Cats within permaculture systems

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by pebble, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Paula, I already own and use rat traps :) And I don't own a cat at the moment. But the neighbourhood cats at my old place did a pretty good job of keeping the rat population in our street under control. That was in a semi-rural suburb.

    I'm happy for the cats in that situation to be out at night. Most of the native wildlife that cats kill is birds and they do that during the day.

    I did have lizards at my old place, despite the number of cats. I know of other areas where people reckon that the lizard numbers increased when there were no pet cats, but they use rat poison to control the rats.

    Permaculture is site specific. What works in one neighbourhood isn't necessarily going to work elsewhere. And the situation in NZ is different than the situation in Australia or the US or wherever.
     
  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Ojo, I think that post would have been better in the other thread maybe, or a thread of its own. Here it will most likely attract argument, which is fine in principle, I just thought this thread could be a practical solutions based thread rather than a debate and argument thread.
     
  3. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    It is truly amazing how many humans can only focus on themselves. Not just with cats, but with ANYTHING. The self-rationalization is incredible. There is very little sense of self-responsibility for Mankind in general. Everything Man wants is good, everything Man doesn't want (or see a useful purpose for) is bad.

    People who blame cats for acting like cats have never failed to mystify me. The same applies to bears, wolves, opossums, coyotes, raccoons and groundhogs.

    People brought the cat to areas where it didn't exist before, failed to control it, it multiplied, and now it's the cat's fault? I don't know about down under, but here in the U.S. cats can produce three litters of kittens per season. And people who have the option of NOT allowing them to breed, don't. Fifty feral cats later, they blame the cats. How stupid is that?

    People fail to hold themselves responsible for themselves, their children, their dogs, their cats. It's always someone else's fault.

    Then there are the people who just like to kill. They will kill anything that moves, if they think they can get away with it. People with low self-esteem must think they can boost their own low opinion of themselves (probably accurate) by their 'control' over others, whatever the 'others' may be.

    Some people just hate cats. They like animals and people who will fawn over them, and most cats aren't like that, certainly not feral cats. So let's annihilate what doesn't feed our ego. Great.

    Here in the U.S., the Feral Cat Coalition in many parts of the country have proven exactly what was proven by C.A.T.S. down there for over ten years.

    Personally, from my experience, the hunting abilities of neutered cats is no different from those of intact cats. It is not the hunting for the kittens that seems to make the difference, but allowing enough time for a mother cat to teach her kittens the skills required to become a good hunter. A feral mother takes the time to actively teach her kittens over a period of weeks the fine art of hunting. A domestic cat usually has her kittens taken from her between 6 and 8 wks of age (sometimes even younger). These kittens rarely make good hunters.

    Another argument frequently put forth to force a cat to become a good hunter is to starve it, thus forcing it to hunt. A cat raised 'properly' with good hunting skills taught by MumCat can usually survive entirely on self-caught prey. A no-skills young cat forced to provide it's own food will tend to live on the edge of starvation as he slowly learns (if he's lucky) what he needs to know. But too often, he is too hungry to take the time to wait for a sure catch. Moving too soon, he frequently misses his prey.

    If you were to apply the opinion in the paragraph above, it would seem likely that a trapped/neutered/returned to home territory feral cat would provide better rodent control than a housecat plucked from his mum at six weeks. Let the feral cats do the work, keep the the pet cats home?

    One way to 'encourage' pet cats to stay in a designated area is the fence it, then tack poultry netting to the top of the fence so it is anchored only at the bottom and partly upwards, allowing the top to move. When a cat jumps and attempts to grab the loose section of wire mesh, the mesh flops down, depositing the cat back in his own yard. [And for those who say they can't afford to fence 200 acres, get your tiny collection of working brain cells together and fence off a SMALLER AREA near the house. This is a concept that men, in particular, have a huge problem with.]

    Looking at the larger picture, there is very little wrong with our entire world that hasn't been caused by Man. Weather and earth movement are the only two that I can think of, offhand, and they are neither vindicative nor do they choose sides.

    Sue
     
  4. elliceh

    elliceh Junior Member

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    Sue it seems you are quite bitter and jaded about the reasons behind why some cats need to be gone.

    I think I can speak for most "anti-cat" people here by saying that IT IS NOT the cat itself that we 'hate' or blame. And despite what you may think, its NOT about killing anything that moves or doesn't have an obvious purpose, and what you said about ego is just a cop-out and seems as if that is what you are doing instead. Why do I say this?

    Seriously, keep your bitterness to yourself - I hope this has boosted YOUR girl power ego enough so you can keep on topic and listen to what we are actually trying to say instead of taking it so personally.

