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cats birds permaculture

 
                          
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Greetings.

I have at home a rescue cat that is super bright, affectionate, playful, loyal, happy, healthy, neutered, friendly - and wants to roam outdoors and kill things. She's tiny but would be a dedicated hunter. There are no bugs in my apartment. I'm a city dweller wondering how Permies approach this sort of dilemma. There are way too many domesticated pets, and if set her loose she would likely torture and devour mice, snakes, bugs, and birds.

This is a two-part question. First the birds part. I guess I'm not also 100% clear on how rural permaculture farmers view birds. As stealers of seed right when we're about to collect seed from bolting plants? As cross-pollinators who promote eco-diversity? Do we like some birds and control some other birds? If so is it ecological and compassionate as well as good management to do so? And if so cats play a role in that? Or is it better if cats don't go after birds?

Second is, my Sweetie is super allergic and some day we might want to co-domesticate, and that would involve finding a home for the cat. I'm wondering if there's a way to apply Permaculture principles to finding a home for her, if it comes to that. I'm wondering also how folks practicing the Permie way of life view cats, and birds, and farming in ways that support wild life and ecosystems, and how cats might be found to fit into that web.

thanks,
david glober
san francisco, ca
 
Brice Moss
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cats are a useful but potentially damaging highly invasive species that need careful management.

I have two one in the house and one in the barn. nothing better than a cat in the barn to keep the free roaming rodents in check cause they will kill mice in grain bins weather they are hungry or not. both are fixed so that I will not be producing cats here the shelters always have an excess when I need a new cat

but, my house cat likes to kill Gardner snakes who I would like to have more of, and I will not keep a cat that shows a tendency to kill songbirds

I could use help if anyone has ideas for how to manage the snake slaughter, cause I need slug eating snakes.
 
                          
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A friend who's a Permaculture teacher lives in town in a house large enough for a garden, rain barrels, etc. and close to a large, open park. He lets his cats run free. He's amazed how many mice his one cat hunts and kills, and perhaps more amazed also how many garter snakes. The other cat was more docile but has started hunting along with the first cat.

Thanks for pointing out that garter snakes help control snails and slugs. I understand the depiction of domestic cats as a highly invasive species. Also curious if any one has suggestions regarding the snakes, i could have titled the thread "cats birds snakes permaculture".

Questions:

Is it fairly typical on a family farm to have one cat in the house and one cat in the barn?

Do those cats intermingle but know which way is home most of the time for each?

Are barn cats typically feral?

Mentioned that cats are highly useful - is the role of the house cat companionship? plus keeping rodents out of the house?

thanks,
david glober
 
Tyler Ludens
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We have 3 housecats and 2 outdoor cats.  The housecats are strictly indoor cats although the oldest used to be an indoor-outdoor cat who spent nights in our workshop to keep away mice, but as she got older we felt she should move indoors permanently.  She was also very allergic to something in the soil so always had skin problems until she became an indoor cat.  The outdoor cats catch mice all the time but we have never seen them with a bird.  Unfortunately they sometimes catch a frog, snake, or lizard, but we try to provide a lot of habitat for little critters so the population stays high in spite of some predation.
 
Brice Moss
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the barn cat is from an apartment dwelling friend who didn't want to send him to the shelter when he started peeing on things, of course thats because she didn't have him nuetered in time, I used the same banding kit I use on my goats to accomplish the nuetering and left him in the barn

the house cat spends more time outside than in and yes they are starting to play/hunt together around the yard which I see as a good thing.

I don't view the barn cat as feral because he is fed enough that he does not have to hunt.

for snake homes your best bet is to pile flat rocks or random bits of old plywood close to where you want them hunting garnders almost always take up habitation in such sites. Not all garners eat slugs but here west of the cascades they do
 
Brenda Groth
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there are 3 hunter cats between us and our son. They DO eat there share of birds, but generally they eat things like mice, squirrels, shrews, etc.

