My wife and I have a long-standing disagreement when it comes to our cat, Skitty.
I contend that nothing would please the cat more than to take a chunk of flesh out of my forearm.
I’m generally wrong when it comes to marital disputes, but this time, I’ve at least got some science on my side.
We all know cats have been living with us for thousands of years. Whether they domesticated themselves or we did is another question. In any case, they make good companions. Plus, they help keep rats, mice and other pests under control. Their ability to keep vermin at bay and hunting other small mammals and birds is the subject of a report that came out last week.
Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service crunched the numbers and what they came up with is the first estimate of the toll cats take on wildlife across the country.
Taken at face value, the numbers are impressive.
The study estimates billions of small mammals and birds die in the clutches of cats – domestic and feral - each year.
The New York Times quotes the author of the report published in the journal Nature Communications as saying the numbers “are shockingly high” and “absolutely stunning.”
Others take issue with the study’s findings, saying they suspect the reliability of the numbers. But the fact remains that cats are hunters. And if we let ours out, I have no doubt she’d be chasing down a nice snack before dinner.
At least, she would if she could bring herself to even go outside.
As it stands now, she’s much too cowardly to brave our neighborhood, despite starting life outside as part of a litter born beneath our neighbor’s deck. If not for our daughter and her bestie, Skitty would not be living with us today. She’d be hunting for her daily bread. But those girls crawled up under the deck, dragged Skitty out and begged my wife and me to bring her into our home.
Skitty is now an indoor cat who has developed a real phobia about the outdoors and a surly disposition that would give even The Incredible Hulk pause.
You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. And, she’s angry all the time.
I guess I can’t really blame her, anymore.
That report turned a light on for me.
For one thing, I now know why I can’t get near our clothes dryer. The dryer is Skitty’s favorite perch, mainly because she’s nearly always hungry. We keep her food bowl there to keep the dog out of it. If I pass by without a little kibble as an offering, I have to give it a wide berth or risk a mauling.
Whether or not you accept the numbers, thanks to the latest research, I now see that our cat doesn’t necessarily want to cut my arm to ribbons. It’s more that I’m the closest thing to prey that she’s ever likely to stalk, aside from the stink bugs that periodically invade our home.
It must be frustrating.
If I were forced to eat little nuggets of dry food all the time, I’d want to whip out a claw and poke someone’s eye out, too.