LETTERS TO LUCINDA: Cat Behavior Solutions #7

black cat with glasses reading bookGreetings, two-legged readers. Lucinda the literate cat is here with the seventh edition of “Letters to Lucinda: Cat Behavior Solutions.” In this column we will discuss the issue of bird catching.

I received a letter from a Mrs. Jacobs, who wrote the following:

Dear Lucinda,

Why does my cat have to hunt and kill birds? I love birds! I would love to put up a birdhouse where I could watch a little bird family, but I don’t dare. The cat would not leave the birds alone. I can’t even put up a feeder, because it attracts many birds, and then the cat thinks he’s in heaven.

I love my cat, but I love birds, too. Is there nothing I can do to teach my cat to leave the birds alone?

Dear Mrs. Jacobs:

You have a problem with no easy solution, Yes, with time and a lot of effort and vigilance you can teach your cat not to hunt birds, but it is not easy.

First, you have to catch the cat when he first grabs a bird. You must take the bird from him and scold him for it. Don’t slap him — that will only make him resentful of you. You must make him understand in a kind way that catching birds is not acceptable behavior.

Look at it from the cat’s perspective. If he is a stray cat without anyone to feed him regular meals, the one thought in his head is for the need for food. As long as the critter is smaller than he, it might make a good meal.

If he comes from a home where he eats regularly, he looks as birds as playthings. He sees them much as you see your cat. He thinks they are cute and that he would love to touch its feathers and hold it close.

But then he catches one, and as his teeth sink into the bird to keep it from getting away, he gets a taste, and thinks, “This creature would make a great between-meal snack.” That becomes the end of the bird.

Well, after all, what’s the big deal? You two-leggeds hunt birds like pheasants, and consider them a delicacy. You eat many chickens and turkeys. They are birds, aren’t they? Granted, they are not cute like little songbirds. But the birds you eat are for the most part too big for us to kill.

Not only that — little birds taste really good! They are far superior to vole meat. Have you ever eaten a vole? Yuck! I can understand why Carlos, the last cat here, considered them playthings and not food.

cat stalking birdThe CCL (Cantankerous Cat Lady) claims she managed to get Carlos to cut down severely on his bird catching. Carlos thought perhaps the CCL wanted to play with the birds, too, so he brought many of them in the house live.

It is possible you won’t be able to break your cat’s bird-catching habit. Then perhaps you need to think about your choices. There are a couple of things you could do. You could find your cat another good home. Or you could keep the cat inside, always and forever. Then you can have all the birdhouses and feeders you want.

It is possible that you can teach your cat of your displeasure over the bird situation and get him to listen. Good luck!

My next letter comes from a cat named Salome, who wants to know why she can’t hunt birds.

Dear Lucinda,

My two-legged is very upset with me, and I don’t know what to do about it. There are many birds around our house, and I find them such fun to catch. They are wary, so you must use your best stalking skills. It reminds me of when I was a kitten, and my brothers and sisters played the stalking game.

When I do catch a bird, and kill it and eat it, I consider it a heavenly treat. But my two-legged becomes extremely angry.

Why does she object? There are lots of them, and they are like animated toys, put there for our pleasure.

Why is it we are supposed to obey all the rules set by our two-leggeds? Just because they are bigger? Don’t we ever get to live our lives without being hampered by all those rules? It is not fair.

Dear Salome,

Some things in life are not easy. You should know that by now. Your two-legged is attached to those birds, and considers them hers. She feels you are overstepping your boundaries by hunting them. She doesn’t understand that, not only do you consider them excellent playthings, but you are hard-wired by instinct to pursue anything smaller than you that moves.

It is a challenge to your hunting skills to catch one, because it can fly and you cannot. Can you help it if they are dumb enough to allow you to catch them? It’s almost as if they, too, are playing with you: “Catch me if you can.” Nothing riles a cat faster than to tell him he is unable to docat with mouse something.

You must try to curb your wish to harm those pretty creatures. I don’t care how hard you find it to do so. Be aware that if you make your two-legged upset enough, she might take you to the Cat Torturer and have all your hunting tools cut off.

Besides, you are well-fed. You don’t need the food. Leave it for some other cat who gets no fine supper. Let him deal with removing all those feathers to get to the meat.

I understand it is worth it. The two-leggeds have a saying: “Sometimes you have to go through a briar patch to get to a picnic.” Once you get to the sweet, tender meat, you know it was worth the struggle to remove all those feathers.

But is it, really? Do you want your two-legged angry with you? Do you want to go to the Cat Torturer? Best to practice a bit of restraint — and if you must kill and eat a bird, do it far away from home, so you won’t be harming a bird that your two-legged for some reason considers a personal pet.

I asked my CCL her feelings on this issue. She says it saddens her, too, when a cat kills a cute little bird. It is the one behavior of cats she has trouble accepting. However, she understands it from the cat’s point of view, and does her best to teach her cats to leave the birds alone.

There you have it for this issue, two-leggeds. Please leave any comments about this post in the section at the bottom. If you have questions for Lucinda, leave them there as well. Thank you for reading.

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