Tag: cats hunting

Oregon Cat Is An Accomplished Kleptomaniac

Esme the cat loves bringing gifts back to her human, so when she started bringing home inanimate objects instead of prey, owner Kate Felmet lavished her with praise.

“When she brings them, she comes to the back door and yowls, like ‘Wooooar!’ until I come and tell her she’s done a good job,” Felmet explained.

While Felmet’s glad her three-year-old kitty had stopped going after living creatures, the sheer volume of stuff Esme’s brought back — and her singleminded devotion to collecting it — prompted the Oregon woman to find a way to return the items to people in her neighborhood.

Felmet found a solution when she constructed a cat-shaming lost and found in her front yard, marked with a sign that reads: “MY CAT IS A THIEF” with the stolen items hanging from an attached clothesline.

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Esme the cat.

The sign has a well-drawn likeness of Esme with a glove in her mouth, and a smaller line of text that reads: “Please take these items if they are yours.”

So what does Esme steal? A little bit if everything, apparently.

The most popular objects of her pilfering exploits are gloves and masks, but the little cat burglar has gotten her paws on “several bathing suits, knee pads, rolls of tapes, packages of paint rollers and lengths of fabric.”

“Esme’s thievery began last spring – she brought home 11 masks in one day,” Felmet said. “I was so delighted that she wasn’t bringing me birds and she got a lot of praise – and maybe a few treats for the gifts that weren’t recently alive.”

Esme’s a completist: If she steals one glove, she must have the other.

“She brings them separately but almost always goes back to get the second glove,” said Felmet, who is a medical doctor.

“As soon as I put the sign up, she went for a week of not bringing me anything,” Felmet told WKRG, the local CBS affiliate station. “I had the impression she was a little mad about it.” 

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Esme’s haul from a recent pilfering expedition.

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Conservationists Want Cat Owners On Their Side

Wildlife conservationists are worried, and they have a right to be.

In addition to the billions of animals we humans kill every year in our ruthless exploitation of life on this planet, our pet cats have their own separate impact, killing birds and small mammals in significant numbers.

Yet conservationists aren’t making headway with cat lovers, primarily because their approach frequently relies on shaming and drastic, often cruel proposals: Some Australian states are outright culling cats, offering $10 a head for adults and $5 for kittens, for example, while a pair of academics from the Netherlands advocate criminally prosecuting cat owners who let their pets outside combined with a policy of euthanizing millions of cats. Extremists in the US are pushing for similar measures, arguing that TNR (trap, neuter, return) isn’t an effective way of managing cat populations.

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Something has to be done, and a few smart conservationists are realizing the accusatory, Richard Dawkins-style of engaging “the enemy” just causes people to withdraw, not to listen and cooperate.

“I get quite sick of the conflict focus of some conservation biologists,” Wayne Linklater, chairman of the environmental studies department at California State, tells New Scientist. “The solutions lie with the people who care most about cats, not with the people who don’t care about them.”

Great. Now there are a few things conservationists should know as they engage with people who care for cats:

  • Most of us want what you want: We want cat owners to keep their pets inside. Cats aren’t wild animals. They have no “natural habitat” and contrary to misconceptions, they don’t belong outside. They’re not equipped to provide for themselves, and they face dangers from traffic, predators like coyotes and mountain lions, fights with other cats, and perverse humans who kill and torture them for fun. Strays and ferals live short, brutal lives (living to an average of 3.5 years) while indoor cats live 17 years on average. The “cats belong inside” angle is common ground from which to start a dialogue.
  • Stop repeating bunk studies as fact! The idea that cats are an all-consuming plague on wildlife came about as a result of a handful of studies, yet all but the most recent of them are based on old data and manipulated numbers compiled by people with an agenda. One of the earliest studies, which claimed cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion mammals annually, relies so heavily on invented numbers and massaged data that it’s worthless and outright dangerous to informed discourse on the topic, yet it’s repeated as fact by credulous conservationists and the press. Knowing the true scope of the problem is key to understanding whether mitigation efforts really work. Misinformation only sabotages those efforts.
  • Come get your people: Peter Marra is one of the co-authors of the bunk 2013 Nature Communications study with the above oft-cited numbers, and he’s also the author of the shrill Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer. Marra is an advocate of using taxpayer money to kill millions of cats. He also says that anyone who questions his claims about cats — a group that includes major animal rescues, welfare organizations, and many academics — is tantamount to climate change deniers and tobacco companies that denied for decades that cigarettes have a negative effect on health. Marra’s major contributions amount to sowing misinformation, polarizing the issue and inflaming opinions on both sides. Everything about his behavior indicates he wants to sell books and promote himself, not save wildlife from predatory domestic cats. He should not be taken seriously and his research should not be reported as fact.

Cat lovers are, by definition, animal lovers. They’re people who care about wildlife and domestic animal welfare. It shouldn’t be difficult to engage with them.

At the same time, cat advocates need to purge the crazies out of their ranks as well. Sending death threats to scientists (see the New Scientist link up top) is way out of order, it’s inhuman behavior and it only hurts the legitimacy of our cause.

A good first step toward reconciliation could involve enlisting cat owners in an effort to properly study feline impact on small wildlife, producing reliable data to facilitate a measured, fact-based approach that doesn’t begin and end with the notion that cats are hellspawn.
If all sides engage in good faith, there’s no reason why we can’t protect wildlife and cats.

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