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Mollison's anti-cat discussion

Nickolas Mcsweeney


Joined: Feb 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Hello everyone, i am new here but i am not new to permaculture.

Bill Mollison states in a few of his permaculture books that there is no place in the permaculture system for cats(please correct me if you think i am wrong). so does anyone disagree with him on this?
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
Yep.... a cats place is in the house eating food from a dish and keeping you from having a heart attack after finding out how many mice the chickens have eaten.
Cats are self domesticated pets in there natural habitat they are probably fine.
in New Zealand they probably dont work out well considering the wild life is ground dwelling and cats will eat it.
You have to look at it from his perspective and place.


Need more info?
Ernie and Erica
Wood burning stoves, Rocket Mass Heaters, DIY,
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Saybian Morgan
volunteer

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
    
    8
I think the knee jerk reaction stems from not living in a bio region where feral cats can be the dominant species. I could never understand a world in which my house chihuahua roams the street's of mexico in mobs scavenging and playing up a rabid storm. But as a permaculturist I know it exist, allot of tropical countries have the same problem with goats. I've also herd Bill Mollison say there's two things you should never keep on a farm and that's peacocks and goats, but if you miss the context in which he's saying it the wisdom he's speaking from could be considered absurd. Especially when he's said it in the lecture on goat forages, working cat's into permaculture when it comes to the outdoor's is simply up to somebody else who doesn't have evidential reasons against cats given there circumstances. A free range cat kennel of pedigree hunting cats could be a money maker.
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3915
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  83
Ernie about covered the main reason for my cat aversion
NZ birds= low-hanging fruit...
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
We have something like seven or eight wild felines here, from the size of a small house cat to a Jaguar. And of course, the birds, etc are appropriate to having such predators. Cats work very very well for me so that I actually get to eat some sweet potatoes, and not lose them all to rodents of various types. They don't over populate since there are plenty of animals which prey on cats... cats always have a worried expression when they are out in the open here.


It seems strange to me that Bill Mollison wouldn't assume that cats do belong somewhere, just probably not in Australia. Australia never had any felines.

But, perhaps Bill's point is the common domesticated cat shouldn't be assumed to belong in the garden - and of that I agree. Here in Costa Rica, the barn cats eat lizards and rodents among the wood piles we have, which is a good thing. They stay very very close to the wood stock too, for cover.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I like cats. I have three indoor cats and two outdoor cats. I'd prefer to not have outdoor cats, only indoor ones. They serve no purpose except I like them. Aesthetic value.


Idle dreamer

Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
with our cats and our son's cats hunting mice and voles and moles etc..in our yard..we have very very little damage from small animals to our trees or crops..I think they DO have a place..

we do get some larger critter damage..like coons and deer but haven't seen any mice damage on our fruit trees for 20 years


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
Bills book is not a prescription its a guide to making your own prescriptions. he is not in AU he is in NZ , many places and the islands around them may have no ground predation in fact several dont have mammals unless they fly.
in the americas we have cats so our land knows what to do with them. when you are actually getting to the deep permiculture understandings its funny how you tend to fall back to what was here before humans interrupted things so if your food animals can fill a niche that we have killed off or driven the native away thats what you choose.
I dont Think Bills thing is against cats as critters or house pets I think it is against cats as things in a permiculture landscape that has never had an analog.
however chickens and some other critters are better rodent removers than cats. the list is long so i think like me he is also trying to point out that you have alternatives to having a house/barn cat.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
We have lots of small predators, so cats as "pest control" are redundant here in my region.....
Ivan Weiss


Joined: Dec 19, 2009
Posts: 157
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
I have chosen to ignore Bill's advice on this subject.


Pastured poultry, pork, and beef on Vashon Island, WA.
Kat deZwart


Joined: Aug 13, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Limburg, Netherlands, sandy loam
    
    1
In NorthWest Europe the feral cat (Lynx) is a normal part of nature. Without a housecat we would be overrun with mice and other rodents. Cats are really selfsufficient, they are selfcleaning and selffeeding. One just needs to keep out an eye for the self-breeding part because they breed like rabbits if left to their own devices. Adult cats are pretty much top of the foodchain around here. Kittens sometimes get eaten by foxes or rats. O, and I really love cats :')
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Ernie Wisner wrote: he is not in AU he is in NZ...


Anytime someone is on the other side of the equator, I just assume they are upside down... (I jest!)


Of course, we are almost ON the equater (Latitude 10), so I can't really say much.
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
well you can tell their thinkin is screwy, just look at those red faces, all the blood is rushed to there heads making it so. Silly up side down people.

Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
love those upside down teases..of course this means I'm UPRIGHT..

I will admit my cats do eat a lot of birds..which I do frown upon..however..we still have lots of birds..

