Scrunchie Collars May Reduce Cats’ Effects On Bird Populations

A recent study in Australia shows that cats wearing brightly colored scrunchie collars are less able to catch and kill birds. Specifically, red and rainbow collars seem to be the most effective for this.

How can scrunchie collars protect birds from free-ranging cats?

It’s because birds are attuned to bright colors. Bright colors are at odds with a cat’s coloring and markings, which are designed to camouflage them in their environments. The scrunchie collars defeat that purpose and act as a warning system for birds.

Smithsonian Magazine reports a 54 percent reduction “in the successful capture of birds, reptiles and amphibians,” when cats were wearing the collars. These don’t reduce their ability to hunt and kill rats and mice, though. This is because rats and mice aren’t nearly as attuned to bright colors as birds, reptiles and amphibians.

There are studies saying that free-ranging cats are responsible for billions of bird deaths each year

Many places have problems with free ranging cats. Various studies, done within the last few years, apparently show that free ranging cats are responsible for large numbers of bird deaths around the U.S. In fact, it’s far larger than previously thought. Those studies have sparked widespread criticism, and a hot debate about just how to manage free ranging cats.

NPR discussed one study, saying that it was a meta-study, meaning it was basically a study of other studies. The authors of this study said that they didn’t have any empirical data on the number of un-owned cats (stray or feral) in the U.S. NPR believes that alone casts doubt on the study’s findings, and they cited numerous other problems as well.

Alley Cat Allies blasted another study, saying that the researchers’ sample size (just 69 birds) was way too small to be accurate. The study also only looked at a very small a radius (roughly three miles), and can’t be very accurate that way either. That study also concluded that free-ranging cats might kill several billion birds annually.

Richard Conniff, an op-ed contributor for The New York Times, wrote a column called, “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat.” In it, he discussed all the ills that society wreaks on the environment, and on wildlife habitats. Despite that, he still seemed to place the bulk of the blame for declining wildlife populations on cats, despite the fact that our large populations of free ranging cats are our fault, not theirs.

Scrunchie collars still allow cats to feed and groom

According to Birdsbesafe, one manufacturer of these scrunchie collars, the bright material surrounds a standard breakaway collar, so if the cat gets stuck, the inner ring will break apart allowing both the collar and the fabric tube to fall free. That reduces the risk of strangulation. They also say that cats can feed and groom with it on, so owners can leave it on all the time.

It’s not practical to expect feral cats to accept brightly colored scrunchie collars, or any collar at all. Feral cat caretakers often have enough trouble just trapping them for neutering and shots, and these cats don’t tolerate handling. However, owned cats can wear these collars just fine. Perhaps they’ll become popular enough to help reduce friction between cat owners with indoor-outdoor cats, and bird lovers.

‘Cat Wars’ Has Grisly ‘Solution’ To Free-Range Cats

There’s a book out called “Cat Wars,” and it actually calls for killing all free-ranging cats because they kill wildlife. The authors advocate killing “in the name of conservation,” and it’s true that domestic cats are an invasive species here. When has killing in the name of conservation ever worked, though? When did it ever jibe with conservation?

“Cat Wars” wants mass extermination “by any means necessary.”

Image by genocre, under Public Domain via Pixabay

I freely admit I haven’t read this book, and I’m going entirely off of this HuffPo story on it. “Cat Wars” was written by two avowed bird lovers and cat haters. These two are particularly scary when they talk about solutions to our problems with free-ranging cats:

“From a conservation ecology perspective, the most desirable solution seems clear—remove all free-ranging cats from the landscape by any means necessary.”

That phrase, “by any means necessary,” is particularly troubling in “Cat Wars.” They want unregulated and indiscriminate killing of free-range cats. Free-range cats aren’t just feral cats, either – they’re owned, outdoor cats and community cats that have caretakers.

It’s truly disheartening that there even has to be a war between cat lovers and bird lovers. We should be working with each other to solve the problem, not polarizing ourselves over it. And yet, here’s “Cat Wars,” making the issue even more polarizing. How? They demonize cat people as people who don’t care about wildlife or the environment, and they call for mass extermination.

I personally know very few cat people who don’t deeply care about either subject.

Does “Cat Wars” even address other methods for controlling and reducing cat populations?

I don’t know. I do know, from my own research, that the best methods for reducing the number of birds and other wildlife that free-ranging cats kill are all humane methods. First, there’s trap, neuter, return (TNR) for feral and community cats. There are also collars that are big and brightly colored, or that have bells or make other loud noises for owned, outdoor cats.

