Your Afternoon Animal Fix

If you have any fun or interesting animal/pet photos or news please shoot me an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com with ‘Animal Fix’ in the title and say what neighborhood you’re from or upload to the PoPville flickr pool. I can’t guarantee I’ll get them all posted but I’ll do my best.

“In honor of the upcoming warm weather, Miss Scarlett enjoying one of her favorite pastimes, swimming and running wild along the banks of the Potomac.

We live in Adams Morgan.”

Nautilus cat

“Ren. Hunkered down and trying to get through the winter. Bald in the winter really bites.”

And while we’re talking about cats:

“Dear PoP,

Thought this might be of interest for your readers. It’s a study from the American Bird Conservency that was done in the DC suburbs.
It shows that cats are the #1 killer of grey catbirds. It’s important to note that this particular bird species not particularly rare or in any way endangered –

But cats do not discriminate.  If they’re killing catbirds, it means they’re killing other birds, including other native birds and some rare ones too.  That’s the motivation behind the Cats Indoors campaign –

I happened to be at a cookout friday night at a friend’s on Spring Rd. between 10th and Rock Creek Church Roads.  A car with Maryland tags pulled up in the alley and the driver filled bowls for the strays in the alley.  My friends said that the cat food is a boon for rats.  There certanly were a lot of cats in the alley too.  I doubt that those particular cats kill many threatened or endangered birds but what do folks think about people feeding strays, particularly people from out of the neighborhood? Personally, I would be livid if this were my alley.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user houseintherear

46 Comment

  • I’ve seen Miss Scarlett at the park at S and 23rd, she is a character.

    As for the alley cats, it is kind of gross if they do attract rats. Can we engineer a superfood to turn the cats into giant badasses to roam the alleys and protect them from less desireable elements (or as some on here might say, feral cats chasing off the feral teens)?

  • I don’t know if the birds that they are eating are necessarily “rare” or “endangered” (I think they are probably not), but come Sping time, seems like it is almost a weekly event that I am finding a poof of feathers or bits of a bird in my yard and it really pisses me off (perhaps irrational, I admit, to get angry about what are essentially wild animals doing what they do). Stray cats slink around my yard day and night as though it is their hunting domain. I chase them off, I spray them with the hose when I can, I throw stuff into the bushes where they are hiding, but they always come back and then there is always one less song bird. If it is a choice between the birds being eaten or there not being any more cats, I’d sooner have the robins hanging out with me in the morning. I’m begining to debate the morality of doing something more drastic to solve the problem. Any ethical guidance would be appreciated.

    • Cats chasing birds is part of nature. A human turning a hose on an animal is not. How about debating the legality of “doing something more drastic,” you heartless piece of shit?

      • Cats chasing birds is indeed part of nature, when there are also wolves chasing cats.

        • Yes, that age-old wolf v. cat battle…

          Small (actually, huge) problem with your idiot analogy. Wolves would be outrageously dangerous to humans in an urban situation. Cats, not so much.

          • That’s the point, retard.

          • Actually, no….wolves generally are not dangerous in the US/Canada. There has been one recent report of a hiker being killed by a pack of wolves, but other than that, there are very few cases of wolves harming humans in the US/Canada. Europe is a different story.

          • The point is, cats breed at an incredible rate if there are no predators keeping them in check. especially if humans are keeping them in kibble. then they kill songbirds for fun, not for necessity.

            I speak as the owner of a beloved cat, who is kept indoors except supervised visits to the front and the fenced-in back yard.

  • The best thing you can do is to work with the groups that are trapping the cats to have them fixed and then re-released into their neighborhood environment. Alley cats do not have long lives. Having them fixed decreases their population and over time, they either will be gone or drastically reduced. Any attempts to poison or other ideas is just plain cruel. Their food does not attract rats and they will eliminate the rats if they do come nearby. It’s also very rare that they hunt birds as they are usually very well fed by the local cat lovers.

