17 November 2017

What to do about cats

Last year New Zealand announced its Predator Free 2050 strategy, which aims to rid the country of rats, possums and mustelids. It carefully didn't target cats (there was an election coming less than a year later, after all). But the omission was duly noted, and people have been talking more about cats and their hunting habits.

Cats kill birds so they must be constrained ... or they help the birds because they kill rats ... or to clamp down on cats is doing what the Nazis did to the Jews (seriously: this group is called Feline Rights New Zealand).

Happily there are voices of reason, such as the people behind the National Cat Management Strategy. I can't find a copy of it online, but I read the draft version closely, and found it very sensible and humane.

In the meantime, there is a small grey lion living in this house who likes to hunt. With spring firmly here and memories of the many fledglings he murdered last year still raw,  I bought him a Birdsbesafe collar from the US. I couldn't find a New Zealand supplier.

It's a simple, soft, colourful cloth tube that goes around a breakaway collar. I left the bell on the actual collar, because I understand there's also some evidence that bells alert birds.

The colourful ruff helps the birds spot the cat sooner, so they have a chance to escape. Birds are very visual, and bright colours catch their eye. Rodents, however, are not, so it doesn't reduce how many of them the cat catches.

Our boy hated the collar at first, and walked  backwards  to try to escape it! But soon afterwards he was behaving quite normally. I thought he was going to look ridiculous, but in fact we think he looks quite beautiful in it.

About three weeks later, this happened.

The collar doesn't help if the cat hides under a shrub and ambushes the bird, and of course this is what they do quite often. Ours has several prime ambush sites around our property.

Then last night - no collar. He came inside and it is just gone. Presumably it got caught on a branch which pulled it hard, and the breakaway collar just, well, broke away.

I hope we find it!
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