Comments

  1. No One says

    Scratch one kitty. It had an encounter with a water moccasin outside my bed room window the other night. It was very loud. Neighbors keep forgetting this is Florida. Putting the cat outside at night is asking for it. Gators, coyotes, bobcats, wild pigs, rattlers, snapping turtles, ‘coons, various birds of prey…

  2. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Let’s not forget that they’ll steal your soul when you sleep.

    And poop in the house.

  3. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Gators, coyotes, bobcats, wild pigs, rattlers, snapping turtles, ‘coons, various birds of prey…

    …Dogs when they decide to climb into your yard and test the husky that lives there.

  4. Ichthyic says

    “I gave him a good clean death. A soldier’s death.”

    lol

    one thing that didn’t get brought up (much?) in the other thread was that dogs too do their fair share of rampant critter destruction.

    I recall a buddy who brought his 2 year old doberman to the beach where we were camped (doing a study on damselfish off the coast about 60km North of Cabo in the Gulf of California), and his doberman found the ghost crabs on the beach utterly fascinating…

    …until one of them pinched her nose.

    then, the doberman quickly figured out you could dig up the ghost crabs with a bit of effort, and crush them in your jaws.

    end result?

    in 4 days the beach was mostly holes instead of sand, and every single ghost crab bigger than an inch on that entire beach was dead.

    I lost count when it got to over 100.

    The person who brought the dog TAUGHT ecology at Monterey Bay Peninsula college. When I confronted him on the behavior of his dog, it was basically… “What can I do? lock it up? dogs will be dogs….”

  5. Ysanne says

    Simple solution: Only keep a cat if you can provide it with an environment that satisfies its basic needs. This includes an appropriate territory size and the possibility of acting out basic instinctive behaviours.
    Not possible because this would cause too much harm to the surrounding native fauna? Then don’t keep a cat.

    I’m really fed up by the rationalisations of indoor-cat owners who try to rationalise their purely selfish reasons of keeping a cat as a positive thing for the cat while not giving a shit about their pets basic needs.

  6. Ichthyic says

    their pets basic needs

    this of course brings up the issue as to whether actually expressing hunting behavior by killing things is in fact a basic need, and/or whether that basic need could be met in other ways.

    How does one determine if an animal has its basic needs met?

    longevity?

    reproduction?

    amount of time it spends purring?

    health problems?

    I know people that have persians as housecats. these cats don’t hunt, have no related health issues, and live long lives.

    are their basic needs not being met, you think? what would justify such a conclusion?

  7. says

    Let’s not forget that they’ll steal your soul when you sleep.

    Ha! Jokes’s on my cat, then.

    I’m really fed up by the rationalisations of indoor-cat owners who try to rationalise their purely selfish reasons of keeping a cat as a positive thing for the cat while not giving a shit about their pets basic needs.

    Last thread we got the doofuses talking about killing and poisoning cats, so I guess it’s only fair we get the opposite kind of doofuses in this one.

  8. viajera says

    Funny, I was just talking about this with a colleague earlier today. A number of studies (including some by current and former colleagues) have estimated bird kills by cats somewhere around 1 million birds per day, or as high as 500 million birds/year (see, e.g., this 2011 NY Times article.

    But several ecologists have recently begun putting small cameras on cats and recording their movements and kills. My colleague told me today that a friend of hers who is running one of these catcam projects is finding that cats kill 3x as many birds as they bring home. So those incredibly high estimates may actually be underestimated by a factor of 3.

    I don’t have a cat now, but I love cats and plan to get one once I settle somewhere for a while. But it’s definitely going to be an indoor cat. It can “hunt” catnip mice. I don’t buy that cats have an innate need to hunt and kill living things – I know plenty of seemingly-happy indoor cats.

  9. Trebuchet says

    That’s irresponsible dog oownership. Dogs in delicate environmental areas should be on leashes and cars should not be allowed on beaches at all.

    I initially read the last bit as “CATS should not be allowed on beaches at all.” I wouldn’t disagree with it either way. Our indoor cats hunt plastic toys and fuzzy balls during the night, and present them to us. I think they are adequately fulfilled.

  10. Ichthyic says

    I guess it’s only fair we get the opposite kind of doofuses in this one.

    this is by far the more common of the two species though.

    it’s really worth hashing this out, because i see this argument constantly; that somehow it’s entirely detrimental to a pet to displace or deny behaviors that would normally be found in their not-artificially-selected-for-generations cousins.

    it’s also worth discussing, because it relates to the entire issue of animal welfare. When we keep fish in aquaria at the lab, we had to file animal use protocols justifying our utilization of the animal for research, and documenting that it’s basic needs were being met, and how we went about determining that.

    suffice it to say, that the animal use protocols were mostly instigated by people who originally thought fish weren’t even animals, so initially were not included for the first 3 years of the program.

    Moreover, perhaps not obviously to some, even different fish species themselves have vastly differing needs. To explain what those needs are and how they are determined is actually a part of the research on the animals themselves, not assumed because a goldfish breathes water like a sturgeon does.

    likewise, domestic cat breeds vary widely, and hardly any can be directly compared in needs to something like say, a bobcat.

  11. viajera says

    ….and, now I see that cartoon is talking about exactly the same study I just mentioned. That’s what I get for commenting before reading the linked material. D’oh

  12. Ichthyic says

    and documenting that it’s basic needs were being met

    there it is again.

    huh. It’s not like I don’t know better, yet I make this typo at least once a day.

  13. says

    Ha! Just as I was first going to comment, a cat jumped in my lap. Suspicious timing.

    I’m really fed up by the rationalisations of indoor-cat owners who try to rationalise their purely selfish reasons of keeping a cat as a positive thing for the cat while not giving a shit about their pets basic needs.

    What?

  14. says

    Ha! Just as I was first going to comment, a cat jumped in my lap. Suspicious timing.

    It’s updating your toxo cyst firmware, SC! Sterilize your tinfoil hat!

  15. Ichthyic says

    Our indoor cats hunt plastic toys and fuzzy balls during the night, and present them to us. I think they are adequately fulfilled.

    indeed. if there is a “need” to hunt, it likely can easily be displaced by play behavior using toys.
    we’ve even had cats that have made their own efforts to displace hunting behavior…

    One cat would constantly bring us pieces of white bread! Where it would get them from, I haven’t a clue, but it would indeed bring them home just like hunting trophies “for the family”. Quite funny to see a large ginger cat carrying a slice of white bread in its mouth. I kept wondering if it was somehow related to observing our regular consumption of toast for breakfast, but that seems a reach.

    Another would do the same with sausages, which they clearly “stole” from leftover neighbor’s breakfasts. This cat treated those sausage bits exactly the same way a cat might treat a mouse.

  16. Lofty says

    My indoor cats complain a lot. Feed meee NNOOOWWW!!!! If they could rig trip wires instead of curling around ankles they would send all humans carrying plates of yummies instantly floorwards. I iz scared of fuzzbods!
    The rest of the time they spend plotting murder while warming themselves at various windows, the fireplace, and laps. Yes, human laps (watch where the claws go….)

  17. Ichthyic says

    watch where the claws go….

    yup, that femoral artery is pretty close to claw range…

  18. Nepenthe says

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to Ysanne’s argument. That’s why I staunchly oppose cat breeding and have a rescue cat.

    What’s that?…

    Ah, she’s reminding me that I’m her employee and that the service is shit at this establishment. Anyhow.

    Regardless of whether my indoor cat is living out her most self-actualized feline life, she sure as shit is having a better time than she was in the 18inch steel cube she lived in for a year before I brought her home. The choice was not between her being an outdoor cat vs. an indoor cat, it was between being an indoor cat and sodium thiopental.

    @Ichthyic

    One of my sister’s cats is a ferocious murderer of mail. She actually waits at the mailslot every afternoon. All the utility bills are found a week late under the couch with little puncture marks on them.

