To the editor: I read the recent article about trapping and neutering feral cats with interest ("Colony of cats trapped, neutered and released," May 5). I applaud the humane society for doing this up to the point where they took the cats back to release them in their former colony.
Cats are arboreal animals by nature, and it is there that they do a significant portion of their hunting. Feral cats catch and eat many small mammals such as meadow mice and voles, none of which I am going to cry about. However, they also catch, maim and/or eat significant numbers of ground feeding birds such as thrushes, robins, bluebirds, sparrows of all types, and other birds which fly close to the ground as do phoebes and many of our small warblers. Many of these birds like the hermit thrush and wood thrush spend much of their lives on the ground. Ovenbirds actually build their nest on the ground. You may be aware that these migrants who come to spend the warmer months here to raise their young are under great pressure from habitat loss and dwindling food sources. To add a population of 19 feral cats back into an uncontrolled situation only increases the casualty list to these species which recently have been found to be reduced by 30 percent.
Adult birds arriving from migrations which can amount to thousands of miles land, exhausted after flying all night, and are extremely vulnerable to predators like cats which are highly adapted to catch them. Those 19 feral cats are going to need to eat. As much as you may think they only eat mice and rodents, these are what they catch at night. Birds are what they will be catching all day. I spent my childhood trying to patch up baby orioles, waxwings, woodpeckers and robins which were brought in droves to the sanctuary I grew up on; all caught and maimed by cats. Very few ever survived. No body brought in the dead birds.
If each of those 19 feral cats catches a bird every other day, that adds up to 180 birds in a year times 19, which is 3,420 birds. And what exactly is a "working cat"?
The native cats in this hemisphere were bobcats, ocelots, lynx, catamount and jaguar. The small cats we Europeans brought are an invasive. People should try to keep them indoors where they will not get themselves eaten by coyotes and foxes. Our native birds would stand a better chance this way.
The feral cats are a difficult problem. I don't like the idea of euthanizing. Perhaps they could have a colony that was surrounded by proper fencing and these untamable cats could live out their lives being fed by volunteers, wreaking less havoc on wild bird populations. The problem is us humans, for not taking proper care of these animals in the first place.
I have two cat friends I am very fond of, Pele and Cezanne. They are not allowed outdoors this time of year until noontime when birds tend to be done feeding. In June and July they will spend most of their time indoors to allow young birds a chance to grow up. They want to be outside, but they are very spoiled despite having to look out the window at the birds. They are in by dark so they themselves don't become the prey. They were obtained from the humane society as kittens of a feral mother. They are great cats, but also lethal hunters of small creatures.
I hope the humane society can rethink the program of releasing feral cats back out in the wild. This is not so humane if you care about songbirds.
South Newfane, May 6