Cat Hater 1914

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they are the same thing. Nothing changes. And so it seems, judging by this letter to the editor of the New York Times dated 1914 from a person living in New Jersey. It could have been written yesterday. The Audubon Society still campaigns against the domestic and stray cat. It would seem that their campaigning has achieved little although it may have caused more people to irrationally hate the domestic cat.

Cat hater 1914
Cat hater 1914
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Is the letter writer a man or woman? She or he is sexist as well as a cat hater. The letter hints at the conventional viewpoint that women like cats and men like dogs. The writer is almost certainly a man.

Apparently the letter had an effect and cats were temporarily eradicated from New York City in 1914. If this is true – and I doubt it – the rat population must have made a step rise.

I think it is time for the war of words – about whether you love cats or hate them – to be put to rest. It is time to at least accept them as part of the ecosystem and our lives.

Feral cats are by now fully integrated into the ecosystem in New York and across America. If you eradicated cats in New York there would probably be unforeseen and unwelcome consequences, putting aside the fact that it would be immoral and inhumane to attempt it.

Related article: i hate cats.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

28 thoughts on “Cat Hater 1914”

  1. I was one of the first people here to publish serious critiques of Australian surveys (I collaborated with some Australian groups back in the 90s). I also used to write articles for an Aussie cat magazine back in the pre-domestic-internet days.

    1. dodgy Australian foregone-conclusion anti-cat surveys

      I didn’t know you agreed with me about dodgy Aussie cat “studies”. There are dodgy ornithological US studies too as I am sure you know. It is amazing how biased scientists can be. No, on second thoughts it is not amazing. And the classic “extrapolations” and “estimates” are legendary when in comes to trying to work out how many birds and precious “native species” cats kill.

  2. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

    This does seem similar to things people are saying today, except that people were more literate in 1914. I had a friend who was in college in 1914 and he used to ridicule my sister and I for how little we were learning in school. He could do huge, difficult arithmetic problems in his head and he said all children were taught to do that in school when he was young. He really felt our education was woefully inadequate.

    My mom’s house is next to a ravine that was once home to a thriving feral cat colony. Now it is home to some coyotes and the cats are gone. But when I was up there on Christmas Day I couldn’t believe how many birds we saw! Just sitting looking out the patio door onto the back deck we watched several different species come to the bird feeder back there. So I suppose the feral cats were causing a decrease in bird populations. But whose fault was that? Partly ours. We contributed greatly to that feral cat colony in the late 1970’s with one unaltered Tom cat appropriately named Lucky. Yeah. I’ve learned a lot since then.

    But if it were only pet cats, if people were responsible, there would be no decline in bird populations– even if those cats were indoor/outdoor cats. Monty doesn’t catch many birds. He tried the other day, but the snow is deep and that pretty much caused him to jump back onto the packed down path. He’s not hungry so he just has no reason to bother with prey if it involves snow up to his tummy. A feral wouldn’t have a choice but to hunt. We had one pet cat who hunted a lot, but she had been a stray. We theorize she’d been dumped in the country by some tourists. She’d had to fend for herself for so long after we got her that she just kept hunting. We had few birds around, but we also had very few moles, voles, mice, chipmunks, rabbits or even squirrels. Tigger took a huge dent out of the wildlife surrounding our home. But if she’d been a well cared for companion animal she never would have become the hunter she was either. Monty’s not and never will be because he doesn’t need to hunt. He’s no threat to the wildlife around our house. He’s gotten two baby bunnies, tormented a few chipmunks who lived to tell about it, caught a couple mice that also got away, and he’s killed two or three birds. Tigger could kill two or three birds in a day easily.

    The problem is really on humans, not cats though, because if humans were caring well for their cats bird populations would be more protected. And even during Tigger’s reign there were some birds around. There were more when the feral cats were there– they must have preferred mice and moles to birds, perhaps being easier prey, or easier to eat. Monty has tried to eat birds he caught, but it’s like he gets a mouthful of feathers and decides he doesn’t like it. Then he looks at me like I’m going to defeather that and chop it up and put it in his bowl for him to eat.

