How to Stop a Bird Murdering Cat

I’ll admit it.  IT took me many years to get over.  IT being the idea that I have raised killers.  The first time had been a small finch on the deck…right outside our front door.  The second time I discovered several ‘bodies’ under the deck…while I had been retrieving a partially demolished chipmunk.  Often I think there should be an outreach group for others like me- P.K.C.- Parents of Killer Cats!
But now, now, there is a possible solution!
Here’s an alarming but little-known figure—stray cats and pet cats allowed outdoors kill 3.6 million birds every day on average in the United States, for a total of at least 1.3 billion birds per year. That’s most likely a sizable chunk out of the U.S. land-bird population, which the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center estimates is around 10-20 billion. While habitat loss and climate change pose long-term dangers to birds in this country, recent research shows that outdoor cats currently kill more of them than any other threat caused by humans.

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It’s not just a problem in the U.S. A 2011 study found that domestic cats have directly contributed to extinctions of 22 bird species on islands around the world, and threatened dozens more. Researchers in the United Kingdom estimated that 55 million birds fall prey to domestic cats there each year; in Australia, threats to endangered species led government officials to announce plans for euthanizing 2 million feral cats.

Cat predation of wildlife, in other words, is a worldwide issue. But here’s something else that stretches across borders: People love cats.  In the U.S., there are about 84 million pet cats, and around 46 million of them are allowed to roam outside. An estimated 30-80 million more live as strays. That’s a lot of cats, and many spend their days doing what they’ve done since the first cats were domesticated more than 9,000 years ago: hunting small animals. Humans originally used domesticated cats as efficient predators, protecting stores of food from vermin. But there’s little need for working cats anymore; these days, most people just think of them as gentle companions and Internet memes. But their instincts haven’t caught up to our evolving needs—cats are still highly effective stealth hunters. And our having them around in such numbers means trouble for birds.

Brennan, 57, spent much of her career in conservation and environmental planning. She  grew up in rural New England, where cats lived indoors and outdoors; she and her husband, who live in the Vermont woodlands near Green Mountain National Forest, took the same approach with their cat George. But hunting opportunities near their home are abundant, and for months after they moved in Brennan became increasingly frustrated as George dragged bird after bird into the house.

The breaking point, Brennan recalls, happened on the first spring-like day of 2008, when she heard “a ruckus” coming from just outside the house. It was George, struggling to pull a ruffed grouse, a game-bird the size of a small chicken, through the cat door. That morning, she vowed to either find a way to stop George’s hunting habits or bring him to the Humane Society.

Brennan already knew George couldn’t become an indoor cat, but her past attempts to keep him away from birds had failed. She had tried tying extra bells on his collar, but it seemed the cat moved too stealthily for the bells to have any sort of warning effect on his prey.

Then she recalled something she’d read about birds—they have excellent color vision. Birds have four color pigments in their eyes, compared to three in primates and just two in other mammals. While this adaptation helps birds find food and choose brightly colored mates, Brennan realized she might be able to put it to another use. She took up her sewing tools and gathered some multi-patterned fabric, piecing together something that resembled a ruffled Elizabethan collar with a bright color scheme. She fastened it as a cover over George’s usual collar and let him outside.

Sure enough, George returned home later that day without any birds—and none the next few days, either. As spring and summer passed without a single bird, she began to believe that she might be on to something that could work for other cat owners, too. She began tinkering with the prototype and created a website to sell the collar, which she named Birdbesafe. Over the next few years, she used customer feedback to zero in on which colors and patterns worked best.

The collars began to sell steadily, but they still remained scientifically unproven until 2013, when Willson, who studies tropical birds at St. Lawrence University stumbled upon the Birdbesafe website while looking for a way to rein in the hunting habits of her cat Gorilla. Soon after she brought him home, Gorilla began presenting Willson with dead birds, generally about two each week—a behavioral remnant, she believes, of his time as a stray, when he survived by catching and eating birds. “I’m a bird biologist. That was not a good thing, that was horrifying,” she said. Intrigued by the anecdotal evidence on the Birdbesafe site, she ordered a collar cover. Gorilla was beaten at last—he still caught voles, but he stopped bringing home birds altogether.

