Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in cat own­er­ship

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Any­one with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing for the wildlife try­ing to adapt to or sim­ply ex­ist in the subur­ban en­vi­ron­ment of our towns must cringe when trav­el­ling the streets late at night.

The dim glow of street­lights on roads, na­ture strips and foot­paths reveal a tip-of-the-ice­berg snapshot of an of­ten-deadly ac­tiv­ity oc­cur­ring in the shad­ows.

The sight of cats, prompted into fal­lalert mode by the ar­rival of the night and on pa­trol through­out our neigh­bor­hoods, is an all-too com­mon sight.

The com­ing of dusk sig­nals a death war­rant, not only for any mouse that might find it­self out in the open, but also for any bird, bat, lizard, frog, bug or just about any­thing small enough that a cat can kill.

It seems hard to be­lieve that cute fluffy thing curled up in a ball on the couch that al­ways seems to be in per­pet­ual state of half-sleep can be the in­stru­ment of death.

The truth is cats, won­der­ful pets and im­por­tant com­pan­ion an­i­mals for many, are also among the most re­silient and bril­liant noc­tur­nal preda­tors on the planet.

The sparkle that sud­denly ap­pears in their eyes when some­thing gets their at­ten­tion pro­vides more than a hint of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

They are a mar­vel of stealth and killing ef­fi­ciency, es­pe­cially against de­fence­less roost­ing birds.

Small puffy mounds of feath­ers on the lawn or un­der a tree, or the oc­ca­sional head­less skink in the drive­way of­ten pro­vide tell-tale signs of how these seem­ingly be­nign fam­ily pets can trans­form if given lengthy ac­cess to a night-time en­vi­ron­ment. Many years ago own­ers of a roam­ing cat at Vec­tis, west of Hor­sham, were hor­ri­fied when they dis­cov­ered the ‘trea­sure’ they had been prais­ing their tabby for catch­ing was not a rat – but a sugar glider.

In another case, a Hor­sham cou­ple, the own­ers of a seem­ingly lethar­gic but night-wan­der­ing cat, lamented at the sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance of the fam­ily of willy wag­tails that greeted them on the back yard lawn ev­ery morn­ing.

It was after the dis­cov­ery of tiny black feath­ers in kitty’s bed and un­der the lemon tree that the penny dropped.

We are priv­i­leged to have some of the most unique wildlife in the world visit or make a home in our back­yards and neigh­bor­hoods.

It seems bizarre that some of us have few qualms about dish­ing them up on a plate to Mr Meow.

Many of us have shared and cher­ished op­por­tu­ni­ties of hav­ing cats as pets. They can be great com­pan­ions, stress re­liev­ers and, if noth­ing else, mem­bers of the fam­ily.

But if we want to con­tinue to have the ben­e­fits of na­ture vis­it­ing our back door then kitty must stay in­side at night.

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