I’ll get a fine.
    Not that I’m complaining, I’m just saying.

  11. Ichthyic says

    Start breeding them bigger

    why?

    we already have tigers.

    can’t have too many of those, right?

    certainly would make life a bit more exciting knowing that “feral tigers” were prowling my neighborhood.

  12. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Cats?

    Those are those things that shit in a box inside the house right?

    Weird little monsters they are.

  13. says

    What Ing said in 16. I’ll leave Kraut’s post up as a warning to others, but further stories of self-help culling of cats will be replaced with rabbit videos.

    Which is not to say that New Zealander wildlife wardens aren’t welcome to share their stories here.

  14. dave1845 says

    I did my grad school at U. Oregon, and one of the (many) differences compared to my native Iowa that I noted was the complete absence of songbirds in Eugene. However if you went out in the countryside the little birdies chirped away merrily. I also noted that every hippie cat owner in town let their kitty run wild outside. Inspired by my mellow neighbors I bought a quarter ounce of catnip seeds–thousands of seeds. For the low cost of six bucks I sowed catnip up and down every ally and empty lot in a half mile radius of where I lived. If kitteh got the munchies by they’d be stoned to be a threat to anything. I do feel a little bad though about spreading a non-native species though.

  15. Ichthyic says

    I live outside the animal control area, so a .22 and some precise shooting solved the problem.

    actually, if you want to be more effective I would recommend using humane box traps.

    you only see about 10% of the feral cats that are actually there usually.

    then you can decide what to do with them after.

    but really, if your goal is to control the feral cat population on your land, traps are far more effective and have far less side effects than poisons.

    guns are your least effective method, and even one mistake can make using them really detrimental.

  16. Ichthyic says

    …especially 22s, with their very long range and tendency to ricochet.

    FFS, at least use a shotgun if you feel the need to waste your time trying to shoot them.

  17. Ichthyic says

    then you can decide what to do with them after.

    and by that, I mean you can figure out if you have caught someone’s pet, instead of a feral stray.

  18. darwinharmless says

    Many people on the coast of B.C. have lived there all their lives, been avid hunters and outdoors people, and never seen an alligator lizard. My cousin thought I was pulling his leg when I told him about them. But as suburbia expands into the rocky wilderness on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, the cats have no trouble finding the lizards. The little lizards have to sun themselves, and the well fed and pampered house pets murder them for sport. The species is getting wiped out whenever people move in, bringing their cats with them. Breaks my heart, and apparently there’s nothing that can be done about it. Sigh.

  19. Ichthyic says

    Take and keep control of you fucking animals or else.

    right… so if your neighbors 5 year old kids sees you “accidentally” shot her new puppy, because it ran away for a day and got on your property…

    you’d of course tell the little tyke to their face that it’s their own fault you shot the puppy.

    right?

    no?

  20. Ichthyic says

    @kraut…

    yeah, I wrongly thought you had issues with actual feral animals, and were serious about trying to control them.

    I see now you just wanted to tell your neighbors that their pets are fair game if they stray on to your property.

    I’m sure if your livestock ends up on your neighbors property (like that NEVER happens, right?), you will have no problems with your neighbors having them slaughtered for meat?

    of course you won’t.

  21. Ichthyic says

    For the low cost of six bucks I sowed catnip up and down every ally and empty lot in a half mile radius of where I lived.

    you must have some interesting cat vids?

  22. Ben P says

    right… so if your neighbors 5 year old kids sees you “accidentally” shot her new puppy, because it ran away for a day and got on your property…

    you’d of course tell the little tyke to their face that it’s their own fault you shot the puppy.

    right?

    no?

    I take it you didn’t grow up in the country?

    When I was a kid we had a dog shot by a neighbor because it was purportedly threatening his chickens. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but he certainly wasn’t shy about telling a 6 year old that.

    I live in a suburban area now and don’t have enough land to have to worry about a feral population, I’ve certainly been invited to go shoot feral hogs on a friends farm though, and its a pretty established fact that if deer populations aren’t controlled they expand to the point where they start starving and moving into populated areas.

    I don’t necessarily think I’d shoot feral cats (in a farm setting I’d see cats, even ferals, as being beneficial in controlling rodents) but growing up where I did (rural Arkansas), I’m absolutely not surprised that people might.

  23. markr1957 (Patent Pending) says

    #9 – all I have is anecdotal reports that kitteh hated how the squirrels heard him coming and ran up the trees before he could get close, so at best the bell gave some warning and possibly reduced the carnage. I don’t doubt that keeping him indoors would have been far more effective.

  24. Ichthyic says

    I take it you didn’t grow up in the country?

    actually, we visited my uncles polled herford ranch every weekend when I was a kid in northern cali.

    Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, but he certainly wasn’t shy about telling a 6 year old that.

    *shrug*

    my uncles was exactly the opposite, and never would have been callous over such an issue, though of course animals run accross boundaries all the damn time.

    probably where I got the idea of trapping instead of shooting.

  25. Ben P says

    #9 – all I have is anecdotal reports that kitteh hated how the squirrels heard him coming and ran up the trees before he could get close, so at best the bell gave some warning and possibly reduced the carnage. I don’t doubt that keeping him indoors would have been far more effective.

    IIRC the USA Today article or the study behind it referenced a cat being smart enough to adapt to the bell by simply ambush hunting. Waiting still until something was in reach and pouncing, rather than attempting to stalk.

    As for the actual subject of the post, I absolutely agree. If you have cats as pets they should stay inside. Your cat stares at squirrels for the same reason my dog likes chasing a tennis ball. It’s instinct. But provided the provided the cat is well fed and not terribly bored, I assure you it’s not unhappy.

  26. Ichthyic says

    its a pretty established fact that if deer populations aren’t controlled they expand to the point where they start starving and moving into populated areas.

    irrelevant to the issue at hand, but since you mentioned it, there are also far better ways of culling deer populations than random hunts.

    here in NZ, there is a HUGE problem with possums (imported from OZ, where they are ironically a protected species).

    first thing I learned from studying the control mechanisms used here is that shooting them is the least effective method of control.

  27. Ichthyic says

    Feral kids on the other hand….

    well, I hope you check for collars and nametags first?

  28. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Damn parents should keep them inside. Walking on my grass, leaving Doritos bags in my driveway, wearing their pants down under their asses.

  29. Ben P says

    irrelevant to the issue at hand, but since you mentioned it, there are also far better ways of culling deer populations than random hunts.

    Again, I grew up in the south. There’s very little that’s “random” about the southern method of deer hunting. I don’t do it regularly for the same reasons Ron White doesn’t. “It’s early, it’s cold, and I don’t wanna.” Not to mention setting up a camoflaged stand where you’ve been feeding deer for several months isn’t quite sporting.

    However, the state has biologists on staff to set the number of license sales, set season dates and manage other factors to determine the “deer harvest.” And hunters very reliably “harvest” a fixed percentage (usually 10-20% or so) of the deer population every year.

    You’d literally have to pay an small army of trappers to collect 120,000+ deer every year and I can’t even imagine what collateral damage poison would do.

  30. sqlrob says

    Little kitties hurt an ecosystem? Yeah, right. Next you’ll tell me those fuzzy wuzzy rabbits you’ve posted videos of could cause problems.

    </sarcasm>

    Owned by five cats, all rescues that will never ever be let outside.

  31. Ichthyic says

    However, the state has biologists on staff to set the number of license sales, set season dates and manage other factors to determine the “deer harvest.” And hunters very reliably “harvest” a fixed percentage (usually 10-20% or so) of the deer population every year.

    they do the same thing in California.

