NEWS AND COMMENT: what is shocking about this story is that it tells us about a plague of mice in New South Wales which is making people miserable without a mention of the world’s best mice deterrent. There are reports of people being woken up by mice biting their feet or crawling across their faces. But there is not one mention about the commonsense way of dealing with this rodent infestation namely, introducing the domestic and community cat to the area. Surely, we have learned something from the history of the domestic cat? The first wildcats to be domesticated were utilitarian animals. They were domesticated to assist the farmers in keeping down the rodent population. People should remind themselves of that simple fact and bring it forward into the modern era.
Rather than use the ecologically friendly community cat to control mice populations as they did in the past, the New South Wales government is providing a AU$100 million emergency package to combat the plague by providing farmers, households and small business owners with rebates on zinc phosphide bait used to kill mice. And they are seeking approval from regulators to allow farmers to use a napalm-like poison called bromadiolone which prevents clotting and so the mice gradually bleed to death over a period of days. The problem is that the poison stays in the carcass and other animals scavenge these carcasses poisoning themselves to death and we are talking about pet dogs, pet cats and precious wildlife which the Australian government so desperately want to protect from predation by cats! It has a sniff of madness about it. It seems that the New South Wales government is in over its head and they can’t cope.
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Why can’t the Australian authorities harness the skills of the working cats, the indoor/outdoor domestic cats and community cats (i.e. semi-feral cat) to keep down the rodent population? Apparently, the pest invasion is due to one of the worst droughts on record and bushfires in the area. One such area is the small town of Tottenham where, it is reported, residents have become exhausted in dealing with a surge in the numbers of rodents. By rodents, I presume they mean mice and rats.
Community cats are very good at killing and deterring mice but rats are a different kettle of fish. Some rats are quite aggressive and some cats are reluctant to attack them but I believe that it is unquestionable that the presence of community cats deters rats and that, after all, is the objective.
Apparently, tons of grain have been contaminated by mice droppings. Once again, I’m thinking of about 10,000 years ago when cats were used to deter mice from grain stores. That is the story that we hear over and over again about the very early days of wildcat domestication.
Apparently, a local school has been inundated with mice. It is reported that mice are scurrying across the desktops of students and they have to bring their lunch in sealed containers. The principal of a local school, John Southon, said that the students have got used to mice and that they “don’t blink” when mice saunter across their desks. It affects every aspect of their lives and the presence of mice is wearing people down.
What about introducing a couple of working cats into the school? What is so difficult about that? Is that beyond the bounds of possibility? Working cats should be introduced to working places such as schools. Not only would a couple of domestic cats at this school help to get rid of the mice, they would also put a smile on the students’ faces. Their presence may even assist them in their work in that the cats would make them more relaxed. We are constantly reminded of mental health issues in young kids (at least in the UK we are) and we also know that animals help with these issues: an added benefit.
I would like to see a little bit of imagination employed in remembering the reason why the domestic cat exists in the first place, namely to be a companion to people and from time to time to be a working companion at the service of people. This is a moment when domestic cats can raise their public profile in the eyes of people who dislike them by being useful. And a lot of Aussies dislike cats. Here we can see them learning to like them because of their usefulness.
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