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( Originally Published 1928 )
IN THE many articles I have read in the papers on getting rid of rats, I have failed to see anything about the help that cats have been in city and country, in houses, stores, factories, barns, chicken yards, in lessening the number of rats as well as mice. This seems to me to savor of ingratitude. The omission may be partly due to the determined attempt that has been made by a few prejudiced persons to make the public believe that cats are of no use, and particularly that they do not catch rats.
Cats are said not to be of much use as mousers, and of no use in catching rats. That some cats catch some birds, I do not deny, but on the very face of it the statements made as to the immense number they catch is all guesswork. If the numbers were as great as have been stated, considering the fact that cats have been domestic animals for over 3,000 years, we should not have a bird left in the country where cats are kept. Cats, they say, are the birds' greatest enemies, yet it is well known that over 5,000,000 men and boys are licensed to shoot every year, and besides these licensed gunners, there are hundreds that are unlicensed, men and boys, the latter with air guns, who go into the woods and fields, shooting any kind of birds or game they can spy out.
I have been sending out a circular inquiring at stores, factories and at private houses as to whether the cats they kept catch rats, and I have had a great number of replies saying that the cat or cats the writers own are good ratters, and their services are indispensable.
A prominent Boston merchant had a cat which he said in so many words was worth her weight in gold. She had saved him thousands of dollars' worth of property a year. He had known her to catch fourteen large rats in one night.
In a house and barn near Boston, where rats and mice ran riot, in spite of traps, and two dogs that occasionally caught a rat, a cat was introduced last summer. This cat first cleared the house of mice, then going to the barn he has caught rats so large that he had to drag them down the driveway to the house when he wished to exhibit them to his mistress. After he has received the praise he feels is his due, he leaves the rat in the yard and one of the dogs buries it.
I could multiply these instances by the hundreds. If the men and women who value cats highly for their usefulness in catching rats and mice should begin writing to your paper, your columns might be filled with letters in praise of the cat.
In tenements and lodging houses cats are of such great value that some lodging house or boarding house owners declare they would have to give up their business without their aid. Farmers, almost without exception, declare cats to be indispensable, and one woman wrote me that her chicken house was protected from rats by her cat. Before she had the cat the rats devoured her chickens.
With the threat of the bubonic plague always before us, can we afford to ignore an agency that has proved of so much value? When the Japanese undertook to eliminate the plague from their country one of their first measures was to import a cargo of cats from the United States.
It is an interesting fact that every week we are having complaints because we have not more cats that we are willing to place in homes where they are wanted for the purpose of catching rats and mice.
If the Audubon Society and Humane Societies would circulate widely a simple leaflet instructing people who own female cats not to let all the kittens live and give them away indiscriminately; to keep their cats in the house nights and in the early morning hours when birds are getting breakfast for their young; never to desert their cats and so force them to seek their living in woods and fields; also to begin with the kittens and train them, as they would dogs, to let the birds alone, they would do much more for the interests of the birds and of humane education than to harp on the question of getting a law on our statute books which could not be carried out, or even be attempted, without cruelty, and which would, before a year was out, be deeply regretted even by those who advocated it.
It is a very serious matter to encourage this attempt to bring the cat into such bad repute. Some boys, not all, are only too ready to seize on any excuse for chasing and killing cats, or anything else, and already in some places where lecturers on birds have been denouncing cats, a crusade against them has been started, which caused much suffering to human beings and cruelty to cats. It is a direct set-back to humane education. Anna Harris Smith, Late President Animal Rescue League, Boston, Mass.