Letters: Cat contributions overlooked; Fences protect birds

Cat contributions overlooked

Recent letters to the Peak regarding “Counterpoint: Keep your cats indoors, July 19” have ignored their contribution to the success of our species.

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I’ve homesteaded here for 39 years. With an orchard, year-round gardens, greenhouse, barn and livestock, I have rats and, like a lot of the world, cats to help keep them in check.

I learned quickly that I needed two cats in case I lost one; it takes months to get a kitten up to speed.

On two occasions, I lost both of my cats to predators above them in the food chain, which happens often in a natural environment. Both times, before my new kittens were ready, my homestead and barn were overrun by at least 50 to 100 rats. The kittens grew, but took months to get the rat population under control.

Mankind used to be hunters and gatherers. When we moved to growing and storing foods we adopted cats to help protect our food supply, mainly from rodents.

Norway (or brown or wharf) rats spread around the world and arrived in North America by ship at our eastern seaports. They prospered and in Saint John, NB, one of our first ports, they now approach the size of small cats.

Cats prospered with them and many are now the size of small to medium dogs. The locals prize their cats for their role in controlling the rat population.

Without controls, the female rat population from a single Norway rat female can increase 300 to 400 per cent in eight weeks, and by 1,000 per cent in 15 weeks. The population from a single rat pair can reach 15,000 in one year. Our local wild rats are similarly prolific.

My cats dig in my gardens and kill the occasional bird, mouse or vole when rats are scarce, but it is a small sacrifice compared to the horror of the rats without them.

If cats are culled or kept indoors continually, Powell River residents will likely quickly face problems they do not seem to expect.

Steve Lawn
Highway 101


Fences protect birds

Some time ago, when one of my two cats was having a checkup, I asked the veterinarian if he thought the policy of keeping cats indoors was a good one [“Counterpoint: Keep your cats indoors, July 19”]. An explosion occurred. No, he did not.

The veterinarian had just spayed a kitten that had been kept indoors all its life and found it had a layer of fat an inch thick around all its organs because it was not getting enough exercise.

I am a lifelong birder and a lifelong cat lover. Currently, I am the compiler for Powell River’s Christmas Bird Count and the leader for the Westview BC Coastal Waterbird Count.

Many feeder watchers think they are seeing the same birds every day. They may not be.

In 1999, Robert Waldon, author of Feeding Winter Birds in the Pacific Northwest, gave a talk to the Malaspina Naturalists Club. He said a friend of his had banded all the sparrows visiting his feeder. At the end of a year, he had banded 10,000.

My cats tend to catch birds during migration seasons in spring and fall when birds are tired and less wary of predators.

A metre-high fence of chicken wire around shrubs where cats feeder watch provides good protection for birds that see the movement as the cat jumps over. This is enough warning for the birds to escape.

To see a bird desert, drive up our backcountry, which has been severely logged and had large swaths of habitat destroyed.

In 1991, I was told there were seven different kinds of woodpeckers to be seen and heard along the forest trails. I have rarely seen even one on the Sunshine Coast Trail.

Heather Harbord
Manitoba Avenue

Copyright © 2018 Powell River Peak


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