"Fatty" and "Little Kitty" Rasmussen

Can you see the kitten ?  He's hiding...  (This is "Fatty" before he got so fat)

This is "Missy".  Sometimes I also call her my "Little Cheetah".
Isn't she cute??  :-)

Here's some more of Fatty:

(Fatty gets a close-up look at the camera)

(I'm sleepy)

The story of how my outdoor cats became happy indoor cats....
by Jenny Rasmussen jrr@mail.utexas.edu

     My two cats, Tex and Missy, were brought home from the Humane Society six years ago, and immediately learned to use the dog door to get out of the house.  I was so sad whenever they would bring a bird into the house.  My sadness intensified when they began bringing in occasional hummingbirds.  We tried to justify what we saw happening by saying things such as: “Even though we know cats are not native to this country, they're probably only killing the weakest of the birds and small animals.”  But then one morning I woke up to find a newborn bird that had been killed and brought inside.  Its eye was half open and very sad looking.  Is this what we're talking about when we say the “weakest” of the birds?  All baby birds are helpless at birth, even the ones that will later become the strongest and healthiest of their kind.  Baby birds are especially vulnerable in the nest, and also for some time after leaving the nest, when they may be hopping around in low trees or on the ground, waiting for their parents to bring food.  As I held the tiny dead baby in my hand, I made sure to remember every detail of the tiny body, and the way the eye looked so sad to be stripped of life so early. 

Tex in his harness enjoying some time outsideThe baby bird's life, although short, provided a memory for me that would go on to save many other lives, because from that moment forward I decided to take responsibility for what my cats were doing.  The first week involved a few trips to the store to by litter boxes, cat litter, small harnesses, and two pieces of 15 ft rope.  The dog door was taped shut with duct tape, and I now let the dogs out several times a day since they can't use the dog door either.  Sometime in the future, we may end up making or buying a cat enclosure, but for now, the cheap products I bought that first week are serving us well.  During the first few weeks of keeping my cats restrained, I was surprised to find that I was enjoying the time outdoors before and after work with my dogs and cats.  The cats sit near me on the patio while wearing their harnesses and attached to the patio furniture with the ropes.  Sometimes I leave the cats outside, restricted with the rope and harness, but always go check on them every half hour or so to see if they need help untangling the rope from the patio furniture. 

I also made sure that the rope wasn't long enough to allow the cats to reach the hummingbird flowers out in the yard.  It is such a good feeling to watch the hummingbirds sitting on the low branches of my trees and drinking from the flowers, knowing that they're safe from the danger once posed by my cats.  It makes me proud that I've taken responsibility for my cats.  Cats are not native to this part of the world, and their toll on our native wildlife is tremendous.  Please consider joining my efforts to make the tiny baby bird's life worthwhile.  Every time the thought crosses my mind that it might be easier to just let the cats out again, I remember the details of the tiny helpless body.  Trust me, it will never happen again. 

My cats are just as happy as ever, with their supervised time outdoors.  I don't worry about them being run over by cars anymore, or contracting feline AIDS.  Any small inconvenience posed by keeping the cats indoors is well worth it.  I enjoy the feeling that comes from deep inside my gut when I know I've made the right decision, and I don't have to make any excuses for things any more.  I feel it every day now, and it feels REALLY nice.

This is a picture of a Costa's Hummingbird, standing on a branch just two feet above the ground.  Cats wait in nearby bushes and attack hummers and other birds that are sitting in low branches or feeding at flowers or feeders near the ground. 

If you'd like to read more about the benefits of keeping your cats indoors, please visit the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors site.

Birds are also highly vulnerable to garden pesticides.  Some pesticides are much more toxic to birds than to other species—diazinon is 100 times more acutely toxic to birds than mammals, for example.  Read more on this issue at the American Bird Conservancy's Pesticides and Birds site.

This is a picture of a baby barn swallow standing on my fence, unable to fly yet.  At this stage of life, the baby is highly visible and can easily be killed by a cat, because a cat can easily climb the fence and grab the helpless baby.  The parent brings insects to the baby, and the baby calls out and quivers its wings when it sees the parent coming.

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