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Mollison's anti-cat discussion

Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3459
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  63
ot gigantic extinct NZ species lecture...
There'd be a lot of Jurassic parking going on, since both species are long gone. Unsurprisingly, their extinctions are humanmade: pre-European Maori hunted the various species of vegetarian moa to extinction; they used to flush them out by burning off vast areas of forest so they did a pretty good number on the flora while they were at it.
The Haast's eagle exclusively ate moa, so it's pretty obvious what happened there!
And squeezing in a cat reference...I can't see a 15kg bird being too excited by a domestic moggy
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
In the Americas, the giant birds were displaced by the big cats about 400,000 years ago.....


Idle dreamer

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Jay Green wrote: Can't really expect a weasel or snake to clear out the rodents feasting on your chicken feed when there are so many delectable eggs and chickens in the same room, now can we?


Actually, I can.

I should mention I consider myself an extreme case of "live and let live." I feel that critters are under such attack all over (one of my neighbors even sprays herbicide on native fruit trees because they attract raccoons), I think I need to provide as much a chance as possible for as many native critters to live as possible, even if it is inconvenient to me. I know this is not a common attitude. I don't even like to free-range my chickens because they kill frogs, lizards, snakes, and toads (as do cats, of course).

Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Jay Green wrote: Can't really expect a weasel or snake to clear out the rodents feasting on your chicken feed when there are so many delectable eggs and chickens in the same room, now can we?


Actually, I can.

I should mention I consider myself an extreme case of "live and let live." I feel that critters are under such attack all over (one of my neighbors even sprays herbicide on native fruit trees because they attract raccoons), I think I need to provide as much a chance as possible for as many native critters to live as possible, even if it is inconvenient to me. I know this is not a common attitude. I don't even like to free-range my chickens because they kill frogs, lizards, snakes, and toads (as do cats, of course).



And I would consider my chickens weren't "living" unless they were free ranging and eating a more natural diet. Live and let live can go on exponentially but, in the end, all creatures must kill something in order to eat....as do we.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Yep, I agree about the chickens. It's a tough decision, what is the appropriate action in a given circumstance.
P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
Tyler Ludens wrote: I live in a place with TONS of "pests" (so called). We try to provide conditions for the natural predators (many of which are also considered "pests") to flourish.

In my opinion the system can't balance itself if there is an unbalancing pressure on it in the form of cats. Cats eliminate (by killing) and displace the natural predators which would balance the system. With cats in the niche which natural predators would occupy, the natural predators may never be able to fill that niche, as it is already filled.



So the neighborhood cats prevent a (bigger) overrun of rats, mice, voles and moles, which left unchecked would attract meso-predators that would eventually naturally abate their numbers?

This may be true. The question is: what eats the meso-predators? In our ecosystem the answer is nothing -- we have no apex predators -- and we are not allowed to shoot, trap or otherwise kill native meso-predators. Our meso-predators eat chickens, dogs, transmit ticks and disease and took chunks out of children in the next canyon over. I don't think we need any more of them. Avian predators are already addressed as we have two pairs of mating owls (screech and barn) at opposite ends of the street (territory is totally covered), a yearling Redtail Hawk, migratory Eagles and a few aquatic stooping birds.

While I understand objections against outdoor cats, I am and will continue to be grateful for the neighborhood cat hunters who keep our vermin (and therefore meso-predator) population under control until I can replace the overabundance of seed-bearing colonizing weeds with more appropriate cover, and hopefully spread the idea to neighbors. Until then, current vermin levels, missing pets and chickens, and three wounded children needing rabies shots is quite enough.


Related: I REALLY REALLY wish we had coyotes again. Really really. Each one is worth, ecologically speaking, 30 - 50 of our worst meso-predators. That would fix a lot of problems... including excess outdoor cats.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
In my region, large predators seem to be returning. There have been more sightings of Cougar in the area. Unfortunately, people still trap or poison coyotes and probably also the big cats.

In my region we're pretty much allowed to kill everything that moves, as far as I can tell. There are limits on some things, others none at all except one is supposed to get a hunting license....

I understand other places are different. I'm not telling other people what they should do. I really hope that is clear. I am sharing my personal philosophy which is mine. I don't expect it to be yours.

It is my theory, which is mine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAYDiPizDIs
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
elated: I REALLY REALLY wish we had coyotes again. Really really. Each one is worth, ecologically speaking, 30 - 50 of our worst meso-predators. That would fix a lot of problems... including excess outdoor cats.


