The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 17, 2012

Cats are hunters, but also members of our families

Point Blank

By John Blankenship

— In a recent newspaper column by Dale McFeatters with Scripps Howard News Service, the writer took aim at our feline companions. He disparaged all feline creatures, labeling cats as efficient killers of small critters of all kinds.

His column reads in part: “Every cat owner knows that the family tabby will from time to time deposit on the doorstep as a small gift the badly savaged corpse of a mouse, chipmunk or vole.”

He goes on to cite evidence from a study at the University of Georgia that claims the behavior is “only a fraction of the carnage inflicted by house cats allowed to run free. The roaming cats kill an average of two creatures a week, bring home a fourth of what they kill, eat 30 percent and leave about half of their prey behind to rot.”

But he isn’t done yet. The columnist claims that if we “extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three bird species are in decline …”

He goes on to say that researchers found “a secret world of slaughter,” adding that cats kill a wide range of creatures — lizards, snakes, frogs, chipmunks, voles, insects and worms, with birds representing only about 12 percent of their prey.

So what? Even if those statistics were true (which I seriously doubt) it seems like a small price to pay for the love and affection that cats bring to our world.

My wife and I love our cat Miss Kitty for the companionship that she provides, including a sympathetic ear, great listening skills and boundless affection.

Recent studies have shown that keeping pets has a positive impact on our health and well-being, especially when that pet is a cat.

According to various Internet sources, studies have shown that having contact with a pet is calming and soothing, and these studies are backed up with medical facts. Some studies even have indicated that having pets reduces stress and results in a lowered risk of heart disease.

These benefits to humans far outweigh the natural harvesting of a few lizards, snakes, insects and worms — to name only a few loathsome life forms at the bottom of the food chain.

Is McFeatters not aware that every life form on earth feeds on some other life form?

Does he not feel a stitch of guilt when he orders fried chicken at a choice restaurant? After all, that bird had to make the supreme sacrifice so that McFeatters could stuff his gut with breasts and wings. Does he not dine on the corpses of animals when he prepares his nighttime meal at home?

I am incensed and shocked at the columnist’s lack of intelligence.

Consider the positive attributes of cats and dogs — but especially cats. These gentle, affectionate creatures have been used in some hospitals and nursing homes as a kind of therapy for the bedridden and ill.

The warmth of their furry bodies and open, purring friendship can drastically influence a person’s state of mind for the better, according to Health Benefits of Cat Ownership: www.boutiquekittens. com

The Internet site goes on to explain that a study conducted in the states of New York, Missouri, and Texas found that nursing homes that allowed pets had lower medication costs than those that didn’t.

Lowered stress and increased calmness could be the cause, but studies over the last 20 years also have shown that “people who own pets are much healthier than their non-pet owning counterparts; they are often less-prone to minor illnesses like colds and influenza, score better on psychological tests, and claim to feel a greater sense of well-being.”

But the adults are not the only ones who benefit from caring for a pet cat. Children who have participated in the raising of a pet have shown higher self-esteem levels, better social skills, and a greater sense of responsibility toward others.

These connections people form with their cats and dogs are often the longest, strongest relationships in their lives. They are soul mates, our best friends, sometimes even our surrogate children.

Perhaps it’s because our furry friends have long provided us with comfort, camaraderie, and unconditional love.


Top o’ the morning!   

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: