Science College, General Science Dept
by Jessie Blyton
THE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CAT
What follows are some ways to make our lives environmentally friendly. You will notice that many of these points are also *humane* and *ethical* (see "Feral Cats - FAQ and TAR"). But in this class our point of view is of protecting the environment.
Spaying and neutering are the humane surgical removal of the female or male organs. This will stop the production of kittens that have no chance of being homed. Cats are a domesticated species now, so we all crave for that feeling of comfort and security that a loving home brings us. But it's not only a matter of what we would prefer.
Some humans have a very cruel and selfish tendency to let loose those kittens they don't want. Other cats get lost accidentally. Once a cat is roaming wild, it must of necessity prey on other species to survive. My words might sound callous, kitties, but if it cannot breed, at least the damage is limited to that one cat and its probably quite short lifetime.
A female cat in an easy environment can produce three or four ltters a year with an average of four kittens each time - and each kitten will start reproducing before they're a year old. A male cat can be responsible for many, many more offspring than this. So you see that from the odd cat let loose here and there hundreds could result in a very short time. That's why we need to be sensible and submit to spaying or neutering.
*BEING COLLARED AND MICROCHIPPED
Collars and microchips ensure that if we do get separated from our humans they can be contacted. Collaring and chipping will not only ensure our lives are protected (enough reason in itself!) but make it easy for any humans that rescue us. They are not just tempted to ignore our straying state and leave us to fend for ourselves at the expense of the environment, because they know that finding our humans will be relatively easy. They can read the telephone number off our collar or take us to a vet or shelter where our chips can be read and referenced with the database.
*RESTRICTED OUTDOORS ACCESS
This is basically to stop us hunting, because a good hunting cat can kill many animals per day/night - far more than it can eat. As we all know deep down, a cat cannot have hunting trained out of it, and wearing bells has been shown to be ineffective, so some kind of physical restriction is necessary. There are several levels of restriction, all helpful and relevant in different situations:
(1)The first level of restriction is for all humans to note - even the ones without cats at home. All humans need to be aware that their gardens do not make it easy for any neighborhood cat to hunt and kill wildlife. The most obvious errors are the placement of bird feeders and bird baths where cats can creep up and pounce. Sometimes it is necessary to put a "skirt" on a tree to stop a cat from climbing it to hunt, or to cut tree branches to stop a cat from pouncing from roof or other handy structure. The human just has to watch what happens in their garden and make adjustments to stop cats getting easy prey.
(2)The second level of restriction is a curfew - cats staying indoors, usually from about sunset to dawn. This will cut down much of our predation as we cats are better hunters at night. In some places a cat curfew is the human law now, in others it is just basic good sense. As a side effect, a curfew also minimises territorial disputes - which for many kitties is a gruelling part of life.
(3)The third level is the use of a "Cat Park" which can be purchased from some humane societies, for example. It is basically a prefabricated mesh enclosure that allows the cat access to part of a garden in a controlled way without being able to get at the wildlife. Cat Parks are fun, and safe for the cat too - dogs and feral cats can't get in and cats cannot wander off or get run over.
(4)Enterprising cats can get their humans to enclose their yards, partially or entirely, to allow the cats access to the outside in a controlled way. Again this takes the element of temptation out of the cats' paws and makes a cat's life much safer as well.
(5)Cats can become completely "indoor kitties." This is easier to achieve with apartments, or in cooler climate countries where lifestyle is more interior-centred. If a cat has a scratching post, fresh kitty litter, lots of human and/or feline company and some toys (see next section) it can be a happy and healthy indoor kitty and suffers no loss of quality of life.
*TOYS AND PLAYTIME
Toys of various kinds can provide stimulation that may help with channeling or diverting our hunting instincts. We all seem to like soft toys on strings - but remind your humans of the saying "The best cat toy has a human companion on the other end"! Scratching posts are essential for indoor cats as a claw-sharpener but actually they are fun too.
Other "toys" may include a "cat-gym" (a tall construction with platforms at various levels to climb over and perch upon) or a simple window seat from which to survey the outside world. An athletic sisfur of mine once used to play endless games of "squash" with a table tennis ball in the bath tub! The range of possible toys depends to some extent on your human's ingenuity and your ability to communicate your needs.
Cats can do a lot to help the planet back to health by helping our humans live in an environmentally friendly way and by doing so ourselves. The best things we can do directly for the environment are
- be spayed/neutered
- wear our collars and get microchipped
- accept restrictions to our hunting instincts
- use toys and other diversions instead of hunting.
Please revise this material before you take the exam as we covered a lot of information! And afterwards I encourage all kitties to read on in any area that interests you, for the sake of our planet.
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