This was brought dramatically to my attention yesterday afternoon when I was escorting Nessie Rae (the rabbit we share a house with) outside for the second of her daily outdoor visits. Rabbits, being crepuscular, generally are very active in the early morning and late afternoon...one of the tasks associated with working for Nessie is accompanying her outside during these two times.
She patrols and inspects most all of the area around her house and munches on tasty or interesting vegetation, chins plants and everything else, and sometimes wants to play chase with her escort. Right now she has a big digging project going on in the northeast corner of the backyard so that is where she usually heads as soon as she is out the door.
Yesterday I was standing around watching her work (one of the perks of being retired, getting to watch others work without working myself) when a female and male Cardinal flew into the tree/shrub right above my head and just froze there. Usually Cardinals have a pretty large 'startle' area and don't get too close...but these two were not more than 5 or 6 above me. I looked around and saw a small hawk land on a fence about 10 feet from us. Obviously these two birds had spotted the hawk and were making themselves as invisible as possible by sitting inside the shrub/tree and being perfectly still and quiet.
|Where everyone was located.|
No, these feathered folks aren't dumb and a little observation and attention would confirm that for those that care to inform themselves.
Now, this experience led me to think about something that was hammered home rather strongly in a recent novel by Jonathan Franzen titled: Freedom. My thanks to my friend D.E.M who writes the excellent Animal Rights blog for steering me to this book. One of the bits of information in the book is the fact that birds, especially North American birds have not co-evolved with cats as a serious predator. Oh, a bobcat and/or a mountain lion might occasionally kill and eat a small bird but songbirds, Cardinals and the like are not serious food species for cats indigenous to this part of the world (and maybe nowhere, I don't know)....hence....our small birds simply don't have an evolutionary background which has allowed them to develop adaptations that effectively work to thwart being stalked and killed by cats.
The estimated number of birds killed each year by 'domestic' (dependent) cats is staggering, in the millions if not hundreds of millions, and this number...horrific as it is doesn't include the number (estimated at more than a billion) of small mammals that are stalked and killed by cats. Astonishing. Human animals bring cat animals to this continent for their own amusement and pleasure...cat animals then wreak havoc on indigenous animals. Good grief, even when humans aren't trying they end up causing death and destruction. Maybe we ought to quit doing stuff. Really.
Keep your cat indoors and do not let them roam outside. Period. Not only will you save the lives of other animals you will likely prolong the life of your cat. Cats did not evolve here, the animals here have not evolved strategies to cope with cats....just like they haven't evolved to cope with automobiles, electricity, air pollution...etc...all the wonderful ways we have developed to disrupt and destroy nature and the living world.
The Cardinals I saw yesterday have evolved with hawks, they knew that sitting very still and quietly on a leafy and obscured branch was an effective strategy to avoid the hawk, even if they have to be near a human animal to do it. The Cardinals don't have a long history with cats like they do hawks. Give them a break, and the chipmunks and prairie dogs and...and...and all the other little ones who are victims of the alien domestic cats we human animals brought here. Please.
And, in addition to keeping your cat indoors, if you really want to help out a bunch of your fellow animals...go vegan.