When we first bought our place we had several rat snakes in residence. I've watched them slither up trees to raid nests. Dan found a dead one and cut it open to discover a full grown bird digesting in its belly. Snakes also rob chicken nests of eggs and baby chicks. They eat mice too, but is that a good trade-off? We find that when we keep the rodent population down, we have fewer snakes.
Last summer we lost six chicks to what we eventually figured out was a rat. That's when we decided to get more cats.
It is true that if we either did not have cats or kept them in the house, some birds would not be killed. The flip side to that coin is that we would have an ever increasing population of mice, rats, and snakes. Given the choice, which would you prefer? Unfortunately, there is no "none of the above" in life.
In the big picture, cats are not the only thing that hunt and kill songbirds. In our area hawks, owls, rats, and rat snakes prey on birds. Crows, blue jays, grackles, cowbirds, squirrels, and chipmunks rob nests. Some will be quick to point out that domestic cats are biggest threat to birds. That is very likely true in areas where there is a high population of domestic cats and a low population of vermin, i.e. urban and suburban areas. In rural areas, where there is a lower density of domestic cats, they will find a larger variety of things to hunt. However, I'm not interested in arguing that point with anybody.
When one lives close to nature in the way the farmer or homesteader does, one discovers a politically inconvenient truth; that nature is neither kind nor benevolent. It is, in fact, violent and cruel. No amount of technology, knowledge, human intelligence, nor tampering with it can change that.
I think the real issue is that there is a huge experiential divide between those who live in urbanized areas and those who live off the land. Unfortunately, this divide has nothing to do with reality, reason, and logic, but everything to do with opinion and emotion. This is why some discussions go nowhere but in circles. But does argument and criticism really help solve the problem or create new ones?
The beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote
"I should like to sentence the ex-governor who vetoed the state bounty on hawks to make his living raising chickens." Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered WritingsDoes that mean she was a hawk hater? Or a politician hater? Some would jump at the chance to say so. More to the point is that we become so bound up in our emotional point of view that we forget there is another, usually valid, side of the story. We ignore the old proverb about walking a mile in another's shoes. If one has only seen beautiful, graceful deer in zoos, for example, it is so easy to rail against the farmer or gardener who is at wits end because the deer destroy all the corn. (Ever read The Yearling?)
I will be the first to admit that humans are the most destructive creatures on the planet. So what are the options? Argue about it? Further reform the educational system? Create laws and political campaigns to restrict everyone because of some? Genetically modify cats so as to remove their hunting instinct? Anonymously criticize and belittle others who have different opinions and experiences? Punish them by no longer visiting their blog or website?
So, was I really saying it's okay for my cats to kill birds? Those who interpreted the phrase in context know I did not. Perhaps it would have helped if I'd mentioned in that post that most of the things my cats catch they do not kill. Instead they try to bring them into the house to play with! Most of their catches never make it beyond the back porch, and I cannot tell you how many live birds, chipmunks, and mice we've had to catch ourselves (not so easy when they're hiding behind the washing machine!). The birds we set free, the rodents we dispose of ourselves. We finally had to lock the kitty door to one way only - out.
Still, my cats do occasionally kill birds. Do I like that? No. Do I wish they didn't? Yes. Will I imprison them in the house because of it? No. They are doing what they were created to do and that is a necessary function on our homestead. They are earning their keep. I will not apologize for that.
Well, I'll tuck my soapbox away now for another while. The person I'm responding to will never read this because they vowed off my blog. Still, the sentiment is sadly all too common. Intolerance takes on many forms, but it always begins to create a very small, suffocating world. May we learn to respect one another enough to not to contribute to that.