Of greater, more immediate concern to me as a cat owner is the inspiration Gareth Morgan is giving to cat hating sadists. A couple of Sundays ago, a woman wrote into the Sunday Star Times a horrible story of her grandfather having successfully used a gin-trap to deter cats from his garden, and how when recommending the method to her friend on the Kapiti Coast, the friend was keen to try the same remedy and now no longer has her garden visited by cats. Here's the letter:
Feline solutionThis is the type of neighbour that all cat owners has to fear. A person obsessed with their garden to the point where they will kill and main any neighbourhood pet cat might happen to wander onto their property. Gin traps are illegal in urban areas, and I wonder if anyone using one could also be subject to an animal cruelty charge, which according this this news article on a man who stomped on his girlfriend's kitten's head, carries a maximum three years in prison and a fine of $50,000. Yes, it looks like using a gin trap makes one eligible for animal cruelty charges, but the previous article is incorrect on the fine amount, as this far more official NZ Government page just puts it at $25,000: Ministry for Primary Industries - Leg Hold Traps. Up to six months in prison would be devasting for a garden owner as it would be a veritable jungle by the time they got back to tend to it - much worse than anything a cat can do to it.
MY FRIEND has a pristine lawn and landscaped garden at her home on Wellington's Kapiti Coast. She complains of neighbour's cats invading her property, fighting, copulating, urinating, defacating, vomiting and digging up recently sewn plants. Her pleas for a solution to the council and SPCA have been to no avail as they don't want to know. My granddad experienced the same dilemma years ago on this lifestyle block and solved the problem by setting gin traps.
After several decapitations [!!] and countless paws in traps [!!], he had no more trouble. Cats are cunning and eventually learn where it's unsafe [if they survive!]. I admit some may think this is over the top and possibly illegal [it is illegal and I hope the SPCA find your friend and prosecute her!], but it works. My friend tried it and reports that "all is green in the garden".
Cats are also unfairly blamed for damage to gardens, as birds and other creatures can also get up to no good. I am constantly having to top up the compost around newly planted trees, because the birds feel this is the best place to peck for grubs. I had a lemon tree that barely survived this pecking, until I put weed mat around the base of it, and then eventually planted grass right up to the trunk. Even now, I have to keep the grass long right around it, otherwise the birds are in there and the lemon tree, being a very shallow rooted tree especially when small, cannot grow if the roots are regularly cut at the base by pecking beaks. There are also holes in my lawn from birds as well, typically under trees that drop leaves and flowers, and where I've sprayed for bad grass, and then the birds come in an peck away under these areas until the ground is bare of anything except small pot holes. I know it's birds that do this, because I watch them. Likewise, in my vegetable garden, if I don't put down wire mesh over new plants, the birds are in there wrecking havoc. If you have mulch on your flower beds, watch out, because they love tossing it all onto your lawn as they search for eatable morsels. Anyone who thinks birds are a benign presence in the garden and blames every bit of damage on cats needs to spend a bit more time watching their garden - they might be surprised as to who the real culprits are.
Then there are the possums, which do defacate on the lawn, or on the path or anywhere they happen to be. Cats normally dig a hole and bury their business, so any defacating on the lawn is very unlikely to have the cat as the culprit. I had real problems with a possum recently doing just that, made much more extreme one night when I left food out for one of my cats. The possum must have got into the food, which didn't agree with it, because there were at least eight piles of sloppy crap on the path the next morning, looking very similar to the stuff I'd found on the lawn previously. I've learned my lesson and don't leave cat food out at night any more and the possum has moved on.
So, I really wish Gareth Morgan would just stop. I don't want one of my neighbours, unlikely as that is given that I've been told my cats keep the area rodent free, to be inspired to kill and/or main any cats that they might imagine are annoying them. When my young cat, who roams, stays out a bit too long and doesn't come when called, I worry more than I used to.