We'll send you a couple...hundred. They have overrun this state and the next, to the exclusion of most small game like rabbits, groundhogs, possum, chipmunks, and even coon. They prey on livestock until local farmers give up and throw in the towel or stock their property with Great Pyrenees dogs and just try to keep up with replacing the torn up dogs. Rabbits have become an endangered species here..haven't seen one for quite awhile. Our wild turkey are gone as well. Grouse is something I haven't seen for the past 30 years and we haven't heard a whippoorwill in many years. Box turtles are gone, toads are gone, snakes are even gone...the 'yotes need food for their young and they have plenty of those.

You can have our coyotes if you will trade some wildlife for them. Or even cats...you won't find many outside cats here as they are quickly turned into coyote fodder. The only place you will find feral cat populations here is in the middle of towns. I have an easy fix for that....bring 'em out here in the country~the 'yotes are hungry and have eaten everything else.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
I'm pretty certain my kids have no real benefit towards a permaculture system either, lol. But I'll keep them. Just like I'll keep my cat. Who has free access to the outdoors. I couldn't bear to keep him indoors. But then he's not very good at catching birds, and there are birds around here that are almost big enough to carry him off, so I consider it a more balanced ecosystem. Were I in NZ I would feel differently and probably build an outdoor run for the cat.


Permie Newbie. ruralaspirations.wordpress.com
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5811
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  85
Birds can fly; cats cannot.
If an occasional bird gets eaten, he was probably not the keenest in the flock.
The flock is probably better off without him in their gene pool.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2955
Location: woodland, washington
    
  48
John Polk wrote:Birds can fly; cats cannot.
If an occasional bird gets eaten, he was probably not the keenest in the flock.
The flock is probably better off without him in their gene pool.


The Inside Story on Cats and Songbirds. I do enjoy cuddling a cat from time to time, though.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 2955
Location: woodland, washington
    
  48
do domesticated animals have a natural habitat?
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
If it's in your home, I would like to know if your living room has a cow in it? Domesticated animals are still animals. If what they normally eat and where they normally sleep is outside, then I'd say outside is their natural habitat.
Jeff Mathias


Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
    
    1

I would imagine Bill looks it at from a closed loop perspective, from this perspective it is a bit of a stretch, especially given the extreme direction some people go to pamper their animals. Some of the breeding we have done for look and our pleasure doesn't help much either. Excessive ferals (usually a human caused problem), kitten breeders and crazy cat collectors make it a much bigger problem.

The facts are cats and dogs more recently have been a part of virtually all human societies as far back as records have been found... certainly less pampered than they are now... more a part of the tribe/member of the community and less of the posession they have become. But both were expected to do multiple and often various tasks and sometimes double as survival food when necessary. Cats have always been allowed free roam of the dwellings to help keep down less desirable things from nature doing things like eating your stored grain, keeping the spiders from building webs all over the home etc. some were even used with the express intention of keeping birds away from desirable seed crops. Most importantly they kept down rodents which helped reduce disease. To an aware observer cats can often be better watch animals than dogs since they have exceptional senses and are capable of taking in information even in a relatively dormant state. Cats being a potential predation item themselves are generally much more alert then their canine counter parts. Cats also will not alert outsiders the way a barking dog would. Both have their uses obviously.

It would seem the majority of the reasons given by people that are against cats are the predation events. Specifically the predation of birds, frogs, lizards, snakes and insects etc. All of these things can be easily mitigated and virtually eliminated through a simple change in the behavior of the cat and not a difficult change no less. If one were to observe all cats in general you begin to notice that while cats are not specifically nocturnal they are much more active at night then during the day; as are many of the rodents we would prefer the cats to deal with. So simply keeping you cat inside during the day and letting them out at night reduces the level of undesirable predation to virtually null. Cats like most animals are also territorial and help to keep other cats from their and your territory.

Finally I personally do not believe words like cruel and humane can be reasonably applied to anything natural beyond humans. These are strictly human concepts that should only ever be applied to people and the things people do, I might allow for other higher sentient mammals as well but that is not my point. While domestic cats do have it easy we have in no way removed the catness from cats, so cats are only doing what cats do, honing the skills of their catness which is required for all forms of life to survive.

I mean honesty would you call it cruel the way a constrictor snake eats or a shark eats. How about the frog? For the most part it stuffs anything that moves that will fit down its throat down and allows the stomach acids to do the work. Perhaps it is inhumane of the mistletoe to parasitize its host plant as well? And how about all of the carnivorous plants? Or for the eagle to carry a nice fresh alive fish back to the nest for its offspring? These things are only doing what nature intended them to do, nothing less and nothing more.

