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August 7, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

The Kitty Cam Project: Sponsored by the University of Georgia and National Georgraphic, The Kitty Cam Project is not what you might think. For one year, researchers followed the activities of owned, free-roaming cats in Athens, GA by equipping them with cameras. They found that cats do more killing than previously thought.
posted by dortmunder (184 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Arson, too.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


We have three outdoor cats.

My SO refers to our yard as "The killing field".
posted by freakazoid at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Let me say, real quick, that the videos on the Kitty Cam site require Quicktime.
posted by dortmunder at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2012


Apparently the optimum diet for an adult cat is two mice a day; the fact that they kill only two animals a week on average could be seen as a laudable example of civilised restraint.
posted by acb at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2012


I like that the cat in the second link sort of looks like the kind of Frat Boy you find roaming around downtown Athens at a certain hour of the evening...or during the afternoon if there's a game.
posted by Kitteh at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2012


Cats aren't just a danger to others, they're also a danger to themselves. The cats in the study were seen engaging in such risky behavior as crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces where they could become trapped (20%).

Yup. Just like a Frat Boy. :)
posted by Kitteh at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had to take my birdfeeders down when some new people moved in next door because their two cats were killing all the birds. And if course, they refused to keep them indoors. Super fucking annoying especially since I got a lot of fairly rare/ unusual songbirds during migration season.
posted by fshgrl at 1:03 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd have invested in a pellet gun and plugged them on sight. The cats.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:06 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The cats brought home just under a quarter of what they killed, ate 30% and left 49% to rot where they died.

There's some interesting audio from the study's cameras, too.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:09 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, in contrast to what scientists had originally believed, cats do way more prevention of human sexual intercourse through strategic application of razor sharp claws to tender flesh goddamn it.

Ah, science!
posted by R. Schlock at 1:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Fools! There are some things man was not meant to know!
posted by brundlefly at 1:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


left 49% to rot where they died

As opposed to giving them Christian burial?
posted by Egg Shen at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2012 [40 favorites]


eating and drinking things they found (25%)

So the cats are playing nethack then?
posted by Chekhovian at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


As opposed to giving them Christian burial?

Meaning that they are savage remorseless killing machines and not just, you know, hungry.
posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


The cats in the study were seen engaging in such risky behavior as crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces where they could become trapped (20%).

Something about this sentence irritates me.
posted by mwhybark at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I used to call it a bird feeder. Turned out it was a cat-feeder that I stocked with sunflower seeds. It seemed unfair, so I stopped buying sunflower seeds. Had to make a choice.

A lady who used to live down the street was a cat-hoarder. When she went away they bulldozed her house. About 25 of her catmob came to live in my back yard. So I checked around the various orgs, and found a group called SNYPs (Spay, Neuter Your Pets), which subsidised the spaying of feral animals. I captured most of the catmob in my yard and had them adjusted. Since we live near a creek at the edge of town, I turned them loose to fend for themselves. Wild cats don't live very long, you see, because, well because--you know, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, cars, guys with pellet guns, and stuff. Anyhow, we no longer have a feral cat population in the neighborhod, and six of the rescue cats have chosen to live with us. We feed them, and a couple of them actually still hunt.

I liked them little birdies, but I made an adjustment to the situation, made a choice, as it were. I guess I could have just killed them off, or trapped them and sent them to the "HUMANE" society and let them do it for me. That was too much gratuitous killing for me to deal with. By the way, a ripple effect was that we chose between furniture and cats. Ah well, a couch is just a goddam couch, and my little kitty likes to climb up on my head while I'm asleep, and purr.
posted by mule98J at 1:17 PM on August 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think they may be suppressing the real results. (SLYT)
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd have invested in a pellet gun and plugged them on sight. The cats.

The cats don't know any better. You do.
posted by malocchio at 1:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [57 favorites]


My number one complaint against cats: native songbirds around me are endangered, but asking people to keep cats inside is somehow a horrible thing. I think I may become a little more vocal in my neighborhood on this topic.
posted by Seamus at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


Just 2 weeks ago my daughter and I watched my father's cat come trouncing up with a still live baby bunny in its jaws. The cat found a comfy spot right in front of us and proceeded to gnaw on the bunnies head while it squeaked. The squeaking soon stopped and the cat gnawed its skull open and ate the guts from the brain down until the stomach. The cat sniffed the stomach a little bit and decided it was groady. So it moved on to the haunches. After finishing the better part of one leg, apparently the cat had its fill, because it moved the carcass to a spot 3 feet away, then found a sunny spot with a clear view of the rabbit and took a snooze.
posted by ian1977 at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


60 cats, over 9 months time, killed 5 birds? I'm no fan of letting cats roam outdoors, but this doesn't seem like a lot.
posted by orme at 1:22 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


You got it, Seamus. Cats should no more be allowed to roam at will in an urban or suburban environment than dogs. I love 'em but they're warm kudzu.
posted by Justinian at 1:22 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have lived in Athens (and know some of the people involved in this study). Which of these do you think is more of a threat to the wildlife of Clarke County, GA: A) house cats or B) the construction of strip malls, roads, and housing developments sufficient to support more than 30,000 college studentsand 50,000 town residents, not to mention 100,000 football fans for 7 weekends each fall? My guess is that declines in songbird populations have a lot more to do with the vast global decimation of their habitat than house cats.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2012 [56 favorites]


Linking is a huge pain on my phone, but the ethical issues remind me of today's article in the Times about street dogs in India.
posted by Forktine at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2012


As much as I'd like to agree completely with hydropsyche, domestic cats do take a terrible toll on wild birdlife. See this Audubon page. I'm not a fan of keeping cats indoors 24 X 7 - something about it reminds me of helicopter parenting - but there are some alternatives that allow the cat some outdoor time while keeping the kill count to 0 (leashes/harnesses, runs, etc.)

The crazy number of free-roaming domestic cats in the U.S. AND the overdevelopment can be traced back to a single root cause: people and their preferences.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


My SO refers to our yard as "The killing field".

When our cats are prowling the back yard we sometimes hear baby rabbit trauma at night. We call it The Silence of the Bunnies.
posted by The Deej at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


60 cats, over 9 months time, killed 5 birds?......this doesn't seem like a lot

There are 74 million cats in the US, and some quick math on that rate extrapolates to over 8 million dead birds per year. Seems like a lot to me.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


8 million dead birds per year. Seems like a lot to me

There are 320 million robins alone.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:45 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'd have invested in a pellet gun and plugged them on sight. The cats.

The cats don't know any better. You do.
posted by malocchio at 1:20 PM on August 7

Neither do the birds. Why is shooting BB's at the cats worse than having birds in your yard slaughtered?
posted by TungstenChef at 1:50 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The climbing and peeping video from the kittycam site is at first amusing and then gets really creepy.
posted by PapaLobo at 1:51 PM on August 7, 2012


The cats in the study were seen engaging in such risky behavior as crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces where they could become trapped (20%).

Something about this sentence irritates me.
posted by mwhybark


Me too. I thought it was because those things they identify as threats to the cat's lives, I'd have guessed the cats would identify as the reasons to live.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


But Robins (really? Turdus migratorius? I thought that was my brother!) aren't endangered.
But my neighborhood is right next to one of the main nesting areas of the Golden Cheeked Warbler and suggesting that they might be helped by house pets being treated like house pets and being kept indoors is greeted with cries of animal abuse.

So, I get to keep see declining populations of endangered species and increasing amounts of cat crap in my garden. yay.
posted by Seamus at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Why is shooting BB's at the cats worse than having birds in your yard slaughtered?

Because the cats are somebody's pets, and the birds aren't.

I'm not a pet owner. It is not okay for pet owners to allow their pets to roam and/or kill in other people's yards. If you want pets in your yard that's awesome, but I choose not to own pets because I don't want any in mine, so keep yours fenced. Moreover, animals behave in unpredictable ways so if you (honestly and reasonably) feel endangered by someone else's pet that has wandered into your yard, I'll probably defend whatever action you feel is necessary to make yourself feel safe.

But plinking your neighbor's cat for raiding your bird feeder isn't an acceptable solution.
posted by cribcage at 2:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Because the cats are somebody's pets, and the birds aren't.

What do you think the proper and effective response to someone refusing to keep their cats in their own home and/or yard is? Assuming, as is typical, a lot of people refuse polite requests.

Note: I am not implying shooting the cats is the right move. I'm just wondering what you think the right move is. It should be effective as well as morally correct.

Trapping them and taking them to the pound? What?
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to call it a bird feeder. Turned out it was a cat-feeder that I stocked with sunflower seeds.

Our neighbor had one. Did double duty as a rat feeder on account of the birds being such sloppy eaters.
posted by BWA at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


But my neighborhood is right next to one of the main nesting areas of the Golden Cheeked Warbler and suggesting that they might be helped by house pets being treated like house pets and being kept indoors is greeted with cries of animal abuse.

Cats are not the real issue. From your link:


The warbler is endangered as many juniper and oak woodlands have been cleared to build houses, roads, and stores or to grow crops or grass for livestock. Other woodlands were flooded when large lakes were constructed.

If there's no habitat, there are no birds. It doesn't matter if cats catch a few if acres of habitat are destroyed. I am not saying outdoor cats can't be a problem- we have a motion activated sprinkler in my yard. Humans are by far the greatest threat to wildlife, and we know it, and continue to sprawl all over the landscape.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:11 PM on August 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


GET THA HELL OFFA MAH PROPERTY!
posted by symbioid at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2012


Yesterday, during my long ride, I saw two rabbits, an opossum, and several birds (mostly pigeons) that had been crushed by cars. This morning on the way to work, two more pigeons. Cats may be a problem, but they're not the only problem.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Previously.

Also previously, but no cameras.
posted by Evilspork at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2012


We live out in the boonies, where there are agricultural fields to east, west and south of us. rodents live in those fields. In the fall and winter, they like to migrate to warmer places. Our house is a warmer place. Occasionally they try to wander in during spring and summer as well.

Which is a long way of saying that our three cats are pets but they are also working cats. Between the three of them they do a fair amount of killing. And as a result our house is generally rodent free. Which is how we like it.
posted by jscalzi at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


So . . . we can't deal with more than one issue at a time?
Yes habitat is an issue. But I live near protected habitat and nothing is done to deal with the greatest threat within THAT habitat.
I know people want their cats to have the best possible life, but does it HAVE to come at the expense of endangered species?
posted by Seamus at 2:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where can I get one of these cameras for my assholes cats?
posted by jeather at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


And as a result our house is generally rodent free.