  19. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    Given the choice between hunting (moths, toys, laser dots, etc.) and cuddling, my cat will choose cuddling every. single. time. (Admittedly, cuddling and food are the only things that have ever distracted her from murderation of cat toys. She seems to have decided that most actual animals are too much effort, though.) Then again, she’s been an indoor-only cat for 11 of her 12 years. So her schedule departs from the comic in the OP in that there’s a great deal less “MURDER” and about 6 days a week more “sit on owner’s face at 3 am.”

  20. carlie says

    My cat kills the mice that make it inside. Also moths, and flies, and other bugs. She also has a thing for batting balls down the stairs, bringing them back up, and tossing them back down again. I think she’s as happy as one could expect.

  21. says

    It’s updating your toxo cyst firmware, SC! Sterilize your tinfoil hat!

    Hey, we should all do it together! If that’s allowed. I hope I don’t look like a geek for suggesting it. Let me know if you think it’s a good idea – I trust you.

  22. A. R says

    Hmm, I can only imagine what our not-so dearly departed friend woodsmanone would have to say about this comic…

  23. Steve Caldwell says

    I enjoy this blog and The Oatmeal comic, but there actually is a definition for the word “murder”:

    Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder

    I know this is a very “human-centric” definition of murder. However, I doubt that most house cats are out there killing humans with malice and premeditation. I suppose if you house cat is a tiger your experiences may be different.

    There are all sorts of things that one could say about house cats and their impact on suburban ecosystems. Using the word “murder” to describe this is an inappropriate exaggeration in my opinion.

  24. Nepenthe says

    Steve, do often find out that your friends have had dinner parties, but failed to invite you?

  25. says

    Using the word “murder” to describe this is an inappropriate exaggeration in my opinion.

    Yes, and in fact that is why I said, in the post to which you are replying, that “Matthew Inman [has] step[ped] up and ma[d]e [me] look utterly reasonable by comparison.”

    the more you know

  26. Ysanne says

    Chris,
    having an opinion that is different from yours does not make anyone a doofus.
    My point is that someone wanting to own a cat is not sufficient justification for keeping it in a way that neglects its needs for space and opportunities to act out its basic instincts, and that simply ignoring such needs is simply rationalising one’s selfish choice.
    There are great and completely reasons why not to let a cat outside in many parts of the world. These are not reasons to keep a cat inside. These are reasons to not get a cat.

    Would you justify keeping a tiger in a small pen just because you really like tigers but obviously they can’t be let out? A horse in a suburban back yard? A single rat in a tiny cage or a goldfish in small bowl?
    If in these cases your consideration of the respective animal’s needs would win out against your desire own it, why suddenly go all selfish when it comes to cats in apartments?

    SC,
    living in not quite species appropriate conditions doesn’t necessarily make an animal hostile to its owner. Actually, some animal trainers deliberately keep their animals deprived of free exercise and company in order to make them more dependent on themselves for as many of their needs as possible, thus making them easier to train: sadly, it’s quite effective. I’m very certain that this is not what you are doing with your cat — my point is that friendly interaction with their owner doesn’t necessarily mean that all the cat’s needs are met.

    Ichthyc,
    fortunately cats are of enough interest to people that there is ample research on their needs and behaviours. It’s also relatively easy to check whether territory size, hunting instincts etc are all that different between artificially-selected-for-generations housecats (though for the last few centuries, selection was more for pest-hunting than for indoor compatibility) and their “wild-type” cousins: Try what happens if you don’t take meticulous care to keep your housecat locked inside. While unfortunately this experiment is unwittingly carried out on a daily basis in completely unsuitable settings, I think the results speak for themselves.
    To your argument that it’s not necessarily detrimental when an animal is denied behaviours that it would otherwise engage in a lot of the time: This is a cop-out to unfalsifiability with which you could justify everything that doesn’t hurt/kill the animal or give it some obviously self-harming behavioural disorder. As long as it’s not possible to actually talk to animals to determine how they feel about having instinctive urges denied or redirected, I’d rather extrapolate from what needs and desires they express through their behaviour, and go with “probably not great for them if they can’t ever do that”.

  27. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    Cats playing escape artist is not proof in and of itself that their range is too limited – it is simply proof that there is neat stuff outside. Seriously?

    I have a cat. She has never once attempted to dash out the door.

    I also routinely take her for walks (I have a leash and harness for her). She cheerfully ignores the fauna in favor of smelling all the flora (and occasionally trying to eat said flora).

  28. kreativekaos says

    ‘Murder’? Really? Kind of reminds me of the fundamentalists/’pro-lifers’ regarding abortion as ‘murder’.
    Use of the term ‘murder’–whether for cats natural predatory instincts, or a woman’s conscious but difficult decision to end a pregnancy–doesn’t seem applicable

  29. Ichthyic says

    Try what happens if you don’t take meticulous care to keep your housecat locked inside.

    strangely irrelevant to the actual argument you are trying to make, although i also realize you are unable to grasp this.

    To your argument that it’s not necessarily detrimental when an animal is denied behaviours that it would otherwise engage in a lot of the time

    my argument is much more basic than that, and you have yet to respond to it.

    I’d rather extrapolate from what needs and desires they express t

    I call that “anthropomorphizing”.

  30. chigau (悲しい) says

    Ysanne
    Could you provide the definition of ‘domesticate’ that you are using?
    And the sources that inform you of what these “basic instincts” are.

  31. Nepenthe says

    Ysanne, you are acting as if when a person adopts an indoor cat, that cat is created de novo for its life of non-bird-murdering ennui. What actually happens when a responsible cat guardian adopts a cat is that cat is plucked from a pool of millions of healthy-but-soon-to-be-dead cats living in steel boxes. Perhaps your contention is that a shot of sodium thiopental is, in fact, better than the indignity of toy mice, but you might want to be clear on that.

    If your data for your theory that all cats want to be outside is the fact that some cats dash for open doors*, I offer the two outdoor cats that would literally follow me inside and try to snuggle with me.

    Also, plenty of cats have transmissible diseases (FIV and FeLV) and should never be allowed outside where they might get into fights/contact with other cats.

    *Only about 50% of the cats I’ve ever lived with tried to escape and most who did attempted a few steps before coming back into safe and comfortable house.

  32. Ichthyic says

    Use of the term ‘murder’–whether for cats natural predatory instincts, or a woman’s conscious but difficult decision to end a pregnancy–doesn’t seem applicable

    good thing it was meant deliberately as humorous hyperbole then.

    for those upset by it, the author could have used “manslaughter”, but that probably wouldn’t have been appropriate either, and I’m sure some lawyer would have been motivated to inform us of such.

    critterslaughter?

  33. says

    Would you justify keeping a tiger in a small pen just because you really like tigers but obviously they can’t be let out? A horse in a suburban back yard? A single rat in a tiny cage or a goldfish in small bowl?

    No, but I would keep a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower. Not sure how holding infinity in the palm of my hand would affect my RSIs, though.

  34. MJKelleher says

    I’ve had many indoor-only cats share my home. One of them was a stray. When I first met him, he’d been hanging out on the loading dock where I worked – it was one of the few places nearby that had substantial human activity. I brought him home, and he had no interest in going outside for years. I think he’d been abandoned on the street, and didn’t like it one bit. 16 years with me, and he never made a (serious) escape attempt.

    We’d sometimes get mice taking shelter in the house. Once, I came into the dining room to find two cats playing volleyball, with a live-but-stunned mouse as the ball. No killing, just a self-mobile cat toy for the humans to trap and release outside.

    All the cats here had access to toys to hunt, stalk, attack. They’d run through the house, up and down the stairs, over the furniture, chase each other, ambush my feet. Not so much now, the one cat here now is old enough to vote next month if I could get him an absentee ballot. He and his past foster siblings have been protected, cared for and loved, in several cases kept from a very uncertain future at a shelter.

  35. Ichthyic says

    Would you justify keeping a tiger in a small pen just because you really like tigers but obviously they can’t be let out?

    I’m betting you also intensely dislike the very concept of zoos.

    here’s an exercise for you:

    say, you knew absolutely nothing about an animal you intended to keep as a pet, and you had no authority to rely on.

    How would you go about objectively measuring what the needs of that particular animal are?

    Would you project your gut feelings as a human onto that animal and presume that your needs are the same as its needs?