    I can look up the other ways that Fish and Game manage the same populations if you like.

    not right now though. I have to finish off another job app before 5pm deadline.

  32. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    I live in a mostly rural area, and my cats stay the hell inside.

    Not only for the safety of the birds- I have a couple of feeders right outside my window, and I see a lovely variety of finches and wrens, an occasional woodpecker, so on and so forth, as well as a large flock of quail that nest by the creek and in the brush- but for the kitties’ safety as well. Not only are there cars and asshats with guns, but coyotes and a very large pair of nesting hawks that swoop right through my backyard. Yes, they likely aren’t in any danger from the hawks, but I’m not taking any chances.

    Of course they’d love to go out and chase things, but it’s my job as the caretaker of domestic critters to see to their health and well-being. They get plenty of practice hunting when the mice move in from the pastures, houseflies, and the occasional moth.

    Unfortunately there are lots of ferals, from people dumping cats in the country or neglecting to take them when they move. A spay and neuter program has helped a little, and a friend took in the stray that was obviously pregnant and kept her until the kittens were old enough to adopt out, and found her a home as well. I still come outside to find neighbor cats and ferals bolting out from under my house which seems to have become kitty haven central.

    Besides, one of my dogs does enough hunting. The dead ground squirrels in my front yard and the decapitated cottontail bunny by my car are plenty. Bleah.

  33. roundguy says

    I do not understand people who let their cats outside, especially in the city.
    We had a 25 pounder who loved getting out there, but we only let him in the fenced courtyard and stayed out with him because, duh, he would kill everything he came across otherwise.
    Plus there are a lot of real dangers out there in the city facing cats (for instance buses).
    I had to put up with a lot of whining and the occasional clawed leg, but he had a much longer and healthier life for it, as did the squirrels, birds and everything else (it was fun watching him chase flies inside though—he was like a ninja).
    Damn I miss that boy.

  34. thecalmone says

    Feral camels, horses, goats, pigs, water buffalo, foxes, rabbits, cats, dogs, rats, and starlings are all major environmental pests in Australia (I’ve left out quite a few more… indian mynahs, pigeons, etc etc).

    Feral horses are controlled in Northern Australia by shooting them from helicopters. I believe the L1A1 SLR (FN FAL) is the gun of choice.

  35. Ichthyic says

    …I’d also add that there is one very large (literally) difference in managing deer populations and feral cat populations.

    size.

    deer being larger make them ever so slightly more amenable to control using guns.

    there are many other things involved as well, but that’s a biggie.

  36. Ichthyic says

    One last thing:

    I was quite surprised that Chris didn’t bring up another good reason for keeping your kitteh indoors, given the area he lives in…

    coyotes like to eat teh stray kittehs.

    and small dogs too, for that matter.

  37. says

    I was quite surprised that Chris didn’t bring up another good reason for keeping your kitteh indoors, given the area he lives in…

    coyotes like to eat teh stray kittehs.

    Conflict of interest issues. My twitter handle IS @canislatrans, after all.

  38. says

    One other difference between overpopulated deer and feral cats: I find it cute when feral cats eat vegetables from my garden, and I’m grateful when deer shit there.

  39. Amblebury says

    Indeed, feral cats are a significant problem in NZ. As are other introduced pests.

    An additional problem are the bleeding hearts who feel sorry for the poor, starving kittehs, and run feeding programs for them.

    FLAIL

  40. demonhype says

    yeah, I wrongly thought you had issues with actual feral animals, and were serious about trying to control them.

    I see now you just wanted to tell your neighbors that their pets are fair game if they stray on to your property.

    Dahmer’s dad used to live hereabouts, and my mom works with someone who used to be his neighbor. He was a terrible person. He used to have the same attitude as kraut, except he’d use his bare hands. If there’s a genetic component to being a psychopath, it’s pretty clear where li’l Jeffrey got it from.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it takes a pretty sick and potentially dangerous individual to behave that way. And I love people who try to pretend it’s some sad but necessary thing–if they really believed that, they wouldn’t be so eager to brag about it and so flippant in the retelling.

  41. unclefrogy says

    I agree with the idea of cats in the country it goes double for none farm country. I would add the the sane kind of rule should apply to dogs as well maybe not always inside only but not roaming free about the country side either.
    I live in town and I hate cats running around all over the place specifically in the day time. I have had a small colony of alligator lizards struggling against the cats some of which are feral the best method I have found to protect the lizards and the birds is with dogs. They keep the cats out of the yard and other “varmints” like the possums and racoons pretty well don’t do much about the squirrels though just raise a fuss, the squirrels seem to like the bird nests as much as the acorns in the oak tree. The dogs are pretty good at keeping the two legged varmints out too.
    At night I let my cat out the birds and the lizards are sleeping but the night shift of rats and mice he can harass all he wants.
    If ha does not get to live into decrepitude of 15 or 16 years oh well. I think I can find another feral kitten to replace him.
    in the city
    uncle frogy

  42. bargearse says

    Wait…. Feral camels?

    Yep, lots of ‘em. When they put the railways through central and Western Australia they used camels as pack animals. Once the line was complete they just let them go, turns out they love it here.

  43. Usernames are smart says

    Besides the fact that they live longer, indoors-only kittehs have one thing the in-n-out ones don’t: ZERO FLEAS.

    Our herd of four are flea-free, and we likes it that way. No poison collars, no itchy bites. The monsters wear collars with tags in case they get out, and the one Satan Cat (all Black, naturally) has a bell because he ALWAYS tries to make a break for it at night. The little shit will wait right by the door jam and as soon as the door opens, he’ll bolt. When he does make it outside, he heads right for the shrubberies. With the bell, he can’t hide.

  44. laurentweppe says

    I’m guessing “lent the goldfish” is a translation issue.

    Yeah: the killer asked his neighbour to care for the goldfish while he was out of town. “entrust” would have been more correct.

  45. Ichthyic says

    –if they really believed that, they wouldn’t be so eager to brag about it and so flippant in the retelling.

    yup

  46. rowanvt says

    Things I don’t have to worry about with my indoor cats:

    Them getting hit by cars. Or eaten by coyotes. Or attacked by dogs/raccoons/skunks/possums/hawks. Or exposure to FeLV or FIV via cat fights. Or snail/rat bait ingestion. Or cruel people. Or developing a urinary blockage and me not knowing about it.

    Downsides of having indoor only cats:

    Litterboxes. Whiny-cat chorus at dinner time. Burdock demanding love and pets RIGHT THIS BLOODY INSTANT HUMAN!

    @59-

    Sorry, no. Indoor only cats quite often have fleas! The little monster can hop a ride on your clothing, or come in through your door. I have brought fleas home to my cats from my work.

  47. Ichthyic says

    Sorry, no. Indoor only cats quite often have fleas! The little monster can hop a ride on your clothing, or come in through your door. I have brought fleas home to my cats from my work.

    Cats:

    “So, it’s YOU! You’re the one that’s been bringing home the fleas! Time for a bath, mister!”

