Science fiction plots are not reliable indicators of the dangers posed by invasive alien species. Movie special effects can be impressive, but the real damage to our planet, country, and local municipalities comes from the invasion of exotic aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.
Of Minnesota’s more than 11,000 lakes, 4% are infested with zebra mussels due to careless boaters, and other plant and animal invaders such as Eurasian watermilfoil and carp bring the total of infested lakes to more than 8 %.
The emerald ash borer is devastating our urban canopy. Pesky Asian ladybugs are the stinky, biting, ugly cousins of the adorable ladybug. Add purple loosestrife, buckthorn and several dozen other non-native plants and animals to the list and it’s no wonder our lands and waterways are in trouble.
Which animal is one of the biggest problems? Felis catus. This alien invader, obviously not native to Minnesota, kills an estimated 1-4 billion birds per year (some studies compromise a figure of 2.4 billion) in the United States and 6-23 billion small animals.
The Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland even went so far as to add Felis catus to their country’s invasive species list because the animal met 100% of the criteria to be declared an invasive species.
Naturally, “pet parents” who irresponsibly let their “fur babies” roam were outraged. I’m sure the same response would occur here.
However, the domestic cat is not a native wild animal. It is not “natural” for a house cat to roam freely outdoors, kill songbirds, and use sandboxes and flowerbeds as litter boxes.
Local communities have ordinances that specifically prohibit cats from roaming around as if they have the right to hunt and defecate in our neighborhoods. And no, your cat is no exception to the rule. The ostensibly law-abiding citizens seem to think the rules don’t apply to their precious Fluffy, but, despite this mindset, they do.
I have new neighbors with the “but my cat is not a problem” attitude. In the first two weeks after moving in, I found five dead birds in my yard, a dead mouse on my back steps, and half a chipmunk (the back half, if you’re wondering) on my front sidewalk. It’s a spade, in two weeks, and just what happened on my property.
What can an owner do? In St. Cloud, you can humanely trap the cat and call Animal Control to have it picked up. I’ve done this regularly over the years and it usually fixes the problem. I don’t feel any guilt. I am not one who breaks city ordinances and certainly cannot be expected to tolerate dead animals and cat feces in the play area used by my children at daycare.
The only place on the planet where domestic cats aren’t alien invaders is the Middle East where they were domesticated around 10,000 years ago. If your cat needs to run free, this is the place to do it. Otherwise, please keep your domestic cat where it belongs: in the house.
− Karen Cyson, member of the Times Writers Group, is a childminder in Stearns County and coordinator of Central Minnesota Mensa. His column is published the third Sunday of the month.