Cats and the Waitakere Ranges
By Greg Presland
This is a picture of my family’s cat Doris when he was a kitten. Cute eh. I regret to say that he has turned into a psychopathic killer of local birdlife and I am deeply ashamed of the effect he has had on the local bird population.
Gareth Morgan has been the subject of intense ridicule lately. He has suggested that domestic cats are major killers of native birds and has advocated that we should think about not replacing them when they die.
I must admit that Doris has made me think about this as an issue. I have caught him a few times with native birds that he has trapped inside and stripped of feathers while they are still alive. He appeared to be enjoying himself in a silence of the lambs kind of way. I have let the birds that were still alive go but wonder about their longevity. A number of other birds have not been so lucky.
This cat has been a killer from the start. As a young kitten he would catch and kill wetas, they were smaller than birds but the right size for kittens. He always seemed happiest when ending the life of another creature.
I am not sure about why he was such a homicidal killer of other living things. It may be a result of us calling him Doris and an attempt by him to prove his manhood. I wanted to call him Mickysavage. If I had my way who knows, much of the local birdlife may still be alive.
I was that worried about his behaviour that I had him neutered as soon as possible. He responded by killing two birds as soon as he got home after the operation and while still under the effect of drugs given to him by the local vet to make sure that the removal of his precious things would not be so painful. A more eloquent way of a cat giving humans the middle finger I cannot imagine.
We have tried various things. We tried a bell which did not work. We tried two bells and the cat laughed at us while killing indiscriminately.
We tried a cat bib. These things apparently work really well overseas. Our cat worked out that if he kept still while under the leaves of our huge Totara tree and waited for a bird to land nearby then he could grab the bird and negate the effect of the bib.
Things got that bad that a neighbor of ours, a committed bird lover, wrote to the local paper about a particular tabby that was killing all the local birdlife. Our cat became locally notorious.
I have noticed more recently that he has not been catching birds. On one recent occasion I woke up to the sight of three dead rats laid out on the floor of our kitchen and our cat asleep nearby in a very smug self satisfied way.
I have been happy that he has been concentrating on rodents rather than birds. But I have this nagging feeling that because of his hunting prowess there are no longer any native birds around, only rats, and he is killing rats because that is all that is left.
Gareth has a point in advocating that we rethink our pet choices. I do not have the inclination to euthanize dear Doris but I think that he should be our last cat.
We live in a subtropical rainforest that I care deeply about and have spent much time working to protect. My cat is killing birdlife which is an integral and important part of the ecosystem. After his eventual demise I think it best that he is not replaced. I would like to get a pet Kereru instead.
Gareth raises an important issue, particularly for residents of the Waitakere Ranges. We owe it to our subtropical rainforest and the longevity of local birdlife to give it serious consideration.