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Letter To The Editor: Cats Moving Into The Neighborhood

on August 11, 2017 - 6:45am
By HUGH JAMES LATIMER
Los Alamos
 
In response to the comment about cats moving into the neighborhood: be grateful.
 
The Lyme spirochete has been around for millions of years. Lyme disease started to explode in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which is when the national spay-neuter programs got started, and the population of outdoor cats dropped like a rock.
 
I remember as a child in the 1950’s seeing kittens running around outdoors in the summer. In the last thirty years, except for my own protected outdoor cat colony, I’ve seen only one outdoor kitten.
 
The ticks that carry Lyme have a two year life cycle. The first year they spend on small animals; mostly mice and other rodents. The second year they move to larger animals such as deer, dogs and people.
 
Cats were selected by people for thousands of years to over-hunt, in order to protect farmers’ crops from rodents. A top hunter was valuable livestock.
 
What people didn’t know was that the cats were also protecting them from rodent-borne diseases. Like Lyme, plague, and other nasties. A tick that was making its home on a mouse that the cat just ate isn’t going to bite you or your children next year.
 
And the mouse isn’t going to urinate deadly viruses on your kitchen counter at night while you are sleeping. (My indoor cats see to it that the exceptionally stupid mice that come into the house have a very short lifespan.)
 
Yes, the cats will kill a few unwary rabbit, birds and squirrels. However, except in subtropical areas, domestic cats cannot survive on their own in the wilderness.
They are too small. Even lynx and bobcats are barely big enough. Cats need to live near human settlements for food, and for places to shelter from snow and bitter cold.
 
So unlike dogs, you are not going to find packs of feral cats dozens of miles up in the mountains, killing livestock and threatening people.
 
And should you find one, lost and hungry, take it home and feed it. It may save you from some nasty diseases while its patrolling your garden.
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