How anybody can claim to be an animal lover of any type, and advocate killing one species to save another, is beyond me. These people are massive hypocrites in my opinion. If they were truly interested in conservation, and feel the above methods are ineffective, they’d work with other experts to find better methods of reducing the free-ranging cat population.

If we could keep all cats indoors at all times, that would be ideal. It’s not realistic. Neither is the mass killing that “Cat Wars” wants.

I keep all my cats indoors – the only things they can hunt are bugs. While I strongly believe that keeping cats indoors is best, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t work for every cat. It’s also a fact that even cats that have been indoor-only cats their entire lives can, and do, escape.

As such, I also advocate for TNR, and for parents of outdoor and indoor-outdoor cats to find collars and other methods of alerting wildlife to their kitties’ presence. Indiscriminate killing is not the answer.

The truth here is that the authors of “Cat Wars” aren’t conservationists at all. Again, I haven’t read this book and I’m getting my information entirely from that HuffPo story. But I was struck by a book that says we need to get rid of free-range cats “by any means necessary.” That’s frightening and disgusting.

Cats Meok Bang may be just what stray cats in Korea need

South Korea, like many countries around the world, has a stray cat problem. However, someone is working to take care of those cats living outdoors, though, and the entire world can see it. Cats Meok Bang is a livestream on YouTube that focuses on a feeding station where these cats can eat. It’s online 24/7 in South Korea, but the world can watch various clips from it.

 

How did Cats Meok Bang get started?

Koo Eun-je started the whole thing almost accidentally, when he put some fish out for a stray cat living near his mother-in-law’s home. As more cats arrived, he began putting out more food and set up a station. He and his wife put a camera, which is how the livestream of the feeding station came into being.

They thought there might be one or two cats, but they’ve got 17 cats feeding at that station now, which was surprising to them. They’ve decorated the feeding station up like a tiny restaurant, with a chalkboard sign showing the day’s menu and everything. Watch a clip from it here:

The livestream is called Cats Meok Bang because “Meok Bang” is a term for people—usually women—who eat on camera. These are cats eating on camera, so Koo named it Cats Meok Bang to reflect what the livestream is.

Stray cats have a bad reputation in South Korea – often referred to as thieves, probably because they steal food (and possibly other things). Here in the U.S., we’re slowly evolving towards an understanding that these cats need to be cared for and sterilized, which helps them, us, and even wildlife.

Cats Meok Bang may well be the first baby step towards that same understanding in South Korea. Koo doesn’t just put leftovers out in the kitty restaurant, he actually goes out and fishes for them, so there’s always plenty of food. The channel itself now has 110,000 viewers each month, and that number is growing. Koo is a cat-man with a heart of gold for this.

 

Still image via screen capture from embedded video

Working cats keep Chicago’s rat problem at bay

Like most big cities, Chicago has a rat problem, and like most big cities, they have tried everything to get rid of it. It’s well known that the U.S. also has a major problem with feral cats, but a Chicago shelter puts feral cats out into the city to as working cats to hunt the rats, around both homes and businesses, and especially in areas undergoing redevelopment.

Chicago’s working cats come from Tree House Humane Society

The Cats At Work program, via Tree House Humane Society, has helped businesses like the Empirical Brewery get rid of rats without toxic poisons and expensive exterminators. One of the cats there, named Venkman, and his three feral friends, live among the grain sacks and barrels behind the brewery and hunt the rats that eat into the sacks.

A woman, Victoria Thomas, hired three working cats after $5,000 in extermination fees didn’t work to keep the rats away from barbeques in her backyard. She says that the rats would walk across her family’s feet, and they could hear the little feet when they’d sit out on their deck. Since the cats came, the rats are gone.

Rat problems often get worse during demolition and redevelopment

In Lincoln Park, the rat problem is expected to get worse once Children’s Memorial Hospital comes down – once demolition starts, the rats living under the old buildings will scurry away, making the problem a lot worse for the whole neighborhood.

The city has a strict rodent abatement ordinance that requires developers to do what they can to prevent rat problems from getting worse due to their work. The developer working on the Children’s Memorial Hospital project already has poison bait boxes all around the hospital complex, and the city is working in other ways, too.

Working cats can help eliminate the new rat populations following these construction projects

These ways are limited, though, and the rat problem is so bad that there is actually a waiting list for these working cats, which are often scheduled to be euthanized because they aren’t adoptable. These aren’t cuddly cats, but they get food, water, and shelter from those for whom they work. It’s a win-win – the cats get jobs and caregivers, and the people get a green solution to their rat problems.