    There are definitely a lot more birds by my parents’ house than I have ever seen now that all the cats are gone. It’s just a fact. But it’s not a fact that makes me hate cats. How many birds do we need? My parents feeder may have something to do with the increase as well. Can’t birds and cats co-exist? But I do believe that responsible cat caretaking is the best for all concerned: birds, cats, other wildlife and humans.

    1. Firstly, I agree that schooling has gone backwards. As for math (maths) I used a slide rule as a kid and used to do sums in my head. We had to. It was before calculators. And we were taught basic principles which I still use today to work things out. Modern kids are not given these skills. Kids should be forced to think harder.

      For me, all cat “problems” are our problems. They act naturally. We can’t blame cats. We manage all cats, domestic, stray and feral. We allowed feral cats to be created because they come from domestic cats ultimately. We have to be tougher on ourselves and stop passing the buck to other species of animal.

    2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

      Cats and birds can and do co-exist here, we have lots of birds around but it’s very rare that our cats catch one. Wood pigeons, collared doves, magpies, sparrows, robins, blackbirds, starlings and varieties of tits to name but a few, most years we also have house martins nesting under our eaves.
      Birds are very wise about cats and the ones caught are usually weak or old, yes sadly sometimes a baby bird is caught but that’s Nature, we can’t argue with her plan.
      Humans cause the death of millions more birds than cats ever do!
      The people who complain about cats killing birds need to think about how the world would be over run by rodents if cats didn’t keep their numbers down. Just because birds are pretty and rodents are not it doesn’t make their lives less important to themselves does it, yet we condone them being killed!

  3. I do not see any references to the impact the introduction of the European starling into the USA is having on the small bird populations there. From the little I found the starling is wreaking havoc as it becomes the top predator on birds of other species. It’s worth looking up. Perhaps this yet another example of man being the culprit in upsetting the balance of nature, for which the cat gets the blame.

    1. There was another article in the NY Times around the same time stating that sparrows had been almost exterminated in NY due to being eaten due to conventional meat being unaffordable. Sparrows were also substituted for other small birds that were a culinary delicacy at the time.

    2. My initial research tells me that the European starling was introduced in around 1890 and first in New York were 100 were released. They did well. I think are an estimated 140m today.

      They are very effective at taking over cavity nesting American birds such as: bluebirds, flickers, and other woodpeckers, purple martins, and wood ducks. They destroy the eggs. This is a form of predation.

      A lot of people such as farmers don’t like the European starling. The entire “problem” is man-made. Ornithologists blame cats for killing birds. Here is an example of birds killing birds but I bet they don’t mention that.

  4. The writer has to be a man, he says something about a man’s clear cut power of decision as though he is one and thinks he has it! What a pompous twit but also what a coward as he hasn’t put his name to his musings, he’s merely used a pen-name. This was many years ago of course long before(some) men realised that it isn’t macho to be a cat hater and in fact the ladies much prefer a man to allow his softer side to show a little sometimes. I’m imagining this self-opinionated person to have a little down-trodden wifey who daren’t say “Boo!” to a goose let alone give him the ear blasting that he so richly deserves for his nasty opinions. Woody’s granddad was a nasty man.

  5. Sarah, except for the style of writing – which incidentally is far better than today 😉 ! – these responses in letters could have been written today as comments on a website. Not much if anything appears to have changed.

    The same old stuff being wheeled out. People don’t seem to have really addressed the difficult decisions about cat ownership. It just trundles along with far too many cats in distress and euthanised.

    Thanks for posting these, which I skimmed. You’ll understand why.

    1. The cat/bird correspondence in the NY Times fizzled out at the end of July due to the declaration of war in Europe.

        1. I don’t know what to say about that. I find it a bit sad. There would seem to be a need to prioritise, a little bit more, the domestic cat at the decision making level amongst politicians and law makers. They are almost ignored.