The one prefers birds, but he eats the entire bird, which saves me on pet food.

The other two prefer to field hunt, rodents..I would rather have the rodents providing pet food than eating my trees..

it is a normal food chain, if the cat is truly a ferel cat as my girl was..they know how to hunt to eat, but if it is a housecat it might just hunt for entertainment.

if it is eating its prey, there is no real cause for alarm unless it is eating your baby chicks or something like that.

you can make your birds more protected by putting any feeders or houses in less cat access areas..like open areas for feeders with flashing on posts..etc..so they can't climb..and simliar safety measures for birdhouses..also make sure you have a lot of cover for the birds thatis too thick for the cats to enter..like roses
 
Tyler Ludens
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Brice Moss wrote:

for snake homes your best bet is to pile flat rocks or random bits of old plywood close to where you want them hunting garnders almost always take up habitation in such sites.


Rockpiles are indeed excellent for attracting garter snakes.  I've seen 4 garter snakes in the garden the past two days.  This morning one was trying to eat a large frog, which I rescued.  The snakes can eat all the frogs they want when I'm not around, but if I hear a frog screaming, I'll probably try to save it.  I love snakes but have a special spot in my heart for frogs.

 
                          
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Appreciating various perspectives and solutions posted in this thread very much including info on building habitat for birds and snakes. Trying still to wrap my head around feral cats as part of a food chain / food web if they eat all they hunt, and cats as "useful". I surely understand that part with feral cats about eating all they hunt, including but not just saving on the cost of pet food. The only part I'm not clear on is - aren't feral cats, any cats, an introduced species? Please forgive me, i'm in a metropolitan cosmopolitan kind of an area, where cats are useful as a combination of companionship, affection, entertainment and amusement. We like watching my cat seem to walk sideways up the top part of our refrigerator after leaping up from the floor, she sleeps with me under the covers, she can be annoying but she's mostly a pleasure to have around. And where i live mice will try to burrow in from behind the oven maybe once every 5 or 6 years. But i'm trying to get the picture from a farming point of view, from agriculture point of view as well as ecologically, and all these comments are helping. It's just that if a species is essentially introduced, does it become a part of the natural food system? Does it displace another animal in the course of doing so? Am i trying too hard to get this, just need to squint a little and I'll see it? And are cats on a farm considered useful if they provide companionship even if they don't control rodents? Last but not least, if cats are kept indoors, is that mostly for their own safety, such as protection from allergies in example given, or also to keep them from killing too much for sport? And just to thicken the plot a tiny bit more, this just in from Sydney Australia - "City Imposes Cat Curfew to Bring Peace to Possums" - any thoughts on this? - http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/06/city-imposes-cat-curfew-to-bring-peace-to-possums.php ... thanks kindly and much, david glober in "the big city"
 
Brice Moss
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wow thats a lot of questions David.

I'll take a few of the easy ones cats are an introduced species and a problem in the wrong place as they will kill lots of prey and eat very little.

I find that country homes have rodent issues more often than I care to think about  and a housecat realy helps to keep them in check

I've always though keeping cats in the house all the time was just plain mean to the cat, like most predators they have an instinct to hunt that demands a sizable territory to roam, I'll never live in a house that is a big enough territory for a cat.

yes they displace the natural predators, thats a good thing the natural predators will eat my chickens too so if the cat keeps the food supply low they don't spend as much time in close where I have to worry about them.

Oh and I very much dislike FERAL cats none of mine are feral they are well fed, used to people and, FIXED no kittens on my place so I control the population
 
Leila Rich
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daglobe, you link highlights the "it depends" thing: Australian  possums (not the same beasts as the opossum btw) were introduced here and, along with other introduced species, are mounting a very successful, multi-pronged attack on the native flora and fauna.
I have never heard of a cat going for a possum; the ones here are about the size of a large cat...
If NZ cats spent more time killing possums, stoats (who commit mass-murder for fun) and rats, I'd be keener on them, but they usually stick to easy prey like our overly-friendly native birds and rather slow lizards.
I chase cats off my place, not least coz I hate discovering cat shit in my garden!
 