  48. Artor says

    I had a succession of cats when I lived in the country. Most of them died on the road in front of the house. I don’t keep cats anymore because I’m really sick of burying them.
    Mostly, they were the ones bringing rodents into the house, rather than keeping the place free of them. The 2-week-old chipmunk that died while sheltering under the couch wasn’t fun to find, or the dismembered bunny my wife found with her bare feet after coming home late.
    When my own kid was being born, we put the cats out, but one had just had a litter a few weeks before and had a batch of kittens she was trying to wean. She’d come to the back door about every 15 to 20 minutes with a new dead rodent for her babies. Once they got cold, she’d go get a fresh one and try to get in. Probably a dozen just in a few hours.
    Later, she legged a bunny and left it in the yard to train her ravening horde. I wanted the kittens to learn to be predators, and it was kind of awesome to see how good a hunter momma Haley was,(named after the comet) but it was hard to watch the 7 kittens take 3 or 4 hours to slowly kill the rabbit, dismember it, and scatter it across the yard.
    Zipper was a stray from town that moved out to the sticks with us. He’d go roaming in the hills by himself for days & weeks sometimes, and we were sure he’d ended up coyote food, but apparently, he’d been training with the local cougars. He could take down hummingbirds on a regular basis.
    Hell yeah cats are fast, agile, stealthy & remorseless predators. Put a bunch of them together in a small area, and they’ll devastate the local populations of small, furry things. People who love cats but don’t understand this are amazingly unperceptive.

  49. Artor says

    Edit: That was a chipmunk that had escaped the playful cats and died 2 weeks before I found it. In the summer. I’d been wondering where all the big houseflies were coming from… I don’t know it’s age when the cats had found it. They would kill lots of critters & leave the bodies laying around. I don’t know if they ever ate even half of what they killed.

  50. Ichthyic says

    . People who love cats but don’t understand this are amazingly unperceptive.

    read the comments to the article posted at 64 for many, many, perfect examples of very unperceptive people.

    it’s quite obvious that people’s emotional attachments to their pets will typically overwhelm their rational response to evidenced research.

    As mentioned, I often saw the same thing happen over on Jerry Coyne’s blog.

  51. magistramarla says

    I live in an area that has been designated as a historical monument and a wildlife preserve. Yes, I live IN the preserve – it’s an old army installation.
    We see deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, owls, hawks, bats, skunks, raccoons and even get the occasional warning that a mountain lion has been spotted near our neighborhood.
    My two spoiled and over-fed cats have never been out the door without being in a carrier. They are content to rest on their “throne” (a wrought iron cat bed) while watching the birds and squirrels outside the patio door.
    BTW – I’ve had cats live to be 19 or 20 years old.
    Just this evening, my German Shepherd and I were sitting in the car waiting outside of my husband’s office, when three big raccoons wandered up. They and my dog scented each other. The ‘coons sat in front of the car and stared at my dog, who was staring back through the windshield. They didn’t leave until the hubby came out of the building.
    My dog has encountered a skunk in our fenced-in yard.
    I definitely would never let my kitties out to face the wildlife around here.

  52. Ichthyic says

    I also point out that some people aren’t helping by actually engaging in what the pet owners think they’re hearing.

    be specific.

  53. Ichthyic says

    People who gleefully talk about how they love animals but totally kill them horribly often.

    so, for example, I love cats, but have been involved in rounding up ferals on islands off of california and destroying them.

    sorry, not seeing your point?

  54. says

    We have indoor cats but a dog we walk outside, so everyone gets a monthly flea treatment.

    And sometimes I’m sure it is a blessing to euthanize feral animals, compared to the practical alternative, at least in the abstract. It is hard to see it when looking at individual animals though, and I… yeah, this is fucking hard for me to even think about.

  55. geocatherder says

    Despite a penchant for demanding scritches at 3 am when I get up to use the bathroom, my indoor-only cats don’t seem to suffer much. The neighbor cats who hang out in my yard because it has no dogs aren’t so lucky. Freeloader, an unfixed tom of ~12 years, has made amazing comebacks from fighting injuries, but he still limps like an old man. Grey Kitty has a growth, perhaps cancerous, on her right eyelid that her people don’t attend to. Black Kitty slinks around, afraid of every one and every thing. I grieve for these cats. They’re not feral, not at all. They just belong to people who really don’t give a damn. They deserve to be inside, flea-free, health issues addressed, loved, and treated like pets instead of nuisances.

  56. Ichthyic says

    I looked at that cat-bib thing Chris linked to.

    I think the reason it’s effective is because the cats are too embarrassed to go outside after getting one.

    seriously though, it seems remarkably effective for such a simple device.

    heck, it would be easy to make one from materials you can find at any hardware store.

  57. procyon says

    Having spent my early years on a farm in rural Virginia (many years ago) I was witness to the local’s mentality regarding dogs and cats.
    If a dog was caught chasing, or “running”, cows or horses, even their own pets, they were summarily shot. These were “pet” dogs.
    “Working” dogs, or hunting hounds, mostly redbones and , blueticks, were kept chained to their boxes all year and fed a gruel made of mostly day old bread and old meat. The only time they were not chained was when they were ‘coon hunting or bear hunting in the fall.
    Cats were encouraged in the hay barns or dairy barns where they kept the mouse population down. I actually saw them fed from time to time. When the population of cats got too high the kittens were dispatched.
    Horses and cattle would warrant a visit from the vet if they were really sick, or the milk got tainted somehow. Dogs would get home remedies and hope for the best. Cats were on their own. Of course no animals were allowed inside.

  58. Trickster Goddess says

    Keeping cats indoors is no guarantee of bird safety — one of mine once snagged a bird that was flying past the balcony.

    My cats have been outdoor cats for most of their lives but were never avid hunters: total confirmed bird kills between both of them is 2. Other times they have caught birds and brought them home live and uninjured, which I then would have to corral and release back outside.

    As for safety, that often depends on the intelligence of the individual cat. One of my cats lived to be 16, and her sister turned 19 years old just two days ago. A couple years ago, she even successfully evaded a coyote that was hanging around the yard one evening.

    Some cats do fine indoors, but I have seen others that have fallen into depression due to lack of stimulation. Protecting birds aside, I would rather have a cat that lived a shorter but enjoyable outdoor life than one that has a longer but boring and depressed indoor life. I’ve experienced enough of that personally that I wouldn’t wish it on any person or animal.

  59. zb24601 says

    not everyone can keep cats inside all the time on account of allergies

    If one is allergic to cats, not only should the cat be left out of the house, it should be left out of the person’s life. For such a person to have a cat would be like a person allergic to peanuts only eating peanuts a couple of days per week.

  60. says

    It’s simple really, don’t own cats if you’re not prepared to let them live like cats. It’s the same thing with any pet, if you can’t give them a life that they enjoy don’t own the pet. I love animals of all kinds and especially cats, I seems to be able to speak their language a little. I never have problems with animals the way other people do because I try to respect their point of view. I would be an awesome pet owner but I don’t own any because external pressures keep me from being able to adequately provide for one. All of you people that say you love cats and keep them indoors are lying, You only love having a cat. Until you learn the difference you shouldn’t own one, or any other pet.

  61. chigau (悲しい) says

    I met a guy person once who was 95 years old and had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since he was in his teens.

    *cough*
    *hack*
    *spit*
    So that was you, eh, sonny?
    —-
    My kitteh (15 years and counting) goes into the back yard, as far as the kittycrackhouse catnip plant.
    And the door must be propped open.
    She can catch dragonflies and baby mice.
    And has dibs on the heating pad.

  62. Ichthyic says

    I never have problems with animals the way other people do because I try to respect their point of view.

    no.

    what you’re doing is projecting.

    and it’s silly.

  63. Ichthyic says

    *cough*
    *hack*
    *spit*
    So that was you, eh, sonny?

