Are you watching the BBC2 series investigating the private lives of cats? (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b02xcvhw/Horizon_20122013_The_Secret_Life_of_the_Cat/) Isn’t it fascinating? Cats are naturally hunters and I’ve heard it said they are the biggest predators of garden birds. The ones on the TV don’t seem to have killed a lot of birds but what the programme reveals is that their owners really have no idea what they are up to! I haven’t got a cat at the moment but we used to have a lovely ginger moggie when I was a child. There are feral cats at Brogdale and plenty of prey for them to feast on but the regular feline visitor to Grow plant centre looks as though she has got past the stage of being able to chase anything. Well-fed rabbits frolic around the demonstration vegetable patch and don’t mention the rats! I was inspired by the bit of the programme where a cattle farmer had lots of cats to keep the rats down and he found them much more effective than poison bait. Last summer I borrowed a cat over a couple of weekends to try and keep all the small furry animals out of the snail pen. Spot was a garden cat – she lived out of doors with her owners rather than in the house and she was a seasoned hunter. She disappeared into the undergrowth, tail held high, as soon as I released her from her travelling basket. I arrived each morning to find a neat row of small corpses waiting for me and a beaming cat expecting to be praised.
Dusty and Freddie ferret were less effective at actually catching anything. But their smell was supposed to frighten potential prey into vacating their homes.
They scampered about investigating, burrowing enthusiastically and climbing up and over anything they could cling to. Freddie made collections of interesting objects to play with - cherries and bits of vegetable stolen from the snails. Dusty played with the snails instead. She noticed that when she kicked one it produced froth. She found that very exciting and went round kicking some more to see if they all did it. They were definitely more of a nuisance than a help.
Now I’m watching the programme, I’m quite tempted to get a cat. But I fancy one of those lovely bengals and I bet they eat a lot. Do I really need another mouth to feed and another responsibility? Answers on a postcard!