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Desert Diary
Mammals/Puddy Tat


Oh, I taut I taw a puddy tat! Cute in a cartoon, but many a bird has succumbed because they DIDN'T see the "puddy tat". House cats are more than benign companions who specialize in putting us in our place. They are predatory carnivores complete with the instinct to kill—and, given the opportunity, kill they do.

William T. Hornaday was biologist and crusader for wildlife during the early days of the 20th century—a time of rapid wildlife depletion. Hornaday's rhetoric would be considered intemperate today, but one was never in doubt about where he stood.

In 1913, Hornaday addressed the domestic cat as "probably the greatest four-footed scourge of bird life," and goes on to say "It is the robin, catbird, thrush, bluebird, dove, woodpecker, chickadee, phoebe, tanager and other birds of the lawn, the garden and orchard that afford good hunting for sly and savage old Thomas."

In our open desert country, cats can do little harm—but throughout the region, in villages and cities, birds pay a high toll to this Old World cat.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Hornaday, W. T. 1913. Our vanishing wildlife. New York Zoological Society, New York, 411 pp.