Back to the Wholly Permaculture Bible
Common Name: Cat
Scientific Name: Felis catus
Habitats: Cats are a cosmopolitan species and are found across much of the world.They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands – even on sub-Antarctic islands. Feral cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas and wetlands. Their habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human inhabitants. This ability to thrive in almost any terrestrial habitat has led to the cat’s designation as one of the world’s worst invasive species.
Edibility: It has long been common for cats to be eaten in some parts of China and in some other Asian countries and it is estimated that 4 million cats are killed and consumed in Asia every year.
Medicinal: Because of their small size, domesticated house cats pose little physical danger to adult humans. However, cat bites or scratches can become infected, sometimes with serious consequences such as cat-scratch disease, or, more rarely, rabies. Some people have allergic reactions to cat dander and/or cat saliva.
As well as posing health risks, interactions with cats may improve health and reduce physical responses to stress: for example the presence of cats may moderate increased blood pressure. Cats may also improve psychological health by providing emotional support and dispelling feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness.
Care: While feral cats can survive without interaction with humans, domestic cats should be regularly fed and watered. Cats will instinctively cover their excrement when given access to suitable covering material and can be trained to excrete in a familiar place, such as a litter box or toilet. While cats do self-groom their fur and will maintain their claws if they have access to a suitable scratching surface, it may help reduce unwanted shedding to regularly brush a cat, and a cat’s claws can be manually trimmed or even removed if necessary. Spaying or neutering cats that have access to the outdoors can help prevent their overpopulation, but some ecosystems are particularly susceptible to cat invasion and care should be taken to avoid their introduction in such areas.
Symbiosis: Cats are a common companion animal of humans in Europe and North America, and their worldwide population exceeds 500 million. This close relationship with humans has facilitated their introduction into many environments, and in some areas, (particularly in Australasia and many islands where they become a top predator species,) they have caused the decline, (and even extinction,) of other species. Cats will typically hunt small rodents and birds, and sometimes insects, but often don’t eat their prey, preferring instead to play with it.
Personal Notes: “Our lovable cat Cloie is both a blessing and a curse. Her purrs soothe with healing frequencies and her snuggle warms the heart, but beware, she is not all fluff and cuddle. Her teeth and claws are sharp, and if you happen to miss her warning, well, like I said…beware.” ~ Shasta
“It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the ultimate goal of the cat’s evolutionary strategy as a species, and particularly why they chose to domesticate humans and have us invent the internet for them, is to be glorified and mythologized as epic lolcats.” ~ Evan
- Wikipedia article on cats
- Permies forum threads on cats, birds, permaculture, and Bill Mollison on cats
- Milkwood article on permaculture cats in the woolshed