News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 29, 2013

RONN MOTT: Cats and birds don’t mix

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — I got up the other morning about 6:30 to see if I could help the wife feed the cats. She has it down to a science and probably does better without me than with my help. So while O.C., Mellow, and Magic were eating, I made my morning coffee. The cats normally eat their breakfast and go back out to greet the sunshine and the warmth of the morning. My wife cracks the doors so they can have access while we’re home.

So I sat down to drink my coffee and read the newspaper when a yell came from the kitchen area, “Ronn, come quickly, I need your help!” Magic had carried in a young bird. Still alive, apparently uninjured and screaming its head off. Holy-moly what a scene. We got the cats back outdoors and we were left to do something with the young bird. We got him to the front porch, opened the front door, and he hopped down to a step and then took off flying about a foot off the ground.

This young bird flying that close to the ground simply attracted the cats again.  And it also attracted about every Robin in North Terre Haute. There were about 10 or 11 screeching loudly and diving at the cats as they tried to help this young bird stay with us.

I interceded. We got Magic to go back inside and I picked up Mellow to put him inside. While I was holding him, my shorts (sans belt) fell down around my ankles and I had to retrieve my shorts as Mellow jumped out of my arms. He decided to curl up in my neighbor’s garden hose and I thought the young bird had escaped to safety. I went back to my coffee and paper.

It was not going to be a good day for the birds. Looking out, I saw Mellow had a bird in his mouth which he dropped and wanted to come in. He did. We disposed of the dead bird.

Then Magic, who had gone back out, was seen tossing something in the air and that was the original bird that had created all the excitement. This young bird had been a play toy and had died in the process.

I have always hated this, but my cats, while very good cats, are just that … cats. They have been hunting since the genetic code of cats was established eons and eons ago. Mostly, my cats enjoy playing while trying to keep the birds from escaping. I would love to find a way where they did not find this a part of their make-up, but this is to no avail.

The wife and I try to intervene whenever possible when we see these things about to occur. But, obviously, we can’t be around 24/7 or just the time the cats are outside.

There’s no way you can punish a cat for being instinctively what he is. Our cats are well behaved, they cause no problems to their owners, and they don’t bother other people. They are loving pets, but they will on occasion catch a bird that is either not smart enough or quick enough to escape the cats’ hunting instincts. It was a very disruptive day. A day my cats quickly forgot and were soon ensconced in their midday nap.

I hope we have fewer and fewer of these kinds of mornings, and I hope my young cats get to be worse and worse as hunters rather than better and better.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.