It’s only natural for cats to kill

Special to The TribuneFebruary 1, 2013 

The headline said, “Killer cats.” It introduced a story on the second page of Wednesday’s Tribune. The story said America’s adorable kitty cats kill billions of birds every year and slay even more little, furry animals.

At first that sounds shocking, but it really isn’t. Most people eat meat and fish. Critters are killed and eaten all the time. It’s how life works unless you’re a strict vegetarian. People who have lived on farms or ranches are usually aware of that. We don’t take sides.

I lived the first 14 years of my life on a 10-acre farm in western New York state. I remember Pop occasionally taking one of our chickens by its feet, laying it on the chopping block and lopping off its head with his hatchet.

He then threw the chicken into the tall grass, to spurt blood and flop around like a chicken with its head off. Then he plucked its feathers and gutted it. The next day it was our dinner.

Squirrels lived in the huge black walnut tree in our front yard. One day I was supposed to pick up fallen walnuts and put them into a small, wooden nail keg. I soon lost interest and wandered off leaving the nearly empty keg on the lawn. It held just enough nuts to attract squirrels; one or two of whom scrambled into the keg.

The cat that we called Tige had been watching. Nobody owned Tige, but he lived with us. He sprang into the keg and came out carrying a squirrel. I watched with great interest as he bit off its head and enjoyed a meal.

Tige was a large gray, tiger-striped cat. He was an unaltered male and a force to reckon with. Another time, I witnessed barn swallows trying to drive him out of our barn. They swooped very close to him, trying to peck or scratch him.

He hunkered down and swatted with one front paw or the other. Either by luck or skill, he managed to knock one of the swallows out of the air and quickly make a meal of it.

Much later in life, I moved to Paso Robles and met a ranch hand whose wife raised young wild quail. Motorists frequently dumped unwanted kittens nearby. They grew up wild and would kill the wife’s quail. He bought her a .410 shotgun to shoot the cats. She would have preferred shooting the motorists.

I now live on a city lot. We put out birdseed and keep our birdbath filled. We don’t have a cat, but a few neighbors do. I have found small piles of feathers where cats have killed birds. I chase away visiting cats, but to tell the truth, what bothers me most are the manure clumps or puddings they leave on our lawn.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or

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