...except for the cats, right?
posted by goethean at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cats are rodents?
posted by jscalzi at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


What percentage of these cats got wedged into scanners?
posted by nightwood at 2:25 PM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


we sometimes hear baby rabbit trauma at night. We call it The Silence of the Bunnies

Alternate name suggestion: The Silencing of the Bunnies.

Ironically, bunnies are also a serious threat to birds in some places.

Speaking as someone who loves cats, birds, dogs, and bunnies, among other animals, I don't understand why it is okay for people to let their cats (or dogs) roam. It isn't safe for the roaming pets themselves, and obviously not a good addition to the other environmental stresses on amphibians, birds and insects.
posted by bearwife at 2:26 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seamus, could you suggest they put bells on the cats?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:28 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, bearwife, that's the weird thing. I can accept a certain amount of apathy as regards easy environmental choices. For instance, I still rely too much on paper towels and even paper plates. It's a problem, but the convenience is making an asshole of me, for now.

However, when it came time to decide if my cat would be indoor or outdoor, the choice seems easy. Pros: save the birds and other wildlife, fewer injuries and vet bills, cat lives longer on average. Cons: ???
posted by gilrain at 2:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


Cons: ???

Cats shitting and pissing on the interior contents of your house, basically.
posted by cortex at 2:36 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the linked site's "Climbing and Peeping" video, anybody know the ticking noise at the end is?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:41 PM on August 7, 2012


From the video of "Fighting off a porcupine", it looks like at least one of the cats went out with a night vision camera? Or a chinlight?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:43 PM on August 7, 2012


Go Dawgs!
posted by robstercraw at 2:44 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cats shitting and pissing on the interior contents of your house, basically.

My family has collectively raised/adopted around ten cats. Zero of those cats did that except when very sick, which was rare. If the cats are doing that, the litter may not be changed often enough or there may be other problems. I have heard of jerk male cats spraying when pissed off, but that's about it.

Just 2 weeks ago my daughter and I watched my father's cat come trouncing up with a still live baby bunny in its jaws. The cat found a comfy spot right in front of us and proceeded to gnaw on the bunnies head while it squeaked. The squeaking soon stopped and the cat gnawed its skull open and ate the guts from the brain down until the stomach.

What the hell. You just watched that? No baby bunny rescue? Too much exposure to wild life documentaries?
posted by Atreides at 2:45 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


cortex: "Cats shitting and pissing on the interior contents of your house, basically."

Yup. We moved our cats indoors a few years ago and one of them can't go more than a week without pissing on the couch. I suppose things may be different with cats that are raised indoors from the beginning.
posted by brundlefly at 2:46 PM on August 7, 2012


Atreides, even though you've had good luck with your cats, there are definitely cats who shit and piss in unwanted places, even with very responsible owners who change the litter box often, have extra boxes, clean everything scrupulously, vet their cats appropriately, etc. A lot of those steps help but they don't always stop the behavior.

But I actually think the main reason people let their cats out is not the elimination issue, but the idea that indoor-only cats will be too bored.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:50 PM on August 7, 2012


Atreides: No baby bunny rescue? Too much exposure to wild life documentaries?

The Untold Danger of Video Games the BBC "Planet" Series
posted by gilrain at 2:52 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


We installed a door for our cat after he started destroying our furniture. He would climb up our almost-floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and made various obscure kitty games out of prying things loose and knocking them to the ground, where he would fight them across the room and back. He taught himself to play chess, but kitty chess mostly involves pouncing on the board, picking off one of the pieces, then batting it back and forth across the floor until it disappears under the piano. Enough sleepless nights and we could take it no longer; poor cat was bored out of his tiny little skull with nothing but our apartment to play in, and so we let him out.

Uneventful months went by, then we found him mewing triumphantly in the living room as he kick-boxed a tiny and apparently dead little bird around. We installed an array of bells on his harness and have had no recurrences. It's easy for us to tell when he's hunting around our place - you may never see him but it's easy to track his progress by the tinkling bells. Perhaps he's just stopped bringing the dead birds home, but it's hard to imagine how he'd manage to catch any but a very deaf bird.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:53 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Zero of those cats did that except when very sick, which was rare.

Which is legitimately awesome for you, but is not a universal thing. Cats are weird and crazy little things and impossible to have meaningful conversations with about their problematic behavior.

I will assure you that if there is a thing a person can in theory do to prevent random cat pissing/shitting oddness, we have tried it. Our otherwise lovable little dorks just aren't buying it, so the best we've managed is a series of compromises where e.g. we don't get to have our nice rug on the floor ever again and they e.g. mooostly don't piss on the floor of the living room or shit outside the litter boxes for no reason except for when we ever go on a trip or there are fireworks or they are just in the mood to do so anyway which, who fuckin' knows. We get along okay like this, but if we had a crystal ball they'd have been indoor/outdoor cats from day one.
posted by cortex at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Speaking as someone who loves cats, birds, dogs, and bunnies, among other animals, I don't understand why it is okay for people to let their cats (or dogs) roam.

Speaking as someone who loves animals and nature, I don't understand why animals can't live outdoors. Frankly, I find the idea of locking animals inside rather odd. Then again, I also had moral reservations about removing the reproductive organs of my cats; the resultant kittens did a pretty good job of getting me to reconsider.
posted by nTeleKy at 2:58 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most of my cats have been indoor only, but my rescue friend that lives with me now becomes extremely depressed if not allowed outdoor time - a lot of puking, weight gain, pooing in the bathtub, and switching between days of laying around doing nothing but heavy sighs and days of tweeker running around the apartment screaming for attention. You can see why, when it's safe to do so, I take her outside.

However, she's rather cautious now and doesn't wander far. I'm pretty sure she's not quick enough to grab a bird - she's never brought me a present in the four years I've had her.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meaning that they are savage remorseless killing machines and not just, you know, hungry.

Kitties and people have so much in common!
posted by zarah at 3:04 PM on August 7, 2012


Cats are rodents?

You are what you eat.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:07 PM on August 7, 2012


The indoor/outdoor issue with cats is an interesting one for me, because I grew up with farm cats. They'd come inside for attention and food, but above all, they were always working cats. They'd catch mice, they'd protect the chickens, they'd fend off anything smaller than they were. That was their primary purpose. A cat that stayed inside and didn't hunt wasn't really much of a cat.

We provide food and petting, they provide mice-free land; we're both honoring the ancient covenant of domesticity.

On the other hand though, it also makes some behaviors of cat owners seem slightly strange, even when I know it makes sense. "Why would you spend that much on surgery/other expensive pet thing? That's what happens to cats. Give them a good life and a clean death. Be sad when they pass, and then provide the next one with a good home." ((Because they are more connected than you are to them, that's why...))

It's like chickens, but more personal.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:07 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why is shooting BB's at the cats worse than having birds in your yard slaughtered?

Generally, we hold humans to a higher moral standard than we do animals. This can't be a revelation.
posted by malocchio at 3:11 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


malocchio

So we should start shooting the cat owners with BB's? (Might not be that bad an idea, come to think of it.)
posted by Hactar at 3:15 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It may turn out to be for the best to keep cats indoors, but the downside of this is that you are depriving these animals of a large percentage of their natural behavior, just as you would be if you kept a human indoors his whole life. Many cats learn to laze around and even fear the outdoors, but so would a human if raised in a house without ever leaving for decades. Nor is the fact that this is done to dogs -- who at least get walks -- a moral justification. It may turn out it is better to hurt the lives of cats rather than let them take the lives of birds, but that doesn't mean we should overlook the toll it takes on them. No one, after all, is volunteering to himself live in a box his whole life to avoid the harm of his own transportation and consumption on wildlife.
posted by chortly at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have outdoor cats and one of them is a hunter. He was bringing me birds every so often until the local Jays caught onto him. Now he cannot leave the house without an entourage of 1 or 2 squawking birds. I don't pretend to speak bird but I am pretty certain I could make a good approximation of their word for "cat."

The squirrels also have learned to chirp and whenever this cat is too close to their hill I get hours of a single high-pitched chirp every 45 seconds.

Smart prey equals useless and bored cat. He still brings me nice but his heart's just not in it.
posted by M Edward at 3:31 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


you are depriving these animals of a large percentage of their natural behavior, just as you would be if you kept a human indoors his whole life

I once raised a cat who spent her entire life indoors. I won't do that again.

The two cats I have now go outside during the day. I accept the risks to them in the interest of their having more fulfilling lives.

They've killed at least one bird that I know of. I was sad about that.

In theory, someone could have kept the bird safe indoors its whole life too. I'm sure it would have rejected the opportunity.
posted by Egg Shen at 3:38 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Our 3 current cats are now indoors only - largely because our street has become far busier over the 20+ years we've lived here. They don't seem bored between kitty toys, a good tower and a seemingly endless supply of bats (the joy of living in a 112 year old house) and a seasonal supply of mice and voles who foolishly look for warmer homes come fall. I still don't understand how they caught a bird indoors though!

I don't relish the joy of being brought a still flapping bat at 3 in the morning by a cat who is so proud of the present he's brought me. I can only imagine the carnage if they were still allowed outdoors though given the slaughter they manage as indoors beasties. Would be fascinating to have the main bat killer wear a camera since I've often wondered how a cat manages to take down repeated healthy bats -and I have the health department bills to prove they were very healthy bats.
posted by leslies at 3:44 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Humans are by far the greatest threat to wildlife, and we know it, and continue to sprawl all over the landscape.

Cats are a component of human sprawl, like water hungry lawns and impermeable driveways. To say they are not a problem is denial.

Having cats on a farm makes sense: you are attracting and breeding vermin and need to control them. But in suburban or "rural residential" areas, outdoor cats are just another human supported method of ecosystem destruction. We could live lighter on the land but we choose not to.
posted by fshgrl at 3:50 PM on August 7, 2012 [23 favorites]


chortly: the downside of this is that you are depriving these animals of a large percentage of their natural behavior

I would think this argument speaks against owning pets in general, rather than specifically against keeping cats indoors. In any case, every vet I've ever asked has recommended that cats be kept indoors.
posted by gilrain at 3:51 PM on August 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


So we should start shooting the cat owners with BB's? (Might not be that bad an idea, come to think of it.)

Surely we can find a way to resolve some problems without shooting things?

Or maybe the cat owner should just shoot the birds himself, and cut out the middleman... err...middlecat. Since we're super cool with shooting things and all.
posted by malocchio at 3:55 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I accept the risks to them in the interest of their having more fulfilling lives.

People are kind of fucked up about cats.
posted by maxwelton at 3:57 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


the downside of this is that you are depriving these animals of a large percentage of their natural behavior
I would think this argument speaks against owning pets in general, rather than specifically against keeping cats indoors.