Jeff


"Study books and observe nature. When the two don't agree, throw out the books" -William A Albrecht
"You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." - Benjamin Franklin
Clifford Reinke


Joined: Nov 26, 2010
Posts: 121
Location: Puget Sound
    
    4
Well I consider our cat (used to be cats but one was eaten), to be an integral part of our system. She always has access to store bought dry food and free access indoors and outdoors. She kills mostly voles and mice, once in a while she will get a rat, robin or mole. She leaves the carcasses in the driveway and I feed them to my chickens. Before we got her, we had a rodent problem in the house, now we have none. She never bothers the chickens. My raised beds have a lot of vertical trellises so the birds always seem to land on them, then check the area for predators before going to ground. This pretty much makes it impossible for my cat to catch birds in the garden.

All in all, she pays her way with vermin control and feeding my chickens.


Cliff (Start a rEVOLution, grow a garden)
Nicola Marchi


Joined: Sep 20, 2011
Posts: 66
    
    2
A really interesting side effect of when animal control does a sweep for "feral" alley cats in Chicago, is how the rat and mice populations spike within a few days.

You see the cats hanging around fairly regularly even when no one's obviously feeding them, but when we remove them, all the other urban "pest" species seem to come out of the woodwork. It's fairly interesting when you consider the balanced ecosystem that's been formed in urban areas, dependent on the human need to buy food and throw half of it away. And how easily we can send that system into tilt by removing one of the controlling factors.
Alison Thomas
volunteer

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
    
    5
Interesting that Bill is against cats and yet most permaculturists (probably Bill included) would welcome ducks. So, on the positive - cats get rodents, ducks get slugs/snails. On the negative - Cats get birds but ducks get frogs/frogspawn, toads/toadspawn, small fish, worms. I read that other day that ducks are totally destructive to pondlife. Maybe ducks are as destructive as cats yet no-one badmouths the duck!
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3459
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  63
I just spent most of the evening cuddling a young cat, and its owner couldn't understand how I could love the cat, but not want one at my place.
It's a bit tedious to go on about it, but that never stopped me before
In my environment, rodents aren't much of an issue. People have cats because they want a cat, not a mousetrap.
NZ birds, without predatory mammals for millennia, aren't going to get wise in a couple of hundred years.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:Interesting that Bill is against cats and yet most permaculturists (probably Bill included) would welcome ducks. So, on the positive - cats get rodents, ducks get slugs/snails. On the negative - Cats get birds but ducks get frogs/frogspawn, toads/toadspawn, small fish, worms. I read that other day that ducks are totally destructive to pondlife. Maybe ducks are as destructive as cats yet no-one badmouths the duck!


I badmouthed the chicken upthread a bit. Personally I think if I'm attempting to not damage natural systems, and even help them to thrive (1st ethic), I need to take into account the potential damage any particular activity or animal in the permaculture system might do to the larger ecosystem. I like keeping chickens, I like to eat them and their eggs. But I can acknowledge the damage they can do if used inappropriately in my system. If I let my chickens forage too much, they do enormous damage to plants and small animals, so I need to limit their free-ranging. Other people in other ecosystems might not have this kind of problem; they might be able to keep any number of chickens free-ranging like crazy, and not have any negative effects. Same with cats. A good mouser who never catches anything but rodents right around the house and barn isn't doing any damage to the larger ecosystem, in my opinion; but a cat who hunts indiscriminately and/or who wanders away from the inner zones to hunt is probably doing damage to the larger ecosystem.
Tim Flaus


Joined: Jun 17, 2011
Posts: 17
Location: Moss Vale, Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia
Gidday from the land of the upside down people,

Bill is an Aussie, he dreamed up Permaculture whilst living in Tasmania - that's the little island to the south of the big island of Australia. In Australia feral cats are an obsolute curse to the environment. Australia's environemnt has been isolated for so long that it developed its own very unique biota. Feral animals such as rabbits, camels, goats, cats, mina birds, rats, mice and cane toads to name a few have successfully out competed many of the our native species to such an extent that Australia has one of the worst extinction rates in the world. Land clearing has been a huge part of this as well. Cats kill countless birds, small marsupials and reptiles and they displace and kill the few predatory marsupials we have as well. Cats are a very popular pet here and many people do not control them appropriatly, allowing them outside at night, not putting bells or shiny things on their collars and allowing them to hunt.

