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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Killer cats

There is a cat controversy on the boil in New Zealand

It's all the fault of Wellington economist and financial wizard Gareth Morgan, who suggested that Cats have a Dire Effect on Native Birdlife. 

In fact, he has gone so far to say that our world standard bird sanctuary, Zealandia, is an expensive catfood factory.  Birds that are lovingly reared in a pest-free environment are free to fly all over Wellington once big enough to fly over the fence.  Hence, over the past few years, Wellingtonians have had the delight of hearing the demented conversations of tuis in their own backyards, and are treated to the rather comical sight of massive keruru (wood pigeons) balancing on power lines. (They are so big that when they fly they sound like helicopters.) And Dr. Morgan says they are in danger. From your common-or-garden household cat.

In fact, Dr. Morgan says that cats that are found straying about the neighborhood that haven't been micro-chipped should be put out of their microchipless misery, and thereby save a few birds.

As eminent scientists have pointed out, while cats might kill a few birds (though tuis and keruru are too big/too crafty to be snared by those satanical claws) they do the bird world a favor by killing other pests like rats and stoats, which sneak about the bush and climb trees to rob nests of chicks and eggs.  Figures have been quoted, and authorities cited.  But the controversy simmers on. Should everyone consider their current cat their last cat, not to be replaced once gone?

Some say yes, some say no. It has been getting rather heated -- in the way of humor.  There have been some very funny letters to the paper.  Here is a sampling of this weekend's letters to the ed.:

Moggy: a cat of dubious breed.  Ex.: "No, my dear, that is not a British Shorthair, it is a moggy." Origin: from the word "mongrel."  Morgy: an expert of dubious expertise. Ex.: "You don't need to listen to his dieting adivce, he is a morgy." Origin: see "Morgan, G."

It would seem that, on balance, cats destroy enough New Zealand pests to more than offset any damage they do. If only they could club together and eat economists, we would worship them just as much as the ancient Egyptians did.

Since my two cats died a couple of years ago the birds have returned to my garden in their dozens. So far they have eaten my strawberries, dug up my potatoes, and now they have started on the Beefsteak tomatoes, not to mention pooping on my washing and my car.  I shall be getting another cat next season, possibly two.

Just in case you are interested (and possibly getting het up) here is Gareth Morgan's website, complete with neat little tags to back-buttons like "Your Cat is Not Innocent."

And here is Zealandia's lovely website.  If you are visiting Wellington, it is a really neat place to go.  Wear a hat and good walking shoes, and prepare to spend several hours.  And yes, you can take a packed lunch. Or have a fancy wedding, if you wish.

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