Nature Madison

As I write this, I am in a bit of a dilemma. I love nature and wildlife, including birds. At the same time, I am an unabashed cat lover, having had several beloved feline pets over the past 40 years.

The problem is that our little kitty friends and wildlife, especially birds, don’t always go together. Cats, even well-fed cats, kill birds. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year.

Although this number might seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats. Each outdoor cat plays a part.

The problem seems to be that the cat is a very skilled and efficient hunter and its prey, evolutionary speaking, might not have enough time to learn how to defend against the cat.

In some parts of the world, Australia for example, it’s even worse since felines have only been introduced within the past few hundreds of years, and their native wildlife rarely stand a chance against them.

A common practice to deal with the over-population of feral cats is to trap and euthanize feral cats. A few years back, one gated community in the Lowcountry hinted at such a plan and the groundswell of opposition was immediate, loud and forceful.

It is fair to say that the community made a hasty retreat. Even the most ardent of bird lovers will draw the line at euthanizing or killing cats and kittens. There are better ways.

So, what can be done? Well, we can trap feral cats in humane traps that do not harm  them. Feral cats can be taken to  places such as Hilton Head Humane Association, where the cats can be neutered and then released back into the environment. Over time this will reduce the number of feral cats in a given location.

How do we balance our love of nature, our birdlife and our love for our cats?

Our pet, Madison, is primarily an indoor cat, but we do let her out on a leash – only when we are outside with her and watch her. Of course, not everyone will want to do that.

Many people say cats will not wear a color or leash. I can say it works well for us and for Madison. All three of our most recent feline family members were willing to accept a collar and leash  in order to be outdoors.

Both our cat and the local birds are much safer. It’s something to consider.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.