Working cats actually kill off a large portion of the initial rat population, according to Phil Nickerson, who manages the Cats at Work program at Tree House. Their presence, though, is what keeps new rats from moving in. Rats are prey – they won’t go where their natural predators live if they can help it.

That’s the biggest advantage to these working cats. They scare away the rats, so new rat populations don’t fill the vacuum left when the existing population is killed off. The best part is that it’s natural, and it’s a way to save feral cats from extermination.

The Cat Boat – A floating cat sanctuary

Many cities and towns have animal sanctuaries and shelters, where animals are cared for until they can be adopted, or cared for throughout their lives if adoption isn’t possible. Amsterdam has an interesting idea for one of their sanctuaries. It floats. They have a floating cat sanctuary.

Image by By Oxyman, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

The floating cat sanctuary is an actual, working shelter

The Cat Boat, as it’s called, is considered one of Amsterdam’s odder attractions, and Amsterdam has plenty of odd attractions. Its origins go back to 1966, when a woman named Henriette van Weelde took a stray cat and her kittens into her home. She became known as a rescuer, and people would drop stray cats off at her place.

The floating cat sanctuary came about because Henriette could no longer keep all the rescued cats in her home. It was an unused house boat, and it operated under the radar for nearly 20 years. Finally, in 1987, the floating cat sanctuary got a permit and became official.

Catster writer Kristan Lawson writes that they visited The Cat Boat, and says that, today, it functions as a feral cat sanctuary, clinic, and no-kill shelter. It’s not just a boat where lots of cats live. They work for the cats there, and adopt out as many as possible.

The Cat Boat wasn’t always open to tourists

The floating cat sanctuary was never meant to be open to the public because of that, but the public convinced The Cat Boat to open its doors to tourism anyway. One staff member says that they average 4,500 visitors per year.

Image by Antony Stanley, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Incredibly enough, visitors are allowed to pet the free-roaming cats there, but are warned to be careful. Since some of these cats are feral, they can bite and scratch. This is especially true if people try to pick them up, so they try to warn their tourists against that by putting “wanted” posters – pictures of the kitties that are especially fractious and are likely to bite and scratch.

The floating cat sanctuary is definitely one of the odder sanctuaries out there, but they work as hard as any other shelter/sanctuary. And, like every other sanctuary, they’re doing a wonderful thing for a cat overpopulation.

What is the major difference between stray and feral cats?

In the U.S., stray and feral cats are a massive problem. One of the best ways to help them is to know that there is, in fact, a difference between stray and feral cats. Make no mistake, both need our help. But to help them, we need to recognize that there is a difference there, and properly identify each type of cat so we can give them they help they need most.

Alley Cat Allies says that stray cats are cats that once had a home, and then either ran away, got lost or abandoned. They can become more feral over time, but, under the right circumstances, they can re-learn how to trust people and become a pet cat again.

Feral cats, on the other hand, aren’t socialized, and except in rare circumstances, cannot be socialized. They avoid humans, and don’t like to be touched, let alone held. They’ll probably never be happy indoors. Feral kittens, however, can be socialized and adopted out.

What are some other things that show the difference between stray and feral cats?

It’s not just interaction with humans that illustrates this difference. Feral cats form colonies, and associate with other cats, but not other animals, really. Stray cats tend to be solitary – they don’t form colonies the way that feral cats do.

Stray cats also act far more like a typical pet cat. They walk with their heads and tails held higher, like they’re strutting their stuff. Feral cats, on the other hand, are far more reclusive. They keep low to the ground, and use their tails to protect their bodies. They skulk, almost; they don’t walk.

One unexpected difference between stray and feral cats is that feral cats have adapted to the outdoors far better than stray cats are, so they’re actually more likely to have a clean, well-kept coat. They’ve learned how to keep themselves clean despite the harsh conditions outdoors. Strays, though, are more likely have dirty and unkempt coats.

Knowing whether a cat is stray or feral helps you determine what kind of care it needs, especially if you’re looking to trap it. If it’s stray, you can get it vetted and then either bring it into your own home, or find a good home for it. A feral cat, on the other hand, is best treated in a trap-neuter-release program. Having an idea of the difference between stray and feral cats will help you better care for them.