    “…ever since I lost one of my lungs, I cut my smokin’ in half.”

  64. bad Jim says

    I live in a nice suburban neighborhood in Southern California, adjacent to a wilderness preserve, and whenever I hear the coyotes chorusing I wonder whose pet just went missing.

  65. chigau (悲しい) says

    Dragonflies face uncertain future
    Yeah.
    But they’re just bugs so who really cares?
    (that was sarcasm)

  66. chigau (悲しい) says

    My cat is very vocal and has a large vocabulary.
    I would like to see a self-proclaimed PetPsychic (Mike #86) determine which of the constant meowing means:
    “I have had a pleasant time in the yard eating grass and am about to puke it up … wherever.”
    I can recognize it. Even from within a state of alcohol-enhanced REMstate and can get her onto the lino (or anything not the wool carpet) without waking up.
    and she’s a RealCat™.

  67. says

    I have two cats, one of them stray kitten that somehow came to our garden on her own, one of them her son. They both live feral lives. And when they die, I do not intend to seek replacement, since I am not very fond of cats.

    The purpose of having cat for me was, initialy, to keep mice and water voles at least a little bit in control in my garden. I have never seen them to catch/eat a bird, but quite often I saw them eat small rodents, including water voles, and for years I had relatively pest-free garden. So I thought it worked.

    Nevertheless in reality the cats fail miserably at this and two years ago during harsh winter water voles made an irreparable damage to my bonsai trees collection and I never got rid of them since, even during summer. Because as it shows, while my cats go to my garden for food and go here to eat their prey, they actually do not catch their prey here.

    My pest free years were probably either just coincidence or the wild owl nesting in the high spruce on my neigbours garden (which, coincidentally, had to be cut down three years ago for safety reasons) has been far greater, and eco-friendly help. And the owl never ever sat in front of my car when I go to work.

  68. chigau (悲しい) says

    kraut #97
    You, too, are weird.
    (Chris, I hope you’ll leave that one. It’s funny™.
    I mean Killer Hummingbirds‽)

  69. mildlymagnificent says

    One thing I wish city people would do if they were, in fact, serious about protecting birds and other wildlife, is to change their gardening habits. I get extremely irritated by people pontificating about cats (or anything else) damaging native animals from their neatly manicured swathe of lawn or pristine expanse of hard paving.

    Raise your eyes hardly at all and do you see prickly, tangled, expanses of low shrubbery suitable for little nests of little birds? You might, but I don’t. I don’t know about the US, but here people get a bit sanctimonious about using only ‘native’ plants or water saving plants.

    Then look at what they choose and how they manage them. Super neat, super tidy – totally unsuitable for bird habitat, let alone lizards. And birdbaths! Are they placed for maximum benefit and safety of birds? Not a bit of it. They’re geometrically centred as decorative items – exposed and in easy reach of any half fit cat to jump and make lunch of birds too thirsty to refuse the bait.

  70. Menyambal --- Sambal's Little Helper says

    My cats seem happy enough indoors. They might have a better time outside, maybe, if I lived in a place where there were no cars. But the little animals where they went hunting would have a miserable time. I have never seen a cat make a quick, clean kill. Cats seem to enjoy torturing what they catch, or at least they play really rough. It could be that they are just incompetent, and might get better with practice. Nevertheless, I’d rather a cat was slightly unhappy than amusing itself by tormenting smaller critters.

    As I’ve said before, a domesticated version of an African desert/savannah cat has no natural role in the suburban American outdoors.

  71. chigau (悲しい) says

    PreviousCat was old and fat and slow when we inherited her.
    She was a superb mouser and she ate what she caught (mostly in the house) except for the kidneys and bladder.

  72. rq says

    My cat thinks he loves being outdoors, but the one time he escaped, we couldn’t find him because he was hiding in the lilacs. For three weeks, in autumn. When we dragged him back inside, he was grateful enough. Alas, that episode seems to have escaped his memory, and now he’s perfectly smug and happy enough to sit in front of the window and shadow-hunt the sparrows and pigeons flying by. Complete with strange murmmling noises and sudden paw smacks against the window.

    When I was growing up, we had a series of cats, all of which were outdoor cats – living in a forest, they did a pretty good job of controlling the mice, squirrels and rats (big ones, too). We were the recipients of the occasional dead bird, but their gifts to us mostly consisted of half-eaten squirrels or dead mice. The birdfeeder was placed near a window and in a location where the cats had a seriously hard time getting to it – and if they tried, which they did, they received some serious incentive not to try it again, and eventually stopped; again, they became the not-so-impartial observer in the branch of the apple-tree, but rarely made a move (on the bird-feeder).

    I used to think I’d always let my cats roam free, but once the suburbs encroached onto our little patch of wildlife, it became difficult to control the cats – where they went, where they shat, etc. Also, traffic, other humans, strange dogs, and the usual rodentia that come with civilization (raccoons, bigger rats, etc.) have become enough of a deterrent to continue letting them out. At least, I’d be a lot more careful about doing it now, though admittedly not for any special concern towards the little birds (but that too is slowly changing, since a few forays into bird identification).

    And fleas can come from anywhere. We learned that the hard way, too. I’ve had more flea issues with the one indoor cat than all the outdoor cats put together.

  73. says

    As a certified Crazy Old Cat Lady, I can say with some authority that it’s much, much better for the cats – never mind the rest of the ecosystem – to keep the pussums inside on a permanent basis. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is 2.5 years. The average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12 years. If you love your kitteh, keep him/her in the house and amply supplied with food, water, toys, and oatgrass. Your Puddy Tat will not be missing out on anything.

  74. Red-Green in Blue says

    briane,

    Shouldn’t it be vox felinae?

    Well, vōx, the Latin word for “voice” is a feminine noun, and fēlīna is the nominative feminine singular form of the adjective fēlīnus (= feline, catlike). So as far as it goes, vōx fēlīna is actually correct.

    However, if (as I suspect) the commenter in question was modelling his/her name on the more common vōx populī (= voice of the people), then the name ze was probably looking for was vōx fēlium (= voice of the cats), where fēlium (= of the cats) is the genitive plural of the 3rd-declension feminine noun fēlēs (= cat).

    So on balance I’d say that you were right to think the name was wrong. (And you’d also be right to think that I’m an utter spod who enjoyed doing Latin at school far more than was good for my playground-cred :-) )

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, the white-and-silver-tabby excuse for a cat lying on the bed is miaowing pathetically because her heat pad and grooming machine dared to get out of bed this morning. Outside world? What outside world? :-D

  75. ibbica says

    dave1845 #20

    Inspired by my mellow neighbors I bought a quarter ounce of catnip seeds–thousands of seeds. For the low cost of six bucks I sowed catnip up and down every ally and empty lot in a half mile radius of where I lived. If kitteh got the munchies by they’d be stoned to be a threat to anything. I do feel a little bad though about spreading a non-native species though.

    We’re just about to leave Europe, where catnip *is* native, with our two indoor-except-when-they’re-on-a-leash-so-they-don’t-get-run-over-or-into-fights-with-the-neighbourhood-ferals kitties, and have a bunch of catnip seeds left over, and a vacant lot next door. I thank you for the AWESOME idea, and am kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner! :D

  76. unclefrogy says

    just to share some info
    I have learned that I can really keep a lid on the flea population on my new cat by using the vacuum cleaner and a flea comb it works and no chemicals and the at likes it, have seen a animal grooming attachment for a vacuum but have not tried it yet.
    a friend has a cat that does not like catnip she says some cats don’t but her’s like Valerian

    uncle frogy

  77. Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare says

    As a dog owner, one thing that bothers me is that most communities have reasonably strict leash laws. People aren’t allow to let their dogs run loose–which is a good thing for all. Why aren’t there–and why shouldn’t there be–similar laws in place to contain cats?