Actually do believe that my big cat would eat chickens if i had them, that is why I don't..he eats rabbits and anything smaller and when he was about 6 mo old he took down a fawn..or tried to..but we didn't let him keep the fawn. (he was just playing, he wouldn't have eaten it)
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Ernie Wisner wrote:well you can tell their thinkin is screwy, just look at those red faces, all the blood is rushed to there heads making it so. Silly up side down people.



Of course, those of us near the equator are more horizontal - like lying in a hammock...
Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 219
Location: SW Missouri
    
    7
I agree with Bill Mollison that domestic cats have no place in permaculture. I will go on to say that I think domestic cats have no place in the environment ANYWHERE except where they are indigenous and an important part of the natural ecology. This is especially true in the USA, South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in particular -- where there were either native felids or no felids at all prior to the bringing of domestic cats on ships from Europe.

The domestic cat not only preys on rodents, but also on native amphibians, reptiles, and most importantly, songbirds. You may not want birds eating your berries, but in the interests of a balanced environment, you should be much more concerned about their rapidly declining numbers than about your personal larder. Besides, a lot of the feathered morsels making up kitty's diet may very well be insect eaters who would be helping to keep your pest populations under control. For those of you who dislike them, you might also want to reconsider those aversions to snakes, lizards and frogs/toads in your permaculture plans -- those little guys are your best friends in the garden, consuming both insects and rodents. I hardily encourage them in my gardens -- even constructing rock and wood piles to give them shelter. I am always happy to see snakes and lizards basking in sunny beds. (Even the little pygmy rattler who used to hang out under my bell peppers one year. I just had to be careful when I picked peppers. I always talked to him as I worked and after awhile I think he realized I was harmless and would go on sleeping even when I picked peppers right over his head.)

The really interesting thing about domestic felines when it comes to prey is that studies show they actually INCREASE the populations of house mice in areas where those mice are not native and occur in competition with the less destructive native rodent species. Here is a short quote from that study... (cited on page 8 within this paper... "The impact of domestic cat (Felis catus) on wildlife welfare and conservation: a literature review..." http://www.tau.ac.il/lifesci/zoology/members/yom-tov/inbal/cats.pdf)

In California, a two-year study (Hawkins, 1998 ) was conducted in two parks with
grassland habitat in the East Bay Regional Park District. One park had no cats, and in
the other park there were more than 20 cats that were fed daily. There were almost
twice as many birds seen in the park with no cats than in the park with cats. California
thrashers (Toxostoma redivivum) and California quail (Callipepla californica),
common ground nesting birds were seen during surveys in the no-cat area while they
were never seen in the cat area. In addition, over 85 percent of the native deer mice
(Peromyscus maniculatus) and harvest mice (Reinthrodontomys megalotis) trapped
were in the no cat area, whereas 79 percent of the house mice (Mus musculus), which
is an exotic species to California and considered as pest, were found in the cat area.
According to Hawkins (1998 ) "cats at artificially high densities, sustained by
supplemental feeding, reduce abundance of native rodent and bird populations,
change the rodent species composition, and may facilitate the expansion of the house
mouse into new areas..." (Hawkins, 1998 ).


The idea is that where native felids exist, (or conversely where nature achieved a balance without native felids), the domesticated cat usurps that niche or drives away the native predators. At the same time, pet cats kill the less bothersome native rodents (who have not evolved strategies for eluding domestic cats) and allow the insatiable exotic species to flourish relatively unchecked. So while you may think you are getting a great deal with a round the clock predator out patrolling your garden, you really are only screwing up the natural balance to the point it will ultimately fail.

Unless you live in Northern Africa, in my opinion, you should either have no cats or indoor only cats.
Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 219
Location: SW Missouri
    
    7
By the way, I have 4 cats that I love dearly. They are indoor/outdoor cats with a very nice, large enclosed outdoor area complete with trees to climb and grass to sun themselves in. I am most certainly NOT a cat hater!
Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
I think it is entirely dependent on the context. In the eastern USA there aren't many places where humans haven't messed everything up anyway, the balance is already screwed and has been for some time. Cats are part of western culture's entourage, their community, and will naturally follow along wherever they go. Also, I'm pretty sure there used to be bobcats and mountain lions in the area where I currently live, so I am fine with having a cat or two on my homestead.


"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
No need for an argument here. Every person has an opinion and thats Ok.
There are other things worth getting upset about.
from my observations if you want to get rid of mice get a case of weasels or skunks.
they are native and really good mousers, snakes do a pretty good job as do some other critters like shrews.
The largest benefit I see in cats has nothing to do with permiculture and lots to do with health.
I think thats the most important contribution cats can do.
Joe Pacific


Joined: Mar 02, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Washington
There's no question that outdoor cats have a strong negative affect on bird populations. Quick ABC news article from 2011 I found below:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/roaming-cats-kill-billion-birds-year-american-bird/story?id=13194701#.TzBUw5WDyaQ

Of course, you can do what you wish, but do realize that the rodent control you achieve with a feline comes at what I consider to be a great cost. I love cats, but I'm with Bill on this one; In most situations I think there are better alternatives to be found for rodent control. In permaculture, we are meant to be stewards of the environment, and letting little fluffy decimate the local bird population doesn't seem to be compatible with this idea.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
I think as someone has said, you have to decide if you are importing an exotic predator or not. We have hawks and owls big enough to eat cats - and coyotes, ocelots, pumas, jaguars, and some large snakes (biggest one we have had so far I have seen was a ten foot long boa). The trees are really tall, and the birds tend stay toward the top - like 80+ feet up. Cats aren't a problem here, honestly, the challenge is to keep them from turning into a meal.