It may. I don't think there are easy answers, particularly if you obtain pets via rescue. That animal presumably prefers to be kept as a pet than to be put down, but it didn't ask to be put in that situation, so the fact that it is better off as an indoor animal than dead doesn't absolve the owner of also making its life fulfilling. But if making its life fulfilling involves letting it possibly kill endangered birds and other animals, what is to be done? Forgoing pet ownership saves the lives of those birds at the expense of the life of the cat. Keeping the cat indoors may indeed be the best solution given the constraints, but my only point was that it's not a good one, and has its own significant ethical problems.
posted by chortly at 4:19 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


People are kind of fucked up about cats.

[adopts therapist tone] Can you say more about that?

I mean, in what I said, which was the fucked-up part? If it's obvious to you, it's not to me.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:19 PM on August 7, 2012


Some cats really don't mind living indoors. My guy was born out behind my apartment building and spent the first six months of his life on the street, hanging out with his brother, dodging cars and feral dogs, eating moths, sleeping under houses. There were these two humans who used to walk this dog through his turf, and sometimes he'd come out and follow them around a bit, kind of see if they wanted a friend or something, you know? Turns out they did, because next thing he knew he was trapped in a box, somebody cut his nuts off, and now he lives indoors and chases laser beams all day.

Nowadays, the extent of his interest in the outdoors is that he likes to sit on the windowsill sometimes and watch things happening out there. Mostly he just likes to chase the laser, sit on my head, get belly rubs, and spoon me when I'm sleeping. Sometimes he wrestles with the dog. He's put on a few pounds and generally seems to know that he's got a good thing going now. I get the impression that he's glad to be somewhere safe and doesn't really want to go back to his old life. He took to the litter box instantly, by the way -- never a mistake there, he knew just what to do.

My parents' cat on the other hand is constantly escaping to the point that they eventually gave up and let him be an indoor/outdoor cat despite their initial intention to keep him inside all the time. I think it really depends a lot on the cat, honestly. I'm certainly in favor of putting a bell on your cat if you let it go outside, and I understand that cats are a pretty bad invasive species in a lot of places (although a lot of that is ferals, not indoor/outdoor pet cats) but I'm not fully convinced that Cats Inside All The Time is the only way to go here. Cats are a lot more wild than, say, dogs. Some of them, anyway.
posted by Scientist at 4:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


The toxoplasmosis has you! Resist! Resist!
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


My favorite part from this Channel 11 News Report:
The cameras told stories. In the case of Archie, a striped tabby, it exposed a double life beyond Amy Watts' property line.

"Got a whole other family," Watts said. When she viewed the video, "They held open the door for him, and he walked in. He just hung out in the house."
....mostly because I suspect one of my cats of having a second family.
posted by julen at 4:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Are we telling what our cats do now? Our very aged one cries piteously to be let out, goes out, circles the house once, climbs onto a stool on the porch and sleeps the day away in the sun and fresh air, utterly ignoring the nearby crowd of invasive English sparrows. His younger housemate only wants to battle the black cat from across the street and has no time for lesser prey.

I will say, though that firing a weapon of any sort at someone's pets is not without risks. My father, long dead, and from an earlier time, would surely have fired back with a larger caliber.
posted by tyllwin at 4:48 PM on August 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


I used to call it a bird feeder. Turned out it was a cat-feeder that I stocked with sunflower seeds.

When I was living a bit more rural, I had a bird feeder. It was still a bird feeder, only one level removed. It was a hawk feeder.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Is there going to be a paper published from this, or is this just done as PR thing for public consumption to help encourage people to keep their cats indoors? Because I could see some really interesting technical research being done on this data. You could probably get a PhD out of it.
posted by Scientist at 5:06 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


They could have just asked me. The outdoor cats we call The Killing Machines. They kill constantly, just for fun.

We have some indoor, some outdoor cats. There is no overlap. I’ve never had outdoor cats before and I’ve had cats for 30 years. The only reason we do now is that we have a big place and the cats just show up and live there. They don’t roam onto anyone else’s property (that we know of), except the occasional one that we suspect is/was actually a neighbor’s cat. I have no more patience for people letting their cats roam than I do dogs. Call Animal Control.

I’ve never had a problem with a cat living indoors and frankly I think people make a lot of that up. We have one now that was possibly a feral cat that lived outside an we eventually brought in (it was either that or the shelter because he fought with the other outdoor cats constantly). He loves it and has very little desire to go out beyond looking out the window. The other indoor cats don’t even do that much.
posted by bongo_x at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe it is Kerrie Anne Lloyd's dissertation project. They presented it at the meeting of the Ecological Society of America yesterday in Portland, and most things presented at ESA get published at a later date.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2012


There are plenty of things you can do to make an indoor cat's life more fulfilling.
posted by biscotti at 5:27 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


A couple of links from the Antipodean perspective:

Stephens Island Wren
The Stephens Island Wren was long remembered in local mythos as the only known species to be entirely wiped out by a single living being: the local lighthouse keeper's cat, named Tibbles. However, this belief was erroneous; while this cat did kill one of the last birds seen, a few more specimens were obtained in the following years, by which time the island also hosted numerous feral cats.
Yarra Ranges cat curfew (q.v. Dandenong Ranges)
Under the curfew, cat owners are required to keep their animals inside or in an enclosure, between the hours of 8pm and 6am.
Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre
Research is ongoing by DEWHA into the development of para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) for feral cats. A species specific delivery system — the Hard Shell Delivery Vehicle — which is a pea-sized capsule that is apparently ingested by cats but rejected by non-target species has been developed by Scientec for delivery of PAPP in the Eradicat® bait. The new product has been named Curiosity® for obvious reasons.
posted by zamboni at 5:29 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed watching the videos. I always wonder what things are like from a cat's perspective.

We just lost our beautiful, sweet 18 year old boy this last month. He was strictly and indoor beast and his hunting was relegated to the occasional gecko - though he was never able to catch one to our knowledge.

In his indoor lifetime, he never got lost, never caught a disease, was never injured by another animal (or a sadistic human), and never went hungry. He killed exactly zero birds in his life (though bird watching through the window was an occasional hobby). He loved playing with his toys (I fell into the "toy" category), sleeping on his furniture (I also fell into the "furniture" category) and eating whenever he felt like it (I never became food, though I'm convinced that if I died, he would eat my face). The worst thing that ever happened to him during his healthy years, from his perspective, was that we took him to the vet twice a year.

He was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago and through loving care and occasional medication, he had a high quality life right up to the end. A camera around his neck would have revealed how much dust was under our bed and sofa and occasional extreme close-ups of Prescription Diet cat food. Also, you'd have seen a ton of my face.

Yeah, 18 years. Indoor cat. Completely happy. The only drawback to him being an inside kitty is that every single thing in the place reminds me of him now.

I try not to judge when people let their cats be outside cats, but considering the risks to the cat (and the risks the cat poses to local fauna) it seems to me that most of the time, its a better choice to keep them in.

Anyhow, keeping him in gave me 18 years with the best kitty cat ever. I miss him constantly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:32 PM on August 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


Eight million birds a year? Try more like up to 500 million, with rates of predation can be so high that local bird populations are unable to reproduce enough to sustain themselves. I read a statistic that up to a billion small mammals are killed by cats. Then you add in all of the lizards and frogs and small amphibians and reptiles, who on a whole are in an even more dire ecological situation than our songbirds and are also targeted by kitties.

I understand the desire for Fuzzy Schmumpkins Moopy-Schmoo to have a romanticized life of strolling across the rolling hills of suburbia, climbing trees, sunning himself, enjoying the life of the snuggliest of predators. I have two Fuzzy Schmumpkins Moopy-Schmoos of my own, and they are my darling furbabies and the lights of my existence. But I will never let them range outside on their own for the same reason I got them fixed: as a responsible pet owner, I have a duty to weigh the well-being of my pet against the well-being of the general environment and society as a whole. Society is not benefited by my cats roaming free and producing lots of extra kittens everywhere, nor is it benefited by them decimating local bird populations. My cats are also not benefited by being hit by cars, tortured by local neighborhood kids, or getting giant infected wounds on their haunches from possums, raccoons, and God-know-what other creatures that loved to attack my parents' indoor/outdoor cats.

Meanwhile, if I keep their litter box clean, the windows open, and play with them on a regular basis, they get over that they're not allowed to run outside and fight raccoons. We need to make sure we do not anthropomorphize our pets too much. Cats are smart in their own ways but they are not complex emotional creatures like people. I think too often people take their feelings about a situation ("I wouldn't liked to be locked in a house and have my nuts cut off") and project it onto the cat, forgetting that the kitty really isn't capable of feeling that kind of sadness, regret, and resentment.

It's the natural order of things for dogs, boa constrictors, rats, ferrets, tarantulas, iguanas, parrots, and all of the other pets we have to wander outside free. Yet we don't do that because it's better for other people, the environment, and the pets themselves. What makes cats different?

Straight up, if you give a crap about maintaining some semblance of species diversity you'll keep your cats indoors. Just because your cat isn't off killing things in the rainforest doesn't mean it isn't contributing to serious ecological damage to its surroundings.
posted by schroedinger at 5:38 PM on August 7, 2012 [33 favorites]


Also, sometimes I wonder if the resistance to an indoor-only lifestyle is a resistance to the extra onus it puts on the owner to pay attention to the cat. Yes, you do have to spend a little more time cleaning up after the cat and playing with them than when they're allowed to be turned loose on the wild to entertain themselves and poop outside. Horrors!
posted by schroedinger at 5:41 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am just here to encourage people to try walking their kitties on leashes around the neighborhood at a very early age. I've had multiple adult cats who learned to follow without a leash, too, and have pretty much always been an indoor/outdoor type (not without reservations, for sure). Getting young cats used to a leash is not hard, it gives the cats the exposure to nature that - just like dogs - is their goddamn birthright, and has the added benefit of having them not freak out and race out the door and get lost That One Time you weren't paying attention when you brought in the groceries.

Cats on leashes. It works.
posted by mediareport at 5:56 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


i definitely think way too many people romanticize the life of the outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat. When I was growing up my family had outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats and after losing a few of them to loose dogs and others mysteriously disappear I just feel like it's fundamentally misguided to assume that a cat needs to be some great feline hunter in order to be happy.

Outdoor cats tend to contract diseases at a much higher rate than indoor only cats, are exposed to a variety of environmental toxins (like antifreeze) that can cause expensive and/or deadly ailments, not to mention to constant pressure from feral cats, feral dogs, other predators and of course many humans. Considering a certain percentage of the population seems to go out of their way to hit animals in the road there is no way I'd let a cat out on the off chance that outdoor life would somehow be enriching to them.