Intrigued by the collar’s success, Willson contacted Brennan and explained her idea for an experiment. She enlisted a group of cat owners near her home in Canton, New York, all of whom were dealing with bird-hunting pets of their own. She divided the cats into two groups, one that wore collars and one that didn’t; every two weeks, the Birdbesafe group and the control group switched places. Over the course of that fall, the cats brought home 3.4 times fewer birds while wearing Birdbesafe collars. The following spring, the collar covers made an even bigger difference—the cats killed 19 times as many birds while in the control group than while wearing Birdsbesafe.

“It was spectacular,” Willson said. She speculates that the difference was larger in the spring because birds are distracted from watching for predators at that time of the year, when high levels of hormones like testosterone cause them to focus on breeding behavior. The collar cover gave birds extra warning during the season when they’re least watchful.

Willson’s study was published earlier this year in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation. A few weeks after it came out, Australian researchers published a similar study in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour. This second paper found that Birdbesafe wasn’t just effective for birds—compared to control animals, cats wearing the collar killed 47 percent fewer animals with good color vision, a group that also includes reptiles.

For now, Birdsbesafe is available in scattered pet stores and bird-supply shops in 16 U.S. states and four other countries. Brennan says that since the scientific papers came out, sales have been greater than in all past years combined.

But some animal experts remain skeptical that the collar can be a large-scale solution to the problem of cat predation. “There’s some value to it,” said John Carroll, a biologist at the University of Nebraska who has studied the issue, “but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem” of the environmental damage caused by free-range cats. This goes beyond simply killing things—by competing with native predators for food, carrying diseases to other species, causing stress in birds and other prey animals, and mating with native wildcats, domestic cats can cause wide-ranging harm in fragile ecosystems. The Australian researchers that tested Birdsbesafe also concluded that while it helped save birds, it was not appropriate for protecting endangered mammals, which rely on smell and don’t pick out bright colors.

Brennan said she doesn’t see her collars as a pass for pet owners to let their animals live largely outdoors. Instead, she sees Birdsbesafe as an answer for people with cats that are unmanageable indoors. “This is another solution so we can keep chipping away at that problem,” she said.

Willson believes that Birdsbesafe collars could be used in feral-cat colonies as well. Feral cats kill more birds than owned cats do, she said, and their numbers are huge. Currently, Willson is preparing to test Birdsbesafe in France and at a handful of other sites around the world. New Zealand biologists just announced plans to test the collar covers as well.

In the meantime, on a much smaller scale, the collar has managed to solve at least one problem: Brennan’s cat “started sleeping in” instead of stalking wildlife.

“Some of them just retire,” Brennan said. “He had never missed a dawn hunting until he had been wearing my contraption for about a year. He was just like, ‘Oh, forget it.’”

http://www.theatlantic.com/author/conor-gearin/

Canine Home Companion: Bad Dog!

Let Me Be the Friend U Expect of Me
Let Me Be the Friend U Expect of Me

Canine Home Companion: Bad Dog

bad dog 1
‘I said, what I mean and, I mean what I said…a dog’s faithful…one hundred percent!’ -RandomwordbyRuth

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As I have done for years now, I started today, mindful, meaningful, less judgemental and with a sort of…renewed purpose.

As I have done for years now, I started my morning meditation shuffling my way down a lovely fall leaf lane…destination?  Morrill Pond!

As I have done for years now, I began my inner chant with such words as; serenity, faith, better person and so on.

Alas, I have also acquired a fairly new technique…shouting at the time of my smoke filled lungs

‘What the fuck is that?’

Course, I am typically in the wilderness and do not condone animal abuse.  Yet, I find my inner sanctum dotted with bad thoughts about my dogs!

I cherish these moments as I am a suffering Buddhist.  Suffering?  Yes, indeed, for now matter how I try, my spirituality is the art of progress not perfection.

Therefore, I must impress upon possible canine do-gooders, Ma and Pa’’s adoptees to the four legged beast of my burdern, use with caution when it comes to the ten most disgusting things you will ever have to witness in your whole entire life!

Sure it seems to the innocent bystander;

‘He’s adorable!  I’ve been thinking of adopting a dog at the local shelter.  Do you recommend a particular breed?’

bad dog

##RandomRuthResponse?

‘Are you insane?  Don’t you want kids?  Are you aware that that dog you just made out with…a stranger’s dog by the way, ate a pile of unmentionable in mixed company discarded of unknown origin items off a city street!’