  36. Ichthyic says

    Not sure how holding infinity in the palm of my hand would affect my RSIs, though.

    I keep a collection of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

    I’m reasonably sure all their needs are being met.

  37. Ichthyic says

    “probably not great for them if they can’t ever do that”.

    do you spay/neuter your pets?

    it’s probably not great for them that they can’t engage in the most basic freedom of all: reproduction. right?

    are you against spaying/neutering too?

  38. chigau (悲しい) says

    Ichthyic
    I hope you are segregating the boy-angels and the girl-angels.
    (never mind their ‘needs’)
    Look what happened to Caine and the rats.
    ;););)

  39. nms says

    Ysanne said

    I’m really fed up by the rationalisations of indoor-cat owners who try to rationalise their purely selfish reasons of keeping a cat as a positive thing for the cat while not giving a shit about their pets basic needs.

    Mike shared:

    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. 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.

    One thing all you cat “loving” eco-scientismists don’t understand is that a domestic cat is a WILD ANIMAL with WILD ANIMAL NEEDS! By emprisoning your pets in your safe warm homes and feeding them processed garbage you weaken their connection to the SPIRIT CAT that connects all cats together and in spite of all external signals they live empty lives of great existential despair.

    And then when they die they go straight to cat hell.

  40. Ichthyic says

    you weaken their connection to the SPIRIT CAT

    Is that part of the Cat Trinity?

    Ceiling Cat, Happy Cat, and Spirit Cat.

  41. says

    By emprisoning your pets in your safe warm homes and feeding them processed garbage you weaken their connection to the SPIRIT CAT that connects all cats together and in spite of all external signals they live empty lives of great existential despair.

    Ooh, I know this one! And then the Doctor Donna comes to break the circle and the cats are able to sing again, usually at 3 am on the fence outside my bedroom window!

  42. Ichthyic says

    I hope you are segregating the boy-angels and the girl-angels.

    they’re all adopted pound angels, and have already been spayed and neutered.

    had all their shots too. No spiritual contamination on my watch!

  43. Nepenthe says

    @Ichthyic

    I wonder which part of this cartoon indicated to people that it was meant to be a serious piece of political discourse. Personally, I think it was the part with the talking cat.

    @general

    While I was in the shower, my employer left a green stuffed fish (labeled “Teeni Sardini”) on my laptop keyboard. I think this is a sign. Not sure of what exactly.

  44. Ichthyic says

    …don’t ask me how they got their shots, being all tiny and shit.

    it’s like the tides, you can’t explain it.

  45. nms says

    Ceiling Cat is a false god created by The Man to divide cat-kind. No true cat would live on a ceiling.

  46. Ichthyic says

    Personally, I think it was the part with the talking cat.

    serious talky cat is SERIOUS!!!

    ;)

  47. laurentweppe says

    one thing that didn’t get brought up (much?) in the other thread was that dogs too do their fair share of rampant critter destruction.

    I used to have a dog who could quite easily jump back to feral apex predator mode if something tasty was close (happened often) or if something really really, really pissed her off (much more rarely thankfully, but it did have the advantage of making alarms and locks somewhat superfluous). Fortunately, she also had been very well trained: when we went for the first time to the vet, who also was our dog’s mother’s vet and therefore knew the critter, she told us:

    This is an alpha bitch: I’m not joking here: she loves to command, she was the one who dominated the litter, and she’ll want to dominate your household. Also, by the time your dog reach adulthood, she’ll have become stronger than the three of you put together, so if you don’t want to become slaves to an unfettered force of destruction, you will teach her to behave in the presence of humans and other pets before she reaches puberty.

    Then she gave us adresses of competent dog trainers. A very, very, very, very sound advice, since she did become the force of destruction foretold by the vet, so having her actually stop destroying everything when we told her to stop was a huge plus. On the other hand we couldn’t stop her systematic slaughter of the local colony of water voles… then again, the neighbours were virtually cheering her when she was out killing these scourges of gardens by the hundreds.
    *
    The point is: you can relatively easily train dogs to behave, even the bigger, stronger, they-told-us-this-wolfhound-was-a-purebred-lab ones, which is a big difference with the perfidious felines.

  48. chigau (悲しい) says

    nms #45

    …[cats] live empty lives of great existential despair…

    By George, you’ve got it! That’s it! That explains all the purring! And the fact that no matter how much my back hurts, the Cat gets the heating pad.

  49. says

    Ysanne, what precisely is your argument? Is it that all indoor cats are deprived and unhappy relative to all outdoor

    OK, I started to post that question, with one cat curled contentedly between my feet after extended playtime, when another stretched out across my lap purring,* preventing me from typing. They’re rescue cats, and would likely not be alive had they not found a home.

    *Faking, though, I’m sure.

    ***

    I’m betting you also intensely dislike the very concept of zoos.

    FFS.

  50. says

    hold that thought until you get the clarification from Ysanne you asked for.

    I was responding to you. This conversation is not about zoos, and my question for Ysanne wasn’t about lions or tigers.

  51. Ichthyic says

    This conversation is not about zoos, and my question for Ysanne wasn’t about lions or tigers.

    sure it is. I’m surprised you can’t see that.

    it’s about subjectively determining needs instead of objectively.

    that applies to zoos, homes, farms… wherever one might decide to keep/manage animals.

    same issues apply.

  52. says

    My little serial killer is an indoor/outdoor cat, and I don’t think he’s that bad when it comes to what he gets (local fauna). In the 6 years he’s been around, I’ve only seen him catch gophers and mice. Good riddance I say. Never even pays attention to birds, kind of odd.

    That said, he’s more likely to go hunt his own tail (being raised around dogs seems to have caused some sort of identity issue). It’s an easy kill, and when he gets it it seems to piss him off to the point where he goes after it even more. Quite entertaining.

  53. nms says

    Ooh, I know this one! And then the Doctor Donna comes to break the circle and the cats are able to sing again

    I had to look it up. I think I blocked out that season.

  54. says

    sure it is. I’m surprised you can’t see that.

    it’s about subjectively determining needs instead of objectively.

    Are you arguing that the needs of lions, tigers, and other wild animals are met in zoos compared to letting them live their lives (while fighting against harm to them) in the wild? If so, for the members of which species is this the case? All of them?

    Do you make a distinction between dogs and wolves? Are you agreeing with Ysanne?

    that applies to zoos, homes, farms… wherever one might decide to keep/manage animals.

    same issues apply.

    Farms?

  55. Ichthyic says

    Are you arguing that the needs of lions, tigers, and other wild animals are met in zoos compared to letting them live their lives (while fighting against harm to them) in the wild?

    how would you objectively determine whether they are, or not?

  56. Ichthyic says

    how would you objectively determine whether they are, or not?

    and how, exactly, do you differentiate the question you just asked, vs. the argument Ysanne made?

  57. A. R says

    I find the sheer volume and intensity of wingnuttery unleashed by the reasoned discussion of the environmental impact of felines simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. I wonder if a similar discussion regarding dogs would have a similar effect.

  58. fullyladenswallow says

    My question is, what then, does one do with a cat who is essentially an outdoor cat, is kept inside for its own good but begins to exhibit negative behavior for not being allowed outside? Can you effectively train a cat not to pee on your toaster for not being let out at night? Are there meds for this? Seems to be a real poser to me.
    I had such a cat (that I rescued from an abandoned dwelling) when I lived in a typical suburb house. He had a cat door that he used often. When I moved to an apartment, he was regularly let out at night when I went to work and was always at the back door when I returned in the morning. There came a point when the landlord decided all cat owners should keep their felines inside and I complied with this for a time until “Henry” started behaving poorly- peeing on various objects, climbing in high places, apparently looking for a way out. Clearly not contented behavior. As soon as I released him from his “indoor contract”, this behavior ceased.

  59. Hurin, Midnight DJ on the Backwards Music Station says

    I’m really dubious about these concerns. Is this concern about cats killing things, mainly to do with cats in sensitive ecosystems, or are you really worried about all the mice and squirrels of various sorts that my (now dead) cat used to butcher on the outskirts of suburban Michigan? Is Ann Arbor full of threatened species that I’m not aware of?