The truth of the matter is that if you invest in plenty of feline activities cats can have long and happy lives in the safety of people's homes. Yeah it's a pain in the ass to deal with cat boxes and some cats can be terrors if they weren't spayed or neutered early enough to prevent marking but the reduced risk is more than worth the effort.

Now if I lived in the country on a working farm I might feel differently even though predation to things like coyotes would certainly go way up but I don't and simply put I don't trust the neighborhood enough to risk kitties outdoors. Factor in the kitty predation problems and that more than assuage any guilt about removing them from their natural predator lifestyle.
posted by vuron at 5:58 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Go Dawgs!

as a fellow alum of the Odum school, where my advisor studied birds, I do kind of fear for Lloyd's life, or at least her tolerance for unknown phone calls. this issue can be very heated.

It's good that she is playing it safe--video camera is much more compelling evidence than expert observation. the cats incriminate themselves, and Lloyd can walk away from it. I do not envy her research. Video footage is also incredibly tedious to work with.

bells are a solution, but a limited one. I fear there aren't enough outdoor cats with bells to change the avoidance behavior of birds as they migrate through, interacting with different cats.

More than the predation itself, fear of predation can alter prey behavior, so that the bird avoids certain areas in the presence of a predator. so, despite your attempts to make your backyard into a bird habitat with plants and shade, the presence of cats can drive birds away.

The bell only indicates presence, making it more easy for prey to escape. but the prey still spends so much energy searching for food and habitat that calling off searches because of cats is costly in itself.
posted by eustatic at 6:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do agree that having cats indoors at all times seems a cruelty.

Anecdotally, I observed a stark difference in the mood, behavior, and body condition of my roommate's raised-indoor cats after they were allowed a limited forays outside.

Regardless of pet owner behavior, can we agree it's good thing to TNR?
posted by eustatic at 6:15 PM on August 7, 2012


I do agree that having cats indoors at all times seems a cruelty.

"Seems" is the operative word here.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Household cats were introduced in North America by European colonists; they are regarded as an invasive species and have few natural enemies to check their numbers. “They are like gypsy moths and kudzu — they cause major ecological disruption,” Dr. Marra said.
I KNEW IT. Warm kudzu! It's SCIENCE.
posted by Justinian at 6:27 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


For what I generally consider a liberal group of people, some of you are way over the line.

I live in a very rural part of Oregon. City folks dump their unwanted cats in my neighborhood, including unfixed females. We've learned to live with barn cats. Kittens were caught and spayed/neutered as quickly as they could be caught. Do my outdoor cats kill birds? Yep, they do. Along with field mice, voles, rats, moles and gophers.

Oh, and if I find out you're shooting my cats, you'll be lucky if I just call the County Sheriff.
posted by jgaiser at 6:28 PM on August 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


It is exactly my liberalism that places the maintenance of local bird populations and control of feral cat populations over my imagined fantasies about the happiness my cat might garner by decimating small animal populations and dying an early death. To me the kind of selfishness that drives "But my Schmoopy fantasy, damn the ecological consequences" is the same kind of selfishness that drives, say, taking up two parking spaces, advocating the destruction of social welfare programs, and other self-focused actions that completely disregards the effects one's choices have on the larger community.
posted by schroedinger at 6:38 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


The videos are "The Blair Witch Project" as directed by felines.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:43 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My goodness. Is this cat thread drives people crazy week? Is a kitten video going to result in Nazi analogies tomorrow?
posted by Zed at 6:45 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: "It is exactly my liberalism that places the maintenance of local bird populations and control of feral cat populations over my imagined fantasies about the happiness my cat might garner by decimating small animal populations and dying an early death."

Good for you. Now get your other liberal city dwellers to quit dumping their unwanted animals on me. I've been dealing with and caring for your outcasts for nearly 30 years.
posted by jgaiser at 6:54 PM on August 7, 2012


You could bring them to the pound or something, couldn't you?
posted by Justinian at 6:58 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now get your other liberal city dwellers to quit dumping their unwanted animals on me.

I'm about as liberal as it gets (but I'm not at all seeing the connection you're trying to make) and yes, I get pissed at people dumping there damn animals on me because they have some stupid fantasy that the animals will take care of themselves or I'm sitting around waiting for them to bring joy into my life.

For the last couple of months I've spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours caring for a couple of dogs that "showed up". I don't have room for them and have to juggle them around my other dogs that I adopted.

People, take care of you're own problems. Don't lay them off on me. I have enough.
posted by bongo_x at 7:04 PM on August 7, 2012


my imagined fantasies about the happiness my cat might garner

Riiiiight. Because it's a "schmoopy fantasy" that cats might - for once in their fucking lives - actually enjoy being, you know, in nature.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the concern is really about the naturalness of a cat's life, then it wouldn't be ethical to spay or neuter it.
posted by desjardins at 7:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hi, I'm the "Watts" mentioned in julen's pullquote upthread. All three of my cats were participants in the KittyCam project. Feel free to ask me any questions about how the study worked from the cat owner's perspective.
posted by 100watts at 7:31 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Justinian What do you think the proper and effective response to someone refusing to keep their cats in their own home and/or yard is? Assuming, as is typical, a lot of people refuse polite requests.

Hose it. Unless it's below zero outside, this is harmless. It is an extremely annoying and distressing thing for most cats to be wet, and they will flee.

As a cat owner I have no problem with you hosing my cat if she were in your yard (alive, well, and presumably hunting).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:34 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi Watts! Thank you for showing up here!

So how did it work for you? Did your cat/s accept the camera? Is it heavy? Does it have a light or night-vision mode?

What did they find your cat/s doing?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:35 PM on August 7, 2012


I like cats enough to host four of them but I like birds too so mine are all strictly indoors, with the exception of the catrium I built for them. I had thought the cat run would be this huge enrichment to my cats' lives which is why I spent a goodly amount of effort setting it up but mostly they stroll out there for a few minutes every morning, sniff around, and stroll back to shredding the sofa for the rest of the day.

Otherwise for indoor cat entertainment, I release a box of live crickets now and then for living room pandemonium.
posted by jamaro at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


My cats always wear collars anyway, so they adjusted to the collars with the cameras on pretty quickly. It wasn't terribly heavy.

As far as the size of it goes, one thing that made me giggle was that the plastic case housing the camera parts was a plastic case originally meant for a woman to carry ob tampons in her purse. Made me laugh every time I strapped one on to my male (neutered) cats.

It did have a night-vision mode.

My cats met up with other cats hanging around the neighborhood, climbed on the roof of the neighbor's house, went down in the storm sewer, and spent a lot of time looking in the windows of my house wanting to come back in.

Archie was the cat with a whole other family. Some of his footage showed him in another house - I could see the people in the house holding hte door open for him to come in. He got up on their counter and ate from a casserole dish until they caught him and threw him out. My favorite bit of footage was when he was up on a high shelf or cabinet, so the camera could see down in the room. The woman came into the room talking on a cordless phone and then brought the phone OVER TO MY CAT so the person on the other end COULD TALK TO HIM. As she brought the camera back to talk, she said, "Yeah, he's wearing his camera" so I didn't feel so bad that my cat was spying on them without their knowledge.
posted by 100watts at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2012 [41 favorites]


Good for you. Now get your other liberal city dwellers to quit dumping their unwanted animals on me. I've been dealing with and caring for your outcasts for nearly 30 years.

My misunderstanding, I read your comment as someone who enjoyed having cats dumped on them as part of some weird cycle of nature! Believe me, I am not a fan of that city-dwelling behavior either.

Riiiiight. Because it's a "schmoopy fantasy" that cats might - for once in their fucking lives - actually enjoy being, you know, in nature.

No, that's not a schmoopy fantasy. It is a schmoopy fantasy to imagine that the only way your cat's life will ever be fulfilled and enjoyable is if they are allowed to run free and kill whatever they want, and that seems to be the argument of the outdoor cat defenders here (who aren't of the "working cat" variety). Like I said in my first comment, boa constrictors and dogs and nearly all pets would also totally enjoy being in nature, but that doesn't mean letting them roam around unleashed and free is the only humane choice and their lives will be tragedies without it. It is possible to put up cat shelves and train your cat on a harness and find a happy medium in between "Lock my cat in a closet" and "Fuck endangered species".
posted by schroedinger at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Otherwise for indoor cat entertainment, I release a box of live crickets now and then for living room pandemonium.

Holy crap if all the pet stores in my area weren't closed I would be doing this right now.
posted by schroedinger at 7:43 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


she said, "Yeah, he's wearing his camera" so I didn't feel so bad that my cat was spying on them without their knowledge.

That's great, I was wondering about that.

So if your guy was the one who climbed on the roof - the "Climbing and Peeping" video from the site? - do you know what the ticking noise is at the end of that video?

And how did they recruit you for the study?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:47 PM on August 7, 2012


The roof video on the site is actually a different cat. None of my cats' footage made the site. I was allowed to keep a copy of the footage for myself, but I'm not allowed to display it online. It technically belongs to National Geographic.

I was originally recruited via a letter. But I had a former roommate who'd been in the Wildlife School so I asked her what she knew of the study and the professor supervising it. Once I ascertained it was a legit study, I contacted them and they used the cats as needed.

Oh, and I should clarify that even though all my cats contributed footage to the study originally, they threw out Otis's footage because they didn't want three cats from the same household in the study and he had the fewest number of recorded hours.
posted by 100watts at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2012


Could you tell how far from home they ranged? Did you recognize the places they went to?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:59 PM on August 7, 2012


Did your cats spend time together outside, if that's their social pattern indoors?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:01 PM on August 7, 2012


I couldn't always recognize the houses in the video so I couldn't tell how far they ranged. I'm an neighborhood where a lot of the neighboring subdivisions look similar.

Sometimes the cats would show up on each other's cameras.
posted by 100watts at 8:06 PM on August 7, 2012


After some years of sentimentality about cats' need for outdoors life, I found out that if they don't go outside they don't disappear, get hit by firetrucks and die, or get so badly bitten by another cat they nearly die. I haven't allowed my cats outside for fifteen years or so.

Well, except for the most recent one, the one with the missing tooth and the injured hips. Somebody else allowed her outside. Permanently. We took her in. Especially since in my neighborhood people have been known to throw stray cats out on the highway.

I'm a little troubled by the way people over-empathize with cats and dogs these days. They are not little people. And they are not wild animals, either. They are very thoroughly domesticated aliens. If you want them to live an entirely natural life, it's a few thousand years too late.
posted by Peach at 8:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


And they are not wild animals, either. They are very thoroughly domesticated aliens. If you want them to live an entirely natural life, it's a few thousand years too late.

