This is Something We Can Fix

3

by Gretta Bradley

I loved my cat, Hobbes. She was beautiful as she sauntered gracefully out to our garden. She would look at the dog as if he was a stupid, sycophant, goofball who lacked any semblance of decorum.

Hobbes was named after Calvin’s sidekick in the cartoon strip “Calvin and Hobbes”. Bill Watterson, the cartoon’s creator, explained that he named the talking cat after the philosopher Thomas Hobbes who held a very dim view of humanity as “brutish and short (tempered).”  The cats’ distant and imperious expression suggested to Watterson that felines looked down on us with great disdain.

It seems that behind those enigmatic blues eyes hid the heart of a sociopathic killer.  There were signs. Arriving home one day, I was met by my neighbour, arms crossed ominously across her chest.  I stepped out of my vehicle amid red feathers scattered helter-skelter on the blacktop driveway.

A Cardinal in an Almonte yard.

“She killed a cardinal.”

Like a bad parent, I was ready to deny the irrefutable evidence drifting about my ankles.  It was hard to believe as I glanced at my demure little Siamese grooming herself post murderous rampage. She was drawing her tongue dampened forearm across her sweet face and was now sitting expressionless, daring me to admonish her, not caring what I thought of her heinous crime. I stood dumbfounded under the glare of my neighbour’s accusing stare.  Apologizing, I skulked into the house. Hobbes watched me go from her high horse of indifference.

Apparently, she is not alone. In the nature vs. nurture debate, the whole lot of them, no matter how much we cuddle, or stroke or talk baby talk to them, fall with a deafening thud on the nature-honed, invasive species, predator, side of the argument. We have been hoodwinked, duped, tricked, conned by that warm ball of purring fuzz sleeping in the sun streaming in the living room window.  They are the quintessential, “She was so quiet”, type of serial killer.

The Messenger, a beautifully crafted documentary about the precipitous decline of songbirds removes the warm and fuzzy filter from our beloved pet. Images of  “Whiskers” caught on camera eviscerating songbirds and tearing into baby birds in the nest, underscore the duplicitous nature of the creatures with which we share our couches. Not really knowing the extent of the problem, researchers collected the available studies from the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Europe. When the data came in, cats accounted for an estimated 2.6 billion bird deaths a year in Canada and the U.S.

As the last indelible, haunting image of the movie faded from the screen, the auditorium was silent. We were unable to absorb what we had just seen. The movie had touched on many reasons for disappearing birdsong: light, pesticides, habitat destruction, and climate change. It was overwhelming.  What could I do in the face of such carnage? Habitat destruction and climate change are complex problems that are going to take political will and decades to fix.  Just as a sense of hopelessness began to creep in, it occurred to me that perhaps we could start with the low hanging fruit.

Keep our cats indoors. Your veterinarian will tell you that indoor cats are healthier and live longer. Some cat owners believe it is cruel to keep a cat indoors. It is dangerous world out there for a cat – cars, dogs, fishers, fox (R.I.P Precious), coyotes and feline AIDS to name a few. It seems crueler to expose them to the predators and diseases that they will face in the out-of-doors. If you really want kitty to be safe outdoors and you want a project, go on-line to Pinterest and peruse the 1000+ outdoor cat enclosures. Adopting rescue cats and having them spayed or neutered is another approach to help reduce the population of feral cats.

This one is easy. This is one problem we can fix to the betterment of both cats and birds.