    If this sort of thing is really such a big deal, then maybe I should stage an intervention for my Dad, who has been shooting at the rabbits who eat his garden with an airgun and committing “murder” in his basement with mousetraps ever since Calico passed. Then again I have blood on my own hands: probably 400 black 6 and SCID mice. Maybe those were justified kills though, they enabled papers that got my ex-boss nearly five citations.

  60. Ysanne says

    About the zoo issue: Depends on the specific animal, zoo and conditions.

    In the case of endangered species, I see a lot of merit in zoo-based breeding and preservation programs. Particularly when the conditions that the animals are kept in are optimized for the respective animals’ needs and not solely on giving the visitors a good view.

    Other than for this purpose, I don’t think that zoos are all that important to have.
    Acceptable if the welfare of the animals is not compromised: This includes providing a habitat that has enough space, species-appropriate stimuli and a general design that allows the animals to engage in a reasonable proportion of the behaviours that they would in the wild. (Which obviously is a difficult thing to determine exactly and universally, especially when it comes to the uncomfortable and life-threatening parts in the life of a wild animal.)
    Inacceptable to me when the welfare of the animals takes a back seat to visitors’ entertainment, which is a lot of the time. I don’t see why “just so people can look at them” would be a good enough reason to keep dolphins in an olympic-sized concrete pool, lock apes behind glass walls with no place to retreat, have a herd of deer in a pen smaller than what is usual for a couple of ponies, or put a polar bear on display in a virtually shade-free enclosure. (And this is just my highly commended local Western zoo that supposedly cares about the animals.)

  61. says

    are you really worried about all the mice and squirrels of various sorts that my (now dead) cat used to butcher on the outskirts of suburban Michigan? Is Ann Arbor full of threatened species that I’m not aware of?

    Michigan has three bat species, two species each of shrew and vole, and one species of flying squirrel that are listed as either endangered, threatened, or of special concern on the mammals section of the state “special animals” list. Also moose and cougar and grey wolf, though housecats pose somewhat less of a threat to any of those.

    Rodents are an interesting facet of this issue. People arguing against the notion that cats kill wildlife often mention that they kill rats, mice and squirrels as though that’s a defense. But though I don’t particularly worry about North American cats eating housemice and Eurasian rats — I’ve kept a cat or two to do just that — native rodents aren’t some special category of wildlife that it’s okay not to give a shit about. If nothing else they’re a foundation of the carnivore food chain, and having a buttload of predation pressure from cats can make it harder for animals like kestrels, hawks, owls, and other charismatic carnivores to find food. Unless the kittens go outside.

  62. says

    You might also note that many of the animal species on that Michigan list are insects, which even cats that “have never killed anything” kill, and quite a few small birds, snakes, and a couple of salamanders and frogs.

  63. Ysanne says

    SC,
    my argument is that it’s fair to say that there are good and practical reasons not to let cats outside, but it’s hypocritical to pretend that keeping cats inside doesn’t prevent them from exercising a significant part of their range of instinctive behaviours. It’s a compromise at best, and while it’s perfectly possible that in a specific case it’s the best available choice for everyone including the cat, it’s not the best imaginable.

  64. Ysanne says

    Nepente,
    What actually happens when a responsible cat guardian adopts a cat is that cat is plucked from a pool of millions of healthy-but-soon-to-be-dead cats living in steel boxes
    That’s the responsible cat guardian, a lamentably rare species.
    There’s also the run-of-the-mill cat owner who buys their cat from a pet store or a breeder, contributing to a demand that causes more cats than could be ever kept responsibly to be brought into existence.

  65. Ysanne says

    Ichthyc,
    I’m sure it’s fun to imagine me going “hmmm, what would it feel to be a cat” and then make a fire from dried catnip for a dance ritual in Bastet’s honour.

    To your hypothetical question, about determining the needs of an animal: First of all, why would I want to make one live with me if people don’t even know how this animal lives? But ok, let’s suppose there’s a good reason.
    I would observe what it does, preferably in its natural habitat, and if there exists such a thing also in various other circumstances. Especially what behaviours it exhibits when given a choice, and how hard it tries for a chance to express those behaviours when it encounters an obstacle. I’d also try and read up on its general biology.

    I think it’s pretty straightforward with cats: Given the opportunity, they will go outside and hunt within a few 100m radius of the house. If then locked inside, they signal that they want to go outside. (I know cats who can and do open windows and doors, if not locked with a key or blocked with a heavy item.)
    They do this whether or not they have enough food plus indoor entertainment, including cat company and pretend-hunt play.
    So yes, cats do want go outside and hunt if given a choice. That’s just an objective observation, and not a surprising one, given that cats are predators that were selected for centuries to hunt rodents around the house.

    The question that remains is how much it detracts from a cat’s quality of life if it cannot go out and hunt.
    Since it’s impossible to get a clear answer to that out of a cat, I go with indirect indicators: How much time cats spend doing that if they can (lots: hours per night), how much effort does it put into getting to do it (hours of scratching doors and meowing, learning tricks to get out), is this behaviour that was selected for (yes, both naturally and artifically), do they replace this activity with a similar alternative utilising the same skills and instincts (no, they play with fake mice _and_ go out). Therefore, as far as a “need” that has to do with the not exactly objective concept of happiness can be objectively determined, spending time outside and hunting is a “need” for cats.

    What are your arguments for the “subjectivity” of the claim that cats have a strong urge to roam outside and hunt? What is your proof that the artificial replacements for this behaviour are sufficient? How exactly would you objectively define the importance of a need when it’s beyond bare survival, and determine how much its denial impacts on an animal’s “happiness”? (And the extent to which the fulfillment of such needs matters at all, maybe.)

  66. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Ysanne:

    I don’t see why “just so people can look at them” would be a good enough reason to keep dolphins in an olympic-sized concrete pool, lock apes behind glass walls with no place to retreat, have a herd of deer in a pen smaller than what is usual for a couple of ponies, or put a polar bear on display in a virtually shade-free enclosure.

    How do you feel about keeping dairy cows in steel prisons while forcibly impregnating them and shipping their calves to veal farms for three to four years before their milk production slows and they’re ground into burgers?

  67. Ysanne says

    dysomniak,
    nice try. Maybe I should just pretend that I’m local-food vegan; after all, this is the internet.

    But seriously, that’s exactly the reason why I buy organic and free-range when it comes to animal products. At least around here, the organic label includes animal welfare requirements. (I don’t like to rely on the labels, but I moved and can’t go to the local farm’s shop and check for myself any more.)
    Oh and did it already occur to you that nutrition might be a tad more important than entertainment?

  68. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Oh and did it already occur to you that nutrition might be a tad more important than entertainment?<Oh and did it already occur to you that nutrition might be a tad more important than entertainment?

    Taste preference ≠ nutrition.

  69. nms says

    I think it’s pretty straightforward with cats: Given the opportunity, they will go outside and hunt within a few 100m radius of the house. If then locked inside, they signal that they want to go outside.

    This universal feline behavioural trait is shared by exactly none of the indoor-only cats with which I am familiar.

    This is clearly evidence that they have been severed from the Spirit Cat completely.

  70. nms says

    Taste preference ≠ nutrition.

    You’re thinking of dietary nutrition. Ysanne requires meat for psychological nutrition, to ensure that her instinctive human needs are met.

  71. Giana says

    This is mostly regarding Chris Clarke @72, but if anyone knows please inform me.

    I’ve seen multiple comments/studies regarding the high predation rate and impact of cats, but they never seem to include that the cats are in disturbed environments. Many of those environments have had the main predator(s) eliminated. Is it possible that the impact of cats isn’t that great since the predators of many of the prey species has been extirpated? Is it possible that cats are now filling that niche? Has anyone controlled for this?