    The gist of what we are saying is this -

    1. If you have a cat, treat it well and look after it AND everything around it by keeping it enclosed either inside or in a run. We don't want them treated cruelly or to be deprived.

    2. We arent just demented freaks that kill cats because we need a power kick, because we like killing or have a particular hatred of cats themselves.

    3. We will give the owners of cats every opportunity to rectify their 'trespassing' pets ways. It's not like the beloved cat next door will just disappear with no warning. Again, its not what we are about.

    4. The only reason that I would get rid of a cat is if it hunts (some are too fat & lazy like my brothers). I guess my opinion is that I would prefer to look after the native/harmless/defenceless/more useful creatures that are often rare and endangered, than an introduced species that kills without reason.
     
  5. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    I agree with elliceh, and will not go through each detail in Ojo's post pointing out the flaws in logic & justification plus the inacurrate comments on people with a differing view.
     
  6. Luisa

    Luisa Junior Member

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    Well like Elliceh my loyalty resides with native Australian fauna rather than with an introduced species that's in no danger of extinction. Cats don't slot into an existing niche in Australia and comparisons with dingoes are spurious - yes dingoes are introduced but they have replaced the other top predators and removing dingoes now would leave the continent without any top predator, introducing more problems.

    I'm happy to support the keeping of confined desexed cats as per Zone 1, but TNR programs with ferals are simply out of the question.

    Feral cats easily grow to 8 or 10 kilos and some have got up to 16 kilos. They are dangerous to handle so TNR programs wouldn't be easy to implement anyway, you'd need teams of vets etc.

    Strays in urban areas are more problematic, TNR programs there might have more value.

    This reminds me of the debate over brumbies in national parks but let's not go there !!!!
     
  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I agree, and would never take a kitten so young from a domestic litter, especially if I wanted one that could hunt rats. Kittens taken young also have other problems like not being housetrained, not knowing how to not 'knead' with their claws etc.

    I don't agree about TNR for feral cats in the wild in the NZ situation - if you can catch a feral cat then you may as well kill it like you would rats or stoats etc.

    In practice however I can't see how native species here can be protected from rats without using poison. This is of course a country where the Dept of Conservation routinely uses aerial 1080, a poison known to kill many native birds. This makes sense in the short and medium term, but I can't see how it will work in the long term.

    The best species protection happening here is on island reserves and mainland reserves that have predator proof fencing, where ALL introduced predators are able to be eradicated. I can also see the point in controlling feral cat populations in areas of native ecosystem where there are few people living. But in areas where there are alot of people there will never be full eradication of cats so it makes sense to me to look at permaculture/sustainability strategies to manage that resource. Personally I think educating people and legislating to ensure that people don't have too many cats, that they are neutered, how to teach and raise cats to kill specific species etc makes more sense than TNR of feral cats.
     
  8. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Luisa, how do you reconcile that with say keeping ducks that can wipe out frog populations?


    In NZ feral cats are often dumped domestic cats or their recent descendants. They tend to be smaller than domestic cats (because of poorer nutrition presumably).

    Are you saying that in Australia feral cats are not that closely related to domestic cats in the sense that they are in NZ? i.e. they've adapted to their environment much more and over many more generations?
     
  9. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    Pebble, I am interested to read your source which indicates most feral cats in NZ are recently dumped animals.
     
  10. Tamara

    Tamara Junior Member

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    I have recently decided to keep my (neutered of course) cats indoors at all times.

    I used to keep them inside at night and during and immediately after rain (I've been trying to attract frogs like mad. One finally moved in in december).

    I have done this because:

    1. I needed more insectivorous birds to eat my cabbage butterfly caterpillars, and the wasps either hadn't moved in yet or were just overworked... already I have sparrows perched on my brocolli...

    2. I used put them in the chicken run, but they could get over the 12 foot fence and get out and catch parrots (alas, I saw the feathers) - they also kill pest birds.

    I am currently putting a mesh roof on the chook run (so I can keep my figs) so I'll try the cats out there again - they are very good mousers, and my chook house is made of unrendered straw bales.

    3. I have a busy road and didn't want them to get run over.

    I found a sleepy lizard the other week - in my vegie garden pond. It has very good protection from all the sedges and the cats didn't get it.

    So...Cats may have a role in PC, for me, a specific role - zone 1, giving me cuddles.

    love T
     
  11. Luisa

    Luisa Junior Member

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    Pebble, good questions.

    Ducks are kept in captivity. I guess you're talking domestic ducks? I'm talking feral cats. I've already said that in human settlements cats should be zone 1 companions. Domestic ducks are usually confined so they might wipe out some frogs in their foraging area but not across the whole continent.

