Trapping Cats: Part 5: Notes from the trenches

Part of an exhibit I made for Earth Day at the Mendenhall Glacier 2010. If I were an adult varied thrush, a medium size cat would look about like this.

Q: What will people say if I trap cats? It may surprise you how much of the response is overwhelmingly positive.

Story 1. A friend asked what I’d been up to. Told her (with some reservation about how she’d react-she’s a church lady) that I’d just taken another cat to the shelter. She told me about an old man, a former high school teacher, who lived in a harbor near her house on a dilapidated former fishing boat with at least a dozen cats. One day the guy took all the cats ashore and let them go. The starving cats killed all her chickens. She got some live traps, caught six of the cats and took them to the shelter.

Story 2. A garden store clerk who sold me catnip asked if I was going to grow it for tea. Told him it was for trapping cats. He said he had stopped planting vegetables because cats kept pooping in his raised beds.

Story 3. A naturalist borrowed my trap to catch a cat that was killing birds in his yard. Two weeks later he brought it back saying the cat had been killed by a car on the Douglas Highway–so, problem solved.

Story 4. A woman I don’t know well went on a rant at a party about neighborhood cats pissing all over packages the mail carriers leave on her porch. Told her I had a trap she was welcome to use. But she wouldn’t do it because she was worried about what the cat owners would think. I pointed out that they clearly didn’t care about what she thought. But she elected to just feel angry and helpless rather than doing something about it.

Story 5. As I mentioned earlier, only one person ever got mad about me trapping cats. That’s when I got one of hers. Prior to that she liked me. One day she said, “Someone trapped my cat last night and took it to the shelter.” I said, “Oh was that yours? I did that.” What the hey, you know? I’m not going to lie about it.      Wow. She had steam coming out her ears. Wasn’t her fault, though. I figured she had that IED going on from brain parasites. She got over it. After a year or so, we get along and she’s better about keeping her cats indoors.

Story 6. There are stories all over the internet about cat people, often hoarders, who have dozens of cats that they let ‘explore’ their unfortunate neighborhoods. My brother fixes up houses so people can live in them again. He bought a house owned by one such (recently deceased) cat lady with 30-something cats. She had been pretty far gone cognitively speaking. Wouldn’t listen to anyone, including her family, about cleaning up the mess. By the time she died, her house was so gross no one wanted to buy it. How gross was it? It was so gross the real estate lady showing the house refused to go inside. When my brother bought it, he took a shovel and shoveled up cat feces and cat food that was a foot deep in places.

Here are a few cat house stories. Places with dozens of cats, sometimes over 100.

It’s incredibly sad for the cats, the neighbors, the shelter workers, everyone. It’s more common than most people think. In Juneau a couple years ago 38 cats went to the shelter from three different houses in ten days. Typically when events like that happen shelters will send out a call for volunteers to adopt all those cats. If they’re not adopted the cats are likely to be euthanized. By not addressing the problem of stray cats, communities set up the same scenario over and over and over.

Cat people delusions:

“My cat doesn’t kill birds.”  (“Yes it does, all cats do. The killing instinct is so strong cats have been shown to leave a bowl of food to kill a bird-not to eat it, only to kill it. Then the cat goes back to its food bowl.”)
“My cat is an indoor cat that just gets out sometimes.” (That neighbor of mine who got mad about me trapping her cat uses this. Her cat goes missing for weeks at a time in summer.)
“My cat has a bell.” (1. cats hunt from ambush. 2. a bell just makes them better hunters. 3. birds don’t associate a bell with danger.)
“My cat is declawed.” (It will still kill birds and anyway, what sort of person lets a cat out that hasn’t got the means to defend itself or climb a tree if it’s attacked?)
“It’s not the cat’s fault”(Is it the bird’s fault? No. It’s your fault but you won’t fit in the trap.)

Here are some actual solutions cat people think you should do about their animals killing birds, pissing, shitting, etc in your yard. And some responses. Generally, when someone says something really goofy it’s a good idea to repeat it back to them. Maybe they’ll hear how they sound.

1. You should do nothing because my cat ‘enjoys exploring.’  Response: ‘You think I should put up with this so your cat can feel good about itself? No. Not only No, but Hell No.’
2. You should spray various smells around your yard that cats don’t like. Repeat when it rains. Response: ‘See above. Besides, that doesn’t work here since we live in a rain forest.’
3. You should plant things cats don’t like the smell of in your garden. Response: ‘Plant every inch of my yard with stuff your cat doesn’t like?’
4. You  should strew spiky thing s like rose bush stalks around your property that cats don’t want to step on. Response:  ‘I should put spiky things in the yard that my family and the dog will get poked with, to keep your cat out?’
5.You should set up a sprinkler system with a motion detector that will go on when cats are in your yard. Response: ‘You think I should pay for and set up a system that will also drive off birds and other wild animals that I want in the yard? And sprinkle the dog when she goes out? A system that doesn’t work for six months in winter here?’
6. You should build a fence around your yard. Response: ‘Are you crazy? I should pay for and build a fence I don’t want to keep your cat out? A cat can easily jump a six foot tall fence so I should build an eight foot tall fence? Even if I did that, a cat can climb the trees next to it and jump into the yard.’
7. You should put something scratchy on top of the fence and cut back the trees. Response. ‘I should make my yard look like the the apartheid wall around the West Bank because you don’t want to clean a litter box? No.’
8. You should set up a noise maker in your yard that will scare the cats. Response: ‘Make noise that will  scare away other animals and bother my family?’
9. You should have a place in your yard planted with things cats like so they’ll poop there instead of in your raised beds. (this is an actual idea on the internet, totally nuts.)

So at the end of the day, we all have to make the choice orinthologist Anna B. Comstock made in the early 1900’s. We can choose the birds or we can choose the cats. In my small parcel of earth, I choose the birds.