CW: Murderous cat—includes graphic imagery.
It has been a pretty long four months mostly cooped up at home with Rain and Roy. We’ve been coping in different ways. One of Roy’s coping mechanisms has been pretty unique to him: going on a killing spree.
Once the weather warmed this spring Roy started hotfooting it outside again after breakfast. On several mornings the next time I’d see him he’d have a bird in his mouth. He’d want to come inside the house, possibly to deliver it to me or to eat his bird in a safe spot. I would shut the door before he made it inside.
Highly recommended comic: How Much Do Cats Actually Kill? by The Oatmeal
In prior years Roy has killed far more rodents than birds. My theory about why this shift happened has to do with the poultry enthusiasts who used to live across the street. Chickens tend to attract rodents, so when the neighbors and their flock moved back in March, it’s possible the rodents moved on to new food sources in other yards. Or Roy might have lost a territorial disagreement with the younger feral kittens that live next door to the ex-chicken house.
Either way, for a few weeks there Roy was regularly coming home with birds. One morning, he showed up with two different birds over a couple hours! And these weren’t all invasive species or small birds, sometimes these were scrub jays, juncos, and towees. The second bird he ever brought in the house, a few years back, was a hummer.
People cheer a lot less for a cat killing songbirds compared with a cat that kills rodents. When Roy was having his spring killing spree, we looked into the BirdsBeSafe collar, scientifically proven to thwart cat predation of birds.
While I was mired in indecision about which pattern to get, the dead bird parade just stopped.
After Roy stopped killing birds, things were completely quiet for over a month. Then we got a couple summer days with warm enough weather that I left my front door open at night. I was up late when I heard an urgent-but-muffled meow in tandem with a soft thud coming from the front room. It was about midnight, and Roy had a tiny little mouse that he released in the kitchen but wasn’t quite dead. He soon fixed that situation and had himself a midnight snack.
After a big breakfast the next morning, he came in with a northern flicker—his biggest bird yet. He brought it into the kitchen and released it from his jaw. After the bird took two seconds to regain cognition, it started flapping, flying from the kitchen around the living room a bit before landing on the floor. Roy was on it, and captured the bird again. I shooed him out and closed the doors.
After properly killing the flicker he took it to the back door, where eventually he had a nibble and just abandoned the prey after. It wasn’t too long before flies and yellowjackets discovered the bird, and I decided to move it to a place where scavengers could enjoy the bird. It shouldn’t have died in vain, right?
Rain and I were watching a movie around 11 PM that evening when I barely noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t until the movie was over that I discovered Roy had once again delivered the bird carcass to the living room! It was returned to its prior resting place before we went to sleep, and after witnessing a bit of crow interest a day later, the carcass seemed to disappear.
Roy is starting to show some age. Just when I think he’s becoming a mature old cat who is more interested in hanging out with Rain and I than prowling all night, he’ll prove me wrong by bringing me a cavalcade of prey. He’s a mighty hunter, I always tell the vet when I take him in, but I feel like they don’t understand just how much. Usually it sinks in when I tell them that he has brought squirrels into the house a couple of times.
Audubon and other bird organizations say that educating cat owners about their cat’s damage doesn’t do any good. Why don’t I do much in this situation, as a bird enthusiast? Roy came to us unintentionally—his house was originally across the street. I’ve been very careful to not be too possessive of him, or at least in a way that’s visually obvious. Putting a bright clown collar on him might spur a neighbor confrontation I don’t really want. If the cavalcade of dead birds picks up again though I might be forced to take riskier measures.