I digress.  If those droppy brown eyes and frothy mugs are what you aiming to take under your wing…

!0 Most Disgusting ,Vomit in your Mouth, bad dog!  Behaviors and/or predisposition

  • Randomly we will be taking a long and luxurious stroll down by the river.  A little class 6 road that has gone ‘unawares’ to many…other than hunters!  Recently, proud as a peacock my dog came bounding out of the deep forest with a side of leftover deer.  Looked to me as though it were perhaps, the small intestine and the large intestine together.  
  • Fortunately for my small family…too much is never enough.  Therefore, my partner convinced me that taking in a semi feral kitten would leave a very large impact on do-gooder status.  Problem is…with kitten comes the occasional ‘bad reaction’ to new found dry food.  Fortunately, for us, that kitten and it’s questionable bottom will remain immaculately clean for the life of the dog.  
  • Along with the above mentioned need for a dog to find the grossest thing in the house…and make it ‘tip the shit scale’ worse…comes the tongue!  I have adopted one dog who was once abused by a man in a hat!  Not sure what man…not sure what kind of hat.  I am sure that she does not give kisses.  She!  Does not scare me.  I have another dog, who was not abused, though I threaten to on occasion, and he will lick you to the point of needing to light a cigarette afterwards and ask

‘Was it good for you?’

Friends 'til the end...no matter which end it is!
Friends ’til the end…no matter which end it is!

           

Needless to say, that mouth is well traveled and recently performed an in depth examination of my kitten’s bowel tract!

  1.  The pedigree dog?  Course we are not all saints of the ‘not sure where they came from’ animal shelter.  Some prefer the hybrid dog.  Fancy, snipped and tucked in all the right places, etc.  Too bad rich people!  A dog is a dog is a dog.  My mother owns something called a, Smooth Fox Terrier (WTF kind of dog is that) has poison breath.  It is built in.  She comes by it naturally.  Sour as a dirty diaper sitting in a snow bank for 3 months and then thawing for 2 more!
  2.  That shit roll!?  I do not know how many times but there have more than I like to brag about…How many times I’ve bought my bottle of ‘they used this stuff in the gulf oil spill’ Dawn, a ratty towel, plastic shorts, a babushka and my two dogs, down to the local watering myself hole.  Without fail, as we enjoy the beauty of the day, say our thanks to the Goddess and make our way back to the car…one dog will go missing.  And, if one dog goes…the other is sure to follow.  After many threats to un-adopt them and/or ‘you wait ‘til I tell your mother’…a dog than the other, will appear.  Nasty, stained and skid marked by someone else’s droppings.  I will never understand how dogs mark their territory to scares other critters away.  While simutameously doing the dirty with a pile of shit that has sat baking in the sun for forty days and forty nights.  This behavior is done so the dog will be disguised.  That by covering themselves in feces…no one will know, my two stooges had been anywhere near the scene of the crime.  WTF?  First, they want others to know where they are!  Than they don’t!  Talk ‘bout paranoid!
  3.  Okay, I’m going to lay it on the line.  Do not ever adopt a cat and a dog together.  Or, separately, for that matter, if they still happen to live in the same house at the same time.  Never put yourself thru the hassle of ‘the dog is diggin’ for turds again!  Conversation with your partner, lover and/or soon to be gone, friend.  Supposedly, kitty turds are filled with protein and carbs and assorted goodies.  Think twice, don’t be nice, that dog’s mouth smells like shoes from the days before Christ!
  4. Humping?!  Really?  We are lesbians and as such, if anything swings between the legs, it goes directly to the Vet before entering our house.  
  5.  Licking the pecker!  Making nice nice with the doggie vagina!  Stop it, stop it, stop it, just fuckin’ stop it!  With the television up loud, Whitesnake cranked on the MP3 and a construction site next door…All I can hear?

‘SSSzzzz, slurp, slurp, whistle between the teeth, hhmmm, slurp!’

I love my dogs!!!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have even thought of going it alone.  Meditation, spirituality, Zen and Me…out in the woods.  Than I think, ‘the dogs are parts of my Higher Power.  And, it wouldn’t be right to go it alone without props!’

Let Me Be the Friend U Expect of Me
Let Me Be the Friend U Expect of Me