Exactly, I can't fathom why anyone would think it's cruelty to keep a cat indoors. They are domesticated animals. When i got my cats the vets begged me to keep them indoors, which I was planning to do anyway.
posted by sweetkid at 8:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Out on the Otago peninsula in New Zealand, at a reserve for yellow eye penguins, any dog or cat that gets down among the penguins is shot. Period. They've lost too many of the birds and that colony is one of the last ones that isn't on a small island out in the middle of the southern ocean where humans can't get to and destroy. Dogs are the biggest concern, as the rate at which they can kill penguins is rather sickening. Cats are less of a threat, but if they are large enough or catch a bird unawares, can start harming the population.

If it is cruel to lock up your cat in your house or take it for walks, please place it back in nature. The domestic house cat is most closely related to the wildcats in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Just as we return whales to the ocean, feel free to ship your cats back to south west Asia and north east Africa. If you are going to release it, even on a temporary basis into the area around you, you would be doing less damage if you replaced your lawn with kudzu.

I am guilty of having a killer indoor/outdoor cat for a while. She now lives with my parents and is indoors only. The perennial mouse problem is more than enough for her hunting instincts. She became indoor only the morning I woke up the the screams of a songbird she had brought in during the night. For those for whom a cat killing a bird is an abstract idea, it sounds a bit like this, although a lot louder. A hell of an alarm clock. I was luckily able to get the cat away from the bird and the bird was uninjured enough to fly out the open window. I can only hope the bird made it.

For those of you who still let their cats out, please watch that video again, perhaps from the beginning. That is what your adorable fluff ball does all day. You could simply cut out the middleman (middle cat?) and go and torture small animals yourself. Go buy a mouse from the pet store and smack it around until it stops moving. Or buy a bird, break its wings and then watch it try to get away from you. Your cat is not hunting for food, unless for some reason you have stopped feeding it. Your cat is hunting because it is an instinctual action.

(Oddly enough, in trying to find a video of the death screams of a bird, I found quite a few of people feeding parakeets and other similar birds to their pythons. I always figured constriction for a slow death, but damn, those birds were gone in seconds. Probably had their ribs and organs crushed.)

And if that doesn't sway you, keep in mind that coyotes are becoming more and more common in suburban communities. My father told me of a bird watcher friend of his who happily relayed the report of over 20 cat collars found at a coyotes den.
posted by Hactar at 8:39 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It is possible to put up cat shelves and train your cat on a harness and find a happy medium in between "Lock my cat in a closet" and "Fuck endangered species".

Similarly, it is possible to believe keeping certain animals perpetually indoors is inhumane without romanticization, anthropomorphization, ignorance of the meanings of "natural" and "domesticated", or disregard for endangered species.

Again, that's not to say that those who think it is inhumane shouldn't prefer the inhumaneness to the killing of endangered birds, just that this ambivalence is a perfectly reasonable position.
posted by chortly at 8:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Welcome to MetaFilter, 100watts! Celebratory MeTa Thread.
posted by Scientist at 8:45 PM on August 7, 2012


Oh wait you've been here since 2004 *facepalm*
posted by Scientist at 8:47 PM on August 7, 2012


It is also worth noting that even if an animal escapes your cat playing with it, it is almost certain to die from infected wounds due to the bacteria in cats' mouths and on their claws.


Similarly, it is possible to believe keeping certain animals perpetually indoors is inhumane without romanticization, anthropomorphization, ignorance of the meanings of "natural" and "domesticated", or disregard for endangered species.

Do you feel the same way about dogs and boa constrictors? Pot-bellied pigs? Parakeets? If not, can you explain what makes them different from cats?
posted by schroedinger at 9:05 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Household cats were introduced in North America by European colonists; they are regarded as an invasive species and have few natural enemies to check their numbers. “They are like gypsy moths and kudzu — they cause major ecological disruption,” Dr. Marra said.

Wait a minute. Household cats are an invasive species; what about European colonists?
posted by carping demon at 9:44 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I just want someone who is convinced their cats Must Go Outside, never mind the risks to them or their prey, to give some authority for their position.

We could argue anecdotes forever. I've owned many cats, all rescues, all indoor cats, all happy and affectionate and long lived.
posted by bearwife at 9:52 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait. An invasive, portable, omnipresent digital technology has vindicated birders' concerns about housecats killing precious warblers? Jonathan Franzen must feel so conflicted right now.
posted by RogerB at 9:57 PM on August 7, 2012


60 cats, over 9 months time, killed 5 birds?......this doesn't seem like a lot

There are 74 million cats in the US, and some quick math on that rate extrapolates to over 8 million dead birds per year. Seems like a lot to me.


Since you had time to Google how many cats there are, Google how many birds there are and see how significant 8 million is.
posted by kjs3 at 10:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, killing is what cats are for. It's the reason we domesticated them in the first place. It makes sense to me to say that people in your area shouldn't keep cats at all, but saying that cats should be kept indoors to keep them from killing things is like saying that people who keep cows shouldn't milk them or people who keep sheep shouldn't shear them.
posted by baf at 10:11 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, killing is what cats are for. It's the reason we domesticated them in the first place. It makes sense to me to say that people in your area shouldn't keep cats at all, but saying that cats should be kept indoors to keep them from killing things is like saying that people who keep cows shouldn't milk them or people who keep sheep shouldn't shear them.

Yeah, and it's like saying we shouldn't stop pitbulls from fighting other dogs, or Rottweilers from attacking people, or terriers from killing small mammals like cats, or . . . wait . . . am I doing this right?

Since you had time to Google how many cats there are, Google how many birds there are and see how significant 8 million is.

Since you had time to make a snarky comment, perhaps you have time to read up in the thread where studies indicate the real number of birds killed per year is more like 500 million.
posted by schroedinger at 10:15 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would just like to repeat my earlier comment encouraging folks to take their cats out on leashed walks.
posted by mediareport at 10:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


My cat actually goes out in my front yard (fenced). He doesn't try to climb out of the yard, and never goes anywhere that he can't get back from unless there is a cat in his yard, and then he attacks. D8

For a long while, when there was an entirely outdoor cat int he neighborhood, I kept a broom by the door to break up fights. 8(
posted by Deoridhe at 10:46 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My cat wears an H-style harness & has a couple 20' leads. Dumb as she is, she has learned to not get caught up on shit in the yard.

Most of her time is spent sleeping, regardless her location.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you feel the same way about dogs and boa constrictors? Pot-bellied pigs? Parakeets? If not, can you explain what makes them different from cats?

It's not so much based on my feelings as my judgment of the cognitive capacities of the animal. I certainly "feel" that homo sapiens, chimps, gorillas, dogs, many kinds of monkey, and many other large mammals are poorly served when kept in small enclosures their entire lives, even if, as in zoos and homes, they are well fed and cared for. This is not an unusual position among, for instance, many zookeepers, who attempt to recreate an animal's natural environment as best they can, and often acknowledge that their attempts are unsuccessful.

I myself would probably include pigs but not snakes on this list (who lack most of the brain functions and behaviors we associate with sentience), and there are plenty both in the natural sciences and in the arts who believe that birds kept in cages are not well off. (Indeed, if we didn't believe that, we could just solve this whole problem by sticking every cat-endangered species in a cage!) In any case, judgments about the sentience of different animals are difficult; the point was only to stake out the position that concern for the environment and welfare of animals, including cats, makes the decision to keep them indoors their whole lives imperfect, if perhaps necessary.
posted by chortly at 10:49 PM on August 7, 2012


Man, I could watch the video feed from a cat's perspective 24/7. I guess that means a cat's life is more interesting than mine.
posted by LordSludge at 11:15 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just want someone who is convinced their cats Must Go Outside, never mind the risks to them or their prey, to give some authority for their position.

I think you have the cause and effect reversed. The cat is convinced that he must go outside, and only our vigilance used to prevent him from getting what he wanted. We eventually got tired of denying him, and he's clearly happier now that he can run in and out as he pleases.

Sure, he's at greater risk of getting smashed by a car or killed by a raccoon or whatever than he would be if we forced him to stay indoors, but it's better to have a short life full of excitement and adventure than a long one full of boredom.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:32 PM on August 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


My two cats, a mother and daughter, were ferals who decided to move in. They stay in at night, but if they're not allowed out during the day they get really agitated. If I tried to force them to stay in all day they wouldn't stand for it; they would punish me, and sooner or later they'd get by me as I came in or out the door anyway. Then they'd stay out all night just to teach me a lesson.

I don't know what their secret body count might be like, but lately the only critters they've brought me were a few surprisingly unharmed young king snakes which I set free while keeping the cats in for a bit. I've never been brought a dead snake so I hope they're getting away.
posted by homunculus at 11:39 PM on August 7, 2012


Cat tunnel sofa
posted by homunculus at 11:40 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


aeschenkarnos: Hose it. Unless it's below zero outside, this is harmless.

Yeah. I used to use Super Soakers but I wasn't quick enough. So I invested in two Havahart motion-activated sprinklers to deal with neighbourhood cats strolling through our yard. I haven't seen them actually spray cats yet, but then I haven't seen any cats in the yard at all since I installed them two months ago so I presume they're working. Our indoor-only cats haven't had any displacement aggression problems since. They're happy to sit in the window and sniff the wind. If we had a cat that exhibited serious problems with being indoor only and we'd tried everything but nothing worked, we might let it go outside...but these ones? Nope, they're fine.

(Tried a harness on the older cat, no dice. Younger cat just arrived a year ago so at this point there might be enough trust there and enough feline household peace for me to try it on him, but I gather that harnesses on cats really work best when you can train them from kittenhood.)

My brother lives in an urban neighborhood that borders wilderness. His neighbours' outdoor/indoor cats get picked off by, probably, coyotes or hawks, every six months or so. He says they just get replacement cats like clockwork. Have done for the twenty years he's lived there.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:46 PM on August 7, 2012


My last cat was very pragmatic. She only hunted big game: me. She came to me filthy, starving and pregnant, crawled onto my lap as I sat on my front steps, and never left. That cat was not at all interested in resuming her great outdoor adventure, ever (and it worked out for her, as she lived to be quite ancient). We had open windows and doors, but she never once left the perimeter; she'd hang out on the front porch, patio, or balcony, but that was it. All the food and water she wanted, soft laps, kitty toys, treats, full Medical, shoes for sniffing, comfy furniture to stretch out on and/or destroy? "Fuck the Outdoors" was her motto.
posted by taz at 12:02 AM on August 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Sigh. I love cats. Hugely. I've had only 1 cat I kept indoors (my last cat). She was okay. She'd sneak out and be completely overwhelmed within feet of the door. But I kept her inside as I'd lost 2 previous kittens far too quickly (shortly after the trip to the vet). It was a wild area, with leash laws that applied to cats and hostile people. Also, plenty of risks from cars and predators.

