As an animal lover and pet owner, I’m at a loss to understand why anyone would believe that Sunny’s quality of life would be better at the Nature Center than in a loving home.
The Nature Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, so Sunny is primarily alone for 65 hours Sunday through Wednesday, and each night for 17 hours between closing and opening times.
The issue of Sunny as a potential health hazard due to her presence in food preparation areas is irrational and insignificant. I am in no way affiliated with those complaints or with Mr. Herron or Ms. Nash behind those complaints. I simply believe that, adopted into a loving home via Animal Rescue Friends, Sunny would receive daily attention and comfortable temperatures during cold nights when the Nature Center is closed. It is tragic that Sunny’s supporters are apparently more concerned about their connection with her than her daily and long-term welfare.
As a wildlife biologist and ornithologist, I can also attest that the Nature Center’s visitors receive an implied, erroneous message when they see Sunny: that cats are compatible with the Nature Center’s purpose to support the preservation of, and education about, native animals and wild places.
Although Sunny may be an indoor cat, visitors may feel differently about her as its mascot if they were aware that a study by the National Wildlife Management Institute estimates that cats throughout the United States kill more than 5 million birds per year, in addition to other wildlife species.
Numerical estimates of cat kills vary among similar studies by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and other conservation organizations, but results are all in the seven-figure range for annual kills.
International studies conclude that cats are responsible for the extinction of 33 bird species worldwide. Even pet welfare organizations don’t deny that cats, domestic and feral, have a substantial effect on wildlife.
A disabled, native wildlife species such as a caged owl or other raptor would serve as a far more appropriate mascot for the Nature Center. Let Sunny find a real home.