    2. One result of the debate (which was not limited to NY) seems to have been The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts State Board Of Agriculture Economic Biology – Bulletin No.12 “The Domestic Cat: Bird Killer, Mouser And Destroyer Of Wild Life Means Of Utilizing And Controlling It” by Edward Howe Forbush, State Ornithologist (published 1916) … with rather a lot of input from the National Association of Audubon Societies (of course)

      Full text at

        1. Work was very busy right up to the Xmas break and hopefully will be equally busy this side of the break. I hate not having enough to do!

  6. The whole correspondence (barring one item i couldn’t find regarding owls)

    Letters To the Editor of the New York Times.

    Deserted Cats.

    When Summer comes we who remain in town are constantly distressed by the sight of deserted cats, whose very number makes it impossible to care for them all. If the people who leave their pets to the mercy of chance could see how they fare, I believe that even their thoughtless hearts would be softened, and they would realize how much kinder it is to destroy them quickly than to leave them to the hunger and loneliness that is their fate unless they “turn wild” and prey upon the birds in the Park.

    Such people deserve social ostracism, but few of us are hardy enough to pose as mentors. We can, however, use gentle suasion and such influence as we have to put a stop to this cruel practice. We can also send suffering animals to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and rest assured that they will be disposed of speedily and without pain.

    E.S. Willard.
    New York.
    June 12, 1914.

    A Shelter for Deserted Cats.

    We are very much interested in the article published June 18 under the caption “Deserted Cats.”

    I am sure it will interest all your readers to know that our league maintains a temporary shelter both in Tompkins Square Park and Seward Park where homeless, unwanted and deserted animals may be brought.

    We have continued this work from year to year and last season alone we rescued upward of 10,000 animals.

    Mrs. James Speyer,
    President New York Women’s League for Animals.
    New York.
    June 24, 1914.

    Cat Licenses Urged.

    May I suggest taht the problem of the desertion of cats would perhaps be at least partially solved if the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would interest itself to the extent of enforcing the now disregarded ordinance which covers the Borough of Brooklyn if not the Greater City and provides that all cats shall be licensed?

    If every one owning a cat were obliged the pay therefor a nominal license the value thus set might eliminate the practise of keeping cats solely for children to torture or for adults to enjoy during the Winter and to starve to death in Summer.

    Brooklyn, N.Y.
    June 27, 1914.

    Roaming Cats a Nuisance.

    Reading the article headed “Cat Licenses Urged,” by one of your correspondents, I felt encouraged to let my grievances be known. I have a small piece of ground at the back part of my house where I try to grow a few flowers, &c. The cats are delighted with it, and make common use of it for their pleasure and convenience, comitting nuisances by destroying my plants and leaving deposits of filth, even at the front door of my residence. Why should I suffer for the pleasure of cat owners? All I ask is that the cat lovers keep them at home and not send them out to be cared for by others.

    James Lindsay.
    New York.
    July 5, 1914.

    Needs a Home for A Cat.

    An Appeal to Cat Lovers on Behalf of Dixie Daw.

    This is an appeal on behalf of Dixie Daw, who is a “Better Cat,” although he has received no prize for it. Dixie is in need of a home.

    Dixie’s mistress is obliged to leave the city, to be gone some time, and her only trouble is to find a home for him. It must be, however, a “Better Home.” In addition to having his regular rations, Dixie must receive daily a certain modicum of loving affection and kind treatment. To this he has been accustomed, and for it his gentle heart would pine. Therefore no other than a real cat lover need apply. To any one possessing the proper qualifications, however, full right and title to Dixie will be turned over.

