Hunting

In the past few days, our cats have caught at least five small animals – four birds and a mouse, which Scrappy helpfully released in the lounge alive, and made me run around and chase it outside. Perhaps he thought I needed to learn how to hunt. We figured that all this killing must be a sign that it’s worming time. Either that, or they regard the spring in much the same way as we regard pre-Christmas sales. “Look at that abundance! I don’t really need one of these, but it’s on sale!”

We keep our cats in at night, but it does beg the question as to why we let them outside at all. In New Zealand it’s perfectly normal to allow your cats to roam outside, day or night, and keeping them contained is largely seen as cruel. It would be like having a dog and never allowing it to go outside. We don’t have any snakes or large predatory wildlife to worry about, and it doesn’t snow across most of the country, so there is little reason to be concerned about a cat outdoors.

Except, of course, for the hunting. New Zealand’s large fauna are almost entirely birds. The only mammals native to these islands are bats and seals. Because they had no predators (or their predators were also birds) many of New Zealand’s birds evolved to live on the ground. But then humans came along, and we brought with us dogs and pigs and rats and stoats and possums and (yes) cats. And we wiped out an awful lot of birds.

Cats, of course, have no filter for whether a bird is a native or introduced species. So far everything I’ve seen them kill is an introduced species, but that’s probably just because there’s more of them about. To their credit, they also kill rats and mice, which will in turn help native bird populations by taking away some of their predators. Plenty of people in New Zealand are quick to damn cats for the damage they do, but give them little credit for their assistance in controlling rodents.

There’s really no perfect solution. We can keep our cats inside, and we can keep trapping and poisoning the possums and rats, but we can’t turn back the clock and get rid of the problem entirely.

In the meantime: worming pills.

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