    • Thanks for the advice–I didn’t know that there were such groups out there and that does sound like the best solution. As far as the cruelty of killing the cats goes, I don’t disagree that the act of killing an animal is cruel. However, for animal welfare maximization, if that is your goal, better to kill the one cat than for the cat to kill however many (I would guess possibly dozens) birds that it will over its life time. I can assure you that it is not rare for the cats that I am talking about to hunt birds–I watch them do so constantly. And my sense is that would be true for stray cats that are hungry, stray cats that are well fed and even for over-fed pet cats that are allowed outside now and then. If they don’t need the food, they still hunt for sport.

      • Keep in mind that some of these cats you want to poison are people’s beloved pets. Some owners let their cats out, some cats slip out despite their owner’s efforts to keep them in.

        On another hypocritical note: we’re OK with cats killing rats, but not OK with them killing birds? Let me guess: is it because rats are all icky and gross while birds are super cute and sound so pretty?

        It’s the natural cycle of life, man. Some animal get eaten. Some of them are icky, some of them are cute.

        • Not exactly….
          I’m ok with cats killing rats because rats do not belong here (they are originally from Asia). I’m not ok with cats killing birds, because birds are supposed to be here and they are an important part of the natural environment. I’m also not ok with cats killing native rodents (and some scientists estimate that cats kill about 3 rodents for every bird). This is not: “the natural cycle of life, man.” We are talking about a situation where humans have badly fucked with nature. You do realize that songbird populations have crashed worldwide? This isn’t “nature,” this is human intervention on a massive scale.
          That being said….I agree with you that poisoning cats is not ok. I would never advocate killing cats when it is possible to trap them.

          • So you’re saying any animal originally from Asia doesn’t belong here and should be killed? That’s ridiculous. Plenty of animals in the US are not indigenous to the country but we don’t go around killing them because of it. Rats are a part of living in a city. I see them all the time, and it looks like cars are handling killing them just fine in the alley behind my apartment…

        • No man… there is a huge difference between a rat and a NATIVE BIRD. Basically, fully 20 – 30% of bird species in the world are at risk of extinction due to man-made actions – including the release of non-native, domestic cats.

          While the City might not seem like a place for threatened bird species, we are coming up on Spring Migration when thousands of birds fly over, through and in DC. If you are a birder, you know that you can find many sensitive species looking for food and shelter close to the ground as they rest for the next evenings flight north.

          Cats that normally just kill rats, non-native house sparrows, etc. are given the chance to kill something like a Virgina Rail, American Woodcock, or Mourning Warbler.

          Please, keep your cats inside as much as possible!

  • Unfortunately, feeding feral cats is not illegal in DC. On the other hand, I imagine the cops could fine the person for littering. I’ve also seen a crazy old lady in a wheelchair spreading bread for birds all over Columbia Heights. Much of this bread is eaten by rats, which is a public health issue (actually, too many pigeons is a health issue as well). I’d love for the cops to fine these people, but I doubt they give a damn.
    As to the comment above…cats are eating many species of birds: both common and rare/endangered species. Given that rare/endangered birds are not common (obviously) they will represent a smaller proportion of prey taken by cats. Also, domestic housecats are not “wild animals.” Most of these are pets, the others are feral. Feral cats are just that: feral! Housecats evolved in Africa, not America, thus they are an invasive species akin to kudzu or zebra mussels. If you would like ethical guidance: choose native birds over introduced cats.
    To put this another way…. imagine if someone dumped thousands of free ranging lions throughout the USA. How would this effect humans? Even if you didn’t get eaten by a lion, the fear and time spent making sure a lion isn’t sneaking up on you would have serious consequences to your daily life. This is essentially what humans have done to birds, although birds can’t use technology to fight off cats (unless we can develop mini guns for birds to protect themselves from cats, which I’m sure the NRA would love).

  • lots of feral cats = very few rats.