    Like most of the Better Babies, Dixie is no aristocrat. His mother is Kittie Daw, an intelligent black and white, with a home on Lexington Avenue. Dixie himself has a handsome coal-black coat with the suggestion of a white necktie and beautiful yellow eyes. It must be admitted, however, that he will rank only about 98 per cent. among cat beauties. This is because of a long, thin, plebian tail and ears too large to be counted as a good point. But then, in intelligence, disposition, and character Dixie is perfect. His mistress says so, and, says she: “Dixie, it more than makes up.”

    To round out Dixie’s history, it must be told how he came into her possession. She had a room in the house in which Dixie’s mother. Kittie Daw, lived and was on intimate terms of friendship with her. So much so that one day when Kittie Daw was suffering from a great sorrow she came to tell her friend all about it. She told it over and over in plaintive tones without being understood.

    “What does Kittie Daw want to tell me?” asked Kittie’s friend of the the housemaid.

    “Her kittens are all taken away from her as soon as they arrive, all but one, and now they have taken that one and Kittie is mourning for it,” answered the maid.

    And next time Kittie took practical action. With her next lot of children, as soon as Dixie, the one that was left her, had his eyes open she took him in her mouth and carried him to the door of her friend. She could not make her accustomed demand for admittance with her mouth full, but a little extra squeeze on the tiny black kitten called forth a pathetic little squeak that was heard inside the room, and the kind friend admitted Kittie Daw and her little Dixie.

    “What could any one do when an animal bestowed such confidence as that upon one?” asked the friend.

    Well, being extra well-nourished, Dixie grew and flourished. He is now four months old, very large for his age, and in the pink of condition, though he has once fallen down the airshaft and had to be set up with all night, and once again, this time while catching a stray fly, popped straight through the open third-story window.

    Although much loved, Dixie has not been pampered. Morning and night he has a beaten egg, (store eggs) with a little cat food, and he is fed only twice a day. Two days a week a little raw meat is given to him, and on Fridays he eats a little fish.

    Dixie’s home manners are perfect. Isn’t there someone with a Better Home who wants a Better Cat? Dixie’s mistress must leave on Thursday, and she can’t take him with her. No small children need apply. Dixie is warranted to repay a new mistress with much love and gratitude.

    New York.
    July 14, 1914.

    An Attack on Cats.
    Why Waste Sympathy and Care on These Destroyers of Birds?

    If the correspondent who filled up a half column of THE TIMES on Wednesday seeking a home for a cat would take my advice, he would give it a good bath in a pail of water head down, and then deposit the remains two feet under ground. Wasting sympathy on a cat is to me the most ridiculous exhibition of misplaced sentiment that the maiden ladies are ever guilty of. Few others indulge in it. There are plenty of children who need the care and thought that cats do not appreciate, and repay by bringing germs into the house, and making hideous noises at night, which, coming from a small boy would rouse the neighborhood. And as a destroyer of birds, a recent report of the Audubon Society puts them as the second most destructive cause, each cat being credited with an average of fifty a year. If into a large group of birds, we could see a cat spring and kill fifty of them, how long would it be before its death warrant would be signed, or who would have the nerve to protest?

    Cats should be thrown into the Styx by Charon on his evening trips, and their unearthly wailings from the receding boat would sound like welcoming echoes to the departed spirits from the other shore. A license for a limited number might be granted at $50 per head, half of the amount to go into a fund for the extinction of the remainder. But to pass laws and create public sentiment to protect the song birds, while encouraging the family pet to exterminate them unrestricted, raises the question at once, Which of the two classes is most worthy of preservation? While the ladies have been the greatest champions of the birds, and leaders in the movement for protective laws, they sometimes let their feelings get the better of their judgment and it requires the man’s clear-cut power of decision to settle the question which the ladies are still debating. Get rid of the cats!

    Englewood, N.J.
    July 15, 1914.

    CATS A NECESSITY.; Their Reputation as Bird Destroyers Has Little Foundation.