    Feral cats have been in Australia pre-European. Or at least pre-Captain Cook. The northern aboriginals had a cat dreaming. They have been here hundreds of years and the true ferals (not settlement-fringe strays) are pretty much a different genetic strain. I don't know if their DNA has been analysed but certainly people who work on feral cats consider them to be no close relative of domestic cats.

    This is an interesting thread because it has raised questions about how far out our zones extend or should extend. Bill Mollison said we should just stay out of the bush. But our influence extends well into the bush even if we don't.

    Luisa
     
  12. unclebarr

    unclebarr Junior Member

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    In Naples,FL my family has 2 cats. I often think about doing off with them but I have grown attached to them as has the rest of my family. Never-the-less we feed them with cat food from Costco(a big walmart type store) and mix in a little organic paul newman that was shipped from afar.
    Right now I am transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle. I don't grow all my own food and a good portion of my meals are non-local. Before I take on the responsibility of feeding another being I should first responsibly take care of myself.

    As far as function goes they may not have many. Our cats don't do a terrific job with rats and even if they did we would be better off building an owl house in a tree to attract the Barn Owl.The barn owl is endangered in Wisconsin,Iowa, and five (5) other Midwestern states, and it is considered as a species of "special concern" in South Dakota and Nebraska. Some causes of this decline are due to loss of habitat and poison rate control. Barn owls eat more than a thousand rats a year. Hows that for rat control?
    Click on this link to admire their beauty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_Owl#Food_and_hunting

    If you buiit it they will come: https://www.rain.org/~sals/barnowl.html

    I am going to encourage my family to not get anymore cats. We can always enjoy neighbors pets. Besides many pets are neglected and left in cages for long periods of time and Dogs and cats have plenty of love to go around.
    Pax, ryan
     
  13. donh54

    donh54 Junior Member

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    AFAIK, domestic-type cats, if "sent bush", will, within three generations, develop larger canine teeth, longer, more powerful back legs, stronger jaws, generally heavier build, and in general, begin to resemble more lynx-type characteristics.
    I have personally seen a dead feral cat on the Barkly Tablelands (Northern Territory) which measured over a metre (3'3'' for the septics) from nose to tip of tail. I don't know what it weighed, but it was the meanest looking cat I'd ever seen.

    Don
     
  14. Duckpond

    Duckpond Junior Member

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    I am an avowed cat hater from way back. As a child i had free range homing pigeons as pets, and despite my best efforts lost birds to neighbours cats. The blood and feathers splattered over my parents garden. I did not want to cage my pigeons as i felt it would be cruel. They had done nothing wrong so why should they go to jail?

    I now keep free range ducks in my suburban back yard and battle the neighbours cats constantly. I have found that cats being territorial can be kept from my garden by delivering an extreeme reaction each and every time i see them in my garden. I throw rocks, make a loud noise or fire a spud cannon at them. I have not yet hit one, but have come close. I also urinate on my fence at any piont i have seen a cat enter my garden. This seems to keep the cats away, but must be maintained. now if a local cat see's me even walking on the street away from my house it will run from me. new cats to the area learn from me very quickly. THis does no real harm to the cat and is similar to a cat being territorial towards another cat, and the injuries cats inflict on each other in territorial fights can be quite nasty.

    My Gf and I want to move to a 25 acre property and live more sustainably along permaculture principals.

    In light of Pebbles idea i have been thinking how to incorporate a cat into this property permi style. I want a cat that will be:

    Territorial to our property to keep other cats and foxes away

    A good hunter for killing rabbits, rats and mice

    Not harm our chooks, ducks or other livestock

    Not harm native animals

    Not house cat or people cat. not a pet, just a work/guard cat

    I think a desexed female from feral parents of a large size, similar to a lynx, bobcat or small leopard would be good. Can a cat be trained to do this? is it possible?

    I appreciate that cats have very good skillsand attributes and would like to harness them to solve a problem
     
  15. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Duckpond,

    If you can get a cat to do all that I want one too but I cant see it happening.

    I have about the best compromise. We have a cat [that was snuck in when I was away] and it did all the cat things including catching birds aplenty and ignoring mice. It certainly wasnt going with us back to our property but very recently we found it in terrible distress, it was beyond comprehending. The vet suspected some type of poison.

    Anyway, the cat recovered somewhat and no longer has good reflexes or balance. We now call it our 'nuff nuff cat'. It can barely jump up onto a chair. We had planned on giving it to our neighbours.

