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What Should I Do About My Bird-Killing Cat?

You clearly care about your cat. I say: Why not keep her? PETA, for one, says that “cats can live happy lives indoors.” You have your doubts about how she (and you) will fare if she’s kept in the house. So explore the options available to you. You can get her to do less damage indoors by the use of scratching posts, by keeping her claws trimmed and by various forms of training. If you want her to spend time outside, you can try to accustom her to a harness and see if you can train her to walk on a leash. If you have the space, you can create an enclosed “catio.” And if you feel you must let her out alone, you can at least equip her with something like a neoprene CatBib or a rufflike Birdsbesafe collar, devices that seem to reduce bird predation; a bell might help, too. There are many threats to the bird population — not least habitat loss related to poor land management, industrial agriculture and, of course, climate change. Keeping our cuddly carnivores from roaming outdoors is only part of the solution, but this one is right in our laps.

While visiting my hometown, a disturbing scene between a relative’s husband and their very young daughter repeatedly unfolded before my eyes. The daughter had a slight cold and did not want to take the over-the-counter medicine that her father was trying to administer, so he laid her down on the kitchen counter (in front of the entire family) and proceeded to jam the medicine into her mouth using an oral syringe. The child was clearly distressed and tried to fight off her father, who would not relent until she took the medicine. Another relative offered to take the child upstairs to calm her down so that she would take the medicine. The child’s mother sharply responded, “He’s handling it.” This same scene played out again a few hours later.

I had never witnessed anything like this in my family and was completely shocked. My other relative told me that the father verbally bullies his daughter when she won’t eat her meals, pressuring her to eat, after which the defenseless child sometimes vomits. Food that is left over from dinner routinely shows up in her lunch the next day and apparently is not eaten.

During this same visit, the child’s father shared with members of our family some examples of aggressive parenting that he endured from his own parents, and it’s clear that he is passing along this legacy. Even more disturbing is that the child’s mother, who did not grow up in an aggressive household, is going along with it. There are other examples of what they may consider “tough love” that I’ve heard about that demonstrate a lack of empathy and sensitivity, and which seem unnecessary and just plain mean.

I’m deeply concerned about the well-being of the child, who is an intelligent, sweet little girl. I’ve discussed this with the other relative whose advice and offers to help are summarily rejected. Should I leverage my relationship with the mother, with whom I am very close, and discuss this with her? It feels wrong to do and say nothing. Name Withheld

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