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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:29 am 
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I have one cat that is a stone cold blood thirsty killer. Up to this point she has killed and left at my back door, rats ,mice,birds shrews and a lizard but now she has taken to killing bats(probably pipistrelle and not vampire). Has your cat left anything unusual by your back door ?

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 2:01 pm 
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rorybbellows wrote:
Has your cat left anything unusual by your back door ?

I've had lots of cats - as in, lots - and some left the occasional mouse or sparrow, but it wasn't super-common. The most notable I ever had, though, was from Lester on the day I officially let him out on his own. A bit of backstory (most of it probably unnecessary, but I'm semi-involved as an instigator, so bear with me): He was an untried subadult who chose me at the adoption center (tell me you can resist when a cat love-bites you on the nose), and I had ample reason to believe he had never been given much opportunity to develop his physical skills and might even have been confined to a cage for most of his life, for though athletic by disposition, he was unusually clumsy for a cat his age: he even fell on his head once or twice. But there was nothing otherwise essentially wrong with him, just a lack of practice, so I designated myself his "sensei" and trained him out of his clumsiness using feather toys for him to to chase - racing in figure eights, jumping, stalking, the sorts of things as would serve a cat physically in nature, and he was very much into this new opportunity to exercise and refine his natural and proper catworthy skills. I also gave him rattle-balls to chase on his own time, and chase them he did, even at night under my bed, the little $%#@&. So, mea culpa, I am probably a major contributor to his early success as a hunter. He definitely wanted to go out, so he was kept on harness and lead for the outdoor jaunts, and to his credit he tried to be game about it, but while it was better than nothing, it just wasn't working for him and he became unhappy and destructive indoors; it was clear that he desperately wanted to go out on his own. But, we had to try it my way first. Also to his credit, whenever he slipped his harness he would obediently stay put and hold still while I put it back on him. That was most unusual for a cat, but Lester was already extraordinary in a lot of ways, and he was committed to the partnership, so sometimes he could be surprisingly cooperative. Inevitably one day, though, he slipped his harness again and, enough being enough, finally went wandering. After that, continuing with the harness would have been unkind, so the next day, with misgivings, I let him out free. You should have seen him do a double-take.

Within a couple of hours he had left at my doorstep not only a full-grown rabbit, but a starling as well, laid neatly together and off to the side so that the tenants wouldn't have to step around them. Very considerate of him.

I am certain that the lavish rabbit and starling presentation was meant to convey the depth of his gratitude at finally being given the free rein he wanted so much. But it also meant, "See what I can do, just like that? Now you really know I'm awesome." That was the first time he had ever hunted, so he had proved a natural and then some (I had good reason to suspect he had little prior maternal introduction to the basics, if any), because three kills within a couple of hours (he'd also eaten a sparrow) is an unusual feat for any predator - to say nothing of one you'd think prey would have seen coming, for being mostly white he was obvious as headlamps, but despite that handicap he still proved surprisingly effective as a hunter. Without the physical training I had given him it would have taken him a lot longer, if at all, to get up to speed. Anyway, after that first day of running free his indoor destructiveness utterly vanished, and home became a refuge to gladly come back to, instead of a prison to escape. Outdoor adventures outdid any toys by far, so Nature Boy lost interest in them for the most part. Instead he became much more affectionate and played with me physically, which was also a change. He left the gift of a sparrow some time after that, but that was about it, and while at first I worried that I'd created a monster, fortunately that wanton, gory first day was just him letting off steam. He still hunted - squirrels, mainly, because Lester hadn't caught one yet and couldn't resist challenges - but he was really more interested in visiting the neighbors and being irrepressibly sociable.

I have to say though, Rory, that catching bats is pretty impressive indeed. Them's mad skillz. I do believe that Lester was on his way to that level himself, but he burned too bright to be long for this world.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 2:21 pm 
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When you get a shelter cat in my Chicago suburb you have to commit to keeping it inside, which is easier said than done. One of my shelter cats made it very clear early on there was no keeping her from exploration. She kept herself to rodents for the most part, but did appear with a young racoon one day, almost half her size. My latest batch used to go outside a lot but were ineffective hunters. They would bring their prey into the dining room and inadvertently "lose" it. We had a creative setup with a large sheet of cardboard and a couple of butterfly nets at the ready to herd confused chipmunks out the back door.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 3:29 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
We had a creative setup with a large sheet of cardboard and a couple of butterfly nets at the ready to herd confused chipmunks out the back door.

