05 October 2013

Save the songbirds—curb your cats

I have always been a dog man myself. Cats ... well, they can be cute and cuddly, but whereas dogs seem to belong with us, I have always found cats to be alien if not a little unnerving. Those cold, deadpan eyes seem to send the message that if I was small enough, I would be their prey.

Dogs are very much like us. Descended from wolves, they are social creatures, basking in the companionship of their fellows. Cats are loners, rejecting the company of even their own species. However, it is not their antisocial nature that concerns me today, but rather their relentless urge to kill, an urge that in a human would be considered psychopathic. Cats simply cannot stop killing, even when they aren't hungry.

This capacity for slaughter is inflicting a holocaust upon our songbirds. A recent study by Environment Canada reported that out of the more than 270 million wild birds killed every year in Canada from human-related activity, 75 per cent were killed by cats. Less than 20 per cent were killed by collisions with power lines and buildings. Hunting accounted for only about two per cent. According to Richard Elliot, director of wildlife research for Environment Canada, "A cat you think is just out wandering around the premises would be killing 10 or 12 birds a night."

One might expect that people who love cats would love animals generally, including birds, the most delightful of our fellow species. But it appears that all too many do not. If they did, they would keep these stealthy little serial killers in the house and not unleash them on our feathered friends.

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