The cat problem

The cat problem

Spread the love

Judging from this scene, it’s probably not a good idea for us to introduce another cat to our household.

And no, it’s not that there are two many pictures of them on Facebook. (There are, but that’s a discussion for another time.)  My husband and I have owned cats for over twenty years (2 different ones); they’ve always been kept inside, although the first one was briefly allowed to sit on the roof of the third floor apartment we had at the time.

It wasn’t until we bought out house that I noticed the rather large number of cats who were either free agents or had owners who let them loose in the neighborhood. We often find them skulking around our pond, begging near the front door or sometimes even trying to get matey with our cat (as shown above). The actual animals themselves don’t bother me that much—I feel sorry for the ones who seem hungry or neglected—but it has to be said; cats and gardening don’t mix. At all. While urban dogs are walked, supervised, and (mostly) picked up after, urban cats treat the world as their litter box. In my small garden, it can be very annoying, and recently, I’ve been trying different things to keep them out. First, there was a sonic device that didn’t seem to do much. I also have a movement-activated sprayer I may hook up this spring. Finally, I’ve thought of just trapping them and turning them in. (Thought of it, haven’t done it.)

The problem in Buffalo is serious enough that the city is actually convening a cat task force.  Animal advocates are suggesting that rounding up unowned cats and getting them spayed/neutered, then releasing them would be part of a solution. Personally, I think people should keep their pet cats indoors. And I became even more convinced of this after reading—as many of you must have—the recent reporting on how many birds cats kill per year. Depending on which study you read—here’s another one—it can be up to 4 billion a year, killed by a combination of feral and domesticated animals. That’s a lot of birds and there are even more small mammals. It’s enough to cause extinctions, according to a number of studies. This is not the natural way of things; basically, an invasive species has been translocated by humans worldwide with predictable results.

There’s nothing new about the data, but other than the trapping and neutering idea, no one has come up with a solution. Nobody wants to see species disappear; nobody wants to kill cats. I doubt the situation will be addressed in any serious way—but I hadn’t realized how big of a problem it was.


Oh yes—and as with everything, there is a funny way of looking at it!

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on February 4, 2013 at 8:39 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Ministry of Controversy, Science Says.

    • Catherine
    • 15th April 2016

    I’d add the dog problem. Tired of dog owners who think that my yard is their (leashed) dog’s bathroom. The pee kills the grass and, no, they don’t always clean up the poo. I love animals, but not all animal owners.

    • val
    • 28th July 2016

    Seriously–at least cats partially bury their waste! I have stepped in mounds of dog doo a few times too many in my front yard, but I agree, cats should be kept indoors. If not for the birds, for the cats themselves. I cannot imagine having to deal with the disease and injuries an outdoor cat faces.

    • Van
    • 18th August 2016

    I have to add that if cats do not do the killing of the birds, the state then poisons them! This is true, which I found out just last year after reading a story about all the dead birds found in various parks, etc., in and around Indiana and other states. The state then admitted that they had poisoned them because of people complaining about too many messy birds! Which do you want, birds, cats, dogs, or something else, or total emptiness?

    • bittenbyknittin
    • 5th October 2016

    I recently adopted a cat that used to be an outdoor one. I feel sorry for him as he sits glued to a window or the patio door, watching birds, bunnies, and, during a recent warm spell, chipmunks cavort freely outside. But I attract those birds on purpose and don’t want to turn my bird feeders into a cat buffet. Hawk buffet, but not cat buffet. Fortunately, few cats run loose around here, so I don’t have your problem. Too bad cats kill indiscriminately – I would not mind fewer potato-eating voles and bluebird-house-nesting sparrows.

    • Kara
    • 5th November 2016

    What a timely post! I, too, am an indoor cat owner, but having a problem with roaming outdoor cats. There are several that are hanging around outside my house menacing my cat through the windows and crying at my doors. I’m also concerned about them killing birds that visit my feeder and they’ve been leaving dead rodents outside to boot. The worst part is that they’re spraying on my plants and around the outside of my house! I wish there was a solution, but most people around me seem to think that it’s cruel not to leave their cats roam, even with it’s 0 degrees outside.

    • UrsulaV
    • 12th November 2016

    There are either feral or “outdoor” cats roaming around my yard (I suspect both) and once I find dead birds, I get very scorched earth about it. I have a live trap, and I’m perfectly willing to trap a cat and take it to the pound. If it doesn’t have a collar or a microchip then the owners must not care enough about it to ensure its safety. (I am a cat owner, I have several, I love them all very much, they are strictly indoor and have chips in case they get out.)

    • Laura Bell
    • 14th November 2016

    In my back yard right now there are two piles of feathers where cats caught & killed birds. Not hawks, since these are in spots under cover where a hawk could not go. I resent cat owners allowing their pet to roam freely, killing wildlife & using my mulch or freshly-turned soil as a litterbox. I do clean up after my dog (and I have had to clean up numerous times after others who do not clean up after theirs), I keep her leashed when we go past the front door. Why can’t cat owners keep their pets indoors?

    • admin
    • 15th November 2016

    Listen to what Susan says! Friends who allow cats out, maybe because they were feral from kittenhood, or for whatever reason, will be whining to go out and coming in like they are kings without hands! They pick up things out there, get into fights, etc etc. We have so many feral cats that indoor cats will scrap with them once outside.

    • Jane Sinclaire
    • 15th November 2016

    Cats aren’t the only cause of dead birds and small animals. I wish people would get as worked up about pesticides and herbicides which not only harm wildlife but humans as well.

    • Laura Bell
    • 15th November 2016

    Oh, I’m worked up about that, too. Ask my chemical-happy neighbors.

    • Ned Hamson
    • 15th November 2016

    Birds do it, cats do it, squirrels do it, worms do it, raccoons do it… grin… build a greenhouse if you want to control all the organics in your garden – smile.

    • Laura Bell
    • 15th November 2016

    But cat poop has pathogens that specifically can harm humans, especially fetuses. Worm poop is good for my plants; mammal poop is not. Squirrels & raccoons don’t specifically go where I’ll be digging/working/harvesting. And bird poop can be washed away – not too mention it’s less likely to have transferable diseases. And these are domesticated cats we’re talking about; the others have not been.

Leave a comment

Recent Posts

Testing Pollinator Plants at Penn State

Connie Schmotzer is Principal Investigator for pollinator research. Just in time for National Pollinator Week, my Garden Writers region planned a fabulous outing for members – to see the Penn State Trial Gardens near ...

Read More