Tyler Ludens
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My housecats have lots of bugs to hunt, especially scorpions!  They also have two screen porches from which to observe the world.    None seem to pine for the outdoors.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I finally saw our outdoor cats going after baby birds.    I put a metal collar around the tree to stop them from climbing it.

 
                          
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My indoor cat likes a bit of sun and touching the soil but otherwise is relatively content playing with toys and keeping the household bug free.

Stoats - that was a new one on me - they seem to kill for sport and absolutely enjoy romping and being acrobatic, like my cat - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNbqvqf3-14 - my impression is that cats that hunt are as interested in perfecting their skills as they are in the kill itself, apparently they depend on meat for their diet, get 80% of their moisture from meat as well, and need to know they can dominate their local turf - larder at all times.

I'm still curious if any one has thoughts about whether feral cats take a natural role in the food chain or are still disruptive as an introduced species.

Thanks for every one's experiences and input.
 
Tyler Ludens
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daglobe wrote:

I'm still curious if any one has thoughts about whether feral cats take a natural role in the food chain or are still disruptive as an introduced species.


Probably depends on the local ecology.  In a place where there are foxes and other smallish predators, a cat is going to displace some native predators.  Where native predators which would occupy that niche are missing, the cat will fill that empty niche.  This doesn't mean the cat will necessarily be detrimental in a place where he might displace some native predators, for instance where I live we have lots of small native predators/omnivores (foxes, ringtails, raccoons, coyotes, weasels, badgers, skunks) and lots of feral cats.  I doubt the cats have much of an impact on the predator population compared to people shooting, trapping, poisoning, running them over on the road, etc.  In my opinion. 

 
Leila Rich
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As Ludi says, it depends...
NZ has no native land mammals except a couple of bats, so every added species has a major impact.
In this country, I would argue cats do far more harm than good, but we've got a fairly unique situation.
People got here less than 1000 years ago, with all that that entails...
 
                          
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So the region, area, site, history, ecology are all factors in whether it's a good idea to introduce a cat or not. If it were to turn out that I would need to place my indoor cat, who wants to be a hunter and an outdoor cat, in another home - again this is in the future if, but want to think about it now in case - would a farm be a good setting? again this is a very social cat who also needs to be around people, and needs one person she can count on for fun and interaction awa food and shelter ... or are there food web / ecosystem questions i can think of asking that would help create an appropriate alignment? such as, what is the wildlife like around your farm or house? thanks, david
 
                              
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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/parasite.html

http://animal.discovery.com/invertebrates/monsters-inside-me/can-cat-poop-kill-me/

This is my issue with cats.  It is the parasites they carry and the effect this has on your gardens, compost and food webs.
 
Darcie Lampert
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All animal ownership requires intelligence and responsibility, whether companion or agricultural.

I love cats, but certainly don't condone the idiots that let them breed indiscriminately and roam my small urban neighborhood pooping in the garden and kids sandbox, as well as eating the songbirds or desireable critters.

Cats were once feared and killed for their "mystical" qualities, then revered for the role they played in killing the rats that were spreading disease. These were human issues, not created by cats!

Cats are an introduced species that have been developed into domestication. I don't think there is any need to keep cats intact for breeding, as one previous poster said - there are plenty available in need of a good home. Whether you choose to keep one for companionship or to control your rodent population, I think that's up to you. Just please do it intelligently and responsibly!
 
Nick Kitchener
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I'm not suggesting you do this, but lilies (all lilies) are extremely toxic to cats. Easter lilies are especially toxic. Even getting the pollen on their fur and licking it off is enough to send them into kidney failure and they die.

So if you love cats, don't plant lilies in your garden.
 
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