The things we do...

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:36 am 
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On an afterthought... Bats shouldn't be catch-able unless they are sick. At least not bats in the midwestern US. Here we assume a bat slow enough and low enough to interact with has rabies. Your bats may vary. Though we did have a shed in Wisconsin where the bats would perch high enough to sleep, but low enough for a cat to get while in repose. But since they were motionless my cats never did give them a second glance.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 12:24 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
On an afterthought... Bats shouldn't be catch-able unless they are sick. At least not bats in the midwestern US. Here we assume a bat slow enough and low enough to interact with has rabies. Your bats may vary.

That's the usual wisdom, and I think it's a good caution; if a cat catches a bat the bat should be examined, because illness (and rabies) might be very likely. Even if the cat's vaccinated against rabies, it's still good to have the bat checked out, if for no other reason than to see if there might be a problem with the local population. Altitude itself isn't necessarily an indicator, though; healthy bats do swoop low, but they usually swoop back up again. That fleeting moment is where a cat would have its chance. And not all bats are created equal: even among those of our own region, busterbill, while all are agile, some species are less agile than others.

Ever since I saw footage of snakes and raptors repeatedly catching apparently healthy (and quite agile) bats that were on the wing, I've come to the conclusion that apart from the bat being within reach, all it takes is timing, the right skillset, and strategy. I now believe it's possible for a cat to nab a healthy bat, although it would be highly unusual and in most cases probably a matter of dumb luck. Rory speaks of bats in the plural, though, so if his cat has caught more than one, either the local population is sick, or that cat's kung fu is strong.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:06 am 
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I hate to rain on this parade, but no one's mentioned how a single outdoor cat in a suburban area is a small-scale ecological disaster. Please, please consider keeping your cat indoors unless you have a completely enclosed property and no interest in wildlife!

This is not some fringe opinion from PETA or any other broccoli-worshiping nut group - it's real, unfortunately under-exposed, science.

https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:33 pm 
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MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
Please, please consider keeping your cat indoors unless you have a completely enclosed property and no interest in wildlife!

From your linked abstract: "Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality." This distinction is not insignificant: a well-fed kept cat does not have to hunt for its survival. More on that in a bit.

You'll notice that I did try - and I always have. For me, keeping a cat indoors is always the preferred mode, both for the cat's health and safety, and for the sake of any wildlife it might otherwise catch. Some cats do very well completely indoors, or can be fine going outdoors with a harness and lead, but others simply cannot. My last was one such, no matter how I tried. In the end I couldn't justify making him profoundly unhappy and neurotic just to spare rabbits, starlings, sparrows, robins, shrews and mice, which make up the overwhelming bulk of wild species where I live, and are not in the least endangered. Now, lest you think that means I adopt a blasé attitude about it, I do not. But in Lester's case his emotional well-being was clearly at stake, so keeping him indoors proved the less ethical of two choices. And I did not make the choice easily, because it meant that in letting him out into a busy urban environment, I put him in harm's way, moreso I believe than in the countryside. I worried about him every day. But when you keep a pet, it cannot always be all about you.

Of course I would rather that my cats not hunt, but not every cat let outdoors is going to be an habitual and wanton killer. My cat previous to Lester liked watching wild animals, but she couldn't be bothered to hunt; at most she would go after beetles and moths, and those were seldom. I know this because we always went out together, and she stayed within sight when not in close proximity, serenely inspecting the grounds. After Lester's initial and impressive display, he himself ramped it down in short order and concentrated mostly on squirrels - also unendangered, by the way - simply because they presented a challenge, and a challenge was something Lester could never resist, because he always had to beat the house. Easy things quickly bored him. Based on circumstantial evidence, he would have finally caught just one squirrel that I know of, and squirrels being fierce when cornered, it's no surprise that it beat Lester up but good: it bit a rodent-style square chunk out of his ear and clawed up his face, big-time. I fully expect the squirrel got away hardly scathed, because Lester had nothing else to show for it other than having his ass handed to him, and his embarrassment. Did that stop him? No - in fact, it tightened his resolve all the more, but the squirrels always had the upper hand: not only are they nearly impossible to catch, they're dangerous if you succeed. I mean, c'mon; there are far easier pickings if all you want is to kill something. So for him, it wasn't about the killing per se, but about the challenge to his skills. That much would be obvious to anyone who was paying attention. But as I mentioned, most of Lester's interest was in socializing with humans, and with their pets as well. Although he was good at it, hunting was not his primary pursuit; a cat chasing merrily after joggers, socializing with bewildered dogs, and going gaga over babies has other fish to fry.