Toots, the Best Cat Ever, was an indoor/outdoor cat. She loved to hunt things. Falling leaves were a favorite, but she'd go for rodents and birds as well. But she also loved it when I came outside with her. She'd follow me on walks until she got tired, then jump into my arms, where she'd complain about being carried. (cat logic, obviously). Cats are horrible on distance. New places are meant to be viewed from seclusion, not walked into boldly, human-style.

I don't keep cats now. I move internationally too often, and I can't keep a lion or even a cheetah, so why bother? Domestic cats don't match up to the big cats I've been fortunate enough to know. I wouldn't let my lion roam the neighborhood, that's for sure. LOL! Imagine what a lioness would drag home!
posted by Goofyy at 1:34 AM on August 8, 2012


The cats in the study were seen engaging in such risky behavior as crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces where they could become trapped (20%).

Can I eat this dead mouse I killed yesterday and just found again? It has been outside the fridge all night but it still should be good, right?

my daughter and I watched my father's cat come trouncing up with a still live baby bunny in its jaws.

At least one of my two cats has done that, but there the problem was not so much her as the neighbour who release those bunnies into the gardens in the first place. (We're living on a block with enclosed gardens and no exit to the outside apart from through the houses.) Our next door neighbour saw her kill and dismember that poor ickle bunny, then later saved another bunny from my other cat, who had driven it into a corner but not attacket it. It might be that he was more interested in meeting a creature that hopped in the same way as he does (having three legs) than in actually eating it. Still, to this day that neighbour still threatens his rabbit with my cats if it misbehaves and the bunny is somewhat scared to come into the yard...

There was also the time a ferret decided to visit my garden at early o'clock as I was preparing to go to work. One of the neighbourhood cats, a fairly big female cat, didn't quite realise it was there until it sidled up to her; never seen a cat jump back that fast that far.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:43 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


schroedinger: out of interest, is your cat an inside or an outside cat or both?
posted by MuffinMan at 2:11 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


schroedinger's cat is always simultaneously indoors and outdoors.
posted by Ritchie at 2:13 AM on August 8, 2012 [40 favorites]


If you are going to release it, even on a temporary basis into the area around you, you would be doing less damage if you replaced your lawn with kudzu.

She now lives with my parents and is indoors only. The perennial mouse problem is more than enough for her hunting instincts.

How come nobody cares about the mice?

If killing birds does "damage" to the environment why not mice?

Also, just in general, does the "damage" only apply to people who live near endangered species or along a migration path? Becuase I have had plenty of cats and seen plenty of dead mice and sparrows but I can assure you we weren't running out of them anytime soon.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:34 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing is, killing is what cats are for. It's the reason we domesticated them in the first place.

You've clearly never owned a cat, have you? See, they domesticated us. Pest control is merely a pretense at being useful. It's how they convinced us we haven't been hoodwinked into allowing vicious psychopathic killers into our homes.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:39 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The problem with indoor cats is that if/when they do get out they: a) don't go out in the first place; b) are scared shitless and run back inside real quick; c) are scared shitless and run away having no concept of what the outdoors is like, the dangers about, get torn up by the first mean street cat they meet, and don't have any clue how to get back home.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:51 AM on August 8, 2012


Yeah, having farm cats makes this whole thread seem bizarre. My parents cats live in a barn alongside nesting birds, who apparently haven't got much of a problem with them. The garden is also a hive of bird activity (around the feeders) regardless of cat presence.

Those cats only get inside if we mistakenly leave a door open. Oh, and we've not seen any mice for a while either...
posted by knapah at 5:24 AM on August 8, 2012


Do you feel the same way about dogs and boa constrictors? Pot-bellied pigs? Parakeets? If not, can you explain what makes them different from cats?

When I was a kid, people still opened the door in the morning and let their dogs run around loose in the neighborhood all day. Leash laws had come into place elsewhere by then, I think, but where I lived lagged behind the times. So I've seen, in my lifetime, the shift in the US from indoor/outdoor, free-to-roam dogs to the absolute expectation that dogs should stay on the property. I have older relatives who still think it's inhumane to keep dogs in such tightly controlled situations (though of course they comply with the law), and I've lived in countries where dogs are still free to roam in the day.

I suspect that we are seeing the beginning of the same shift for cats, where there will be increasing laws and expectations of keeping them on your own property. Since cats don't go attacking people nearly as often as roaming packs of dogs do there will never be the same pressure, but I think we will eventually get there.

And I'll admit to mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, that would be unquestionably good for birds and voles and squirrels, just as not having roaming dogs, many of whom were known biters, would have made my life better as a kid. But on the other hand, it feels also like one more way that we are totally handing over our streetscape to the automobile. There are more cars than ever, driving faster than ever (except in gridlock, of course), and it's really sad to me that instead of slowing or removing cars, we remove the playing children, the animals, and the bicyclists from our streets instead. So at some level I wish we would say "uh oh, too many cats are getting run over, we need to lower average car speeds," rather than "get those cats off the street!"

I also suspect that if you could train cats to selectively kill invasive species like starlings that you would have the Audobon Society handing out free kittens on every street corner. Targeted killing (and with those cameras, is anyone else reminded of the footage from drone strikes?) could give cats a whole new ecological place.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on August 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


The video from this is pretty shocking.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:09 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a good overview of the actual research on indoor/outdoor cats.
posted by xchmp at 7:29 AM on August 8, 2012


In the UGA Kittycam study, the final death tally was far more reptiles (lizards and snakes mostly) than birds.
posted by 100watts at 8:01 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Just 2 weeks ago my daughter and I watched my father's cat come trouncing up with a still live baby bunny in its jaws. The cat found a comfy spot right in front of us and proceeded to gnaw on the bunnies head while it squeaked. The squeaking soon stopped and the cat gnawed its skull open and ate the guts from the brain down until the stomach."

What the hell. You just watched that? No baby bunny rescue? Too much exposure to wild life documentaries?

Apparently you've never met my dad's cat, named Cat. If I tried to take a bunny from him I would have ended up in Urgent Care with Cat Scratch Fever.
posted by ian1977 at 8:02 AM on August 8, 2012


My cat gets cat walkies. It's pretty amazing, actually, to watch him watching things. The impulse to kill is so instinctual. We'll walk by a moth and just as I'm thinking, "ooh, a moth," it's clamped down between his paws, dead.

It's also taught me what an asshole he is to other cats. I've always suspected--back when he was indoor/outdoor, he got into fights often (he's had a series of orange cat nemeses; with one, the only time I saw them getting along was when they were batting a headless squirrel between them). On the leash, I've observed first hand how he never quite chills out around other cats. The other ones will be rolling in the dirt purring and my killer is all hiss hiss swat.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:31 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If killing birds does "damage" to the environment why not mice?

The common house mouse is not in danger of extinction. If it was, that would also be an issue. If the birds were not in danger of extinction, your cat killing them would not be an issue. Do you honestly believe because you don't see your cat killing endangered species that means it isn't hunting any? Isn't the very nature of endangered species that they're rare, so your cat will not be bringing them back to you in droves? Did you read the bits where it indicated for the most part cats did not bring their prey back to their owners, so you cat is killing all kinds of things that you aren't seeing?

Metafilter never ceases to astonish me. How many threads have we had about global warming, greenhouse gases, deforestation, corporate pollution, polar bears dying, increasing extinction rates, bees dying off, bats dying off, reptiles and amphibians dying off, this species or that species dying off? How many threads have we had about living in a more environmentally friendly manner that results in a chorus of tut-tutting and nodding heads and everyone saying "Humans need to get their act together!"

But you ask people to put their cats inside because they're contributing to species loss and WHOA NELLY WHAT YOU TALKING ABOUT "EXTINCTION" THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER KINDS OF BIRDS OUT THERE WHY DO WE NEED THAT ONE ARE YOU SOME KIND OF FASCIST CAT-HATER MY CAT NEEDS THE OUTDOORS DAMMIT LIVE FREE OR DIE AMURICA!
posted by schroedinger at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


In the UGA Kittycam study, the final death tally was far more reptiles (lizards and snakes mostly) than birds.

And given that reptiles and amphibians are under even more dire threat than birds this makes it all the more important that we control our pets.
posted by schroedinger at 8:34 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bird/window expert quoted on npr this morning claimed one billion bird deaths from window strikes in North America alone every year. And I can guarantee that the impact from habitat loss and climate change dwarfs that by a huge margin. Cats are small potatoes compared to our real impacts - this is like focusing on household recycling as a solution to resource use, while ignoring agriculture, industry, and highway construction.
posted by Forktine at 9:20 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cats discuss the outside world
posted by homunculus at 9:36 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter never ceases to astonish me.

I just had my cats declawed so they can still roam free but can't hunt for shit.

EVERYBODY'S HAPPY!
posted by LordSludge at 9:36 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's better to have a short life full of excitement and adventure than a long one full of boredom.

I think that's a common attitude. There's likely some anthropomorphism happening there, but the more important consideration from my perspective is your human environment. Do you own fifty acres? Do you live in an extremely rural area where your abutting neighbor is unlikely to encounter your free-roaming cat? Or do you live in a subdivision where your cat's roaming territory is other people's backyards?

this is like focusing on household recycling as a solution to resource use, while ignoring agriculture, industry, and highway construction.

This is probably a fair point, but it doesn't mean that household recycling isn't important to talk about and encourage. Fixing small problems doesn't mean we can't also address big problems, and bigger problems don't obviate the smaller ones. If your cat is killing birds, then stop that from happening. Shrugging and talking about window strikes is not a responsible answer.
posted by cribcage at 9:49 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


LordSludge: "I just had my cats declawed so they can still roam free but can't hunt for shit.
EVERYBODY'S HAPPY!
"

We took in Ginny after her previous people (who lived next door to my mother-inlaw's rental property) left her outside and moved away. She's been declawed, and jumped into my mother-in-law's car.

She catches toys with her front (declawed) paws, and swoops them rearward, to be stomped by her (intact) rear paws.

Basically, the tough little cookie curb-stomps her cat toys.
posted by notsnot at 10:10 AM on August 8, 2012


But seriously, guyz, just put a bell on your cat. Bird are safe, except the really stupid ones, and the cat is mildly annoyed, so... par for the course.
posted by LordSludge at 10:13 AM on August 8, 2012


The common house mouse is not in danger of extinction. If it was, that would also be an issue. If the birds were not in danger of extinction, your cat killing them would not be an issue. Do you honestly believe because you don't see your cat killing endangered species that means it isn't hunting any? Isn't the very nature of endangered species that they're rare, so your cat will not be bringing them back to you in droves? Did you read the bits where it indicated for the most part cats did not bring their prey back to their owners, so you cat is killing all kinds of things that you aren't seeing?