  72. madtom1999 says

    Firstly: If you can put a camera on a cat its not really a cat. Any cat that doesnt spend however long it takes to destroy the collar is not worthy of the title.
    Secondly: I’ve had 5 cats in my lifetime and I would guess that the MURDER rate is nearer 4 or 5 a day. I do live on a farm that is intended to encourage wildlife so there is ‘surplus’ but the cat kills anything it can up to near full grown rabbit – which it always takes into the bramble patch dammit.
    Without the cat we would be overrun but to reiterate the first point- Planck was right on all levels: a collar of any form on a cat reduces kill rate as they can no longer silently sneak through small gaps – ignore the whiskers thing that only seems to work on holes.
    But have no illusions: they are vicous murdering bastards.
    My next door neighbour (when I lived in town without a cat) used to ask me who put the animal carcases on her door step – it couldnt possibly have been her cat.

  73. liokae says

    Try what happens if you don’t take meticulous care to keep your housecat locked inside. While unfortunately this experiment is unwittingly carried out on a daily basis in completely unsuitable settings, I think the results speak for themselves.

    I have gotten evidence on that one, actually. While obviously it’s going to be difference for different cats, mine was curious about openings after I first got her- my guess from being in a completely new area after being *stuck* outside for several months. Then somebody broke my window, and she did make a break for it. I found her outside five minutes afterwards cowering in absolute terror ten feet from the window, and since then she has absolutely *fled* to the opposite corner of the apartment any time the door is open even a crack.

    I don’t think she’s missing hunting outside too much.

  74. Don Quijote says

    The cats my wife and I look after(18 now) are ferral or semi-ferral. We have had them all neutered or spayed and we feed them daily. It is impossible though to keep them inside as they freak out the second they feel trapped. They do kill wildlife, mostly moles, mice and sometimes birds. I say sometimes but we don’t always see their “kill”.
    Unfortunately, our neighbours also have cats that have not been doctored and continue to breed. The neighbours don’t see this as a problem because they think that the cats stop mice getting in their houses which they don’t. Anyway these people will not pay the 60€ male or 90€ female to have them done.
    It really is a problem that I can’t find an answer to.

  75. says

    @Don – See if any local shelters offer Trap, Neuter and Release classes. Once you’ve taken the class, they sometimes will do the neuter for free. It’s designed for feral cats so that they don’t keep having kittens and can still be feral. You may be able to do this with your neighbor’s cats.

    It’s just an idea.

  76. Ysanne says

    nms,
    you’re a high priest of the Spirit of Jokes That Are Lame at the First Attempt and Don’t Get Better With Repetiton, right? I hope you’ll also call me liberal tree-hugger at some point.
    (Pro-tip: The woo-peddler word for spiritual food is not nutrition but nourishment. I know, it’s hard for you hard to tell them apart, both begin with an N and have more than 4 letters…)

    dysomniak,
    ok, so you completely evaded the actual argument and are now trying to build a completely bogus strawman, pretending that the sole difference between vegan and other food is taste. Good luck trying to sell that BS to someone else, I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole.

  77. Ysanne says

    Ichthyc & SC,
    thanks for the discussion. I’ll be offline for probably a day or so but I’d be still very interested to read your views. (Including those about zoos: I’m not quite sure how to interpret SC’s “FFS”, and I forgot to ask.)

  78. says

    PZed,

    Let’s face it. Some of us love to have “domesticated” predators. My wife and I have two Maltese. They love to bark and chase after squirrels. If they could catch one, said squirrel would be dead meat. Luckily squirrels are very good at climbing.

    Our previous dog finally figured out that chasing squirrels was a senseless effort.

    Some of my friends keep snakes as pets. Guess what they feed them? It isn’t lettuce.

    I once had a eastern box turtle as a pet, he liked lettuce and tomatoes. My neighbor killed him when he was eating his tomatoes.

    Not birds, tomatoes.

  79. says

    I have four “indoor only” cats.

    My primary reason they are indoor only? I’d like to keep them around for a while. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is less than five years. An indoor cat can live for an average of 12 years or more.

    One of my cats is 12, two are 11, and one is 5. Only one of them shows the slightest interest in going outside, and his dashes outside are to the nearest grass patch so he can eat grass. I fixed this by creating a patch of indoor grass.

    Our oldest cat was a stray, living in the alley when we found her. She has absolutely no desire to leave the house.

    If you provide your cats with enough entertainment indoors, they are not suffering in the slightest. They don’t have an instinctive “need” to be outside, it’s just a new place to explore. Mine have plenty of places to do that in the house.

  80. judithsanders says

    I raised a kitten from the age of one week – bottle fed, absolutely no training in catship from other felines. It was fascinating watching all the typical cat behaviors emerge. And then the “killing” started. Socks, happy meal toys, etc. I step on them when I get out of bed in the morning, and I resolve anew never to let her outside.

  81. ChasCPeterson says

    oh, hello, I’m sorry, I think I will just skip this entire comment thread before exploding in anger at all of the stoopid. Good day to all.

  82. nms says

    you’re a high priest of the Spirit of Jokes That Are Lame at the First Attempt and Don’t Get Better With Repetiton, right?

    Weak. I’ll tell you what, you learn how to respond to an argument without simply rephrasing your absurd anthropomorphic projections, and I’ll starting replying to you seriously.

    I hope you’ll also call me liberal tree-hugger at some point.

    First, you’d have to convince me that you were either of those things. Can I call you an armchair psycho-biologist instead?

    I know, it’s hard for you hard to tell them apart, both begin with an N and have more than 4 letters…

    Oh shit, I’m being lectured on vocab by someone who can’t spell.

  83. says

    I have a very simple reason for never having an outdoor cat that has nothing to do with wildlife: cars. Outdoor cats live much shorter lives than indoor cats mostly because sooner or later a lot of them get hit by cars. It’s not a good way to go.

    The wildlife destruction concerns me but when I hear people say they let their cats outside because they love them I think they are lying or deluded because they are sentencing their cat to an early death by squashing.

  84. Sastra says

    My understanding is that brains grow and change in relation to their environment. The brain of a kitten born and bred inside a house is going to adapt its instincts to fit what it can do. “Natural” does not equal moral or “right.” It’s all natural, technically.

    I don’t love my cat; I like her. She stays indoors and is a lot more sedentary than she needs to be.

    I’ve always kept my cats indoors. I also have them declawed, at the same time I have them neutered. From what I can tell, what cats want is to be able to do what they want without being yelled at and chased down. They usually get this. They’ve got the run of the house to do it in. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, then. I’m not rationalizing: I’m being rational.

    Within those parameters, I have but one behavior requirement: use the litter box unless you’re sick or have some other damn good reason. Everything else is negotiable.

  85. says

    Oh oh! Can I share my story of my indoor cat who one day got outside?

    A little background: I rent an apartmnt that is the upper two floors of a historic brownstone. The previous tenants cut (roughly) 3″ x 3″ holes in a couple of the window screens so they could pitch their cigarette butts outside from the top floor (I know, I’m a former smoker and I find that to be gross as shit). My landlord has never bothered to fix this problem, but my husband and I used duct tape as a temporary* stop gap, mostly to keep bugs out.

    Anyway, one day this summer, the duct tape covering the hole in the bathroom window let loose without anyone noticing. No one but Pickles at any rate, who has only been outside in a kitty carrier, but is simply fascinated by the pigeons who roost on the building next door. We realized there was a problem when she didn’t come down for breakfast and she wasn’t in any of her usual hidey-holes. Apparently, she had stretched out the hole in the screen and dropped three stories.

    We spent hours looking for her around the neighborhood in the pouring rain, but couldn’t find her or anyone that had seen her (and we probably looked hella weird walking down the street calling “Pickles! Pickles!”). When it started getting dark, Mr Darkheart took one last look around our building with a flashlight– there she was, under my downstairs neighbor’s porch, filthy, shivering, and bone dry (meaning that she had been hiding all day, since it had started raining that morning). The only injury she had was a scratch to the back of one of her legs and, wow, I’ve never seen a cat happier to be home.

    The moral of this story: There’s no damned reason to let Pickles (or any other cat) outside where they can get lost or squashed or hurt.

    Of course, I’m probably and all around terrible pet owner ‘cos I don’t let my turtle outside to sun herself, either. Oh the humanity– having a clean tank, plenty of “gourmet” turtle food and fresh fruit, and cats to chase on a nightly basis must be torture.