Other areas, they can wreck havoc on the environment and need to be kept under control.
P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
Cats are essential here -- we're a monoculture of weeds due to fallow pastureland in a Mediterranean climate. Until we get this ecosystem filled out and balanced, we need cats to keep the vermin down to manageable levels. After that... well, I'll decide then.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm not sure how cats will help get the ecosystem in balance when they kill or displace native species which would help get it in balance.....
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10

I do believe cats can have a productive place in one's sustainable home-stead, not that they always will in all situations.

My one outdoor/indoor cat has eliminated all my free chicken feed (mice). However, when the neighborhood started having jumbo sized mice due to trash and outdoor pet food I was happy she only eats a raw diet. She is a tamed farrel cat and doesn't like store bought cat food. Birds do die, but only a small percent. The rats she's been killing are the size of my foot and twice as round. They would never fit in my little mice traps so I'm glad to have Sweet Pea on duty.

I think Bill didn't have a use for a 'pet' cat in his system as he saw it, hence his statement. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is value I guess....
Ernie Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 788
Location: Tonasket washington
    
  23
he he he he. I have met Bill a couple times and i do remember something about Tasmania. I think I have it in my head that he was in NZ because we where talking about how to bring the NZ forests back to life (I know where all the trees went). One of the problems we really had to think about was the mammals. Sheep are OK if folks would stop clearing every inch of land for the meadows. but the rats. stoats, weasels, cats, rabbits, etc would have to be systematically removed in order to bring things close to balance then we would have to figure out how to get several of the great birds back (not that hard these days). I think the thing to bring back first is the top order predator that was master of the islands; The Moa. however I am not sure how humans would handle something that can run a person down and eat them.

I think the removal of small furry critters would handle itself if the great birds where re introduced. after all they eat ground things and all those introduced critters are ground things.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
P Thickens wrote: Hopefully I can get this place to a point where it'll balance itself instead of needing outside pressures; it's not there yet.


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.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Breaking the "no yard cats" rule; my outdoor cats keeping the birds away from the feeders. Thanks, cats! We feed the heck out of these cats:

Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
Ernie Wisner wrote: I think the thing to bring back first is the top order predator that was master of the islands; The Moa. however I am not sure how humans would handle something that can run a person down and eat them.




Pretty sure the Moa were vegetarians. I think you're thinking of the Haast's Eagle, which actually ate the Moa.

Think it's possible to Jurassic Park them? They have the DNA sequencing...
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
In California, a two-year study (Hawkins, 1998 ) was conducted in two parks with
grassland habitat in the East Bay Regional Park District. One park had no cats, and in
the other park there were more than 20 cats that were fed daily. There were almost
twice as many birds seen in the park with no cats than in the park with cats. California
thrashers (Toxostoma redivivum) and California quail (Callipepla californica),
common ground nesting birds were seen during surveys in the no-cat area while they
were never seen in the cat area. In addition, over 85 percent of the native deer mice
(Peromyscus maniculatus) and harvest mice (Reinthrodontomys megalotis) trapped
were in the no cat area, whereas 79 percent of the house mice (Mus musculus), which
is an exotic species to California and considered as pest, were found in the cat area.
According to Hawkins (1998 ) "cats at artificially high densities, sustained by
supplemental feeding, reduce abundance of native rodent and bird populations,

change the rodent species composition, and may facilitate the expansion of the house
mouse into new areas..." (Hawkins, 1998 ).


If you'll notice in the bold text, the study was done under circumstances that would not normally occur on a farm with a few mousers. Yes, an overpopulation of ANY species in a concentrated area is going to upset the normal ecological balance of that area....big surprise.

Since permaculture is by no means solely practiced in wide areas of anyone's country at this point and usually only by an individual or small group of individuals in one place, then the presence of a few cats on a farmstead that is practicing permaculture is a little different. There is definitely a need to have your own small predator to take the place of those you displaced by clearing your fields/yard and planting your crops/home. Particularly one that can co-exist with any small livestock you may be harboring as you permaculture. 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?

A good cat is a useful tool on a farm and not to be confused with an overpopulation of feral felines. As for displacing other small predators...I've lost a few cats to fox predation and I've never seen one of my cats drag one of those in and leave it on the porch, nor has he any other animal that would be considered a predator~they seem to be thriving in my area.
 
 
subject: Mollison's anti-cat discussion
 
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