More on cats

by Richard Jones

Following my find of a dead swift in the flower bed, there have been a lot of blog comments on cats, and how welcome or unwelcome they are in the garden.

catFollowing my find of a dead swift in the flower bed, there have been a lot of blog comments on cats, and how welcome or unwelcome they are in the garden. So I just had to share the following, because I found it so comical. It is taken from a fascinating, but very obscure book called 'The balance of nature, and modern conditions of cultivation: a practical manual of animal foes and friends for the country gentleman, the farmer, the forester, the gardener and the sportsman', written by one George Abbey and published by Routledge in 1909.

Abbey was obviously a practical man, he divides cats into two classes - ornamental and useful. He quickly glosses over the ornamentals, more or less dismissing them as docile, tractable and maybe even good-tempered: 'their winsomeness and good manners representing the measure of their utility'. He has rather more to say about cat usefulness when it comes to mousers and ratters.

He then offers the cat as the perfect protector of the gardeners' strawberries; employing it to chase off birds. He quotes an example from the Reverend H.L. Ewen's Rectory at Offord D'Arcy near Huntingdon, reported in the Journal of Horticulture in July 1883. The cat was tethered, by a short chain from its collar, the last link of the chain ran freely along a metal wire strung out in a line through the middle of the strawberry beds. The feline was then able to patrol up and down chasing thrushes and blackbirds off of the fruit. If the weather was inclement, a short length of drainpipe at each end of the wire was the beast's shelter, and the odd bowl of food kept it going if it could not actually catch its prey. According to Abbey, the strawberry-growing Reverend had a whole team of cats and kittens so employed.

This is all very amusing, but, as the book's subtitle manifestly points out, Abbey's work is not just aimed at the gardener. He is also very quick to suggest that wayward cats, especially those gone half feral in the woods, are best dealt with quickly by the gamekeeper. If they can't be easily shot, he helpfully includes a diagram showing how a pair of gin traps should be placed and baited to best catch them. Nice.

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/10/2007 at 16:17

Having a cat has it's good side and draw backs, Since the death of my beloved "Sam" the garden has been a safe haven for all the nesting birds and their young but I am now over run with Mice, not so bad and Rats, not so good. I also have to put up with the neighbours cats now,(luckily too old to catch my birds.)

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2007 at 11:05

how can i stop cats doing the toilet in my garden with out spending money.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2007 at 16:36

I have a beautiful cat who I have to say has yet to catch a bird - she does bring me in the odd worm or baby frog but so far these have managed to survive the savages of her jaw! I am not looking forward to her catching birds and just hope she proves to be inadequate at such a sport.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/10/2007 at 09:16

I have 3 cats & are not a problem, sometimes 1 of them catches the odd bird, but the others are so layed back they can't be bothered waisting the energy. My problem is next doors cats, they kill alot of birds, mess in my garden, & have taken to hunting frogs from my pond. I have now bought a water pistol to frighten them & hopefully they will get the message!!! So I do simpathise with people who have problems with cats, but as I said "get a water pistol". It doesn't hurt them & it's very funny seeing the shock on their faces as they don't know where it's come from.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/10/2007 at 19:16

I bought a Sonic cat scarer about 6 weeks ago and it works a treat... Haven't had a cat doing its business in the back garden for about a month now... However the buggers still come in the front garden... Solution??? I am going to buy another one... Best 20 quid I spent for ages...

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