As far as Permaculture is concerned I think if you are trying to set up a sustainable ecology on your property cats do not figure into the equation at all, not if you are hoping to attract a range of cooperative animals into the ecology as well. Further more they shit in my garden and scratch all the seedlings up.

But they do make lovely slippers, and miny throw rugs. Prrrrrrr

Tim
Jeff Mathias


Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
    
    1
len gardener wrote:
on the cruel side of things, cats are not a natrual creature they have been Xbred and hybradised if you like, and we have bread teh curr of thrill killing into them, once a cat return from being the domestic animal it is back to wild ferel status it cannot then be re-tamed, but its thrill killing lust continues, it is the same with domestic dogs, they too will chase and catch if they can all native critters only thing with a dog is they are a whole lot more easier to contain than a cat. the domestic cat is cruel in its thrill kill role, it does not obviously need food as a household pet, and unlike a dog is very hard to train in any obedience.


Hi Len,

I have yet to read anything on the subject of hybridizing cats to create thrill killing lust; even the breeding and training of dogs done in this direction would barely qualify as it is more the training (which you can blame on humans) than the breeding, mostly cats are bred for appearance as far as I can tell. As far as "thrill killing lust" is concerned to me this is simply another set of labels like cruel and humane. What do you call what chickens do to mice when they get a hold of them? How about that pecking order business in chickens, pretty cruel to an outside observer is it not? Or what a hungry hog might do to a stray chicken or other live animal? How about what a raccoon will do to that same chicken? With the exception of raccoons these animals have been bred by man right alongside cats and dogs throughout the years as well yet don't seem to elicit the same labeling for exhibiting similar behavior. Contrary to popular belief cats are not very hard to train at all understanding you are limited by the cats natural behaviors and instincts, controlling them or demanding obedience from them like one would a dog is a bit more work because their very nature makes them resistant to being controlled and made obedient. Of course there are shades of this for all animals but we don't seem to be very good about getting obedience from chickens either although we can train them to a certain degree. Also personally I don't consider ringing a hogs nose to stop its natural behavior training in obedience yet many still do, rather than understanding that rooting is a part of what pigs do many cruelly resort to this practice in an effort to control. I would call that inhumane treatment of a animal, we have knowledge that this is not necessary, we also know that rooting is a trait of all hogs. It would seem to me if you didn't or couldn't accept some rooting from a rooting animal one should reconsider their choices. Many do not!

The thing is what you describe here as thrill killing lust is found in virtually every wild feline, canine, primate, weasel and raptor families as well as most of the toothed whales and most of the amphibians and reptiles as well. Here in California where bobcats and mountain lions still exist one of the first rules should you encounter them (especially for mtn. lions) is to not run. This is because it is well known that their instinct to jump on and attack virtually any moving thing is so strong it often triggers attacks that would not have come from a slow withdrawal. All this without any human intervention through cross breeding or hybridization. Are then these felines(cats) also engaging in a thrill killing lust? Or is it perhaps that it is simply a part of the hard-wiring of being feline?

What all these animals are doing is called survival, none of these creatures have the luxury of joining a club where no harm from their practice can come, so instead through for lack of a better term play they practice their skills so when they are finally drawn upon for survival hopefully their skills are honed well enough to eat and/or escape from being eaten and survive for another day.


How I came to understand that human based labels and language is insufficient when dealing with nature and natural creatures:

