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Even your pet kitty can affect an ecosystem

I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. In the event you haven’t had this thrilling experience let it suffice to say that chemo takes a lot out of you. I have had a heck of a time generating the horsepower to gin up the computer to get this article written.

When you are in my situation you spend lots of time just laying around. I have a super faithful chocolate brown lab and we are also privileged to have a visiting pooch, a

nice golden retriever. Both dogs are gentle buddies and I love them dearly.

As I spend time laying on the sofa in our living room two other members of the family stand guard over me. We call them &uot;kittens&uot;, but they are fully grown now and I couldn’t ask for better buddies. They are strictly indoor cats. We have two outdoor cats, too. Believe it or not I have found them guilty of killing critters only on a couple of occasions.

Once I caught them torturing a chipmunk, which I rescued, and the other time they had a mole. Considering the problems I have with moles I didn’t get too excited over that one.

What disturbs me is when cats kill birds. Cat predation on birds is an extremely serious matter. In rural Wisconsin alone rural cats are estimated to kill as many as 219 million birds annually. That’s an awful lot of birds.

According to the American Bird Conservancy domestic cat predation on wildlife is a serious conservation issue, particularly in California, Florida and Hawaii. These states are singled out because their ecosystem is endangered by urban sprawl, especially in the coastal areas. These states have more threatened and endangered species than the others and, because of the warm climate, the cats breed the year around and there are simply more of them.

The Conservancy points out that because cats are not native to North America native wildlife has not evolved good defenses against them. Our domestic cat, Felis catus, is descendent of European and African wild cat, Felis silvestris. The cats came here when people did.

It is estimated that there are more than 90 million pet cats in the United States, which makes them the most popular pet in the United States. It is also estimated that there are about 100 million feral cats in the U.S.

Because cats are often fed by people they have a huge advantage over other predators that have to scrounge for a living. Many are also protected from diseases that control native predators, although cats can be carriers of feline rabies, leukemia or distemper.

The small creatures that birds kill and eat depend upon their availability. On coastal islands cats may eat only birds, but in most cases they eat a variety of small wildlife. Studies have revealed that the much-touted idea that bells on collars stop cats from killing things doesn’t hold water.

The best way to enjoy cats is to keep them indoors. They are great pets. Of course, changing and cleaning litter boxes is not fun, but into each life a little rain must fall.

Jack Randolph is a syndicated outdoors columnist, he can be reached at fishfindjack@aol.com