Letting the cats run and the birds sing

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Monday, March 21, 2011; 8:17 PM

In response to Peter P. Marra's March 20 Local Opinions commentary "No good for the birds, but also no good for the cats":

It is outrageous to blame cats for the decimation of songbirds and to use an extremely limited study to support this view. We humans build malls, pollute and otherwise destroy animal habitats wherever we go - oh, but let's blame cats for bird loss. It is so much easier to blame the cats than tackling human behavior.

I have a cat that goes outside, and I will not confine her. Just as Mr. Marra says that he loves cats, I love birds. But I do not think confining my cat is any solution. Confined cats are not always healthier. My cat is, I believe, healthier and happier because she has access to the outdoors. My vet has frequently commented on how healthy and svelte my old lady cat is. Being confined often breeds boredom, obesity and an array of associated health problems.

Recently there have been concerns about rats in my neighborhood. I, however, have no rats - perhaps because I have a rat deterrent? Please do not paint a one-sided picture of predator cats vs. sweet songbirds.

Karen Studd, Fairfax

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Peter P. Marra's commentary missed the most important point while being diverted to the subject of feral cats. I have had free-ranging cats all my life, many of which were dedicated bird hunters. The simple solution, which protects the birds and does not restrict the wanderings of the cats, is a collar with two bells - usually one bell with a clapper and one jingle bell. All are found in pet stores.

Cats, being smart, may figure out how to move so that a single bell won't ring, but two bells bump against each other. The cats often find the collar annoying at first but quickly get used to it. It also helps the owner find the cat. The cat may be annoyed by having his hunting prowess thwarted, but he's not as annoyed as he would be by being kept indoors.

Maria Schoolman, Washington


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