    I still cant see a permie need for a cat in an australian bush setting. Rats and mice can be dealt with by good housekeeping, trapping and a couple of pythons...:)

    PS. About 2 weeks ago my wife and son believe they sighted a pair of Gouldian Finches on our property. I hope they come back.

    cheers
     
  16. Ojo

    Ojo Junior Member

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    I've taught two of our cats to play fetch. It depends on their relationship with you, if they want to do it for you, they will.
    (all of ours have been spayed/neutered and stay indoors)
    [​IMG]
     
  17. leokat

    leokat New Member

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    I will jump in the fire I guess

    I just registered today, I should get to an intro this weekend, but I guess I will jump in the fire.

    My two cents (possibly worth less) is I have seen it work both ways. Our suburban cat is fairly useless although the place we recently moved to has an out of control mouse population and he has done his job a time or two, BUT he is rarely outside so this has been mostly in the garage and house, which is great.

    A close friend who has a large farm has the farm cat that pretty much fits the perfect farm cat bill (and he is neutered)- Hunts at night (mice, rats and moles), doesn't bother their domestic animals (chicks, ducks, etc). There is however a rather large downside to all of this. One he does get in fights with any cat that comes on the property. This leaves him often wounded and semi mangy looking. Also he tends to eat what he kills, this has often given him intestinal worms and other issues. SO if you are looking to do this humanely, meaning you still tend to the animals well being, you would also need to tend to these issues as they come up depending on severity. He has had a broken leg once this year, from who knows what, and spent 2 months in a leg cast and cone on his head, locked in doors, that was a long two months for both the usually semi wild cat and the owner. These are the primary reasons I have always kept cats primarily indoors, the expense of treating issue associated with outside life and the possibility with getting run over.

    Now, my solution - I have the rodent hunting dog from hell. There are breeds that have been bred for a long time to serve this purpose. I would go there first. I don't know how i got so lucky, she is just a mutt (Red Heeler / Boxer mix). Dogs are also more trainable in my mind as to what to hunt and what not to hunt etc and can serve other purposes, for instance mine shows a great natural herding ability (although I don't have the option of putting it to use) and she is a rodent hunter. She will smell them out of all hiding holes and if I see her on an area she can't quite access I am happy to assist, like she smelled one out in a canvas sack of kindling at a friends house, so we up ended the bag in the yard, the mouse went all of a few inches before she grabbed it. A simple drop command kept her from eating it, although she hasn't eaten the kills in the past either, I usually find them intact in the yard. She also keeps other cats and predators out of our garden and away from our chickens.

    If you want a cat, call it what it is, a companion, a luxury and don't bother trying to justify it.

    Kat
     
  18. Duckpond

    Duckpond Junior Member

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    from what i have read here on the discussion, cats are not as trainable as dogs, only partly solve the problems we want them for in permaculture and can be replaced by dogs that cover a broader range of tasks.

    why bother with cats??
     
  19. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Dogs are alot more work than cats. I like dogs but not enough to want to have one with me all the time. Whereas I can easily live with and take responsibility for a cat and love that situation. I would find a dog a chore to be honest. Not because there's anything wrong with dogs, but because I'm not a dog person. People have different personalities that match them better with different animals.


    Regarding cat health, things like intestinal parasites can be managed with food and herbs. I haven't been suggesting that cats just be left to look after themselves.

    Cat fights are generally worse with un-neutered males around, in an area with too many cats. Not alot you can do about that if owners won't get cats neutered, but it is one area where the law could be tightened.

    Most pet cats are fed really low quality food which leads to lowered immunity, more abcesses and general health problems and costly vet visits. Again this can be often be managed with different food choices and herbs etc.


    Thanks for the earlier clarification about feral cats in Oz.
     
  20. Loris

    Loris Junior Member

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    Hi there its the cat lover again. We had cats in the outback and frequently saw the amazing ferals out there who, I might add were doing a marvellous job of keeping the rabbits in control. Wherever there were farm buildings or piles of timber there were rabbit warrens and there were feral cats.

    Yes, the males get really big and our girls inevitably breed with the males. They were domestic cats and feral males and within that first generation, the kittens grew huge. I now have two huge 6 - 8 kg neutered boys who are as tame as can be from a litter. But do bear in mind that in the wild, the males grow huge and the females don't. They are all very cunning. We used to try to bait the ferals cats and would drop poisoned baits right at the entrance of their little hideouts and they would just walk past them and never even sniff them.

    Did trap a few males and the skins were just magnificent with the cat leather being incredibly fine and light, lighter than calf skin and must have a million uses. Incidentally, when we skinned these ferals, the flesh was beautiful and clean and pink. Quite frankly, if I was hungry I would rather eat cat than roo which is dark and inclined to be wormy. I did point out that I love cats, didn't I?
     

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