Every pet owner understands the rules of the game. Dogs are an owner's best friend; owners are a cat's best friend. Puppies and dogs need us; cats need only other cats. I know what evolution teaches us about this, but I can't help thinking maybe God is a dog owner, and he made cats as a joke on us.
Whatever your theology on the subject, right now the cat population -- which is enormous and growing -- is being branded as "fatal felines." A new study by Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Institute estimates that, "Cats massacre 2.4 billion birds plus 12.3 billion small mammals every year in the US alone. Frankly we were stunned."
As a cat owner I'm stunned too. And will think twice before sending Puss 'n Boots out tonight. This study, among others, makes kitty a "Greater threat to wildlife than any other human-linked source, including pesticides, collisions with cars, window and windmills combined."
But, you will say, these stats must apply only to wild cats. Actually, the research says, 30% of the kills are from domestic cats who are allowed out. If that's true, what immediately comes to mind? Well, to some wives: "What exactly is my husband doing when he says he's working late at the office?" Something else that might come to mind: "What is my sweet curled up cat thinking when she stares at me with those unblinking, half-closed eyes?" Professor Marra offers one answer: "An average roaming house cat kills up to 18 birds and 21 mammals annually."
Now you see....here's another disturbing example of where too many facts & stats can really ruin your day! Until I read Professor Marra and his kiling-machine data, I had always seen kittens and cats as singularly stunning studies in serenity. There they rest before the fireplace in all their silky-coated calm, a study in cozy domesticity. But now...! Now how can I eever look those furry darlings in the eye and not wonder how much dried blood hides beneath those tiny claws, and how many targets they are setting up for their next excursion.
In a world in which every other headline is exposing and tearing down another hero, now the Smithsonian is messing up my gentle images of my cats. Did I need really to know all this stuff! Did my wife need to know that sometimes my "work at the office" is a poker game! Does the Smithsonian have something against me still keeping a few happy delusions!
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