    *If you can call 4 years “temporary”.

  86. erikthebassist says

    This idea that it’s cruel to keep in door cats is a joke. I had two cats that were both born feral. Anyone who has owned cats can tell you that it’s very easy to tell when they’re distressed. Their behavior changes, they won’t eat, they’ll hide for hours or days at a time. Happy cats snuggle purr play and eat. This isn’t rocket science.

    Provide plenty of toys, high accessible places and actually play with them once in a while, you’ll have happy cats.

  87. viajera says

    Giana @ 82:

    I’ve seen multiple comments/studies regarding the high predation rate and impact of cats, but they never seem to include that the cats are in disturbed environments. Many of those environments have had the main predator(s) eliminated. Is it possible that the impact of cats isn’t that great since the predators of many of the prey species has been extirpated? Is it possible that cats are now filling that niche? Has anyone controlled for this?

    Ok, I’ll bite. Yes, apex predators (wolves, mountain lions) have mostly (but not entirely, especially in the West) been extirpated from suburban areas. But wolves and mountain lions don’t eat songbirds, mice, and squirrels. Mesopredators – coyotes, raccoons, opossums, etc. – are the native predators filling the same niche as housecats. Mesopredators tend to increase in absence of apex predators (see this Wikipedia summary of the Mesopredator release hypothesis). So birds and mice are *already* experiencing increased mortality from their native predators. Then come along millions of alien (no, not the green kind) cats making matters worse.

    So your argument is exactly backwards – loss of apex predators + cats increases predation pressure relative to cats + apex predators (that, by the way, also often eat cats).

  88. Paul W., OM says

    viajera,

    It’s unclear to me to what extent housecats fill the same niche as other predators… any given predator is likely to be better at catching some things, and worse at others.

    Housecats have certainly been disastrous in some places because of this—notably Australia (IIRC) and islands like Hawaii with no natural predators nearly as good as housecats at eating a lot of the local fauna that are small compared to a housecat. (IIRC housecats are peculiarly good at killing birds that nest low in trees, or in shrubs, making such species particularly vulnerable to housecats compared to their natural predators.)

    Then there’s the issue of a shortage of somewhat bigger predators that would eat housecats—e.g., coyotes. Most places don’t have enough coyotes or whatever to keep housecats in check.

    Housecats that aren’t feral also have a big advantage over wild predators—they can venture out to prey, then come home and be safe from being preyed upon themselves, most of the time. That may more or less apply to feral cats, too, in an artificial environment that gives them good hidey holes that likely predators won’t go into. (E.g., my dog won’t follow a cat into a sewer drain in a curb, or far into an open sewer pie, not that he actually would kill a cat.)

    Maybe we need more free-roaming cat-killing dogs… :-(

    In general this stuff is complicated and a mixed bag, and substituting one predator for another doesn’t usually work out well. (See Australia for several vivid examples where placental mammals and cane toads introduced by humans have fucked up the natural mostly-marsupial predator/prey relationships.)

  89. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Ok, I’ll bite. Yes, apex predators (wolves, mountain lions) have mostly (but not entirely, especially in the West) been extirpated from suburban areas. But wolves and mountain lions don’t eat songbirds, mice, and squirrels. Mesopredators – coyotes, raccoons, opossums, etc. – are the native predators filling the same niche as housecats. Mesopredators tend to increase in absence of apex predators (see this Wikipedia summary of the Mesopredator release hypothesis). So birds and mice are *already* experiencing increased mortality from their native predators. Then come along millions of alien (no, not the green kind) cats making matters worse.

    Cats also have a built in advantage over “wild” predators. They have a built in source of food, shelter, healthcare etc..

  90. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    IIRC, there is an island species of wren that was discovered when a lighthouse keeper’s cat drove them to extinction in 5-10 years. They were identified when the lighthouse keeper decided to poke at the “presents” the cat was bringing home.

    Also, y’know, Hawai’ian birds.

  91. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    And hey! Kokapos. They have been reduced to 126 known individuals largely as a function of mustelid and cat predation.

  92. Paul W., OM says

    Rev BDC:

    Cats also have a built in advantage over “wild” predators. They have a built in source of food, shelter, healthcare etc..

    Yes, and that can have huge ramifications that are worth making explicit.

    Housecats do not obey the normal predator/prey population dynamics.

    If the prey population crashes, normally predators’ population crashes as well, so that a prey species isn’t usually totally wiped out. If the predator is very dependent on a given kind of prey, the predator density goes down with the prey density—some of the predators starve to death and some of the prey thus survive.

    Housecat population densities can be much higher, because people won’t let them starve. Pet cats are generally very well-fed, and even feral cats are often fed by well-meaning people who care more about cats than their prey, and many feral cats can get by anyway, by scavenging human garbage or stealing pet cats’ or dogs’ food.

    Cats are unconditional predators who seek and kill prey about equally often whether they’re hungry or not. There doesn’t appear to be much connection in the cat’s head, if any, between hunger and killing things. (Cats just kill things, period, and if they happen to be hungry, they then find that there’s food at their feet–what luck!)

    Ag studies have shown that contrary to thousands of years of folk wisdom, well-fed cats that are free to roam kill about as much prey as hungry ones who live by predation. (So if you want a cat to kill vermin in your barn, feed it well, in the barn, and it will stay around there and still kill anything small that moves. If you don’t feed it, it will roam more, and kill stuff mostly elsewhere instead, and eat some of it.)

    This makes housecats a special disaster for their prey species. Their populations might be able to cope with a similar predator that had to work for a living, but not one with high and inelastic population densities.

  93. viajera says

    It’s unclear to me to what extent housecats fill the same niche as other predators… any given predator is likely to be better at catching some things, and worse at others.

    You’re right, I should have said “similar” rather than same. My intention was to show that cats are on a trophic level more similar to that of mesopredators than apex predators, as the OP seemed to assume.

    And yes, cats definitely benefit from supplemental food and shelter – anyone who’s taken an Ecology class knows how providing a refuge from predators alters predator-prey cycles.

    It’s all so much more complicated than I indicated here – heck, I wrote an entire dissertation on this kind of stuff – but I was trying not to get too deep into the weeds here.

  94. ChasCPeterson says

    phew, sense is being made.
    In North America, the closest native predators to the cat niche are probably various weasels. Most of them are smaller than cats and employ very different hunting strategies and tactics. North American wildlife of cat-killable size have only had a couple hundred years of dealing with cats. It’s not fair.

  95. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    In a predatorial sense, cats in North America fit into the niche where possums and mustelids do. There is an important difference, though:

    Possums and mustelids are wild. While they may on occasion play with their food, they hunt to eat or to avoid being eaten (to paraphrase Kipling…).

    Cats are domesticated. A “wild” cat is not wild, it is feral. And while they may on occasion hunt to eat or to avoid being eaten, they (1) have hordes of well-meaning humans who feed them, and (2) hunt for pleasure.

    So a cat and possum of equivalent size have drastically different outputs, in terms of number of slaughtered prey.

  96. Paul W., OM says

    I understated my case here, oops:

    If the prey population crashes, normally predators’ population crashes as well, so that a prey species isn’t usually totally wiped out. If the predator is very dependent on a given kind of prey, the predator density goes down with the prey density—some of the predators starve to death and some of the prey thus survive.

    I was too specific here. The same basic thing typically happens in the wild, whether or not the prey species in question is one that the predator population primarily depends on. If the predators grow very numerous, all their prey species populations will diminish, and some of the predators will starve, and that will usually shield all those prey species from utter destruction by that predator.

    I think there’s usually an extra cushion at low densities, in that as the predator and prey species populations all thin out, individual predators have to go further and further (in some sense) to find prey; even if there’s the same ratio of predators to prey, the predator population is limited a bit more strongly than it manages to limit the prey population, so you get a soft landing well short of utter destruction of the prey populations.

    (Maybe an actual biologist can tell me if that’s right. Any biologists around here?)

  97. comfychair says

    Cats most definitely do not have ‘owners’, they are like the polar opposite of simpering, suck-up, authoritarian-follower dogs, which is why cats are awesome. Cats believe in no higher power than themselves.

