Cats in the mist

Rumours of feral cats eating birds in the Barkers area of Grand Cayman have been swirling.

cats mist

A cat languishes in a cage at the Humane Society.
Photo: Stephen Clarke

The whispers have caused some concerns that endangered species of birds might be at risk.

However, according to Animal Welfare Officer for the Department of Environment Maggie Baldino, this is not the case.

She said she was familiar with cats taking up residence in areas that humans densely inhabit and attributed this to easy access to left-over food and the odd instance of persons intentionally feedings the felines.

‘These cats drink from the same water hole as chickens and I don’t feel that they could take on the likes of a full-grown whistling duck anyway,’ she explained.

Ms Baldino elaborated by saying, ‘The cats are blamed for eating everything but I am sure they are also eating the green iguanas and keeping their numbers down.

She said until the DOA had received an official complaint regarding the matter, there was not going to be any effort to set traps on Crown land or private property.

On the other hand, there are those who say there is a problem and the cats, like any other invasive creature, are adversely affecting the environment and the balance of the eco-system.

Field Officer for the National Trust Stuart Mailer said he was not aware of cats eating down bird numbers but conceded that this could be a real possibility, saying that cats are veracious predators and therefore could be more disruptive than some other invasive species.

He said he agreed that it would be difficult for a cat to tackle a full-grown whistling duck and reiterated Ms Baldino’s statement regarding how cats seem to get along with chickens.

Mr. Mailer cited this as an indication that the cats were not necessarily attacking especially large birds but said young chicks and smaller creatures of all kinds are feasibly at risk.

Mr. Mailer said if this is the case, the most humane thing to do would be to trap and euthanize the creatures, as simply spaying them and letting them go still leaves the problem of them over hunting other creatures.

There is some middle ground though and there are benefits to cats being in the wild such as the reduction of rodent proliferation.

This is the idea of a programme that seeks to spay the cats and release them.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals is credited with implementing the concept around the globe – dubbed: ‘The Cat Cafe Programme.’

The endeavour has proved highly successful in many countries despite some scepticism.

Ms Baldino said if persons were aware of feral cats that were eating birds, they should contact the DOA to make a formal complaint and the matter would be dealt with on its own merit.

In seven years, a cat can be the source of 420,000 kittens and in just six years a dog can be the source of 67,000 puppies.