I have two cats. A 5 year old girl named Charlie, and a 2 year old boy, Richard Parker. Named for the tiger in one of my favorite novels, Richard Parker has grown into his name and is a big, fluffy beast. Today (April 1st) happens to be his birthday. I cannot be certain that he was truly born on April 1, but I have designated it as his birthday. Partly because he is an April Fool, but also because it fits the timeline for his age.
When I found Richard Parker, it was May 9, 2018, and my boss had driven the 20+ miles to work in her Prius as usual, not hearing the soft mews that came from her engine until she had parked. The Toyota Prius engine is a solid block made up mostly of battery, and by virtue of my narrow arms I was the only one who could reach him.
It was a Sword in the Stone-King Arthur moment, I like to think. The thirsty, dirty Excalibur looked like this:
After he and I cleaned up, I brought him home and, with the exception of regular vaccinations and check-ups, he has remained there ever since.
There are so many reasons to keep cats indoors for their own safety. This might not be a common occurrence, but cats like warm engines on cold mornings and it certainly is not the first or last time for something like this. Not to mention the myriad other risks that cats are exposed to outside. Keep them safe, keep them in! However, I am also a staunch advocate that cats be kept indoors for another very important reason.
Cats are terrific and terrifying predators.
By the way, here is Richard Parker now at 2 years old. Turns out that smudge on his nose wasn't grease after all!
They look cute and unassuming (sometimes), but even kittens are capable of wreaking havoc on small animal populations. In 2013, a study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute estimated that every domestic cat (that was 84 million in the United States at the time) kills as many as 18 birds and 21 small mammals annually! Feral cats, those that roam without a home or owner, might be in equal abundance, and are much more destructive. They suggest that as many as 46 birds and 338 tiny creatures are killed
by each feral cat every year.
In the paper, the researchers state that, "We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually."
That is only the United States.
Since the age of exploration, they have also been introduced on islands worldwide, where a separate study concluded that feral cats on islands are responsible for at least 14% of global bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions and are the main driver in threatening 8% of critically endangered birds, mammals, and reptiles. They estimate that 5% of the worlds’ 179,000 islands already have feral cats, and there is ever increasing potential for their introduction on the remaining islands as we bring them, whether we bring them intentionally as pets or unintentionally as sneaky stowaways.
Cats are wonderful pets and wonderful friends. If you are lucky enough to have a pet cat, please do your friend a favor and keep him or her indoor. And if you care about the natural ecosystem where you live, please do the small animals a favor and keep your cat inside.