  • Logan, do you have any data to back up your assertions that well fed cats don’t hunt many birds? Papers published on this subject in peer-reviewed journals have found the opposite pattern. This is also consistent with anecdotal data from many cat owners who regularly find “presents” that their cats have brought home.
    I strongly disagree with your assertion that ‘The best thing you can do is to work with the groups that are trapping the cats to have them fixed and then re-released into their neighborhood environment.” The groups doing this are not made up of scientists, and they are incorrect about the ecological impacts of trap-neuter-release (TNR). Feral cats kill birds! The less of them there are the better. The better solution is: trap-neuter-do not release.

    • Original Poster here. I am a very morally maleable person and I am begining to agree with sunsquashed that some form of trap-do not release is the best course of conduct here. If others care to persuasively disagree, I urge you to do so as I will soon be heading home to fill a 50 gal trash can with water and then go catch me some cats.

      • I hope they claw your eyes out while you try to drown them.
        There is a special place in hell for people who torture animals…

        • Obviously, I was kidding. Someone who loves song birds and solicits ethical guidance from his community is not going to drown cats. I grew up with cats.

    • I agree – but the impact of these ferral cats increases expoentially as one get’s farther from the City. If they are doing this in the suburbs and exurbs they are basically ecoterrorists, i.e. terrorising the eco!

  • I bet Miss scarlett smells wonderful after that.

  • Does birdseed (in a feeder) attract rats? I stopped putting out sunflower seed mix a while ago because it would vanish immediately and I had a feeling some sort of rodent was involved. I still do the Nyjer seed because I doubt anything other than small birds can get to it.

    • Yes, it can, but the bird seed is probably just being eated by non-native House sparrows and European Starlings. They mob feeders in Cities and just pig out. It is best that bird feeders not be used in Cities:

      1. Aggressive Starlings and House sparrows are doing fine already

      2. When you get huge numbers of these two speices, they crowd out any native birds that need nest holes to reproduce.

      This is one of the reasons why we don’t have hardly any Eastern Bluebirds in the City anymore!

  • Let’s ban Jumbo Slice because it attracts rats and birds. I’ll write Jim Graham shortly.

  • bfinpetworth

    As long as we have rats, I want feral cats! More cats = less rats. Someone on my block feeds the feral cats and at about 7 am, if you are out in the alley, you’ll see about 15 cats meandering over to her back yard. I doubt any food is left for the rats after the feeding is over.

    • Well… I understand your concern, but feral cats are not an adequate solution to rat problems. Yes, I know that humans likely domesticated cats for exactly this reason (rodent control) but we do not live in a rural farming area. Rat population density is tightly linked to food resources, not predation. It is hard/impossible for feral cats to control rat populations in urban areas (too much food and protected hiding places). If you don’t like rats, make sure that people in your neighborhood place their trash in rat proof containers. That is THE best way to reduce rat populations.

      • Feral cats do catch the occasional weakling adolescent rat – in those 2-3 vulnerable days between it being being a baby rat hidden away in the nest with it’s 11 siblings and when it turns into a vicious foot-long wanna-be-wolverine that would shred the throat of any pussy who sniffed in his general direction.

        Some Alley-Cat rescue group operates a filthy cat feeding station in my alley and I’m totally in favor of trap and do not release. (And I have two indoor rescue cats.)

  • what kind of rare birds are found on the streets of columbia heights?

  • There’s a clear split between folks who value all animals without preference for one over another (although where’s the love for the Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya!!!) and folks who value some animals more than others.

    I’m with the latter group. A native bird, particularly a rare one, easily trumps an exotic invasive critter like a cat, rat or even a mute swan no matter how cute and cuddly. Cats are great but they should be kept indoors. It’s important to remember that cats also kill other native animals like reptiles, amphibians and invertibrates.

    And feral cats? At the very least we shouldn’t be encouraging them. Humane euthanization seems to be the best solution since most alley cats are not suitable as pets.

    • A damn shame we can’t take such stringent actions against the humans who wantonly promote the feral cat situation by letting their unfixed cats roam and reproduce freely. They are the villains here.