I owned an Argus monitor for a long time, I raised it from a baby by hand making sure it knew I was no threat. Well fed it could be the nicest lizard you ever met; it actually seemed to enjoy scratching and rubbing but as it got bigger it seemed to get meaner and more aggressive. It finally occurred to me after much observation that the apparent aggression was food related, simply put the monitor was more hungry than any information I had come across said it would be. I tried something new, I tried to keep it so well fed that the aggression related to hunger would not show. It worked!!! the monitor was the docile creature I had raised once again. Unfortunately the increase in food increased it's size and the amount of food it ate as well. It was at this time in order to keep him fed I had to switch to live mice and rats. It had only ever had previously frozen mice and live insects before, I was not sure what to expect since it had never had to work for food so to speak.
I was not prepared for what appeared to be the sheer violence exhibited by the monitor running down and killing these creatures. It had never before needed nor exhibited any of these behaviors up until this time but it certainly knew what to do without any prompting when the time came. Small enough the rats were often swallowed whole and alive but above a certain size the monitor would behave in much the same manner you have above described as thrill killing lust. It is obvious to a human that the monitor is strong enough to break the neck of even large rats to quickly end the rats suffering. It never happened once. What was much more likely was a short race lost by the rat that ended in it being dragged, thrown, bashed and rubbed against anything that would not move, typically resulting in the rats head going in the monitors mouth and if still alive the monitor constricting on it with the neck muscles to suffocate the rat before being eaten. The resulting mess eventually led me to find a source of frozen rats sold in large packages for zoo and other uses. It always came down to a size issue though. There was also a certain size of rat above which the monitor simply would not bother with no matter how hungry etc. Just the right size would be inhaled; I mean 3-4 rats of the larger than the biggest mouse size eaten and gone in seconds it was stunning to say the least. But too big and even thawed dead rats got the brutal treatment every single time. I could guess it is a survival response, rats of this size could do considerable damage if not dispatched quickly particularly in the unprotected mouth and throat regions, however if not dispatched right away it was safer for the monitor to work over the rats in this fashion. I imagine it also helped break the rats up a bit to get them down easier and digest easier. I also imagine it could tell what it could reasonably swallow and did not waste the effort trying on those things that did not fit the criteria.

It did often at first appear like a thrill killing lust though...until I noticed this response perhaps expressed in slightly different ways in virtually every living creature that must prey on other living creatures to survive, even something as simple as the amoebas do it. That is when I realized our words, terms and labels are not generally appropriately used if appropriate at all when discussing the natural behaviors that have evolved in all living things.

Jeff

P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
Emotionalizing the actions of animals with very little prefrontal cortex does not help us understand and deal with them. Cats kill as a drive. There are over a dozen hardwired drives in most mammals, just as humans have a drive to eat, drink, and have sex. Wolves have sixteen; dogs only 14 as we have bred the "hunter's stare" and one other I've forgotten out of our breeds.

There is no one big scary 'cat virus'. Zoonotic viruses are very dangerous (the 1919's Spanish Flu, H1N1 and H5N1 being a few) and their contagiousness is part of what makes them lethal. It is very possible for cats to pass parasites to humans. This and the damage to the environment are the major problems I see and are the two issues discussed on this thread. Therefore it seems that cats as themselves are just fine -- the problem is OUTDOOR cats in previously stable environments and owners who do not take care of their cat's medical needs with indoor care, worming, de-parasiting and so on.
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
As PT implied Cat diseases can transmit to humans as can parasites however it takes some doing. I believe this indicates that the cat has recently been domesticated; however something to think about; many folks in the research end of things think that cats self domesticated. this may be why cats have never been breed to obedience in most places. not enough time has passed that the essential catness has has gone away.

cats are not 100% killers and i do think there is a place in the permiculture world for cats I just dont think it is in places that have no natural cats or places that the cat population is so huge that it is taking out the small critters. I dont see single feline problems i see colony feline problems and yes cats have colonies they are not naturally solitary just prone to it. mostly i think cause humans tend to only have one cat at a time.

Any how thats enough on this thread from me. cao


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Ernie and Erica
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P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
I beg your pardon, len, it was when you said
len gardener wrote: they thrill kill, wild animals kill for survival cats kill because they can

if they are fed well? then they are thrill killers why else would they do it but for fun.


Characterizing a cat's natural, hardwired drive to kill as "thrill" and "for fun" seemed to me to be putting an emotional slant on a natural biological drive of an animal. A dog may hike his leg to pee on your lamppost because he doesn't like you... but more likely (and less anthropomorphically/emotionally), marking is a natural drive for dogs. In the same way, hunting is a natural drive for cats. This is why they chase laserpointers and feather toys and windup mice. They can't help themselves, it's hardwired... not emotional for them at all.

Please also note that cats know to hunt and capture as part of their natural drive, but must be taught how to kill their prey by their mothers. The knowledge of how to deliver the deathblow is not an inborn trait. Mothers and young cats 'play' with their dead prey to learn more about stalking and capturing, but if you see an adult cat toying with a mouse it's likely never been taught how to properly kill its prey. Once again, that's poor parenting, though this time on the part of the mothercat and not the ownerhuman.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14156
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This thread has taught me something I didn't know about Bill. Certainly some things worth considering.

I am a big fan of cats and am struggling with the idea of not having cats on a permaculture farm.


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subject: Mollison's anti-cat discussion
 
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