Cats vs. Birds (you must choose one)

When is your cat a “bird murderer”? This 1911 piece summarizes a Cat Journal article defending his cat’s occasional predation.

The author’s main arguments are:

  1. When rowdy birds rustle around the ground, a cat can hardly help itself. (“[The birds] continually war with each other and often fall to the earth in fierce combat which is very tempting to the cats.”)
  2. Men and boys kill way more birds than a cat does, either for sport or via agricultural practices (“More birds die by the 22-caliber rifle during cherry season in California than by all the cats during all the seasons of the year. And what a multitude of our winged friends are poisoned by grain and grass seed charged with vitriol or strychnine and sown in the fields for their destruction!”)
  3. A good cat can be trained not to hunt birds; a “renegade” cat is just hungry. (“Only the untrained, unfed, homeless cats kill birds, and they do so only when they want something to eat. Is this worse than the sportsman shooting birds just for the sport?”

I find this piece very relevant to the current debates over in New Zealand about whether to ban the keeping of cats for the sake of the birds. And who didn’t receive, either in their e-mail inboxes or their social media newsfeeds, a link to the New York Times article about how murderous cats can be? In fact, my partner paraded around the apartment showing our three cats the article and calling them murderers. (Note: My cats do not go outside unleashed.)

Underlying everything, as I hinted at earlier, is the fact that us humans—it seems we get to choose, cats or birds?, because we think and act like we own the world. 

Source: Our Dumb Animals 44.1 (June 1911).

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