Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Norma weighed in at 6g and approx 5cm in length.

Lets get this straight before we go any further.  I’m a cat lover.  I was born in the year of the Tiger.  I’m all about cats.  At the risk of anthropomorphising them, I see cats as intelligent, independent, often belligerent, but largely seriously damn impressive animals, on every level.

I got a cat for my 7th birthday.  My dad pulled up in his car to pick me up from Woodfield School in Penn one day.  Once I’d sat in the passenger seat and closed the door, my dad (and I can see this now with perfect clarity), reached up to his collar and took hold of the zip of his heavily pocketed, light tan leather jacket (It was 1981!), and unzipped it just a few inches before a perfect black kitten face appeared – he had driven to school with my new kitten tucked in his jacket.  I was, needless to say, elated – and after a few months, as we still hadn’t named her and had taken to calling her ‘Cat’ (yes, I’ve always been imaginative!) my dad decided to give her a scientific name: ‘Pussimus cattimus’.

You can see she is ‘pear’ shaped; this is because she is heavily pregnant, and if she had survived she would have given birth any day now.

PC and I spent the next two years in a strange relationship revolving around her ‘presents’, which, although at times brought to the point of nausea, I honestly appreciated.  However, I did spend those two years nursing baby birds as they sat in the damp corners of cardboard boxes, smelling slightly of sour milk and bread where I’d spilled their ‘food’ whilst carrying the whole apparatus upstairs to my room. When they died (as was almost always the case) I would always burst into tears – once even trying to get a tear to land on a dead thrush so that it would come back to life. (I believed this would work when I was seven – I’m not in the habit of crying on bats these days!)

We had to take PC to a cattery in the end, not as punishment for her predatory endeavours, but because we were moving to the US, and couldn’t take her with us.  But my 13th birthday saw the arrival of Beans.  Beans was nothing short of awesome – we were inseparable.  Beans was a male cat – or so we thought until ‘he’ had two kittens on my bed one day.  I thought she was ill, and then saw a little kitten face sticking out of her and announced “um, Dad?  Beans isn’t a boy!”.

In this photo you can see the deep puncture wound in her chest – scabbed over because she was probably injured last night when emerging from the roost.

The point of all this is that now I’m going to say some things which may seem as if I view them in a negative light.  But, you see, my love of animals is more or less universal (except spiders, which are from the evil dimension).  You’ll know if you’ve visited the blog before that I’m the coordinator for the Bat Care network for Birmingham and the Black Country.  Today, yet another bat call came in to our network.  Two bats had been found on the ground by some Countryside Rangers in Birmingham, and they had contacted one of our Bat Group members for assistance.

Eventually, the bats ended up in my living room.  The first had been found dead at the scene, and the second very weak and dehydrated.  Unfortunately, the second bat had died whilst being transported to my house, but I took the opportunity to document the incident, examine the bats, and to try to learn what I could so that the loss of their two little lives wasn’t a waste.  Upon examination, it became apparent that these bats had been killed by a cat, as there were puncture wounds in their bodies and wings, the telltale sign of feline claws at work.  What made it worse was that both of these bast were female, the second of which was obviously heavily gravid, weighing 6g in spite of being dehydrated (a non-pregnant, healthy bat would normally be 4.5-5 grams).  She would have given birth any day.

Both bats had these minor puncture wounds to the wing membrane, but much more severe wounds to the body.

So how is it possible that a cat could cause the death of two bats and their unborn pups?  Because of one of the many things for which cats of all kinds are revered:  their intelligence.  Cats learn the locations of bat roosts, and wait in ambush for dusk, snatching unsuspecting bats out of the air as they emerge.

So the upshot of all this is that because these two bats were most likely caught as they emerged from a maternity roost, it is highly unlikely that they will be the last of this particular cat’s victims, as many bats return to the same roosting site year after year, and cats return there each year too, effectively killing two bats with every swipe.

It is truly horrific.  So many people say to me things like “Oh, Tiddles would never do something like that!”  I’m sorry to say this, but if you think that Fluffy doesn’t have the scruples, abilities and instinct to be a killer, you are dead wrong.

Unfortunately, these are not likely to be the last bats inured emerging from their maternity roost.

But as I said, this is not a cat-hating post.  What I want to do is to give you the tools to stop this kind of behaviour, with only the tiniest of inconveniences to your fluffiest friend.

Most bats that are cat casualties are believed to be caught during emergence.  Bats only emerge at dusk.

If you do this one thing, you will make a SIGNIFICANT contribution to bat conservation and welfare in our area:

Give your Kitty a Curfew.

Take a pledge, please, today, to do everything within your power to prevent these horrific, slow and painful deaths.  You probably have a cat because you are an animal lover.  This is one way that you can show it.  And I’m not asking you to keep your cat in all night long.  I’m asking for one hour – if your cat is a night prowler, by all means let him or her outside, but simply wait until its fully dark, on as many days as you can from now on.

I know you can’t corral your cat if he’s already out, but if he’s inside mewing to go out and the sun is setting, just wait for an hour.

Please take a minute to download the Bat Conservation Trust’s ‘Avoid a Catastrophe’ leaflet, and the Mammal Society’s paper on the Predation of Wildlfie by Domestic Cats.  If you still need convincing, there is some pretty gruesome stuff on youtube, but if you have any doubt that a cat is agile enough to catch an emerging bat, take a look at the video below.

Love Cats.  Love Wildlife.

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