    My dogs are predators, and encouraged to be so. They’re english setters, and terrific gun dogs. They get to use their predatory skills in controlled ways, in controlled conditions, and as part of a legal and licensed activity that actually puts meat on our table. They aren’t turned loose to kill whatever they can.

  78. says

    I didn’t spot any comments to this effect but my last cat preferred to stay indoors. She had been an outdoors cat for years but just stopped taking the opportunity to go outside. Whether it was the brutal mating habits of the local toms or she had been reading about Ghandi in secret and took some vow of pacifism, it just stopped being an area she wanted to prowl.

    Thinking about this I can offer one bit of rationalization on what our recent pet psychic proclaimed: outdoor cats that you suddenly stop letting outdoors are probably going to be upset by this. You’ve taught them that when bored they can go eviscerate small animals, participate in gangbangs (willingly or not, it all sounds about the same to my ears,) and generally compete for a large territory. Taking that away from them will probably not go over well and I could see many a puss rejecting alternative means of entertainment for their established habits.

    Raised indoors is another story. As a pet owner you’ve got to do a lot more to give them a stimulating life. You can’t just act like dishing out out food and giving them a warm dry place when it rains means you love them. Being that passive is going to give the average cat a really miserable experience.

    I know, it’s shocking that people with indoor cats DO THINGS for them that you could never be bothered to do. Well ok, if you thought it was important you’d be in a hurry to find out how to do these things but if you’re anything like Mike I doubt that you want to know. If you’re like Mike you want to do what you’re familiar with and if you try anything different and it doesn’t work right away that’s because the way you’re used to doing things is obviously the only good way, and you should shame people who do anything differently.
    Or if you love your pets you can actually look into these matters and not immediately dismiss people that suggest you make some changes that you’re not comfortable with. Read things like this and doubt yourself at least a little bit. Maybe you decide not to change anyway but at least you took it seriously for awhile.

  79. laurentweppe says

    I think that’s victim blaming. :)

    No it’s not! This uppity Oviparous dared tried to oppress us Mamals by chirping and flying low, and next they’re going to say that it was trying to defend its nest or some other ethical bullshit. As a fellow Mamal, I say that it is time that someone take a stand and showed that there will be consequences to those who threaten the Mamal Supremacy that God intented.

  80. Olav says

    Nancy New, #110:

    People aren’t allow to let their dogs run loose–which is a good thing for all. Why aren’t there–and why shouldn’t there be–similar laws in place to contain cats?

    I was reading the comments waiting for this. Of course I agree with you completely. But people seem to think it is mean or cruel to put cats on a lead. It also goes against the “dogs are servants but cats are bosses” meme. Which is of course sentimental, romantic nonsense, but there are many people who seem to seriously believe it.

    The issue should be really simple. People who can’t or won’t take full responsibility for their pets and control them at all times, should not have them. I would not go as far as banning people from having cats but I’d wish people became better educated about responsible pet ownership before they start.

  81. jamessweet says

    I think some of the reason people come unglued is because we only got the second comment before somebody said, “I don’t understand how someone who claims to love cats can accept them living outside.” Riiiiight, because impugning someone’s claims to affection for their animals is exactly how to keep a discussion calm and rationale.

    I’d prefer to keep my cats inside. One of them in particular is very fast and sneaky, and plus that I have two young children (1 and 3 years old) who think it’s the coolest thing in the world to open the door for an animal. So guess what? I’ve tried to keep my cats inside, and failed. I feel bad about it, but the alternative would be, what, get rid of them? You’re going to judge that, that makes you an asshole.

    I appreciate PZ’s balanced approach. He says basically what I think: It’s a good idea to keep your cats indoors, but some people just can’t or won’t for whatever reason, and that’s not really all that big a deal. It’s too bad other people can’t be quite so level-headed about it.

  82. iknklast says

    “3.There are a lot of people out there who know almost nothing about ecology and its related sciences, and they’re not afraid to display that fact at the drop of a cat.”

    This sums it up nicely. I have a doctorate in Ecology, and I can’t tell you how often I’m being lectured by someone who has watched one show on Animal Planet and knows “all there is to know” – and insists on sharing it with people who have actually done the hard work, the reading, and the field research in blistering hot temperatures in a Texas July and freezing temperatures in an Oklahoma January. I’m even being told by people at my school what exercises I should be doing in the Ecology class I teach.

    And their lack of knowledge of Ecology is dwarfed by their lack of knowledge of Environmental Science…that’s all about recycling, holding hands, and singing Kumbayah, apparently…so they’re shocked when they come into my class and find it’s actually…science. Ooops. Gotta learn about atoms? And axial tilt? And…gasp…EVOLUTION? What does all that have to do with recycling?

    I keep my cats inside. Never known it to harm them. They’re still sassy and sarcastic and totally libertarian atheist. And they keep the mice from coming into my house. They also live longer that way…there are few (like, no) cars driving through my living room, giving them a dangerous weapon to cause their destruction – one that is totally outside of an ecological system, and they aren’t adapted to it.

  83. says

    I have two young children (1 and 3 years old) who think it’s the coolest thing in the world to open the door for an animal. So guess what? I’ve tried to keep my cats inside, and failed. I feel bad about it, but the alternative would be, what, get rid of them?

    That would be rather an extreme measure. Have you considered belling them? That way you’d be able to hear when they’re about to let the cats outside.

    I appreciate PZ’s balanced approach. He says basically what I think:

    No he doesn’t.

  84. chigau (悲しい) says

    C’mon, Chris.
    Do you really expect people to read the by-line? ;)
    Then there’s that octopus …

  85. ChasCPeterson says

    Have you considered belling them? That way you’d be able to hear when they’re about to let the cats outside.

    bwaha

    I’ve kicked this hornet’s nest a time or two myself.
    It comes down to know-nothing anthropomorphizationizing.

  86. otrame says

    I will say one thing about Kraut’s penis-waving post. He does bring up a not-uncommon problem. My parents and my sister and brother-in-law live ten miles outside a small northeast Texas town. The town will not take country strays into their tiny, horribly over-taxed pound, and there is no county facility. People seem to think that letting domestic animals loose in a country setting is better than taking them to be put down, kidding themselves that they are “giving them a chance”. The choices available for humane dealing with the problem are very limited. And to be honest, Kraut’s method of disposal, while cruel and (usually) unnecessary, is far more humane than the action of the evil fuckers who dumped them.

    My parents and sister love dogs and cats. For many years they have trapped cats (or in the case of dogs, called “Come here, sweetheart”) and driven the 50 miles to Dallas to put them in the big city pound, knowing they will probably be dead before they get back home. My brother-in-law is very adept with firearms. He felt no thrill when he was forced (once, by a very aggressive and very large dog that would not let itself be caught, avoided traps and had already injured one of their pets) to shoot.

    Kraut seems to need that sort of thing to get a reaction downstairs. I wonder what’s wrong with him.

  87. morejello says

    @Rodney Nelson,Comment #1:
    There is actual data which supports your anectotal evidence, the local or national Humane Society should have it. I read it many years ago before I got a cat, and my cat is not allowed to go outside. I don’t recall all of the specifics, but I do specifically recall that outside cats were 3x more likely to develop feline lukemia than indoor-only cats.

