Thursday, June 7

Feral kitties? Or, should we have a leash law for cats?

These are my sweet cats. They purr, they knead my knees, they sleep with me whichever one gets there first. They are jealous of one another and sometimes show this, but I try to keep them all happy and make them feel as though they are, each one, my favorite. (YOU'RE my favorite boy kitty! YOU'RE my favorite black and white kitty, and so on. A trick one of the childrearing experts back in the 70s suggested as a way of dealing with children's inevitable "Which one of us is your favorite?") (Look at Tater's ears, up there on the right: he's listening to every word.)

But they are also true to their wild heritage and, despite the fake mice, rubber bands, balls, and so forth that I provide for them, they HUNT. I let them go outdoors. I grew up with indoor-outdoor cats and have always done this. Sometimes they catch a bird, and I feel sad, yesterday I heard Butter's Kitty (on the left) at the front door, making that unmistakable sound that means she has something in her mouth and wants to bring it in. It was a chipmunk. I managed to let it go and brought her in. But I made the mistake of not putting bell collars on them this season, and a neighborhood incident ensued.

My next door neighbor approached me on the weekend to ask if I'd bell my cats, because the small black one had caught and killed a baby bluejay from a nest on their front porch. And the next day, apparently, all the babies were gone and the mother jay was frantic. My neighbors were very upset. What do you say? What do you do? I felt awful, and I told them I would certainly put bells on all the cats. I went right out and bought collars, belled all three, and then picked flowers and wrote a contrite note to my neighbors saying how terrible I felt about it too. They were very nice about it, though in a very mournful way, and mentioned that the people on the other side of them had "feral cats" too. I didn't know what to say, and, characteristically, didn't dispute their designation. tTey have a new kitten, but it never goes out.

I once lived for two years in Carrboro, NC, where one of the biggest issues raging in the city council was whether or not to enact a "leash law" for cats. In the end, they didn't, but a lot of people were angry.

I feed the birds and give them fresh water, and I have indoor-outdoor cats. This is not a good combination, I know, but I'm not going to change my ways unless the law comes down on me. I also like to feel as though I'm on good terms with my neighbors and wonder if they'll still be friendly.

The nest, by the way, before it was defiled,was really a surprise. None of us had ever known blue jays to nest so near to people. I didn't know the nest was there until 6 year-old Luther noticed it just a couple of days before The Event.

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, with one cat asleep by me, one on a high shelf in the living room, and one outside, and heard a terrible noise of a screaming animal or bird.

By the way, it might not have been my cat, because there's an identical small black cat who comes over sometimes from across the street. I did mention this in my note to the neighbors.... But it could have been mine. I hope the bells work.


MimiK said...

when I was growing up, Blue Jays were considered pests that the local farmer shot. They were "known" to damage other birds nests and eggs. Recently I read that their population is down because of West Nile Virus. I just figure cats will be cats. Our kitty goes out to. We are all happier that way.

jane said...

Cool. Thanks for the support. I do know from Carrboro, though, that people are pretty adamantly in one camp or the other. I actually love blue jays because they're so beautiful, and I feed them peanuts on a windowsill up high where squirrels can't get to them. I love to see them land and grab one. I probably already said that, though.