My current read is Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us". It is a good read, important, informative, frightening and entertaining at the same time, and I highly recommend it to anyone (which really should be everyone) who cares about the current and future state of the planet.
Some chapters and paragraphs go into a little too much detail for my taste, in some others, I would have wanted to know more.
But why I am actually writing this blog today is because of the author calling the four-legged furry creature so many of us have living with them, Felis silvestris catus, a small serial killer.
He basically says that our pet cats are genetically identical with the small wild species still existing (albeit at very limited numbers) in Europe, Africa and some parts of Asia. In spite of having adapted over the past millenia to living alongside humans (to mutual benefit, I wish to add), they as a species have never lost their hunting instinct, and birds still fit their prey pattern very well.
Much as I like Alan Weisman's book, I can not agree with his affirmation that cats (at least those regularly fed by humans) kill birds purely out of bloodlust. Animals do not kill for bloodlust; that is an entirely human invention, I dare say. Animals kill out of instinct, for various reasons (prey to feed on, territorial fights, partner fights, and so on).
He further cites several statistics in the book: Compared to the doubling of human world population over the past 50 years, cat population has increased in the 20 years from 1970 to 1990 alone from 30 to 60 million. The average stray town cat will kill 28 birds a year (is that a lot? It is just a bit more than one every two weeks. Most humans eat, in terms of meat, the equivalent of more than one dead bird every two weeks - and we all know that the way these animals are usually raised and killed is entirely different from what we COULD do if we were willing to spend a bit more money on meat and not insist on buying the cheap stuff from the supermarket freezer).
The study he cites also states that cats living in the countryside will kill a lot more than those 28 birds per year. Examining the numbers for the state of Wisconsin, said study concluded that the roughly two million cats roaming the rural areas there were responsible for the death of more than 219 million birds/year.
A few pages before getting to the "furry serial killer" bit, the author writes of an estimated billion birds that smash themselves to death every year by flying into windows. Another 120 million get killed by humans on purpose. 80 million end up as a bloody mash on the cars and trucks speeding along our highways. A further half billion birds fly into sending masts, and an unspecified number gets killed by flying into the high voltage lines crossing our landscapes (not from the voltage, but from the impact). Add to that those poisoned by pesticides, and you don't even want to know the number anymore.
Cats are nasty little buggers with sharp teeth and claws, as selfish as they need to be, masking their nastiness behind their cuteness and beauty. But they are no different from other animals hunting and killing in that respect, and I repeat: they do it because it is their nature to do so.
I am glad to have my own little serial killer, who, in the 8 years she's been living with me now, has not even brought in a mouse, let alone a bird. She is a bit on the clumsy side, as opposed to my old cat Mimi, who brought mice in every day, and on a handful of occasions a bird.