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how this began

We live 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.

My Mother 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 magnificent!

Then the 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 The sound of song birds waking me had been replaced by my jumping out of bed, racing down the stairs and running out the back door to see what was going on and if I could stop it!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….

Where I 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.

This no 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?

I 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.

The antics 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….   

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updated August 12, 2013     send email