  88. says

    I don’t know of any studies off-hand, but from what I’ve heard, the bells don’t really work. The cat simply adjusts its behavior to keep from warning the prey. My cat has a bell and two tags that jingle, and that hasn’t stopped him from being a highly proficient killing machine, laying waste to vast swaths of wildlife and piling carcasses several feet deep on my porch (I exaggerate slightly).

    I think there’s a lot of money to be made for someone who can design a collar attachment that actually warns birds and other wildlife when a cat gets near. Maybe there’s a ultrasonic frequency that they can detect and that cats and humans can’t. Or something.

  89. says

    Chigau @98:

    Shucks.

    Sorry, old pal, but when someone posts sociopathic flame bait and then essentially dares the “spineless moderator” to prove him right by “censoring” him, I tend to pretty much give him what he wants. He gets proven right about the HARIBAL THOT-FREE BLAHGZ SENSIRSHIPZ and I get a thread with less sociopathy. One finds true win-win solutions so seldom in life, I tend to take advantage of them where I can.

  90. says

    I’ve always kept my cats inside because it’s much more likely they’ll disappear (run away, get killed, get mistaken as a stray and taken). I can’t conceive of just letting them run around outside in a suburb or a city. Growing up I knew farmers who kept cats to keep mice out of their grain, but I doubt that’s pretty rare these days.

    I do allow my cat outside, but only in my backyard when I’m there with her or on a leash. She’s too likely to escape our fence otherwise. And I do set up bird feeders where she can watch the birds from inside. She has a hunting/stalking instinct and she loves watching them, but inside she can’t do any harm.

    My current rescue cat is stereo blind and I don’t think she could take care of herself outside. But even if I thought she could and felt sure she couldn’t hunt well I would keep her inside. I couldn’t deal with the thought of her bringing me anything live.

  91. Brownian says

    I do allow my cat outside, but only in my backyard when I’m there with her or on a leash.

    We do that too. He’ll occasionally wriggle out of it, but only if we’ve set it too short for him to reach his favourite chewin’ grass, or he’s had enough and wants to go back inside.

    Er, I imagine that’s pretty rare these days. Bad edit!

    All the farmers I know (which admittedly isn’t many) have barn cats. I don’t think it’s that rare among farmers.

  92. Christopher says

    What is the appropriate way to deal with feral cats out in the country other than shooting them?

    I live in a simi-rural area. When I have a feral cat problem I trap them and take them to the county pound where, judging by the weekly statistics in the newspaper, they are killed. Am I a better person for having someone else kill the animal for me?

    What if you are too far away from an animal control facility? Do you trap then drown or strangle the poor bugger like Dahmer’s dad? That seems more fucked up to me than a well placed .22lr round. Hell, even my trap-then-transport-to-gas-chamber seems a bit more traumatic to the critter than the crack-ouch-dead shooting solution.

  93. Brownian says

    Am I a better person for having someone else kill the animal for me?

    What a silly and irrelevant way to frame the question.

  94. says

    Christopher @127:

    There are no completely ethically satisfying answers to the issue of feral cats. Some are less satisfying than others: for instance, I believe that if you trap a feral and then release it again, as is standard for TNR programs, you are as culpable in that animal’s suffering as the person who abandoned it in the first place.

    That’s not necessarily a majority opinion, I know.

    But just to clarify: My bunnifying what’s-his-face’s comment wasn’t because he was talking about the occasional arguable necessity of using less than happy rose-petal kitten romp means of culling a feral cat population. It was because of the faint but unmistakable sound of fapping as he posted about shooting cats. Whether it was from the topic or the trolling, I don’t care.

    As mentioned above, others in this thread have used lethal methods to bring feral populations down. In 2005, I helped my paleospouse rid our neighborhood in Pinole, CA of about 20 feral kittens, all of whom were placed in homes as pets. I have also dropped off cats at shelters where they were very likely euthanized, most likely in a manner surer of success and less likely to cause prolonged suffering than plinking at them with a .22. Solutions depend on the context, as they do with the rest of life’s problems.

  95. Christopher says

    What a silly and irrelevant way to frame the question.

    No it isn’t.

    Kraut got a heaping of shit because he was so evil to kill kittens with a rifle.

    Is taking a cat to someone else to kill somehow less evil? Does outsourcing the killing make it acceptable?

    Most here seem to agree that feral cats are an ecological problem.

    What is the most ethical way to solve that problem? Poisoning seems not only cruel, but also ecologically damaging to carrion eaters. That leaves trapping and killing at a later time or killing on sight. I don’t see how killing on sight is somehow more cruel or inhumane than trapping and killing later. Every feral cat I trapped looked fucking freaked in the trap. Every animal I’ve seen in the pound seemed pretty fucking freaked. The pound’s gas chamber can’t be a very pleasant way to die. It seems to me that, from the cat’s perspective, it would be preferable to be out doing you cat business, then suddenly having a sharp pain followed by death than it would be to spend hours or days on death row horribly stressed then gassed.

  96. Christopher says

    As mentioned above, others in this thread have used lethal methods to bring feral populations down. In 2005, I helped my paleospouse rid our neighborhood in Pinole, CA of about 20 feral kittens, all of whom were placed in homes as pets. I have also dropped off cats at shelters where they were very likely euthanized, most likely in a manner surer of success and less likely to cause prolonged suffering than plinking at them with a .22. Solutions depend on the context, as they do with the rest of life’s problems.

    Fair enough.

    Personally, I’m not fond of killing. Even killing things that need to be killed. So I wuss out and outsource the killing when ever possible. I have no illusions that this makes me a better person though.

    Our last cat was a trap-fix-release feral cat that wound up calling our property home. She didn’t mess anything up enough to break out the cat trap, and after 6 months or so, ingrained herself enough for us non-cat-people to take her in. Now she is an indoor cat and there are lizards around again.

    I do take exception that euthanizing with a .22 necessarily prolongs suffering. A good .22 can put a dozen shots inside a dime. An ethical shooter won’t shoot until good shot is lined up, and with the proper shot placement a cat can be killed with one shot and minimal suffering. Seems like a better choice than many options, especially if there is not an animal control within a reasonable distance.

  97. says

    My problem with that is that most freelance shooters who are not only confident that they can distinguish a feral cat from a lost pet at a glance but also that they can dispatch it cleanly and humanely at a distance are generally capable of neither.

  98. chigau (悲しい) says

    The deleted kraut comment contained a report of being attacked by a hummingbird.
    Really.

  99. hotshoe says

    My problem with that is that most freelance shooters who are not only confident that they can distinguish a feral cat from a lost pet at a glance but also that they can dispatch it cleanly and humanely at a distance are generally capable of neither.

    Yep, generally they can’t.

    Christopher might be a genuine exception, and might be both careful and accurate, but whoever Christopher thinks he is speaking to here, it’s not to the ranchhands like Travis where I worked. He couldn’t tell the difference between a dog and a coyote. Fortunately Travis couldn’t shoot well, so he didn’t hit the dog at all – or anything else alive that day. Unfortunately, Travis managed to shoot a robin one morning. Fortunately, Travis doesn’t work there anymore. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guess where else he is currently working while talking shit about what a great shot he is and what a good job he does keeping the place free of pesty wild animals.

    Nor is there any way to tell in advance whether we’re dealing with the exceptional type like Christopher or the typical type like Travis. Except by letting ‘em shoot and then counting the dead.

