Does it have to be cat lovers v wildlife lovers?
Do you, or would you, keep your cat indoors permanently to save garden animals? According to animal charity South Essex Wildlife Hospital, we should be doing so – I have a feeling many owners like me don’t want to think about the ‘true’ nature of our pets.
Judging by this Facebook post, they have a point (sic): “Todays hoard of sacrifices to the cat gods. 37 birds didn’t survive, another 22 along with a baby rabbit, a frog 2 slow worms, and a lizard are still fighting for their lives.
“Please try and keep you cats in folks this daily slaughter is not only an ecological disaster but the volunteers having to deal with this are also very upset and stressed.”
In an article in August’s Gardeners’ World Magazine, the charity’s founder Sue Schwar said: “Our native wildlife hasn’t evolved with them so cats can do a lot of damage by climbing trees and raiding nests.”
Our resident feline George comes and goes as he pleases and doesn’t seem to do much damage, or that’s what I tell myself.
He’s large and ginger with a terrible hunting technique and has the added handicap of wearing a collar with a bell equivalent to a cowbell on a St. Bernard.
However, even he has been responsible for the demise of at least two headless field mice and a couple of hedge sparrows. Or does he? These are only the crimes we have evidence for – there are probably many skeletons in his cupboard.
I thought he couldn’t get anywhere near the nests of the hedge nesters – sparrows, dunnocks, and blackbirds – until I saw the ridiculous sight of his ginger head pop out of the top of the hawthorn, eight feet up!
He got stuck, had to be rescued and hasn’t been seen to try it again.
If you are bothered by the body count in your garden and you have an active hunter, the RSPCA has a halfway house suggestion: don’t let cats out at dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active.
Also, put a load bell on to a quick-release safety collar to give small mammals and birds some warning if they are being stalked.
Luckily, feeding birds doesn’t increase the number killed, according to Gardening Which? as the larger numbers are better at spotting cats and raising the alarm. This is certainly the case with our hedge sparrows, who squawk incessantly when George goes out and even seem to dive bomb him.
The RSPB also has advice on cats and birds, you’ll find more information here.