  • Dang! I think I know where all the catbirds went – houseintherear’s cat ate them. That kittie is huge! Almost as big as the dog.
    I’m just teasing you big kittie. Go on with your big-boned self!

    • houseintherear

      Haha he looks huge in that pic, doesn’t he?! He’s only 12 lbs in real life. 🙂 And he’s not allowed outside so he only eat the ants in my kitchen.

  • as a resident of the columbia heights/petworth neighborhood, i’ve had an ongoing problem with an urban variety of rodents: rats (outside) and mice (inside). the exterminator who comes once a month has explained to me that rats will eat anything. the exterminator said to be sure to clean up after our dogs, as rats love animal excrement. birdseed, cat food, dog sh*t…ANYTHING!

    i find that street cats are just that: street cats. they should live and die on the streets. and what i’m getting at is that nobody, repeat: NObody, should be feeding them cat food. it’s a darwinian survival of the fittest for street cats, and they’ve gotta prove their salt by catching and killing enough rodents to satiate themselves. for all the random street cat screeching i get to listen to at night, they gotta do their part.

  • I skimmed through the comments, so I apologize if this has been mentioned already. DC has a very active program for feral cat management based upon TNR (Trap Neuter Return). There are numerous individuals and groups across the city that participate. I have taken care of a colony of cats in my alley since 2004. These cats are all neutered, regularly fed, and I can’t recall the last time I found a dead bird. There are also no new cats joining the colony since they have all been neutered. We do not have a rat problem in this alley. If anyone is interested in more info, feel free to e-mail me at my screen name at yahoo. Also, kitten season will be upon us soon, so if anybody is thinking about adopting, this is a good time of year.

    • The reason you have never seen a dead bird is because the feral cats you are feeding ate them. There is evidence that feral cats are more likely to eat bird captures, while pet cats are more likely to bring them to their owner as “presents.” Given that the cats you are feeding likely do not know where the door to your house is, there would be no way for you to know if they are catching birds. I can guarantee you that the cats you are feeding are killing birds. Please stop feeding them! Trap them, neuter them, and get them off the streets. They do not belong there!
      I know that there are several TNR groups active in our area. Please do the research into these groups and see that they are often funded/supported by the major pet food companies. More TNR = more pet food sold. Please save your time and money and stop feeding the cats in your alley.

      • Actually, the feral cats do know where my back door is. Most of them are quite domesticated since I’ve been feeding them for 7 years. At this point, they’re too lazy to go after the birds. Really.

        • I highly, highly doubt that these cats are “too lazy” to go after birds. Unless you are 100% certain that these cats NEVER eat or harass birds, do the right thing and stop feeding them.

  • Has anyone actually witnessed how vicious catbirds are?? I’d want to kill them too if I was a cat. Back at my old house in Greenbelt we had these birds attack our outdoor cats continuously without fear. So I could care less if one or two of them ended up getting killed by the cat because of it.

    I don’t let my cat outdoors in CH because there are a lot of raccoons (& cars) and I’d be too worried. But others in my apartment building let their cats rome free and they seem fine. I haven’t witnessed any bird-chasing either. There’s also a few feral cats (one of them I’ve named Tupac for his uncanny resemblance to the rapper) and they are never a bother to me anyway. There’s still plenty of rats out there though!

    Another thing, hard to feel bad for birds getting caught by cats, when they can FLY.

    • I think you are confusing catbirds with mockingbirds.
      Remember that birds do not pop out fully formed! For a bird to reach the adult stage (and thus be able to fly away from predators) they must survive the nesting and fledgling stages. Cats also raid nests and destroy/eat eggs. Also, the most vulnerable stage is the fledgling stage, when birds first leave the nest and learn to fly. Add cats into the equation, and all of a sudden, you have big problems. Imagine if you had learned to walk by crossing a busy intersection…. Do you feel bad when kids get run over by cars? Kids have LEGS.

      • I see your point… but it’s really hard for me to compare a bird with a human child in that sense. And a car with a cat for that matter.

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