CATS are much-loved pets in Highbury, as elsewhere. Living a comfortable life with their humans when at home, they can assume their wild cat ways when outside, stalking rodents & birds, fighting for territory with other cats… & having an effect on local wildlife.
The ancestors of domesticated cats originated in the Fertile Crescent, east of the Mediterranean. They made themselves invaluable to humans by catching the rodents pilfering their harvests. Descendants of these ancient cats are now here in Highbury. They retain the skills of their ancestors – stalking silently, ability to spring suddenly & pounce onto prey, and so on. Why would they not use these skills here on local mice? (Mice, having originated in India & Pakistan, are also plentiful in Highbury. They might rule the Borough without the intervention of our moggies.)
Researchers traced the genetics of domestic and feral cats in Europe, Asia, China, Africa and the Middle East. The cats’ mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from the mother, traced back to the near eastern wildcat, which is found in the Fertile Crescent.
Where did cats originally come from https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/did-cats-originally-come-d718a62e98efc840 Mozilla Firefox
“It is believed that domestic cats were brought to Europe around 3000 years ago by Greek and Phoenician traders. Romans valued cats highly for pest control and the Roman Legions would have certainly taken cats with them as they moved through Gaul (modern day France) and eventually Britain.” https://www.omlet.co.uk>guide>cats>the history of the cat
The Dean of Canterbury reads Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Cat That Walked by Itself’ for National Black Cat Day.
Pointy Eared Predators
At feeding time, we warn the birds to be vigilant & keep a lookout for the Pointy Ears. These neighbourhood pets may crouch in the undergrowth with only their ears showing… or the entire cat may be on view. They remain still & silent, apparently uninterested in their prey until, with a sudden spring & powerful pounce, they have caught a victim.
There are stubby-eared cats, but none living nearby – so the warning sign for our birds will be the pointy ears of local cats. Foxes have even larger pointy ears & they, too, roam the area. Often the only clues to a recent capture & kill for one of the Pointy Ears will be a sad little scattering of feathers left under the shrubbery.
Dogs do not roam free in the borough. Outside in their back gardens, they are enclosed by walls and fences. Going for walkies with a family member, they will be on a lead – perhaps running alongside someone on a bike with the lead attached to it. Some dogs ride the bus, with their owners. And we see dog walkers going round the neighbourhood with as many as five dogs at a time.
But cats are free to roam where they please. Whereas most dogs cannot leap over high walls, healthy cats can manage a jump of 7 times their own height (8 ft, 2.4 metres – google). Fences are unlikely to be catproof. They have a favourite territory, certain streets in this neighbourhood, & look totally confident marching down a pavement they consider their own. When old Tiggy the Matchday Cat was alive, he ruled.
After the developer trashed their meeting place in the small woodland behind our house, local cats began spending much more time in our back gardens. They balance on fences like acrobats on a high wire, strolling along a surface only as wide as one paw without looking down. Often a cat will sit on the fence, all of its legs tucked in, looking completely relaxed, as if resting on a soft cushion.
There are cat videos on the internet – cat channels, advice about cats, cats doing entertaining things…
There are mice in the back gardens – foxes and cats are always alert for their movements. Gaps in the old brick wall between properties are watched intently by cats… Sometimes a mouse will be left behind rather than eaten.
….”Look out little furry folk He’s the all night working-cat Eats but one in every ten Leaves the others on the mat And the mouse police never sleeps Waiting by the cellar door With claws that rake a furrow red Window box town crier Birth and death registrar”…. Jethro Tull, Heavy Horses, 1978.
Summer 2014: this cat appeared on the wall of a Blackstock Road shop overnight. The grim reaper could have been asking ‘Do you know who I am?’ and the cat answering ‘Ha! I have nine lives, you know.’ The wall art disappeared under a coat of grey paint after a few days…
VIDEO – ZOOM CAT
This elegant mushroom tabby moved into our garden when builders were working on our neighbour’s house. It found a sunny spot on our Clematis mound, and curled up just above the bank where suet feeders are visited by the birds.
The cat was seen waking from a snooze – it yawned, stretched, and pounced at a woodpigeon sitting on our hedge who just managed to flap out of harm’s way. Other birds, including one young starling, were not so lucky. When old Tiggy was alive, he would not have tolerated another cat in his garden. He would have seen it off.
For more on the life and times of neighbourhood Top Cat Tiggy, go to the Matchday Cat page.
CAT LIFE IN HIGHBURY
A neighbour has recently told us the given name of our Rodentfinder General – Tickle. As a kitten he had appeared & seemed to be applying for a job as security guard, locating possible mouseholes in the brick wall & under brushwood, watching intently until a mouse emerged… He was keen and unblinking. Now he is older & we’ve had foxes in the back gardens, we don’t see him except when passing his own front garden…
Neighbours whose cats have gone missing hang laminated appeals on the street trees with the cat’s description, asking us to check our sheds & get in touch. Other than these named cats, we’ve only known a few local moggies by name… Freddie and McGuire. But, during repairs to one of our brick walls, a collar was found entangled in the old chainlink fence & dense Ivy that had grown over it.
Obviously a cat named Oscar got snagged climbing in & managed to rid himself of his collar. His owners must have been cheesed off when he returned home collarless. We’ve no idea whether this happened decades ago or more recently – whether Oscar still prowls the gardens, has left the area, or is in Cat Valhalla with Tiggy.
Cats, as well as catching mice, may catch birdlife. There are many places a cat can conceal itself in our garden. See the secretive tabby in our video, Zoom Cat, above. The cat has found a place to sleep & when it wakes, birdfeeders & birdbath are in easy view… any birds will be unlikely to notice the Pointy Ears hidden in the ivy.
Electronic cat deterrents require flat open spaces rather than pots & shrubs to work.
In New Zealand, friends Maureen & Ken were told by a neighbour that their new kitten was unwelcome in her garden & would feel the wrath of her garden hose if she found him there. Pepper would regularly appear with a drenched, soaking tail & back end, wet but otherwise unharmed.
Looking through the internet for ecological methods of deterring but not harming cats, we found this one from Wikipedia. It is clearly illustrated, with a selection of substances easily obtained & applied. Rosemary, Witch Hazel, Cinnamon, Lemon, Citronella & others are combined in four possible mixtures.
‘While it’s difficult to convince cats to do anything they don’t want to do, you can make homemade cat repellent that may convince cats to take their business elsewhere. Homemade cat spray is safe and environmentally friendly.’
These homemade cat repellents are to be used on the garden surfaces, NOT the neighbours’ much-loved cats.