AS I got out of our backdoor last Tuesday Morning, I was surprised to see bird feathers and blood scattered all over the place. The poor bird is another victim of the cats that have made our backyard their home. Judging from the size of the feathers, I surmise that the poor bird is not an ordinary Maya but something bigger. Perhaps a Tarat (Brown shrike) or a Sparrow.
This is not the first time that this "bird kill" happened. Several times in the past, I would usually discover dead Maya birds, or parts of it, right at our doorstep. Same is true with their usual prey, mouse. My radio partner Cecil Yumul said that cats do this to show off or to give it to their master as gift. Some websites say cats do this to teach their kittens how to hunt.
Yes, though they look cute and fuzzy, domesticated cats still have their instinct to hunt. They are born to hunt. They may not do it for food, but they cannot resist the urge to chase and hunt. I see this behavior when I'm with them. Whenever there is a bird landing on the ground, an insect, a lizard or anything that moves, their hunting instinct takes over and they go in for the kill.
A study published in "Nature Communications" suggested that cats in the US kill between 1.3 and 4 billion birds and between 6.3 and 22.3 billion small mammals per year. In Canada, a 2013 study published by Environment Canada scientists in the Avian Conservation and Ecology journal listed cats as the number one killer of birds.
In Australia, cats are a big concern. They kill more than two billion native animals per year. Cats are recognized as a threat to 35 species of birds, 36 mammal species, seven reptile species and three amphibian species, according to Australia's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (livescience.com).
Cats were introduced to Australia in the 18th century by European colonizers, and a report in 2017 found that feral cats could be found in 99.8 percent of the continent, including on 80 percent of Australia's islands.
Since feral cats in Australia have no predators, they multiply rapidly. Australian officials are exploring multiple strategies for controlling their populations including shooting, trapping and poisoning them with bait such as toxic sausages. This culls are expected to eradicate around two million cats by 2020.
I would admit that the cat's hunter instinct is one of the reasons why I allow them to stay in my backyard. Not so much for pest control, but for snakes. Last month, they were able to kill a foot-long cobra at the laundry area where they stay most of the time. Snakes still roam in our neighborhood. In the past, at least two snakes have been found inside our garage and house. In my mother's house in Mabiga, Mabalacat, they feed stray cats because they killed a big snake in their yard.
In the Philippines, I could not find any data on bids or mammals killed by cats. But here, it is unlawful to kill cats. They are protected by Republic Act 8485, or the Animal welfare Act of 1998. However, many cats die each year after being run-over by speeding vehicles. Sadly, some of them are somebody else's favorite pet.
October 24, 2019
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