One thing I would point out is that the study you cite admits that it is making statistical estimates - always subject to interpretation, and I'm not going to bother challenging the figures - but I strongly dispute some of its conclusions as presented, especially the assertion that "predation is independent of whether cats are fed by humans." Now, maybe that's just another way of saying that it depends entirely on the cat, for each cat is different. But if that is the intended meaning - and it could be - it is easy to see that the study's wording is ripe for misinterpretation, and one must wonder at some point whether that might not have been by design. So either way, it's too flawed for me to ignore. Anyway, the study's standard was based instead on time spent outdoors, which sounds reasonable enough, but here again the study continues to lump cats together as if they were all alike - admittedly this is inevitable in statistics, but that is also its Achilles' heel - and that, plus the scant regard for biome differences as well as the wordings used, makes me frankly very suspicious of plain, old-fashioned bias. Rain or shine, whatever the season, Lester spent an average of four hours per day outside - plenty of time for mayhem - but most of that time was occupied with visiting and playing with people, and I know this because not only did I see it, I also got phone calls almost daily letting me know where he was, or from new people asking if it was okay for Lester to be visiting them. Needless to say, the whole neighborhood got to know him very well indeed, and you can't do that if you spend a lot of time hunting. In sum: One size does not fit all.

I don't dispute the devastation caused by cats introduced to islands where the wildlife developed in isolation with no survival strategies to cope with the pressure, and those species are often rare and unique. Introducing cats to those environments has been an ecological disaster from the start, and it's a dirty shame people didn't think ahead. But in an environment such as mine it's an entirely different situation, and here, at least, outdoor cats are so few that their predations, such as they may be, have negligible impact: We're still blessed with an abundance of rabbits, starlings, sparrows, robins, shrews and mice, as well as squirrels. Of course one does not rejoice in the kills, but neither does one have cause to worry about the long-term impact of cats on my area's fauna populations. In another environment, the story may be very different. This is not to suggest that I would think my locale is immune to global ecological impacts; far from it. I am simply pointing out the local ecology as it stands in relation to cat predation. There is a place for broad statistics, and a place for the immediate realities of locale.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:48 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:

You'll notice that I did try - and I always have...


My apologies, I wasn't trying to call you out personally - your cat is clearly a character too big for one household, and it appears he is well-supervised! To your point about well-fed cats hunting less though; I don't think that's the case. Some cats will kill anything they can get their paws on, and as our biodiversity continues to tank, I think younger folks are more sensitive to the issue.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:30 pm 
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MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
You'll notice that I did try - and I always have...

My apologies, I wasn't trying to call you out personally - your cat is clearly a character too big for one household, and it appears he is well-supervised!

Was, not is, unfortunately. It was hunting itself that got him hit by a car two years ago March; he was intelligent, but he also had the bad habit of tunnel vision when in hot pursuit, because otherwise he was very aware of traffic. Looked both ways, even! But his desires overrode that when it came to quarry. He still had much to learn, for even at 3 years old he still wasn't fully developed, being half Abyssinian; Abbies don't fully mature until they're around 5, and by all indications the only thing about him that wasn't Abbie was his coloring. Also true to the Abbie type, "a character too big" says it all. He was larger than life. He only lasted with me for a year - I was hoping he'd make it through the next, and then maybe I wouldn't have to worry so much - but I can take comfort in knowing that that year was the fullest and happiest he'd ever had.

Abbies being stubborn, I can only admit to "well-supervised" in terms of his health and diet, and a lot of that supervision was of the neighbors, in getting them to stop feeding him. Took a little work, but they soon got on board with the idea that while visiting was fine - how could I stop him? - they were participating in Lester's best welfare by reinforcing the behavior of going home when he was hungry. Lester was like a thoroughbred, and I wanted to keep him that way. Interestingly, at home he never overate, so I never had to monitor his intake. But dry food made him tubby, and I think he ate the handouts simply because they were offered, so I had to appeal to the neighbors' sense of more mindful involvement because, like it or not, we were all involved; Lester saw to that. Even with no treats he still went visiting, and if they had cats, so much the better. Lester's gig was making friends. Everybody welcomed and looked out for him, so with that out of the way, for me his diet was the easy part.

Here's an example of how loved he had made himself among the neighborhood: Not long ago I had connectivity issues and was browsing the local WiFi accounts, and saw that someone now had an account named Lester The Cat. I had no idea. That's quite the tribute. Blew me away.