  98. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    IIRC, there is some evidence to the effect that cats were not domesticated like dogs (or horses, or cows, or pigs, or…) were, but domesticated themselves. Or domesticated humans. Or something that is more symbiotic than anything else.

  99. says

    Cats most definitely do not have ‘owners’, they are like the polar opposite of simpering, suck-up, authoritarian-follower dogs, which is why cats are awesome. Cats believe in no higher power than themselves.

    As the old saying goes –

    Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

  100. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

    I would comment on this, but my feline owner forbids it. I exist to serve her, after all.

  101. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I can see no justification for the claims that Ysanne is being unduly anthropomorphic. Whether she’s right in the specific argument about indoor cats I don’t know, but methods of discovering non-human animals’ preferences, and how strong they are, certainly exist, notably in the work of Marian Stamp Dawkins over the last several decades.

  102. ButchKitties says

    So if you want a cat to kill vermin in your barn, feed it well, in the barn, and it will stay around there and still kill anything small that moves. If you don’t feed it, it will roam more, and kill stuff mostly elsewhere instead, and eat some of it.

    In my experience, this works almost too well. Not only do your own cats stick around more, your neighbors’ barn cats decide to switch employers. Between that and people mistaking your barn for the local Humane Society drop-off, you can easily end up with 30+ cats.

  103. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    Not only that, ButchKitties, but if you’ve been lax (or the people dropping off cats have been lax) about spaying and neutering, you can find yourself with 30+ cats very quickly.

  104. jnorris says

    2,912,000,000 kills a year and rats, snakes, mice, pigeons, squirrels, and other such critters are NOT on the endangered species lists.

  105. ButchKitties says

    Very true. Apparently one of the strongest triggers for deciding to drop off your cat at a stranger’s barn in the middle of the night is realizing she’s about to have kittens. (Boxes of newborn kittens are also common, but they don’t become barn cats. They get adopted out.) Adult drop-offs are captured and quarantined until spay/neuter/FIV status can be confirmed.

  106. Ichthyic says

    I can see no justification for the claims that Ysanne is being unduly anthropomorphic.

    then you’re blind.

    Whether she’s right in the specific argument about indoor cats I don’t know

    that’s the very point though, ain’t it.

    You raise the very issue she avoids by bring up Dawkins’ work.

    Dawkins work, which can be judged on its own merits, is at least an attempt at objectively identifying what the needs of an animal are, not just assuming because you think you project your feelings of the importance of freedom onto animals, that it must then be so required as one of their “needs”.

    IOW, you’re either blind, or a hypocrite, to not see that this is EXACTLY the position she was taking.

  107. Ichthyic says

    (Maybe an actual biologist can tell me if that’s right. Any biologists around here?)

    My grad studies were in zoology/behavioral ecology, but Viajera above you mentions she did her thesis on predatory prey relationships.

    Looks about right to me, in general, but then a lot of this is dependent on local variables; adaptability of predators for other prey species (or even plants in the case of omnivores), availability and type of cover, etc.

    it’s a decent place to start, though.

  108. Giana says

    Yay! Thank you all for responding, especially Viajera. I guess I didn’t give it sufficient thought, and was definitely not thinking of Hawaii or Australia (or Guam, for that matter)– I was thinking more along the lines of intensely urban areas in the US, where there aren’t often a lot of mesopredators at all.

  109. katansi says

    @Ysanne – So the basis for your argument is that YOUR anecdotal evidence is objective and therefore but anyone else’s to the contrary about indoor cat behavior is subjective and therefore disqualified. My roommate has two indoor cats. They never try to go outside. If we apply your guideline that subjective = objective, this means that it’s not instinctual to all cats. If we make you supreme determiner of what is objective then I guess I’m still wrong and so is everyone else that provided the same quality evidence as your own to counter your statements.

  110. Nepenthe says

    @jnorris

    18 of the 38 North American mammal species that the ICUN lists as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable are rodents or lagomorphs. Just an FYI.

  111. Mak says

    Would you justify keeping a tiger in a small pen just because you really like tigers but obviously they can’t be let out? A horse in a suburban back yard? A single rat in a tiny cage or a goldfish in small bowl? If in these cases your consideration of the respective animal’s needs would win out against your desire own it, why suddenly go all selfish when it comes to cats in apartments?

    How are these in any way comparable to keeping a cat in a house with hundreds of square footage — in the horizontal axis alone, let alone the vertical — with plenty of opportunity for stimulation, especially if you add in things like toys, shelving, etc.? Surely you don’t think people who keep indoor cats are all keeping them in the closet, which would be a lot closer to your analogy.

    I understand hyperbole, but this is like trying to argue that nudity is harmful because no one would let their children run around naked in a public park. There’s no evidence that keeping a cat in a house is in any way comparable to severely confining an animal to a relatively “tiny” space where other factors start coming in, like sanitation, physiological breakdown, and poor oxygen supply.

    Try what happens if you don’t take meticulous care to keep your housecat locked inside. While unfortunately this experiment is unwittingly carried out on a daily basis in completely unsuitable settings, I think the results speak for themselves.

    Let’s do that, then. I was the owner of a cat who was allowed from an early age (against my wishes, but oh well) to go outside whenever he wanted for a number of years, but later on became an inside cat when I moved to a neighborhood with busy roadways. He was one of your aforementioned “open the window to get out” type of cats who I did have to take “meticulous care” to keep inside.

    Until he was neutered.

    After that, he had very little interest in going outside, even when all that separated him from outside was a flimsy piece of decaying screen. Sadly, he contracted FIV from one of his earlier excursions and died an early death.

    I now have two female cats who have no interest whatsoever in going outside, even if we open a door in front of them without dancing the Door Kitty Shuffle.

    If these results speak for themselves, I’m not sure they agree with your conlusions.

    As an aside, when I leave a bath towel on the floor, one of my cats pisses on it, even when there’s a perfectly nice, clean litterbox available to pee in*. What does this behavior say about any potential neglect I may be suffering my cat by meticulously picking up all my towels and putting them on the rack instead of leaving them around for her to freely piddle on? It’s hard to argue that keeping a cat indoors is inherently harmful in a way that doesn’t also include discouraging them from pissing on your baseboards and in your clothes. Unless you think that’s a good reason not to keep a cat, too, in which case, I can hardly take this seriously anymore, because that means we’re talking less about “basic needs” and more about “letting the cat do whatever the fuck it wants to do”, which is a privilege not even wild/feral cats are privy to.

    *(It isn’t a UTI, in case anyone’s worried about that.)

  112. rubymoon says

    Ichthyic @17

    Keep in mind that some researches think that cats don’t bring back kills as trophies or presents, they do it to help teach YOU to hunt, because they think you can’t.

    So, if bread/toast is something they know you like to eat…

  113. chigau (悲しい) says

    katansi #122
    Yes. That was my problem with Ysanne’s posts.
    I think that my personal, anecdotal accounts are every bit as objective™ as Ysanne’s.

  114. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    There were bunnies in this comment thread, weren’t there? I need bunnies round about now. Sigh.

  115. vltava says

    It’s nice to see Chris repost the comic I sent! I own one mostly-indoor cat. (Sometimes she begs to be let out, and she sits on the porch. She does not hunt or roam.) I had been thinking about this issue since the recent media discussion of the study, and Chris’ post about it, and somehow, after reading the comic, I was no longer on the fence, even though it only presented facts humorously and didn’t explicitly argue about whether one should have outdoor cats.

    The “natural urges” argument is ridiculous. My cat has a natural urge to destroy the couch. Am I torturing her by only allowing claw-sharpening on her scratching post? Get a grip.

    The instinct to play with something is the seed that wild cats need in order to learn how to fend for themselves. Their mother teaches them to use it for hunting, and also that prey can be eaten, and how to “open” prey to get the tasty meat. (Not intuitively obvious to cats, did you know? Even those who have developed a concept of hunting, they do not automatically realize that the activity of hunting is related to the activity of eating.) Source – Becoming a Tiger, by Susan McCarthy.