Israel Deporting Cats? AG Minister’s Idea Met With Hisses

Like most places, Israel has a problem with feral cats. They’ve been using a trap-neuter-return-like policy for awhile, but their Minister of Agriculture isn’t satisfied with the results. He wants to see Israel deporting cats. Not all of them, but at least half of them. He would deport all the males, or all the females, to which we say, “Good luck with that.”

Image by Rudolph.A.furtado. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

According to a story in the Washington Post, you can find cats in dumpsters, in alleyways, at landmarks, and pretty much everywhere, just in Jerusalem. Correspondent William Booth says that it’s rare to see rats in Jerusalem, which isn’t surprising since one of the things cats do is keep away the vermin. It’s why the New York city bodegas, some Chicago breweries, and other businesses in other cities, specifically employ cats instead of exterminators. Simply put, cats work a lot better for this.

Why is deporting cats such a bad idea?

Israel currently spays and neuters its feral cat population. It’s a type of trap-neuter-return, which actually does work to slowly reduce feral cats. Israel deporting cats, though, could result in a dramatic increase in the number of cats roaming the streets. Why is that? Cats can breed several times a year, and it’s impossible to catch all of them quickly enough to stay ahead of the breeding.

However, Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel wants Israel deporting cats because he’s worried that TNR could violate Jewish law. Indeed, Rabbi Shlomo Brody, of “Ask the Rabbi” in the Jerusalem Post, says that Jewish law does prohibit sterilizing animals in general. The prohibition is lighter and more complicated when it comes to female animals, but is still there.

We’re talking about a national policy designed for the benefit of both people and animals, though. Simply removing cats doesn’t work, and Israel has too many of them for such a policy to work. Furthermore, exactly where would Israel send these cats? They need a receptive country (or countries), and most of us have enough trouble getting a handle on our own feral cat populations.

If we see Israel deporting cats, what else will we see?

Should we actually see Israel deporting cats, we can also expect to see their cat population explode. Both scientists and Knesset members are upset with the proposal, and slammed Ariel for even thinking of it. They’d rather put their best minds to work on figuring out a better solution. They may be the smarter people here, because this is a proposal that just will not work.

Fortunately, we probably won’t see Israel deporting cats anytime soon, because the Jerusalem Post reports the proposal has already been voted down. Here’s hoping that Minister Ariel can come up with a far better, and more effective solution.

Keeping Cats out of your Yard Humanely

Almost every neighborhood has stray or feral cats. Some have a considerably larger problem than others, and some people aren’t happy about it, especially if the cats are causing damage. The damage could be minor, like digging up plants after using the flower bed as a litter box, or it could be a little more major. Either way, even cat lovers can admit that such things are annoying. However, rounding these cats up, or finding ways to hurt them while they’re on your property, isn’t likely to help. There are humane ways of keeping cats out of your yard that can also be more effective.

Image by genocre, licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay

Keeping cats out of your yard might mean just planting certain plants

Generally, planting plants that cats don’t like is the best way to do this. According to SFGate, lavender, pennyroyal and rue herb are good for keeping cats out of your yard. Cats don’t like the scents of these plants, and will avoid them because of that.

Alley Cat Allies says that another possibility is to sprinkle lemon and orange peel around your fence line and borders, and use a citrus-scented spray on your plants and soil. This will smell nice to you, but citrus can be too strong for cats. Plants like curry herb and lemon balm around the fence line and borders can also help; cats like neither the odor, nor the texture, of these plants, and do tend to avoid them.

Image of lavender by StillWorksImagery, licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay

Use the plants in your garden, or other creative means, to deter cats

If the problem is in your garden, you can arrange branches in an artful lattice over the soil, and plant small plants in the spaces between them. Cats won’t like stepping over the branches, especially if they’re hard to see. Embedding pine cones in the soil, with the tips sticking up, or putting out carpet runners with the spikes up will keep cats out, too.

Ultimately, you don’t want to plant things you know are toxic for the purpose of keeping cats out of your yard. You could wind up with very sick, or dead, cats in your yard if you do that. If you’ve tried keeping cats out of your yard with everything you can think of, then you might want to do something like plant a stand of catnip somewhere you don’t mind having the cats, to draw them away from the rest of your yard. You might also consider tilling the soil over there to act as a litter box, so they’re less inclined to use other places in your yard.

It’s important to remember that all cats are not the same, and what works on some cats won’t work on others. You might have to do some trial and error before you find something at works. However, there are a lot of options for humanely keeping cats out of your yard and garden, so take heart. The problem is not hopeless.