In the garden: Cats and gardens |

In the garden: Cats and gardens

Anna Naeser
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

In her recent Sopris sun column, Genevieve Joelle Villamizar declared she had acquired “the most elemental component to a garden: cats.”

This brought back loving memories of Muschi, the family cat when I was growing up, prowling through my mother’s half-acre garden. I always wanted a purebred Siamese cat but somehow a long line of strays and castoffs, nowadays called rescue animals, have beaten a path to my door and I guess that’s the way it will always be.

My last cat was my shadow whenever I worked in the garden, often identified only by a rustle, sometimes showing an ear or tail tip through the foliage a few feet away. When I changed position, so did she. To this day, I sometimes startle, thinking she is with me. Now and then, she showed off her catch of the day before devouring it, leaving only the spleen behind.

When she died, I didn’t think I could bear to love and lose another cat, but Mr. Nibbs found his way to our house and into my heart. He is 19 years old now and on life support, and he is strictly an indoor Tom. For between these two cats, I met Linda Vidal, birder and fierce activist on behalf of birds everywhere, and got an education. I learned that birds, especially migratory songbird populations, are under great pressure from many sources and one of the biggest threats is from kitty cats.

I am ambivalent. My garden is designed to attract birds. The finches in spring methodically picking dandelion fluff to consume the seed at the base of each silky plume, or later dangling upside down from a wild sunflower pecking out seeds and spitting out the shells are a sight to behold and I want to protect them. Yet, when chipmunks ravish the vegetable garden, I think, boy, an outdoor cat would take care of this problem. There is also irony in keeping a carnivore, and buying highly factory-processed meat-based food, when you are mostly vegetarian and an advocate of slow and local food. But there you are.

“What garden hasn’t evolved to a higher realm through the inclusion of Felix domestica?” Ms. Villamizar asks eloquently. I can’t answer that question. I do know that, unfortunately, every year millions of song birds are dispatched to a higher realm by the most consummate of alien predators – the house cat.

See Mr. Nibbs at

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