I was standing on my deck a few days ago, coffee cup in hand, and bundled in warm winter clothing. I had gone outside to see if my bird feeder needed filling. I usually purchase a large bag of birdseed in the fall to help some of the small, local birds who don’t migrate, survive the harsh winter weather. Lately, I’ve had to fill it often, due to gluttonous squirrels, who venture daily from their winter nests, to eat the unexpected bounty. The sun was starting to set, but there was enough light to see an eastern finch, a few sparrows, and a solitary dove, perched precariously on the small ledge encircling the feeder which dangled about four feet off the ground
Watching my feathered friends eagerly partake of a mix of sunflower and safflower seeds, cracked corn, sorghum, dried peas, and assorted grains, I took a moment to enjoy the peaceful scene. Suddenly, from somewhere nearby, I began to hear a faint jingling sound, which could have been, either a wind chime or a very small bell. The strange thing is, the sound wasn’t continuous. It would ring for a few seconds, stop, and then a few moments later, start up again. Soon, the birds became agitated, stopped feeding, and began to swivel their heads back and forth, as if confused by the strange sound. The intermittent and erratic bell-like sound, became louder, as if slowly approaching.
Suddenly, a large black cat sprang from behind some arborvitae evergreen trees which densely form a barrier at the rear of my property, and swiftly raced towards the bird feeder. Within mere seconds, amid the sound of a constantly ringing bell; the startled birds took flight, and disappeared from sight. I have two of my own cats, and I love them dearly, but I couldn’t help but mount a hearty cheer for the birds, who due to a small bell, attached to the neck of a predatory feline, had once again escaped the cruel hand of fate. The cat was left to gaze up at the empty feeder, and plan for a future ambush. If I could read its mind, I’d probably hear, “Darn it – not again! That’s the fourth time this week. I used to be so good at this. What am I doing wrong? I move slowly, stalk my unsuspecting prey, and attack at the right moment. Heck, I even hear a dinner bell ringing. Well, there’s nothing more I can do here. I may as well head home, get my head scratched, use the litter box, and eat some of that fancy feast chicken in gravy dinner, I saw my human put on the counter this morning.”
The large, jet-black feline, lingered for a moment by the bird feeder, as if pondering another epic failure, in her quest to catch a tasty, feathered morsel. I could see she wasn’t a feral cat by the sleek and shiny coat, well-fed exterior, and the bright pink bow with the tiny gold bell dangling from her neck. I know it was a little mean, but I couldn’t help but point at her, and say, “What’s with the pink collar, Tinkerbell? She seemed to somehow understand my words, and like any lady who had just been insulted, looked up at me with a steely glare, and shook her head, as if to dislodge the bell. She then lowered her head slightly as if ashamed of the bright pink encumbrance around her neck, took off running, and disappeared into the shrubbery at the back of my lawn. I continued to hear the distinct sound of the bell, until it finally faded away.
Do you think, putting a bell around a cat’s neck is cruel, or does it help to protect native bird populations, and allow owners to swiftly find their wayward feline companions? I don’t think I would like to wear one around my neck, though I’m sure my wife would probably love to know where I was all the time. My two cats usually stay in the house, except for short excursions into my backyard. Even then, they both wear harnesses with sturdy leashes. Do any of you put bells around your cat’s necks? If you do, have you ever caught them rummaging through your drawers, or tool box in search of utility knives, or scissors? Have they ever managed to remove the bell, or do they curse their lack of an opposable thumb? Now, that I think about it, it might be convenient to know where my cats are all the time. Between them disappearing for hours, ending up under my feet at two in the morning, unexpectedly leaping onto my chest while I’m enjoying a pleasant afternoon nap, and scaring the living daylights out of me, when I turn on the dryer, and hear, “thump, meow, thump, meoooooooow;” I might just look at some of those collars with bells, available at my neighborhood pet store.
Does anyone know who came up with the idea of bells on cat collars? I like to think this simple, yet effective device was invented by one of the more intelligent species of birds. Do you think a group of bright and ingenious South American parrots, were hanging out in a jungle canopy, when a puma ran by with another parrot in its mouth? I can imagine a conversation that might sound something like this. “Hey guys! Was that Joe that just went by in that big cat’s mouth? I didn’t even hear him coming. We need to do something. What’s that Ernie? Hmmmmm……… Hang a big bell around the Puma’s neck, in order to warn us of his approach. Do you know something? It may sound a little crazy, but it just might work. Now, do any of you know where we can find a bell, and a big collar?”