  100. Ichthyic says

    Kraut got a heaping of shit because he was so evil to kill kittens with a rifle.

    not from my end.

    I rather thought it stupid, inefficient, and dangerous.

    evil?

    irrelevant.

  101. Ichthyic says

    I do take exception that euthanizing with a .22 necessarily prolongs suffering. A good .22 can put a dozen shots inside a dime. An ethical shooter won’t shoot until good shot is lined up, and with the proper shot placement a cat can be killed with one shot and minimal suffering. Seems like a better choice than many options, especially if there is not an animal control within a reasonable distance

    and, like I said to Kraut, shooting is horribly inefficient and dangerous.

    you can’t control ricochets, you can’t control mistaken identity, and you only can shoot what you see.

    traps work MUCH MUCH better for anything, really.

  102. Ichthyic says

    ok, now I get that Christopher is just… confused.

    What is the appropriate way to deal with feral cats out in the country other than shooting them?

    I live in a simi-rural area. When I have a feral cat problem I trap them and take them to the county pound

    so… you ask what the appropriate way OTHER than shooting them is, and follow it immediately by saying YOU trap them?

    wtf?

    what’s your game here?

  103. Ichthyic says

    I appreciate PZ’s balanced approach. He says basically what I think: It’s a good idea to keep your cats indoors, but some people just can’t or won’t for whatever reason, and that’s not really all that big a deal. It’s too bad other people can’t be quite so level-headed about it.

    ummm….

    where are you reading about PZ’s approach?

  104. ChasCPeterson says

    what’s your game here?

    What’s hir game here?
    I don’t know.
    What rhetorical device was s/he using?
    That of answering one’s own question.
    Is it annoying?
    Decidedly.
    See what I mean?
    Of course you do.

  105. Menyambal --- Sambal's Little Helper says

    I helped capture and transport a family of feral cats, and they were very unhappy with the situation. Unfortunately, the no-kill shelter wouldn’t take them, and they were not ever going to make house pets (the one that was easiest to capture is still snarling under the couch). There were no good option after that, and wished I could have thrown them all at whoever dumped them.

    Damnation. Spay and neuter and take responsibility.

  106. Ichthyic says

    See what I mean?

    I wonder if you know how little I care about your personal levels of irritation.

    well, i guess you do, now.

  107. Ichthyic says

    That of answering one’s own question.

    if you read the rest of their posts, you’ll see why that’s a fail.

  108. Ichthyic says

    I’m right here, people.

    hey, PZ, some random dude has somehow hacked your site and is now able to post OPs!

  109. Ichthyic says

    Biologist fight!!!!!1!

    you know what?

    I’m gonna give Chas this one.

    I’m just babbling. not enough sleep probly.

  110. Ichthyic says

    Aw, you’re no fun; you fell right over.

    nothing is stopping you from eating your popcorn anyway.

    ;)

  111. ChasCPeterson says

    if you read the rest of their posts, you’ll see why that’s a fail.

    Actually, this turns out to be true.

    *falls over*

  112. Christopher says

    traps work MUCH MUCH better for anything, really.

    I have yet to find a trap that works reliably for problematic raccoons. Unlike cats, which are dumb enough to be trapped all day long, raccoons are too damn smart for traps.

    Note: I do not support genocide against raccoons and normally advocate a live and let live approach. But occasionally an individual or clan can get out of hand and must be dealt with.

    so… you ask what the appropriate way OTHER than shooting them is, and follow it immediately by saying YOU trap them?
    wtf?
    what’s your game here?

    I live in a simi-rural area where animal control isn’t that far away. For me, taking them to the pound is an option.

    For others, distance makes that not an option. What do you do when there isn’t an animal control office within a reasonable distance?

  113. Ichthyic says

    For me, taking them to the pound is an option.

    I never mentioned this as relevant. I think having a pound available is a bonus, but not a requirement, for trapping. Trapping is STILL more effective, and offers more options, than shooting.

    as to disposal? entirely different issue, and one where I agree with you in principle that killing is killing, whether by gun or other means, and you will not find me saying otherwise.

    as to racoons; yeah those buggers are pretty good at defeating common traps, but even THEN, there are traps specifically designed for racoons, and are still, even with failure rate, more effective overall than relying on guns for management.

    then of course, like I said, aside from the efficiency issue, there are risk issues to consider.

  114. Ichthyic says

    But occasionally an individual or clan can get out of hand and must be dealt with.

    let me be even more clear: I always tend to approach things like this from a pragmatic standpoint, not necessarily an emotional one. Where I can trap live, and it makes sense to do so, I usually do (that’s what we did for the feral cats on the channel islands off CA – even though the vast majority of them ended up being destroyed), or at least would recommend it for others, mostly because it gives you options in case you catch something unexpected. But I do understand that is not always possible, or even the best solution.

    a very localized infestation might also be dealt with by careful use of baiting, but that can get messy quickly.

    However, since it’s pretty unlikely that a family of racoons living under your house (yeah, I have that happen to me twice) are the pets of any neighbors, you’re probably safe using baits to rid yourself of them provided also that you yourself aren’t worried about household pets or other wildlife accessing the baits.

    you’ll just have to then climb under your house somehow for the removals. Or suffer the smell for a month or so.

  115. natureguy says

    Th TNR CN-GM

    FCT: Trp ∓ Kll fld bcs cts cnnt b trppd fstr thn th xpnntll brd t f cntrl.

    FCT: Trp ∓ Strlz (TNR) s n vn bggr bjct flr bcs ths mn-md clgcl dsstrs cnnt b trppd fstr thn th xpnntll brd t f cntrl, nd th ls cntn th crll nnhlt ll ntv wldlf (frm th smllst f pr p t th tp prdtrs tht r strvd t dth), nd th cts cntn t sprd mn ddl dsss tht th crr td — FR WHCH THR R N VCCNS GNST THM. Mn f whch r vn lstd s btrrrsm gnts. (Sch s Tlrm nd Th Plg — s, ppl hv lrd dd frm ct-trnsmttd plg n th S. N fls nr rts vn rqrd. Th cts thmslvs crr nd trnsmt th plg ll n thr wn.)

    FCT: THR S BSLTL _NTHNG_ HMN BT TNR. Nrl vr lst TNR’d ct ds n nhmn dth b rd-kll, frm ct nd nml ttcks, nvrnmntl psns, strvtn, dhdrtn, frzng t dth, nfctns, prsts, tc. nd f vr vr lck hmnl sht t dth r r-trppd nd drwnd (th tw mst cmmn mthds mpld n ll frms nd rnchs t prtct thr gsttng lvstck’s ffsprng nd vlbl ntv wldlf dng frm cts’ Txplsmss prsts). Ths dsn’t bgn t cnt th thsnds f dfnslss ntv nmls tht cts skn lv nd dsmbwl lv fr thr dl nd hrl pl-ts. Th nl dffrnc n dstrng cts mmdtl nd hmnl nstd f trppng, strlzng, thn rlsng thm t n nhmn dth; s tht mn sn’t gng nt n HSS r SPC brd-mmbr’s pckt, vtrnrn’s pckt, ct-fd cmpn C’s pckt, r drg-cmpn C’s pckt. nd tht’s th NL dffrnc!

