It’s Spring Keep Your Cats In
This proves that we have to keep cats in - or does it? - Photo by Andrew Currie (Flickr)
It's spring so keep your cats in; that is what people might say in the USA. It is a time of baby birds and small wildlife; easy prey, perfect prey for your sedate unassuming, cuddly, domestic cat that turns into a mean killer outside the back door. It's the classic Jekyll and Hyde character but completely natural. Or so the 'experts' and commentators say.
In Britain we just don't think about this. Either we keep our cats in or we let them out. My guess is that 90 or more percent just let their cats come and go as they please.
Why are we so different to the Americans? We have similar small wildlife. We have about 8 million domestic cats with a population of about 65 million people (cat population is 12% of the human population). In the USA it is about 80 million cats for about 300 million people (these figures are out of my head!). That is the cat population is 26% of the human population. Is that why the thought that domestic cats attack wildlife is more of an issue in the USA. Maybe, but I sense it goes further than that.
There are more feral cats in the USA too. Although I am guessing. And the concept of indoor cat is more acceptable or indeed a default position. The default position in the UK is that cats go out as they please.
But as I said, we just don't give it a second thought. When did someone see their cat kill wildlife? When did their cat bring in a dead animal? I have hardly seen it is 30 years of cat caretaking. Perhaps the cat just kills wildlife out there in the back gardens and we never know. Perhaps our cat just doesn't hunt anymore.
Perhaps the modern domestic cat is just too well cared for in Britain and has no urge to go hunting. But it is said that cats with a full belly still hunt and kill.
Personally I won't be keeping my cats in. My old lady cat has caught one mouse in her entire life of 18 years. And my three legged cat has not yet proved to me that he hunts and there is certainly no evidence that he hunts birds.
Do people think to themselves, 'Gosh it's quiet this morning, I wonder where the birds have gone?' We don't.
Am I being naive or realistic? Are the Americans who say, 'It's spring, keep your cats in', just reinforcing the unsubstantiated idea that today's very domestic cat is a killer of baby birds and other small wildlife so we have to keep them in in spring?