Do you suppose it might be possible for some people to live somewhere that doesn't have endangred species of birds?

Seriously, I have only ever lived in places where the avian population was just rats/mice with wings.

If your cat is killing birds, then stop that from happening.


What about the insect slaughter brought about by the newly (slighly) swelled bird population?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 10:22 AM on August 8, 2012


This isn't just about killing animals, it is also about what your cat is doing on other people's property.

Go to a gardening site and ask how many have had problems with cats using their gardening beds as a litter box. This is particularly a problem with food plots.

Another issue is that your cat may be entering another (indoor) cat's territory. Just because indoor cats aren't outside doesn't mean that what they see isn't their territory. Others' cats in my yard is a problem with my cat, and therefore a problem for us. We even had someone's cat right outside our sliding glass door w/o a care in the world while our cat was going apeshit inside.

The point is, if you allow your cat off your property you don't know the effect it is having on other people/pets.

Please, keep your cat on your property, just like you would a dog. For your neighbors' sakes.
posted by evening at 11:05 AM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


My neighbor has a cat that won't go outside for any reason. If it accidentally got past the threshold, it runs for a cubby hole and stays there until they pick it up and carry it back into the house, where it stays under a bed for several hours until it recovers. They love their cat, and had its claws removed so that it wouldn't piss them off by clawing their furniture. We bought stratch pads for our cats and they stopped using the couch to show off for us.

Four cats live with us, and we consider them to be pets, because we pet them and they seem to like our company--they sleep inside in the daytime, most of the time. At night they do cat things. I doubt they catch any birds, but I know for a fact that the are pretty hard on lizards, flhing insects, and snakes. Two other cats live with us, but the are wild, although they are no longer intact. They live outside, and we feed them on our back porch. All of them are rescue cats, in that we trapped them and had them adjusted. One of our rescue cats refused to leave the house for almost a year after we got her. We have a litter box in the laundry room. One afternoon she asked to go outside, so we let her. Now she comes to ask when she wants out. A similar thing happened with another of our rescue cats. I know cats who live with people in town, who never go outside. They seem fine with it, but then I don't know what cats dream about.

All cats are not the same, yet they all are similar. They have an arsenal of marvelous weapons, with which they can kill, as well as use as climbing tools. They can inflict terrible damage on other cats, or even some dogs, and of course, any human ignorant enough to believe that he can manhandle a cat without giving proper thought to the process.

Unlike dogs, most cats can make a living in the wild. The problem comes when cats are hoarded: they breed like crazy. A single mating pair can produce an alarming number of descendants under the right circumstances. They are more or less gregarious, so a cat herd easily forms around reliable food sources. Cat herds are generally caused by people. Yes. Spaying or neutering your cat is a responsible thing to do. You have no good reason to not do this, and many good reasons for doing it.

Unlike dogs, cats are legally vermin, same as rats and mice. I go to town meetings here in southern Oregon: we have a task force that tries to deal with cat hoarders, and other issues. For example, as you can see (here on the Blue alone), opinions vary regarding cat leashes, harnesses, and the issue of indoor v outdoor cats.

Dogs are different animals. Pack dogs are dangerous. Rover goes out at night and he and a few of his friends get together an go play doggie. A dog pack is the most efficient killing machine devised by nature. They will often take down prey 20 times their body weight, and can actually feed on an animal while it's still running. They are smart. In the foothills near Kings Canyon NP, where I used to live, dog packs were a menace to children. These are not wild dogs, they are yard dogs who lick your child's face in the afternoon, then at night, they go out for a run with neighboring buddies. When the pack mentality kicks in, the doggie brain goes to a place that people don't really want to mess with. In the country, three dogs are a pack, and you should shoot one of them when the pack comes onto your property. Interestingly enough, game laws require you to notify the county if you have to shoot a lion on your property, and show that your livestock is in danger (otherwise you call the county tracker, and let him hunt the lion for you). But for pack dogs, all you need is a weapon and a shovel.

My notion is that some of these issues will never be resolved, even among thoughtful people. My situation suggested to me that trapping and releasing cats was a good idea: after they are sterilized, they live out the remainder of their short lives in the wild, where I got them. I live at the edge of a small town, near a creek. Once the cat herd had been sterilzed, our area was free of certain problems associated with cat herds: over-population, starvation, and disease.

Other places in our area are different. In the larger urban area nearby, feral cats compete (for food) with racoons and opossums in the backyards of city dwellers. They are difficult to trap, and they can't be released. Once trapped, they are destroyed. That's a sad thing, but I don't actually see an alternative, and I like the opportunity I found in my neighborhood a lot better.

We are visited by raccoons several times each month. We have learned to take care with the food we give the outside cats, and the racoons have pretty much abandoned their raids. In the spring, deer bring their fawns in our yard, and get them to lie down under our porch bench while they nibble on the tender growth of some of our shrubbery. Later on in the summer they all come back to pick up the crab apples that have fallen off the tree in our front yard. It's sort of neat to watch them stand up and reach up into the branches for late hangers. This is an existential tax for living at the edge of the forest.

I hear you guys complain about visiting cats, and I can see that you have your reasons. But most of what I see in the thread seems hyperbolic, or else, too narrowly constructs the effects of cats: I mean, do you really mean to get so intense about the damage cats do to nature--in your suburban housing area? Sounds more like the get-off-my-lawn reflex kicking in that a complaint about legitimate damge. (See the water hose remedy for your bird feeders.)

Places such as Hawaii (and New Zealand, mentioned above) can make a legitimate claim for extermination cats. And dogs. And cane toads, too. Not to mention mongooses. And cockroaches. Good luck with all that.
posted by mule98J at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about the insect slaughter brought about by the newly (slighly) swelled bird population?

Who let their pet birds out to initiate the insect slaughter?
posted by Atreides at 11:40 AM on August 8, 2012


Sounds more like the get-off-my-lawn reflex kicking in

That doesn't make it illegitimate or give cat owners any justification for ignoring it. If you are making the distinction purely to sidestep the conversation about cats damaging wildlife, that's fine and I don't necessarily disagree. But it sounds like you are also brushing the latter ("get your cats off my lawn") off as a less legitimate objection, and it isn't.
posted by cribcage at 11:55 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


do you really mean to get so intense about the damage cats do to nature--in your suburban housing area?
Actually, yes. Esp since I've tried really hard to create a wildlife friendly backyard to "give back" to the natural environment that my suburban house took away. (hose at the feeder wouldn't be enough and elsewhere in the yard may scare other legit animals)

And let's not forget that birds migrate, so while you may have common birds most of the time, you may not during the migration seasons.
posted by evening at 12:43 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


My intent was to emphasise the type of the response. (GOML is a legitimate response.) After all, it's my lawn. For example, I wouldn't shoot one of the neighbor kids with a pellet gun for riding his bicycle across my lawn. I probably wouldn't squirt him with the water hose, either. The damage to nature argument is a matter of scale: If you compare the issue to Hawaii's situation, then the argument for the utter extinction of feral cats (dogs, rats) is compelling. Not so much in other situations. To be clear, I recognize room for arguments here, for example, about catshit in the neighbor's garden.

The issue of responding with a pellet gun is different. It's personal, and my reaction is based on emotions. I have to come to a reasonable way to deal with it after I contain my urge to reach out and touch somebody in an unfriendly way.

As I'd hoped to show with the anecdote about pack dogs, responses ought to be reflected by the situation, not, for example, by simply being offended by having one's space violated. One way to check this is to ask yourself if you are offended by the fact of the neighbor's cat being allowed to run loose, or if you simply don't wish to have the animal in your yard (for whatever reason). Arguments regarding the former are probably far-ranging--they may be valid in one area, and not valid in another--while arguments for the latter are personal, and don't really need defending. Perhaps both issues are in play--it's time for the dreaded nuanced response. Good luck on that one. I still take sides on the bobcat eats Thumper issue, first for Thumper, then for the momma bobcat, dragging his little bloody body back to her kittens.

Cats eat birds. People destroy habitats. The world kind of sucks, but cats don't create all that much of the suction. This phase of my life has me living in a suburban situation, rather than up on the mountain, or isolated somewhere in the foothills, and I guess I can't say that I actually have gotten used to it. We have streetlights, for example. It never gets dark. I have cats instead of horses, mules, and dogs. I can see my neighbors' houses. Hell, I can look into their goddam windows if I stand in certain places on my property. This is not really good stuff, so I have to think about how it needs to work, because I actually like most of my neighbors.

Anyhow, my front yard is covered with bark mulch in all the places where I've not planted shrubs, or piled rocks, so I'm the guy who has the yard where the neighbor cats come to leave presents. I get used to it. But visiting dogs get the hose when they come around.
posted by mule98J at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2012


My cat is an insane, paranoid bitch when it comes to other cats. Hell, she's better around dogs than cats.

I decided that the bird feeder was keeping many more birds alive than were being killed by the cat (just 1 afaik). Any bird taken by my dumb cat is better off removed from the gene pool.

The coyotes around here tend to remove the strays.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:25 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you suppose it might be possible for some people to live somewhere that doesn't have endangred species of birds?

There are endangered species of birds, amphibians, and reptiles all across the world; they are not limited to tropical rainforests. Not to mention the number of species that haven't officially hit the endagered list but are experiencing a precipitous decline: this article documents the decline of songbird populations across the Eastern United States. Note that songbird populations live not just in rural areas, but in suburban and urban areas as well. You can read about the decline in amphibian populations here. The very fact that these animals are threatened by suburban expansion and removal of their habitat makes it all the more important that we control any factors contributing to loss of population.

Do tell, where is it you live that there are no migratory birds, no songbirds, no lizards, no frogs, no rodents? A high-rise in New York City?

Pretending like your cat is not contributing to the problem is like saying your Hummer has no effect on fossil fuel consumption and pollution. Yes, your one cat is just one cat--but it's your cat, and your neighbor's cats, and everyone else's cats that together are contributing to serious decline in small animal populations. Just because there are larger policy issues that need to be addressed doesn't give you carte blanche to contribute to the shitting up of our ecosystem.

Why the easy dismissal and hostility to this notion?



What about the insect slaughter brought about by the newly (slighly) swelled bird population?

Oh God, it's almost like the environment would be returning to an ecological balance, where there is a food chain and natural cycle of predators and prey rather than singular parts being eliminated due to an invasive species?


