This picture is three days late because National Bird Day in America takes place on 5th January annually. I think it’s quite an apt picture and it is a good photograph. I also believe that the birds are not pigeons but doves! National Bird Day asks the citizens of America to think about their birds and I hope how they can better protect them. And it also asks people to consider captive birds in cages which are not necessarily native to the country. Let’s think about those birds and what it feels like to be in a cage most of their lives.
There are two reason why I have a cat and three birds in the same picture today. Firstly, if we regard the birds as pigeons, thenyare as vulnerable to criticism as stray cats and this cat looks dirty so I believe he’s a stray cat. A lot of people dislike pigeons. There is a radio presenter in Britain, Steve Allen, who calls them the ‘rats of the sky’. He even declared to the world on his radio show that he tries to drive over them to kill them. He forgets that he is advocating animal cruelty in breach of British criminal law. He also forgets that pigeons are smart and capable birds. They have fantastic navigation systems and all species are equal in my book of rules. To dislike one species is a form of animal racism or what is better described as speciesism.
The stray cat is also denigrated and disliked by many people. They are non-native to North America which makes them even more disliked by a segment of society. And, of course, the bird is one of their major prey animals. It is not, I have to remind people, their number one prey animal because birds are much harder to catch than mice or voles. But they are on the menu and ornithologists are constantly decrying the killing of birds by cats in their billions, they say. The stray, feral and domestic cat has a major influence on the conservation of bird species in America and, in particular, places such as Hawaii where the bird species are particularly important to that group of islands. That’s why they have considered exterminating the feral cat in Hawaii.
But there are two more points to make which come immediately to mind. When does an animal become native? The domestic cat has been in North America for at least 400 years. It may be a lot longer depending on what you consider to be the origin of this species of animal in North America. But I would have thought that after 400 years you could classify the domestic cat as an honorary native of the continent, in all fairness. A lot of people don’t refer to the domestic cat as being non-native. It’s just the people who dislike them would like to find ammunition against them.
The second extra issue which the picture reminds me of is that people put stray cats where they are, on the street. They don’t want to be there. They shouldn’t be there. It’s bad management by people. The problem is not of the cats’ making. It’s the people who caused this which must be a fact which can be used in their defence. The stray cats are the messengers of human failings and you don’t shoot the messenger. You go back to the source of the problem and find blame there if you must find blame.
So the picture is apt on National Bird Day as it sums up quite a lot about birds, cats and their relationship. The only guaranteed way of protecting birds from being preyed upon by cats is to keep them indoors or in an enclosure. Making that state of affairs obligatory under the law is a long way off because historically domestic cat had been free to wander. If you could take a cat on a lead successfully, as you might a dog, then a country’s legislators could successfully legislate that cats should be on leads at all times when outside the home. But this is a failing of the cat. They don’t naturally take to being on a lead, far from it. They are solitary animals historically although they’ve developed distinctly sociable attributes after 10,000 years of domestication.
But the reason why dogs don’t mind being on leads and where they follow their masters so well is because they are pack animals inherently predisposed to following a leader. Cats don’t understand that concept. We are therefore stuck with the tension that you see in the picture between cat and three birds for a long time to come.
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