Oh, and I didn't think you were calling me out personally. I'm just the guy who says, "Yeah, but...". :)

MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
Some cats will kill anything they can get their paws on, and as our biodiversity continues to tank, I think younger folks are more sensitive to the issue.

Now just hold on, there. What makes you think I'm an old coot? :wink:

Yes, some cats are compulsive killers even when they don't need to be. I'm just pointing out that that's not the only scenario. As to biodiversity concerns, I expect that younger folks will be more immediately sensitive to it - thank goodness - but at least you're not alone. :)

MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
To your point about well-fed cats hunting less though; I don't think that's the case.

I didn't say that; the study you point to did, so you'll have to take it up with them (well, they did say "owned", not "fed", but same difference). I'm not too confident in that report's integrity, so while I did take advantage of it for the purpose of argument, I'm just as suspicious of how they arrive at that claim as well. Instead, I said that fed cats don't have to hunt for their survival, which is indisputably true whatever the numbers. Big difference, with different implications.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:29 am 
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My mother's cat, in all her 19 years, didn't catch much wildlife. I don't recall she ever killed any birds. But she did catch mice a few times, and that I think is a Good Thing.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 4:06 am 
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Years ago I saw one of our cats jump and pluck a bat out of the air. Managed to get it off her alive and release it again. We also had some bats hiding in the stack of turf in the shed, cats got one or two of those.

More bats are left outside the backdoor occasionally, the usual mice, shrews, frogs, toads, birds and rats as well ofcourse. It's more annoying when they bring these things in alive through open windows. Woke up one night after one of them released a robin in the bedroom and started chasing it. Or another one looking shifty in her sleeping box in the kitchen, as it turned out, holding down a live rat (although a small-ish one) that she had just brought in.

One cat had the mother instincts kick in ferociously when she had a litter and one time marched into the kitchen with a rabbit she had chewed in half and plonked it in front of the box that held the kittens.

Another time I was sitting in the room, reading a book when a swallow flew in through the backdoor. It couldn't find a way out so it circled the room for a while, perfectly quiet. There was a sort of magic about that. Then one of the cats marched in and unceremoniously plucked it out of the air and killed it.

One cat had a habit of climbing trees and just sit in magpie's nests, just to annoy the birds, or so it appeared (if it was the intention, it worked great).

Most unusual find was a large woodcock left outside the backdoor.

There were twelve pheasant chicks on the road, just outside the gate, yesterday morning. They didn't spot those, not yet anyway.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 12:23 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
One cat had a habit of climbing trees and just sit in magpie's nests, just to annoy the birds, or so it appeared (if it was the intention, it worked great).

That's hilarious. One imagines the cat proactively helping incubate the eggs to ensure catches for the future. Sustainable hunting. :lol:

Mr.Gumby wrote:
Most unusual find was a large woodcock left outside the backdoor.

I don't know so much about those, but don't woodcocks have a reputation for being pretty hard to bag?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 2:46 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
That's hilarious. One imagines the cat proactively helping incubate the eggs to ensure catches for the future. Sustainable hunting. :lol:


She'd go up and just sit there for an hour or more, like a big, black, evil tea cosy. She didn't seem too bothered if the birds had a go at her, quite ferociously too.

It did eventually get rid of magpies nesting in our hedgerows, which was a good thing.



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 2:57 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
It did eventually get rid of magpies nesting in our hedgerows, which was a good thing.

Hard to say if that might have been the cat's plan all along, but it's possible, because she would surely be aware that her brazen, repeated, and lengthy sitting in the nests was an unusual degree of pressure. It does go to show that for cats, killing is not the automatic answer to everything. Sometimes just showing up and making a statement says it all.

It's an interesting extension of feline behavior, too, echoing the way cats will pick something - a sheet of paper, your laptop, the laundry basket - and sit significantly on/in it for extended periods, making sure you notice how it is now "theirs", at least for the duration. A nest, though, is something I wouldn't normally expect. But a magpie nest is certainly big enough for claim-sitting, and on further thought it seems like a pretty logical choice, considering that both cats and magpies are territorial critters as well as potential competitors, and I imagine the cat was probably fed up with the noise and disturbance, too, so no doubt she thought it was high time to challenge the unwanted guests and make it crystal clear who was going to be the boss around that patch. I'll bet she gained an extra measure of appreciation in your household.

Great photo, by the way. :)

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