Bird slaughter a painful truth for cat fanatics

JOHN DE BUEGER
Last updated 07:40 28/01/2013
predator stand
Another one bites the dust - one of too many birds lost to a cat.

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OPINION: So Gareth Morgan doesn't like cats and would like to see the vermin exterminated across the country.

He's not the only one - so would many of us sickened by the pointless slaughter of our garden birds by stray or neighbours' cats.

Only last year, a new arrival from Christchurch, Robert Clarkson, complained in this paper that New Plymouth was disappearing under a tidal wave of cats, and wondered what could be done. The quick answer is very little, short of a vigilante trapping campaign. Perhaps this is what happened to the dozens of the blighters that used to infest Kawaroa Park.

Chasing them was a highlight of my dog's lunch- time walk, but lately the cat plague at Kawaroa appears to have eased.

It is pointless expecting your typical cat "owner" to make the slightest effort to restrain their charge.

Australian research has indicated that every day of their blighted lives, the average cat slaughters one of God's creatures - birds, lizards, wetas, ducks, rabbits, frogs, rats, mice, goldfish etc, etc, you name it. And feeding cats well makes little difference to the slaughter - it's called boredom.

This carnage translates into about 27 million birds annually in New Zealand, and it's entirely reasonable for the likes of Dr Morgan to suggest ways to mitigate this unnecessary menace to our remaining native fauna.

Cat-lovers refuse to accept that urban cats slaughter native birds faster than they can breed, let alone do anything about it, like putting bells around their necks - or better still, wringing them.

Trying to reason with the cat brigade is pointless. Just listen to them all saying, "But my dear little Mr Tiddles is different. He's lovely and wouldn't hurt a flea".

It would be interesting to see if electric shock therapy - as successfully used in remote-operated electric collars to train pig dogs not to touch kiwi - would work on cats.

One suspects not, as they are basically just too stupid and too hardwired to be trainable.

In the meanwhile, the best that probably can be done is to require registration/ micro-chipping (like dogs), serious disposal of the strays, and encouraging cat owners to confine them during the day.

Letting cats roam only at night means they are more likely to slaughter rodents than birds.

Killing rats that also hit bird populations hard is their sole redeeming virtue - with the possible exception of rabbit control.

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There is some evidence that feral cats prevent a national rabbit explosion by eating the kits (baby rabbits) - except in areas such as the Mackenzie Country and Central Otago, where the severe winters interrupt rabbit breeding and the temporary shortage of kits causes an annual collapse of the feral cat population.

For urban residents who would like to retain a few songbirds in the garden there is one proven way to keep this murderous vermin at bay - and that is to get a fox terrier.

It was a brave, and foolhardy, mog that dared venture into our garden while old Badge was still around.

Unfortunately, my current canine companion, a border collie, does not possess the old dog's agility, determination, or rat-like guile. Also, he has a serious emotional deficiency - he loves the bloody things.

But at least he channels this misguided affection into just kissing them with his teeth.

- Taranaki Daily News

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