What I like about cats is how human they are. Dogs are too good and loyal and obedient; we don’t really deserve their devotion. We’re a selfish species, for the most part. But cats mirror our own failings back to us in soft, fuzzy form. They are aloof, complicated and sensitive. Sometimes they will purr and cuddle their warm bodies up against you, and other times they will sink their curved claws into you deep enough to draw blood. They’ll roll over to expose their belly and eye you coyly, then attack you for trying to stroke their belly. Cats are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get.
They’re also charmingly erratic. They’ll wait quietly inside a closet or behind a curtain and then leap out when you pass by. They’ll jump up suddenly and dart out of a room for no apparent reason. You’ll find them sleeping in all sorts of weird spots: the laundry basket, on top of the printer, in the sink, curled around a potted plant or wedged inside literally any size box they can get their paws on. At breakfast, they’ll slowly push your cup of coffee off the table, then try to chomp down on your pastry.
Best of all, cats get involved. A dog might sleep at your feet while you work on the computer, but a cat will try to sleep directly on top of your keyboard. It just wants to be near you. Or maybe it wants to stop you from getting anything done. Who cares? Not your cat, probably. Who couldn’t love a creature so wicked and odd?
It’s not because I am allergic to them or that they can be disappointingly aloof and fickle, or how they lure you in with their cuddliness and then scratch your face off (OK, that was just one cat). It’s about one thing, really: Birds.
Every day, cats kill 6.6 million birds – Every. Day. – according to a 2013 study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s 2.4 billion every year, making cats the biggest human-caused threat to birds (so yes, my hatred of cats is more of a hatred of outdoor-cat owners). There are other human-related causes of mass bird deaths – windows, cars, cell towers, wind turbines – but all together, they still don’t kill as many birds as cats.
So what if the world has a few less birds each year, you might say, as long as you get to pet and play with Mittens or whatever the hell your cat’s name is. And sure, some of these birds are overpopulated and invasive in their own right, like the despicable European starling. But many of them are not, like the endangered piping plover. Worldwide, cats have played major roles in the extinction of 33 bird species. Gone, never to return. Thanks, cats.
I realize that hating cats won’t save a single bird. But if you insist on an outdoor cat, there are special bibs and bells, among other things. If you care, there are solutions.