how this began
close to the center of town and have a very small yard ( .14 acres). Most of the
houses in the surrounding neighborhood are small and densely set. When we moved
here a few years ago, we redid the entire yard: no pesticides, no
"weird" grass seed, only organic fertilizers, etc.
I also designed a layout conducive to bird watching and nesting. I was
motivated by the fact that my Mom was suffering from late stage dementia, and
nothing pleased her more than the laughter of small children and birds singing
in the yard (she was also blind with cataracts and macular degeneration). The
yard became my sanctuary too - a place where I could escape from caring for her,
since I was the sole caregiver and she was living with us. My mental and
physical health were frail, and the wildlife activity in the yard lifted my
spirits and gave me joy. I was grateful for this.
passed away in her own bed in December of 2009. It took me 2 years to recover
from my caregiving role. The yard remained my sanctuary, and was essential to my
recovery. We had many birds: Mourning Doves, Tufted Titmouse, Bluebirds, Juncos,
Nuthatch, Black Capped Chickadees, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Wrens, Finches, Blue
Jays, etc. A small yard - but filled
with life. In the spring fledglings were everywhere. The activity was
cats came...and they came again...and again.
Even though we have a 6 foot privacy fence, they managed to get around
it. They tore the roof off the black
capped chickadee nest; they killed 2 cardinals, one of the mourning doves, 2
female bluebirds, 2 blue jays, a tufted titmouse and ALL of the chipmunks! And
those are just the fatalities I witnessed. Early in the morning I could hear the
Blue Jays' sounding alerts and chatter from squirrels from my bedroom window,
causing my blood pressure to soar. By the time I ran out to the yard - it was
too late. The sound of song birds waking
me had been replaced by my jumping out of bed, racing down the stairs and
running out the back door to see what was going on and if I could stop it!
They attacked a squirrel which then lingered in the yard for two days
with only one eye and gashes on its face, and eventually died.
Watching this all in my own yard literally made me sick….
once sat in a yard filled with life, all was gone; we now had a dead yard...lifeless.
If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I would’ve found the difference hard to
imagine. Even now as I write this, my heart races.
longer is respite for me: it has become a detriment to my health. I have become
a victim in my own yard, to "terrorist cats¹ ". And as some birds
slowly come around (mostly sparrows now), I still spot the cats –
lingering…. Must I stop my bird watching
and feeding in my own yard?
approached the owners of the cats. At first the wife apologized, admitting in
her own words that the "cats were terrorists" and she felt terrible,
stating that with two young boys in the house, it was too much for her to keep
the cats in the house, so she would “shoo” them out first thing in the
morning. And although I could
sympathize with her busy schedule, I questioned the responsibility of these
actions. The husband then suggested that I find something better to do with my
time – like “change the laws in Concord"…..
So here we
are today, with neighbors no longer speaking and a decimated yard - the result
of 3 roaming cats...
The irony of all this is that I am actually fond of cats and have had a few of my own. I just don’t need someone else's cat taking over my yard. I don’t want a neighbor's pet causing me stress and anxiety, ruining my health, killing song birds and small mammals, and destroying neighborly relations.
and activities of the treasured creatures in our yard gave me joy and meaning
when I felt I could no longer continue; it is time to give them something in
return…..for my sake, for their sake, and for the sake of every caregiver and
person who may seek respite in their own backyard….
updated April 13, 2013 send email