    Your correspondent, “Observant,” who writes about cats killing birds, would do better to observe a little more. He quotes the stale fiction about cats killing fifty birds a year, which is about as true as would be the statement that automobiles each commit that many homicides a year. Unfortunately. some bird-protecting organizations have carried it along for the same reason that most men carry buttons on their coat-sleeves – because it is an ancient custom. But it has no truth whatever. I have been study the matter at first hand for many years, and I know of what I speak.

    Nobody who knows me, personally or by reputation, will say that I have not done my share in fighting for the birds. It is on their behalf, rather than that of the cats, that I am writing this letter. There is not a bird assassin in the land who does not answer every move to curb his activities by a clamorous denunciation of cats. As a matter of fact, cats kill very few birds, indeed, and they destroy many actrive bird enemies, such as rats, field mice, and tree-climbing snakes.

    Nobody stands repsonsible for the absurd fifty-birds-a-year “estimate”. It probably originated with some impudent Egyptian lawyer defending a cat-killer in the courts of Rameses II. It has been repeated since then by men and boys who wanted to “kill something” and at the same time escape reprobation and punishment; by gunners who want to kill off the birds and blame it on the cats, and, finally, by the sincere friends of the birds who accept the moldy fiction without investigation.

    The birds are an economic necessity. So are the cats. Without the former the crops would be eaten up by the insects. Without the latter the rodents would get what the insects left. We have had figures on the multiplication stunts which a pair of unchecked insects would do in the course of a few generations. Try the same figures on meadow mice and see where we would be without our one really effective check on their multiplication.

    Thomas m. Upp.
    National Organizer Order of Backwoodsmen.
    Tompkins Corners, N.Y.
    July 18, 1914.

    A Good Word For the Cats

    As a resident of Englewood I should like to disagree with “Observant” when he says that cats are of no use. Has it ever been proved taht they really carry germs? Certainly no one has ever accused them of spreading the horrible diseases that are carried by the rat and the mouse, aptly used by the Egyptians as a symbol of plague.

    A cat may kill fifty birds in a year, but how many rats and mice does it do away with in the same time? Though owning several cats we are nearly overrun with birds, and enjoy feeding and watering and watching many that are quite tame. We believe that a cat that is homeless and uncared for should be put out of the way, and we have chloroformed enough to prove the strength of our belief.

    Charles J. Bates
    Highwood, N.J.
    July 20, 1914.

    Cats As Destroyers

    The letter in THE TIMES on the destructiveness of cats to bird life is sadly at variance with the facts. On my place here I have a cat which has killed, I should say, at least twenty birds in the past six weeks. These included the young and adult of robins, catbirds, Maryland warblers, thrushes, lark-sparrows, Baltimore orioles, and other song birds. I have taken from him and freed all birds not seriously hurt, whenever I could, but these are few in comparison with the ones he eats. I do my best to protect the birds, but cats that have once learned to hunt birds are incorrigible. I should say fifty birds a year killed by the average country cat is striking a fair medium. I am afraid my little fellow has an even bloodier record than that.

    Arthur S. Riggs.
    Northport, N.Y.
    July 21, 1914.

    Their Lust for Birds Makes Them Dangerous Rural Pets.

    Two years ago, on account of the aroused interest in the cat and bird question, I asked my employes to watch carefully our two beautiful cats at the farmhouse and not to “reprimand” them for killing birds during a period of thirty days. This was in June, when many young birds were leaving the nest.

    It was observed that the cats would mark the location of each nest near the house by the calls of young birds when they were being fed by their parents, and then would make the rounds of these nests every day, watching for the young when they struggled to the ground, as most young birds do in their first effort at flight. These two cats captured practically all of the young from the nests of birds about the house, the number of young birds killed amounting to over fifty, to our knowledge, in the course of thirty days. The cats were then killed, although we were extremely fond of them as pets.

    Cats do not catch young birds while they are rolled up comfortably purring in some one’s lap; their chief depredations are carried on at a time when people who have danced the one-step until late are making up for lost sleep in the morning.

    Robert T. Morris.
    New York.
    July 24, 1914.

