Cats have been a staple of horror tales, superstitions, and generally bad mojo since time immemorial. Don’t get me wrong, I love cats and I have two—Streak and Grommet—but there’s this old adage that says “Write what you know,” so it seemed only natural to incorporate some feline characters into some of my tales. I started thinking about how my cats always seem to be plotting something, and whether it’s how to tip over the trash can (again) or how to sneak into some new place, they always seem to have a plan. As usual, I began poking around the Internet to do some story research . . . but it turns out that something sinister just might be lurking behind Mr. Kitty’s eyes. Meow?
Has your cat ever greeted you with the mauled carcass of some furry woodland creature? Of course he has! You probably recoiled in disgust and then, much to Mr. Kitty’s chagrin, grabbed some handy implement and flung the corpse into the bushes. Maybe you should think twice next time, because Mr. Kitty may have more in common with Hannibal Lecter than he does with you.
Researchers conducting a study at the University of Georgia put small video cameras “mounted on a break-away collar” on about 60 cats in the Athens, GA. area in order to peer “into the hidden lives of cats.” The study revealed that some of kitty’s favorite activities aren’t just limited to chasing errant strings, overdosing on catnip, or lazing about on the windowsill. They discovered that Mr. Kitty’s thoughtful gifts represented just the “the tip of a very bloody iceberg” because one of his favorite recreational activities was either hunting or murder, depending on how you look at it.
According to USA Today, about “30% of roaming house cats kill prey,” but what’s stunning is that they only brought home about “a quarter of what they killed.” They “ate 30%” but “left 49% to rot where they died!” You’d better listen up next time Mr. Kitty meows. Remember, killing is his favorite sport, and apparently he’s very good at it. Beware!
Cats especially have it in for reptiles and amphibians with “lizards, snakes and frogs” making up 41% of the animals killed. That doesn’t mean other creatures are safe, however. The study found that about 25% of the victims were “mammals such as chipmunks and voles,” while “insects and worms” made up about 20% of the murder rate. Surprisingly, birds made up only about 12% of victims, probably because they have the annoying ability of flight.
Despite the relatively low percentage of bird victims compared to other animals, the study has bird enthusiasts worried. “Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” says George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy. Fenwick claims that “if we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds.” Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society, seems to agree. In a media release posted on the American Bird Conservancy website, Hutchins said that “I think it will be impossible to deny the ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats given the videotape documentation and the scientific credibility that this study brings. . . . There is a huge environmental price that we are paying every single day that we turn our backs on our native wildlife in favor of protecting non-native predatory cats at all cost while ignoring the inconvenient truth about the mortality they inflict.” I am overwhelmed by images of Ghengis Kitty . . .
Cat lovers are meowing fowl! The popular cat website VoxFelina.com, a site dedicated to improving “the lives of feral cats through a more informed, conscientious discussion of feral cat issues,” isn’t convinced. VoxFelina called the study “an act of desperation” by biased biologists seeking to connect bird population decline to roaming house cats. It cites conclusions in The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour that “there are few, if any, studies apart from island ones that actually demonstrate that cats have reduced bird populations.” Furthermore, “predators—cats included—tend to prey on the young, the old, the weak and unhealthy. At least two studies have investigated this in great detail, revealing that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy than birds killed through non-predatory events.” VoxFelina also notes that the UGA study “has not yet been published either as a dissertation or in a peer-reviewed journal.” For cat lovers, the jury is still out.
It is doubtful that the age-old conflict between cat and bird, and by extension their zealous human counterparts, will die down anytime soon, but one thing is certain, the next time my cat meows, I’m sure as hell going to listen. I don’t want to be counted among the 49%!
If you want to take a sneak peek into Mr. Kitty’s questionable behavior, check out the images and videos on the UGA website here. It’s worth a look.
In the mean time, have YOU ever encountered any bizarre behavior from your furry friends?
Vlad V. is the author of The Button, Yorick, and Brachman’s Underworld. His novella “The Sleep Artist” was published in Insanity Tales, a collection of dark fiction, in October 2014 (Books & Boos Press). His most recent release is his novella “Float,” published in Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear in October 2015 (Books & Boos Press). His first kids’ book, The Moon is Dead!, was released in January 2015.
Learn more about Vlad at www.vladwrites.com.
His books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords.com, as well as most bookstores.