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Pampered Pets, Pampered Predators
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
March 19, 1998
Recently one of the daily newspapers ran a plethora of letters to the editor regarding a very controversial subject, one that involves compassion, choices and opposing ideologies. Now this conversation wasn't your usual Christian Coalition diatribe, or the average Right to Life rhetoric. The topic at hand took three weeks to run it's course, which is surprising considering America's attention span at the end of the century. The discussion was one of wild animals versus domesticated ones, or more to the point, cats versus coyotes.
The whole thing started when a women wrote that her beloved pet of 12 years, Tammy, became coyote chow. This was inexcusable. So in a misguided letter she asked that all coyotes be eradicated from the area. I'm not kidding. In response other readers wrote in to tell her to get a clue, one even went so far as to accuse her of being a neglectful pet owner. To this I say, no one owns a cat. Now they might incarcerate one, but they don't own them. How do I know this? I co-habitate with four. I fought hard not to enter the barrage against this women, because, as some of you know, a year ago I lost my friend and familiar, Tofu Owliwicous Amenra to a hungry coyote. Where we differ is I don't blame the coyote for grabbing a kitty snack. I blame uncontrolled growth on shrinking habitat, which drives coyotes into residential neighborhoods.
The reason I waited to address this issue is simply timing. Given the time to think about an approach that would not leave me sounding like a cat hater, I was struck by the irony of the whole situation. I'm not sure what the statistics are, but I'm certain more wild animals are killed by pets than pets are killed by wild animals. For every cat that finds it's way on to a menu, I think it is safe to say 4 hundred birds, 600 lizards, and a couple hundred gophers are dinner for our favored felines. And before readers accuse me of picking on cats, dogs are just as guilty of wild life removal.
As spring approaches pet owners must be on constant vigil to keep Tammy or Gobot from killing everything in their path. Young are especially vulnerable. Domestic cats and dogs, for the most part, are like humans, and kill mainly for sport. Sure, I know it is part of their hunting instinct and they used to survive on such prey. But hey, that's what Friskies are for. If I'm not mistaken one of the reasons we are strip mining the oceans is to provide our furry friends with Kitty Queen Tuna. Remember this is coming from a man with four cats in residence. Whenever I open a can of cat food I feel guilty, as we all should. Also when I have to bury half a gopher, or vacuum up bird feathers I question the luxury of pets. Some would say you should keeps cats and dogs inside at all times. To that I would say why don't you stay in the house for your entire life, and see how stimulating that is. I have a friend in Santa Cruz who puts bells on her cats. This actually works to alert potential prey that Artemis and Goldenrod are on the prowl. When I find my cats with living animals, usually mice and lizards which make great toys, I rescue the terrified animal, and chastise the cat with a stern talking to. The conversation goes something like this. "Don't you realize the environmental impact you are having on native species" The cats then look at me as if I were insane, and then continue on with their very busy schedules.
Certain responsibilities come with being granted the opportunity of sharing space with a companion animal. First is the realization that domestic animals are longer part of the food chain, and like humans, are no longer in balance with their natural surroundings. Although I think I should note that pets are as far from their natural habitat, as Bill Gates is from a Luddite convention. Second, pet owners must not hold non-domesticated species to a different standard than they would their pets. Eat or be eaten goes both ways. And lastly, native animals should be given more consideration then hybrid freaks of nature. And yes this includes my cats.
So where do we go from here? Personally I plan to see my cats though this existence and that's it, no more cats for Bob. If I need a feline fix I will turn on the Discovery channel. And if I require a close up experience, I will once again volunteer with Project Wildlife, and help nurse injured or orphaned opossums back to health. Why limit your love to one animal, when there is a whole world of them that need our protection.