    FCT: Cts r mn-md (thrgh slctv brdng) nvsv spcs. nd s sch, r n lss f mn-md nvrnmntl dsstr thn n thr csd b mn. Cts r vn wrs thn n l-spll f cntnnt-szd prprtns. Th nt nl kll ff rr nd ndngrd mrn-mmmls lng ll cstlns frm rn-ff crrng cts’ Txplsm gnd prsts, th dstr th cmplt fd-chn n vr csstm whr cts r fnd. Frm smllst f pr gttd nd sknnd lv fr cts’ trtrd pl-ts, p t th tp prdtrs tht r strvd t dth frm cts dstrng thr NL fd srcs. (Prcsl wht cts csd n m wn lnd nt lng g.)

    FCT: Hntd T xtnctn (r n ths cs, xtrptn f ll tdr cts) s th NL mthd tht s fstr thn spcs lk cts cn xpnntll t-brd nd t-dpt t. spcll mn-md nvsv spcs lk ths cts tht cn brd 2-4X’s fstr thn n ntrll ccrrng ct-spcs.

    FCT: n _TWLV_RS_ ll Ct LL-LS f NC hv nl rdcd frl cts n thr wn ct b 0.08% t 0.024% (s th mnths g n tht prcntg bcms mr nsgnfcnt), llwng mr thn 99.92% t 99.976% t xpnntll brd t f cntrl. Hr’s hw ll-Ct-LL-LS’ dcptv mth wrks: f TNR 4 cts nd 3 gt flttnd b crs ths trnslts t 75% fwr frl-cts vrwhr. ll Ct LL-LS cn’t vn rdc cts n thr wn ct, t th prmt t s wrldwd sltn. Thn vn bggr fls fll fr t nd prmt t.

    FCT: Whn rsrchng vr 100 f th mst “sccssfl” TNR prgrms wrldwd, JST N trppd mr thn 0.4%. rgn’s 50,000 TNR’d cts (th hghst rt fnd) s 4.9% f ll frls n thr stt. t, b pplng ppltn grwth clcls n th nstrlzd 95.1% th wll hv trppd nl 0.35% f ll cts n thr stt smtm ths r. <0.4% s fr cr frm th rqrd 80%-90% t b th lst bt ffctv.

    FCT: Thr mthcl &qt;vcm ffct&qt; s 100% L. std dn b th Txs ∓M nvrst prvd tht n prcvd &qt;vcm&qt; s jst th smpl cs tht CTS TTRCT CTS. Gt rd f thm ll nd thr's n cts thr t ttrct mr. prvd ths mslf b shtng nd brng hndrds f thm n m wn lnd. ZR cts rplcd thm FR VR 2 RS NW. f wnt mr cts, kp vn n f thm rnd, mr wll fnd . Tht nvrst std ls fnd tht strlzd cts vr prl dfnd n trrtr. Nn-strlzd cts, bng mr ggrssv, tk vr th strlzd cts' rsrcs (shltr ∓ fd f n). f thr s n knd f &qt;vcm ffct&qt; t ll, t s tht strlzng cts cs nn-strlzd cts t rstr th rprdctv vd.

    FCT: Drng ll ths nvstgtn hv dscvrd smthng tht s nfltrng wtht fl. Smthng tht cn bt r vr lf n nd wn vr lst tm. Tht bng — F TNR CT-HRDR S TLKNG THN TH R LNG. 100% grntd!

  116. natureguy says

    [I’m serious. Advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of cats you don’t know and you will be neutralized, bunny-style. – CC]

  117. says

    Oh, and “natureguy,” in an ALL-CAPS-festooned comment I trashed fixed above, claimed he’s shot and buried hundreds of cats on his property. I will be determining whether he was stupid enough to leave identifying info.

  118. dickdave says

    I missed the byline too, but the “I found a catted cactus wren in my yard” was a giveaway.

  119. Ichthyic says

    ah, good thing there wasn’t much to miss in natureguy’s posts. I was trying to decide if they made more sense with or without the vowels.

    I see the effort to determine such is not worth the time.

  120. says

    [Confidential to natureboy, before you go away and don’t come back:

    This is the law in the state your IP address says you’re in:

    [YourState] Statutes and Consolidated Statutes Title 18. Crimes and Offenses. Part II. Definition of Specific Offenses. Article F. Offenses Against Public Order and Decency. Chapter 55. Riot, Disorderly Conduct and Related Offenses.

    § 5511. Cruelty to animals

    (2.1) (i) A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he willfully and maliciously:

    (A) Kills, maims, mutilates, tortures or disfigures any dog or cat, whether belonging to himself or otherwise. If a person kills, maims, mutilates, tortures or disfigures a dog guide for an individual who is blind, a hearing dog for an individual who is deaf or audibly impaired or a service dog for an individual who is physically limited, whether belonging to the individual or otherwise, that person, in addition to any other applicable penalty, shall be required to make reparations for veterinary costs in treating the dog and, if necessary, the cost of obtaining and training a replacement dog.

    (B) Administers poison to or exposes any poisonous substance with the intent to administer such poison to any dog or cat, whether belonging to himself or otherwise.

    (ii) Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this paragraph shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $1,000 or to imprisonment for not more than two years, or both. The court may also order a presentence mental evaluation. A subsequent conviction under this paragraph shall be a felony of the third degree. This paragraph shall apply to dogs and cats only.

    Emphasis added by me. Now take your deeply disturbed self somewhere else.

  121. says

    ah, good thing there wasn’t much to miss in natureguy’s posts. I was trying to decide if they made more sense with or without the vowels.

    I see the effort to determine such is not worth the time.

    I considered disenconsonanting him.

  122. chigau (悲しい) says

    Sorry™ I missed natureguy.
    I can’t understand the vwlss post #155 but I think I detected something about a conspiracy of catfood manufacturers, veterinarians and drug companies.
    huh.

  123. jamesemery says

    Thankfully, our local shelters here (a couple, at least) do catch ‘n release spaying/neutering on feral cats at a reduced rate. I wish they had enough volunteer vets to do it on a wide scale for free, but apparently not.

    A REASONABLY SIZED feral cat population can be useful in eliminating pest problems. Too many breeding just causes poor kittens to starve to death, or get run over.

    I’m okay with hunting for food. Not big on sport hunting at all, but I can understand it in population control situations. It occurs to me that a fair number of sport hunters donate that meat they’re not using to various shelters and food banks, and that’s cool. The ones that kill just for the fun of killing, and leave the carcasses to spoil… THAT shit makes me furious. I think one has to have something wrong in the head to kill just for the horrific, wasteful fun of it.

  124. nms says

    And entire Canadian forests cut down and pulped to print treacly calendars on.

    So-called experts claim the forests were instead damaged by some kind of beetle, but come on, as if a bug could damage a whole ecosystem. It’s tiny and stuff.

  125. says

    I’m a lifelong cat-lover and even I can see how they are not interacting “naturally” with the environment when you let them out. In much of the world they are an invasive species, like roses and grass lawns in the new world. And however domesticated they may be, they are still animals and our interpretation of their behaviors as somehow corresponding to our feelings for them does not always hold up.

  126. Ichthyic says

    I considered disenconsonanting him.

    well, if you do both, it would be like it was never here…

  127. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Just adding another voice to the chorus of “you’re a sick fuck if you enjoy shooting cats”. Even as a vegan I can accept that there will be times when two species will come into conflict in a way that can only be solved by the (local) extermination of one or the other. But to take pride in killing is revolting and inexcusable.

  128. hyrax says

    I finally caught up on this thread, and, well… natureguy’s posts (on this thread and others) reminds me of this Onion video. For some reason.