As both a cat lover and avid birder, it’s difficult for me to reconcile the not-so-peaceful coexistence of birds and cats. In Gilbert, Arizona, at the Riparian Preserve Water Ranch, bird lovers are demanding that a feral colony — whose numbers have exploded as the economy has imploded — be terminated. Don Bloom, caretaker to the colony’s 40 or more cats, feels differently, as described by azcentral.com:
Donald Bloom climbs a little hill in the Riparian Preserve Water Ranch, dragging a cart of food on squeaky wheels. “Sawyer!” he calls out. “Freckles! Ginseng!” As he parks the cart beneath a mesquite tree in the embankment and takes out the food, a dozen cats of all hues and temperaments scamper toward him from the undergrowth.
They could well be his pets, but they are mostly abandoned domestic cats dumped by their owners in the Gilbert preserve.
“People have been releasing animals in the preserve – it’s a major problem,” Bloom said. “The cats are pretty friendly, but the feral cats take a longer time to be domesticated.”
The animals are as much the victims of the economy as their onetime human masters. Foreclosures and job losses are prompting many people to abandon the cats in the preserve, especially with shelters filled to the brim.
They’re also dumping other domesticated creatures, including geese, ducks, roosters, tortoises, rabbits, doves, even goldfish.
It’s a tough situation. Desert Rivers Audubon claims the cats kill an average of two birds per day (this seems extraordinarily high to me) and are destroying the habitat. Bird lovers want the cats removed.
But removal means almost certain death. The Arizona Humane Society refuses to take the cats. An alternative is to trap and remove them to the county (Maricopa County Animal Care and Control) which will euthanize them or “arrange adoption according to the temperament of the cat.” In a shelter with limited resources, adoption is extremely unlikely.
Meanwhile, Bloom is convinced that his population stabilizing program, recommended by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, is the best way to help both the cats and birds.
The daily feeding keeps the territorial cats in one area of the 110-acre preserve, and helps keep them domesticated. Only newborn kittens are feral.
“Cats will stay in and not expend energy if they have food coming to them,” he said.
Funds are low for the group and volunteers are scarce. But Bloom plods on.
“I’m trying to undo the injustice to these animals,” he said. “I’m trying to give them a second chance at life because domesticated animals belong with humans.”
Mr Bloom, thank you for your dedication. We hope bird and cat lovers can reach accord soon.