the cats, but save the birds.
by Dan D'Ambrosio
Cats kill birds.
By the billions, according to a three-year study completed in 2013 by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology
Institute. The study estimated that feral cats and indoor pets allowed
to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 billion to as many as 3.7 billion birds
in the continental United States every year.
"I was stunned," Smithsonian ornithologist Peter Marra was quoted as
saying by USA Today in January 2013.
Nancy Brennan is well aware of the toll cats take on birds. She lives
in a home in the woods in Duxbury with her husband, on the next mountain
over from Camel's Hump. Brennan, 60, is a bird watcher and a cat owner,
and once upon a time, in 2008, she had a cat named George who was a prodigious
hunter of birds. George had the run of the woods through his very own
" His first catch one spring was a ruffed grouse, which he killed and brought
into the house," Brennan remembered. "I was so disgusted I literally
said out loud, 'I'm going to stop you, George.'"
Brennan had already tried a bell tied to George's collar. He just kept
on hauling the dead birds through the cat door. Then Brennan remembered
reading somewhere that birds see bright colors. What if she made George
more visible to birds by putting a bright collar around his neck? It
seemed like it was worth a try. Brennan sewed up a prototype and put
it on George's collar.
"He stopped catching birds," Brennan said. "At first I thought,
'That's this week.' But then a couple of weeks and a month went by, and I thought,
'Wait, he's really not catching birds.'"
George's bird count basically went down to zero. He started sleeping
in instead of hunting at first light.
"I swear his personality changed," Brennan said. "He seemed calmer
eCommerce was in its infancy at the time, but Brennan knew enough, in
2009, to build a website. She sewed 500 Birdsbesafe collars to sell online.
Cat owners don't like finding dead birds on the doorstep, Brennan said,
and they were Googling for solutions, finding her website. Brennan ran
her small business for the next six years, reassured by customers who
experienced the same change in behavior in their cats that she had experienced
Then in 2015 everything changed.
An ornithologist and professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton,
New York, named S.K. Willson was a customer of Birdsbesafe, and had experienced,
anecdotally, the effectiveness of Brennan's collar on her own cat. But
would the collar hold up to the rigors of a scientific study? Willson
decided to find out.
What she found, based on two 12-week studies involving 73 cats in the
fall of 2013 and spring of 2014 was that the "novel cat collar" was "highly
effective" in reducing bird deaths, especially in the spring. The
study found that collar-wearing cats killed 19 times fewer birds than
un-collared cats in the spring, and 3.4 times fewer birds in the fall.
Willson's study was published in the Global Ecology and Conservation
journal in January 2015, and sales went through the roof for Brennan.
" From my perspective the business has two phases, before and after," Brennan
said. "After the scientific study was published we got viral levels of publicity.
Customers felt reassured concerning my claims about the product. They could read
an independent scientific field study."
Brennan declined to share revenue numbers for her business, but did say
she is selling tens of thousands of collars in all 50 states and in Western
Europe, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
"In Europe, generally, I've been told the cultural habit is to let all cats
outdoors," Brennan said.
In the U.S. we know about keeping cats indoors."
Brennan no longer sews the collars herself, but they are still being
made in the United States, by a contractor in the southern part of the
country. She hopes to someday get her collar into every pet store in
the country. She believes it will happen, but only after selling out
to a bigger company, which is roughly her game plan. A larger company
will have the marketing and distribution it will take to make Birdbesafe
"New opportunities come my way all the time," Brennan said. "We
will not know yet what will happen, but I know Birdsbesafe has a great future,
based on what has gone on so far."
And then there's George. The mighty hunter, once retired, is no longer
with us, but Brennan is well aware of the role he played in launching
"I was saying to my husband the other day, 'Can you believe I went from
George being in trouble all the time for catching birds to this?'" Brennan
said. "He's paid off his karma pretty well."
27, 2018: "The trouble with sharing one's bed with
cats is that they'd rather sleep on you than beside you."-
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Come into the liiiiiiiiiight."
Cat Mewvie: And now, a musical
Feline Art: "Sad
28, 2018: "A cat allows you to sleep on the bed. On
the edge."- Jenny de Vries
Gratuitous Kittiness: Dust-bunny baby.
Cat Mewvie: Everybody jump!
Art: "Visionary Awakening" by Naoto Hattori.
29, 2018: "All cats like being the focus of attention."-
Gratuitous Kittiness: "We're twins. No, really!"
Cat Mewvie: "I hate this
I hate this I hate this I hate this...."
Feline Art: "Ouija
30, 2018: "One small cat changes coming home to an
empty house to coming home."
- Pam Brown
Gratuitous Kittiness: "Bigger is not always better, hoomans."
Cat Mewvie: Have you had "The
Talk" with your kitty yet?
Feline Art: "Cat
and Koi Fish"
by Elton D'Souza.
in literature exhibit
by Brigit Katz
Cats reign supreme in the internet age, but humans’ fascination
with fluffy felines is nothing new. Long before the dawn of memes and
Grumpy Cat, the aloof creatures popped up in books, poems and illustrations,
rendered as everything from loveable companions to sinister agents of
witchcraft. Now, as Mark Brown reports for the Guardian, a new exhibition
at the British Library explores the rich literary history of cats through,
ahem, a purr-fect display of books, manuscripts and artwork.
Titled "Cats on the Page", the new show features relics that
span from the 16th century to the modern era. Perhaps unsurprisingly,
many of the works on display originate from children’s literature.
There are, for instance, illustrations of Cat in the Hat, Mog (the feline
protagonist of a beloved series by Judith Kerr) and a rendering of Beatrix
Potter’s Kitty-in-Boots by Quentin Blake, the British artist best
known for illustrating the books of Roald Dahl.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is Lewis Carroll’s personal
copy of the third edition of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice
Found There, in which the author scrawled his displeasure at a drawing
of Alice holding her pet kitten. “Much over printed,” Carroll
fumed. “Very bad.” According to Brown, Carroll was so angered
by what he saw as the poor quality of the printing that he demanded his
publisher destroy all 940 copies of the edition that it still held. (The
publisher, mercifully, did not heed his orders.)
The works of T.S. Eliot also feature prominently in the exhibition -
the show is, in fact, timed to overlap with the 80th anniversary of his
whimsical poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,
according to Ailis Brennan of the Evening Standard.
Eliot loved cats and owned many of them throughout his life, giving them
names like Jellylorum, Pettipaws, Wiscus and George Pushdragon. Old Possum’s
Book of Practical Cats was made up of poems that Eliot wrote for his
friends’ children; the exhibition includes a draft of one of those
poems, “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer,” which Eliot sent in
a letter to a girl named Alison, the daughter of his friend Geoffrey
Tandy. Cats on the Page also displays Alison’s reply to the poet,
which includes drawings of the two cats.
Not all of the items on view, however, are quite so fuzzy in nature.
Visitors can see a late 16th century pamphlet describing the alleged
misdeeds of four women accused of witchcraft. A woodcut illustration
in the pamphlet depicts a black cat purported to be one of the witches’ “familiars”—wicked
spirits that took the form of animals and fed on the witches’ blood.
“The range in which cats have been used is just astonishing,” Alison
Bailey, lead curator of the exhibition, tells Brown. In a statement, Bailey notes
that the show was able to feature only some “of the hundreds of paws prowling
the pages of [the British Library’s] books and manuscripts.”
So the next time you find yourself stuck in an endless loop of cat videos,
why not consider yourself part of a robust cultural tradition? As Bailey
says, “[c]ats have inspired our imagination and creativity for