Hey Mr. Green,
I was extremely offended by your reference (Sierra, January/February 2009) to cats as an invasive species whose living outside leads to an alarming disappearance of natural bird and small mammal populations. --Samantha (submitted via e-mail)
After calling cats an “invasive species” and explaining why they should be kept inside, I heard much hissing from cat lovers. Another reader asked: “Why punish the cats when we really need to start talking about population growth? I am tired of dogs and cats being picked on as being bad for the environment when no one is really talking about the biggest invasive species: humans.”
Let me clarify: I used the term “invasive species” for shock value, but I didn't dream up this feline problem just to be mean to cats. The Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy, and other environmental organizations are concerned about the millions of other creatures murdered by cats roaming the outdoors.
As for “punishing” cats while ignoring human misbehavior, surely environmentalists are harder on human invasiveness and breeding habits than we are on feline vices. That's why some of our fiercest critics call us anti-human. The human-to-cat criticism ratio is fairly high, and even my remarks were directed as much at humans as much as cats, since it's those invasive humans who host the cats.
I also got concerns over feline emotional health: “I disagree that cats should be forced to be inside,” said a reader. “Cats want to go outside. How would you like to live inside your entire life?” Well, actually, after witnessing a legendary local feline named Senator Proxmire beat the hell out of other outdoor cats, I concluded long ago that if I were fortunate enough to be a cat, I would indeed prefer the indoors. This conclusion isn’t based on my cowardice, but concurs with the Humane Society's findings that an indoor cat lives three to five times longer than its free-roaming brethren. The menu of outdoor hazards includes being flattened by cars, poisoned by lapping up toxics like antifreeze and pesticides, getting whacked by a dog or other predator, catching other creatures’ diseases, and being kidnapped by some weirdo who tortures animals.
Granted, you may have your existentialist cats who prefer to live on the edge, willing to trade a dozen years of indoor comfort for the searing intensity and spiritual clarity of outdoor danger. But it seems rather anthropomorphic to project such human sentiments onto cats. Plus, following such logic, some might conclude that Michael Vick's pit bulls were deeply fulfilled engaging in dogfights, and that he should be commended for liberating them from them from servile, uncanine indignity of mere pethood.
Finally, getting back to the original question about kitty litter, some readers say that litter made of bentonite, of which more than half of it is made, is harmful to cats’ health. If this be true, cat owners now have another reason to try litter made from other—biodegradeable—materials.