    Your cat doesn’t need to hunt to eat. If it cannot rely on you feeding it, and it needs to rely on prey for food, then you do not own a cat. There is a feral cat who you sometimes entertain as a guest.

  116. Ichthyic says

    If someone want’s to see another form of Ysanne’s argument, you can see Jerry Coyne making what amounts to the same argument coincidentally, today on his blog (yes, it’s a blog, regardless of what Jerry plays at calling it):

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/weit-available-in-the-uk-via-kindle/

    His department head (and others in the dept.) criticized him for this call, and I can understand why they did, regardless of the arguments for or against his position.

    I’ve already said what I have to say on this, and I don’t agree with the reasoning behind Jerry’s position on this, regardless of whether sentimentally I would agree with there being no essential reason for aquariums to have belugas at this point in time. However, I figured if someone wants to hear another opinion, Jerry’s your man. Seems only fair.

  117. Ichthyic says

    Keep in mind that some researches think that cats don’t bring back kills as trophies or presents, they do it to help teach YOU to hunt, because they think you can’t.

    That’s plausible, but I clicked through there and couldn’t confirm that with any peer reviewed study.

    If you find one let me know, but a lot of times things like this get reported, and they end up either being made up whole hog and then spread as if they were based on research, or they are slightly twisted versions of something someone somewhere actually did publish.

    the media is bloody notorious for this; always look to see if there is an actual peer reviewed study that is linked to, at the very least, and if not… take it with a BIG grain of salt.

  118. says

    I got some kind of barn cat cub from a friend’s father five years ago. Originally, the reason for this was, next to have it neutered (something my friends father notoriously didn’t do), to hunt the mice in my garden. I had some real problem with mice at this time.
    So I raised him as a roamer.

    But since a year, I’m thinking more and more about keeping it indoors. One reason for this is, that he also hunts grass snakes, which are an endangered species and I am less than happy about this (before I had him, I didn’t even know, that we have grass snakes in our garden).

    I already keep him inside since two weeks, as he is ill again. So it would be a good time now to continue this.

  119. Esteleth, Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo says

    It is strange.

    When I was a kid, my family always had cats, and I have a cat now. In my lifetime, there have thus been a total of four cats:

    1) Beilie. Female. Adopted as a kitten from the owner of her mother. Spayed. Died of leukemia at 10. Indoor/outdoor, scrupulously neat. Hunted and brought home presents occasionally.
    2) Glyn. Male. Adopted as an adult from a shelter, had been a stray. Neutered. Indoor-only, but an inveterate escape artist. Vanished at 8 1/2. Pissed on the floor constantly. Did not hunt that we knew.
    3) Dadester. Male. Adopted as a kitten from the shelter he appeared in a cardboard box at. Neutered. Initially did not understand the concept of a litterbox, then became scrupulously neat. Indoor only, seemingly afraid of doors. Never goes out. Hunts dust bunnies like it is going out of style. Still living at 11.
    4) Morgan. Female. Adopted as an adult from a shelter, had been a stray. Spayed. Indoor-only, goes outside only on a leash. Has sat staring at an open door to the outside for several minutes, then wandered away (inside), uninterested. Scrupulously neat. Hunts catnip mice, presents them as gifts. Still living at 4.

    I am not seeing a pattern here. Like, at all.

    Some cats like to go out, some honestly could give a shit.

  120. viajera says

    @Paul @., OM:

    (Maybe an actual biologist can tell me if that’s right. Any biologists around here?)

    *Raises hand* Dr. Viajera, reporting for duty…

    Yes, you’re on the right track. You’ve given a good summary of a textbook predator-prey relationship, as described in Ecology using Lotka-Volterra equations. This is all simplified, of course, as Lotka-Volterra makes a lot of assumptions that are not ecologically realistic. For example, it assumes top-down control of prey (no bottom-up – i.e., food – limitation), assumes specialized predators (i.e., the predators won’t switch to other prey sources when the modeled prey population declines). But within the constraints of these assumptions, you’ve provided a good description here.

  121. viajera says

    Giana @121:

    I was thinking more along the lines of intensely urban areas in the US, where there aren’t often a lot of mesopredators at all.

    Actually, you’d probably be surprised just how many apex and meso-predators there are, even in dense urban areas. Coyotes have shown up in downtown New York, and mountain lions in downtown a href=”http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/14/local/la-me-griffith-park-mountain-lion-20120814″>Los Angeles. Raccoons, opossums, bobcats, weasels, and etc. are even more common in suburban and urban areas. But they’re mostly nocturnal and hide from people, so we rarely even know they’re there – until your cat or the koi in your backyard pond disappear.

  122. Mak says

    With one of my cats, it’s the bathmat. She doesn’t piss on anything else, just the damned mat.

    Aaagh, the fucking bathmats! That’s actually exactly the reason why I use towels for bathmats, but it seems to have the same results, if I leave ‘em out. At least they’re easier to clean/replace.

  123. Ysanne says

    Ichthyic,
    did you maybe happen overlook #76 before complaining about my perceived lack of an approach to objectively determining an animal’s needs in #119?

    Btw, what exactly is your problem with Jerry Coyne’s piece? The arguments appealing to emotions as opposed to observable effects (eg. the human-alien analogy instead of pointing out behavioural abnormalities) or the general claim that keeping Belugas in small pools is cruel?

    katansi,
    if cats’ tendency to hunt when they’re given the chance were just anecdotal, we wouldn’t need to have the whole discussion about keeping cats inside in the first place, because they’d just stay inside all by themselves anyway and there’d be no threat to local wildlife. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

  124. Mak says

    if cats’ tendency to hunt when they’re given the chance were just anecdotal, we wouldn’t need to have the whole discussion about keeping cats inside in the first place, because they’d just stay inside all by themselves anyway and there’d be no threat to local wildlife. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

    But many cats do stay inside all by themselves.

    Cats also have a tendency to pee on piles of terrycloth if given the chance. What does this say about the potential cruelty of keeping towels put up where cats can’t pee on them?

  125. Sarah says

    Ysanne, cats are domesticated animals. All domesticated animals have drastically changed and/or limited their “natural” instincts or activities in order to live with humans. Comparing domesticate and wild animal needs are apples and oranges precisely because domesticated animals actually require interaction with humans to survive. We have changed their genetics and behaviors in ever single case. So now which of these behaviors is “natural” then: sleeping in bed with humans and dogs; using a designated scratching post; eating processed cat food; drinking water from my water glass; using a litterbox. I could go on. I could also make a similar list for our domestic dogs and horses.

    Domesticated animals have far more flexibility in their behavioral range than wild animals do for a very good reason. We’ve bred them that way.

    I’ll happily argue that if you’re going to have a pet you need to provide it with a good environment. Toys, food, companionship. But arguing that since my cat’s wild ancestors lived outdoors and killed small rodents I should force him to go outside and do so (he was a rescue and has never had an interest since) is just silly.

    As domestic animals and pets we clearly have a responsibility to be aware of their impact on the environment for the many good reasons provided in this thread. I didn’t let my dog kill deer however much he wanted to, I don’t let my breed anytime she’s in heat, there’s no reason for my cats to kill outdoor animals*

    *They’d be welcome to the indoor pests, but as far as the cats are concerned those are just self-motivated toys that sometimes stop. They have never intentionally killed or eaten any. I wish they would.

  126. madscientist says

    Cats kill too much? Hah! They don’t compare to humans. Humans kill too much. Birds kill way too many insects and worms – and so on and so forth. I vote for the Ultimate Solution: kill ‘em all and there won’t be no more killing. Quick, while we still have enough nukes in the global stockpile to get the job done.

  127. Sarah says

    *sigh* the speed typing demon caught me again. Should have read: “I don’t let my horse breed anytime she’s in head”

  128. logicalcat says

    Cat should be outside because once upon a time cats were only outside: QED.

    “That’s logic”.-Tweedledee.

  129. katansi says

    @Ysanne. You haven’t provided non-anecdotal evidence. You’ve just been saying that what you think is Cat Fact. And people have asked. Maybe I missed somewhere in there where you provided peer-reviewed study of the domesticated house cat lifetime indoor behavior.