I really could not care about cats in the backyard and all of that. I actually like cat visitors. I like feeding strays and petting friendly neighbor cats and rubbing the warm fuzzy bellies of kitties that are happily stretched out on decks or rolling in dust piles in the driveway. I'm the person who'll spend ten minutes making kissy noises at a random cat on the street to get it to come to me so I can give out skritches behind the ears. But the statistics don't lie about the effects of these kitties on the environment. I may like all of those things, but I like a healthy ecosystem more.
posted by schroedinger at 2:36 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


To me the kind of selfishness that drives "But my Schmoopy fantasy, damn the ecological consequences" is the same kind of selfishness that drives, say, taking up two parking spaces, advocating the destruction of social welfare programs, and other self-focused actions that completely disregards the effects one's choices have on the larger community.

I have no "Schmoopy fantasy" about my cats. My cats, given the chance, are killers. I hold no illusions about that. I keep my cats inside or on my screened porch because I respect the leash laws and my neighbors, and I don't think it is fair for someone who does not have a pet to have to deal with my pets--I don't want dog poop in my yard, and they shouldn't have cats digging up their garden. I think that's just my responsibility, as a pet owner. I would agree that there is an element of selfishness and laziness in letting cats roam free--I know it would be SO much easier to not have a litter box in the house! I'd love to let my cats roam outside like my parents did their Persian (who, by the way, as an indoor/outdoor cat, lived close to twenty years).

I also know that my cats enjoy being outside (they meow at the doors and windows!), and so I let them on the screened porch. Half of the time they laze in the sun. The rest of the time, they want to kill something.

Even inside cats practice those predatory skills--I have seen my cats repeatedly stalk and pounce on toys they've specifically set out, just so that they can "catch" them and rip them apart with teeth and claws. So this may drive you crazy, but if my cat escapes and gets to a bird before I can catch it and bring it back in, well, I'm sad for the bird, but I get that the cat is just being a cat. Cats are, first and foremost, not "Schmoopies", but predators. Ignoring that, to me, is where the fantastical thinking comes in.

Domestic cats have been around, all over the world, for several centuries now. Like it or not, they ARE an established part of the ecology. Those who argue for cats being kept inside on a purely ecological argument are, I feel, engaging in some fantastical thinking; it is hardly an accepted contention that keeping cats inside is better for the ecology everywhere. In some cases, getting rid of the cat population preying on wild animals can actually result in less birds, because cats also kill, in greater numbers, other mesopredators that prey on birds. I like birds, too, and I certainly don't want to see endangered species dying off! But birds are going to get killed by predators. You may not like to witness it, but that's just how Nature works. (Apparently, schroedinger at least has no problem with cats killing crickets).

Conficting studies also muddy up the waters on this issue. I try to avoid obviously biased studies; even the studies with the (IMO, inflated) estimates can't contend that the majority of birds are dying because of cats. Seamus' Warblers, for example, are endangered because humans cleared out the woodlands where they nest.

Sure, cats contribute to the problem. No argument there. But if your concern is really the ecology, your ire should be focused not on the fixed neighborhood cats with all their shots (or their owners), but those who don't spay or neuter their animals, dump unwanted pets out "in the country", or feed wild animals and allow them to continue to roam free to have more offspring.
posted by misha at 2:54 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I said, my cats are indoor cats who occasionally go out on our screened porch. But I WOULD like to take them out on halters, IF I could find any good ones! Problem is, the only one I found was too small and tight for even my short-haired cat to get used to, and one of my cats is a huge Maine Coon.

Any suggestions for cat-friendly halters that aren't basically just tight straps?
posted by misha at 2:57 PM on August 8, 2012


Do tell, where is it you live that there are no migratory birds, no songbirds, no lizards, no frogs, no rodents? A high-rise in New York City?

Nope. A town outside of Manchester, England. Better known for its former hat making industry and the mercury poisoning that went along with it than its areas of natural beauty or thriving ecosystem.

Seriously, the most exotic animals round where I grew up and where I had my cats, were the cats.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:20 PM on August 8, 2012


Wow. Manchester: Worse for wildlife than Chernobyl!

You should put it on bumper stickers.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on August 8, 2012


Do tell, where is it you live that there are no migratory birds, no songbirds, no lizards, no frogs, no rodents? A high-rise in New York City?

Central Seattle, actually. The nearest environments that could plausibly be called "natural" exist east across a 22-mile-long lake or west across the Puget Sound. It is a city, it is a completely human environment - every living creature here is either human, or serving humans, or living off human scraps.

For people who live in the suburbs to worry about the ecological impact their cats are having on the local wildlife is to miss the point by a hilariously wide margin. To run with your analogy, it's like feeling guilty about the extra gas your Hummer is burning because of the wind resistance introduced by the little foam antenna ball you got at the gas station. We are the biggest force of mass extinction since the Chicxulub meteor, and people are worrying about our cats?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:39 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. Manchester: Worse for wildlife than Chernobyl!


It's been all downhill since cats were brought up north disguised as especailly small whippets.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:49 PM on August 8, 2012


Seriously, the most exotic animals round where I grew up and where I had my cats, were the cats.

Then perhaps you weren't paying attention? The UK has its own precipitous decline in its songbird population. Stats in the article cite skylark populations have dropped 51%, sparrows by 89% . . . Cats are a big contributor (conservative estimates are 55 million per year in the UK), and things are made worse because songbirds reproduce less in response to greater cat density.

A species does not have to be an exotic plumed creature from Africa to be worth saving or in danger. There are thousands of species of common songbirds who all play a role in the larger environment.


Domestic cats have been around, all over the world, for several centuries now. Like it or not, they ARE an established part of the ecology. Those who argue for cats being kept inside on a purely ecological argument are, I feel, engaging in some fantastical thinking; it is hardly an accepted contention that keeping cats inside is better for the ecology everywhere.

Deer are an established part of the ecology. And yet many nature centers and parks cull regularly because the decline in their natural predators has resulted in their overpopulation. I'm not arguing for culling cats of course, but it seems hopelessly naive to say "nature will take care of it" when birds and small creatures are having their habitats destroyed while cat populations continue to rise due to the benefits of domestication.
posted by schroedinger at 5:05 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Squirrel!
posted by homunculus at 5:20 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's interesting is that I have friends from other countries (Turkey, India, Ghana, and some others) that are horrified that my cat lives indoors with me. Horrified. The very thought of keeping an animal indoors is foreign to them. Sure, it's okay to feed and have a pet. They're useful after all. But bring them inside? No way. Disgusting. I find it odd to see people arguing so vehemently to keep pets inside when I've met with the exact opposite reaction.
posted by patheral at 6:07 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, it's okay to feed and have a pet. They're useful after all.
That is probably more about what they are freaking out over - you are keeping an animal just for what? Just for the sake of keeping an animal, rather than because they are useful? Weirdo.
posted by Megami at 1:12 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way: At one time we had three indoor cats. This was for medical reasons.

Keeping up with the litter box was a yucky chore. We carried off about 30 pounds of catshit every month. So we bought a catbox machine thing that hooked up to the drain pipe in our laundry room. The machine cleaned the litter and removed the solid waste from the litter medium, ground it into a slush, and sent it out the drain pipe. Then it cleaned the litter and dried it. Automatically. The litter medium is a manufactured, non-clotting sand that the cats seemed to like just as well as other commercial litter mediums. You can program the machine to work in several modes--it won't commence the cleaning cycle while kitty is trying to do her thing. Another benefit of this machine is that the lingering perfume of your kitty's last deposite no longer wafts through your home while you wait for the litter to soak it up.

I don't sell this thing, and I don't get anything for referrals. If you are an apartment dweller, or whatever, and are interested, let me know and I'll give you the brand name of the machine we use. Ours is more or less maintenence free, and has worked flawlessly for about five years. Several models are on the net, but I can vouch for only one.
posted by mule98J at 1:25 AM on August 9, 2012


Apparently you've never met my dad's cat, named Cat. If I tried to take a bunny from him I would have ended up in Urgent Care with Cat Scratch Fever.

Any relation to Horse?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:36 AM on August 9, 2012


posted by schroedinger:Pretending like your cat is not contributing to the problem is like saying your Hummer has no effect on fossil fuel consumption and pollution. Yes, your one cat is just one cat--but it's your cat, and your neighbor's cats, and everyone else's cats that together are contributing to serious decline in small animal populations. Just because there are larger policy issues that need to be addressed doesn't give you carte blanche to contribute to the shitting up of our ecosystem.

Arguing that all cats ought to be kept indoors is hardly responsive to trying to re-establish some sort of ecological balance. Maybe the argument ought to focus, instead on spaying and neutering cats. By now I guess I have to admit to a certain centrism, but I believe the feral urban population is more than a little problematic.

Equating cats with dogs is a mistake. They are similar in many ways: four legs, most have fur, they don't usually speak English, they both are excellent teachers (they domesticated humans, teaching them to bring them food and raise their young for them). Other than that, they are from different planets. Not all cats can be taught to wear a harness. A collar is useless as a method of restraining a cat, however, if the cat cannot slip the collar, the collar may be useful in strangling him. Some cats can learn to go for walks on leashed harnesses and collars. Don't go to the doggie park--you may figure out on your own how walking your kitty on a busy sidewalk can invoke certain problems not found when walking your doggie.

I once had a farm cat that loved to ride around in my jacket pocket. He wasn't much into petting, he just came up and pawed at my pocket until I helped him get in. He'd curl up and sleep there for several hours, as long as I wasn't running, or getting into the saddle. He didn't much like horses, but he liked to go for rides in my pickup truck--sat on the dash and looked out the front window, or else laid himself across my shoulders. I wouldn't call him typical, but then I don't have a typical image of a cat. Or an image of a typical cat. They all are pretty wierd.
posted by mule98J at 1:53 AM on August 9, 2012


Arguing that all cats ought to be kept indoors is hardly responsive to trying to re-establish some sort of ecological balance.

Why? It seems perfectly responsive to me. It isn't unreasonable and it would be effective when combined with spaying and neutering ferals.
posted by Justinian at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure, it's okay to feed and have a pet. They're useful after all.
That is probably more about what they are freaking out over - you are keeping an animal just for what? Just for the sake of keeping an animal, rather than because they are useful? Weirdo.
posted by Megami at 3:12 AM on August 9 [1 favorite −] [!]

Nah, my Turkish friends loved my cat. Thought he was the greatest cat in the world. They just didn't understand why he lived inside. Same with some of my other international friends. In their minds, animals belong outside. Period.
posted by patheral at 7:22 AM on August 10, 2012


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