    A Predacious Cat.

    I hate to do it, but the truth demands that I admit our Fritz, a tiger cat, 9 years old, kills and proudly brings in for our inspection and approval about fifty sparrows a year, and he gazes longingly at the canary (whose cage hangs close to the ceiling for safety.) though he walks among the chickens and has never hurt one to our knowledge.

    To his credit be it said that he kills about three times as many mice as sparrows.

    Ridgewood, L.I.
    July 28, 1914.

    To the Editor of the New York Times

    Said to Have No Advantage Over Cats as Rodent Hunters.

    Replying to a certain “defender of the cats,” THE TIMES makes an interesting suggestion in regard to owls as the alternative of cats in the extermination of field mice. Let us see. Dr. A.K. Fisher of the United States Biological Survey makes the following statement regarding the long-eared owl: Fifty “pellets” contained the remains of 137 mice, 26 shrews, and 13 birds. Dr. Fisher then adds that it “is both pernicious and cruel to molest so innocent and valuable a bird.”

    Dr. Fisher may be right, but if this represents fifty days’ feed for one owl, it would indicate that in the course of the year this species of owl, having by far the best record of any of its tribe, (the great horned owl has a record of more than three birds to one mouse,) kills about 1,000 mice, 100 birds, and 200 shrews, these last being insect destroyers, quite as valuable as birds, and never taken by cats on account of their offensive glands. So we are called upon to eliminate the “murderous and destructive” cat which takes a thousand mice, one or two birds, and no shrews, and substitute the “valuable and innocent” owl, with its record of 1,000 mice, 100 birds, and 200 shrews.

    The question of whether rodents or insects are the more destructive is altogether academic. Either, if unchecked would sweep the earth bare. The problem is complicated by the fact that every rodent destroyer takes some birds. The question is, What species takes the fewest birds in proportion to rodents destroyed? I say – and the evidence is overwhelming – that, with the possible exception of the marsh hawk, there is no rodent destroyer which, in proportion to its capture of rodents, takes so few as does the cat.

    Thomas M. Upp.
    National Organizer, order of Backwoodsmen.
    Tompkins Corners, N.Y.
    July 31, 1914.

  7. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Oh no! So Woody was around in 1914, he must be very ancient now.
    Seriously though cat haters have always been around, they are bitter twisted people who live miserable lives and probably really envy cats who are far more intelligent and loving and happy with their lot than they are.
    It sounds like a man to me who wrote that letter, not being at all sexist but I don’t think as many women hate cats as men do, I only know one in this town and she really is a horrible person most people try to avoid.

    1. Woody is “The Son of Woody”. He is Woody Jnr. Woody Snr was the son of the person who wrote the letter. There is a long line of them, each one a chip off the old block 😉

      I find it difficult to believe a woman wrote that letter. Possible but very unlikely.

      1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

        A whole lineage of Woodys then lol I laughed so much at your comment I nearly fell off my chair. I wouldn’t like to research their family tree that’s for sure.

  8. Exactly. I suppose back then cats were more of a nuisance because they were not spayed/neutered but still, this guy takes hate to a whole new level. He must have been very angry. Poor silly man. Can you imagine hating something so much that it makes you unhappy, as in angry and bitter. What a total loser.

      1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

        Even if you don’t like songbirds being killed, how can a person not admire a cat for the awesome predator he is. The cat is no less a part of nature than the bird or the mouse. That one is food for the other should not be a cause for a person to hate one and love the other. It’s just what is. If the problem is overpopulation of cats, then that is the fault of humans, because cats, although they can manage in the wild, are domesticated (or at least partially domesticated animals) and it’s up to humans to manage them well. It’s just senseless to blame the cat if the problem is that there are too many. It’s even more senseless to hate the cat, since he only does what nature (not man) designed him to do. I admire Monty’s hunting skills, even as I do try to limit his kills. He must think I’m just terminally stupid since I make it my job to scare away his prey.

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