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Comments Off on Food For Thought: Indoor Cats

Food For Thought: Indoor Cats

| Food For Thought | August 12, 2021

An Op-Ed from Abigail FitzGibbon

If you have both a cat and a closed door in your home, it’s likely the former has tried to get through the latter — either by begging you with plaintive meows to open it, trying to scratch straight through the wood, or slipping through as soon as the door’s left ajar.

Some cat owners point to this behavior as evidence of a cat’s innate desire for freedom, and argue that in order to satisfy this desire, their cat needs to be allowed to roam freely — specifically, to roam the outdoors.

However, letting your cat into the outside world unsupervised is far from the best way to meet its needs. In fact, it’s often severely detrimental, both to your cat and to the world around it.

Let’s start with the latter. As a member of a domesticated species, your cat is not native to any ecosystem; cats are an invasive species in any ecosystem they enter, and as such, they carry deadly consequences with them.

One 2013 study estimates that domestic cats roaming the outdoors kill an estimated 1.3 to 4 billion birds and 6.3 to 22.3 billion mammals each year in the lower 48 alone, figures which would give Felis catus the highest death toll out of all human-related causes of bird or mammal death.

Although the majority of these kills are performed by unowned or “feral” cats, owned “outdoor/indoor” cats are still responsible for a significant portion of these deaths; keeping just one more cat indoors can save dozens of lives among your local wildlife.

Just as your cat spells trouble for more vulnerable species outdoors, the perils of the outside world — motor vehicles, larger predators or other cats looking for a fight, poisonous plants and other dangerous substances, et cetera — can put your cat at significant risk of injury, or even death.

The average lifespan of a cat who primarily spends time outdoors is estimated at just 2-5 years, compared to an indoor cat’s typical lifespan of 10-15 years.

Plus, your cat’s excursions can put you at risk of more than just dead animals on the doorstep; some of the diseases cats more commonly contract outdoors, like toxoplasmosis and rabies, can be passed on to their human owners.

It’s understandable to want your cats to have access to the benefits of the outdoors, such as fresh air, new stimuli, and big spaces to stretch their legs. However, there are better solutions than letting them outside whenever they please.

To provide them with fresh air, consider letting them explore a contained outdoor area under your supervision, like a fenced-in yard or screened porch, or training them to walk with you on a leash. Their hunting instinct and need for stimulus can be safely sated with extra playtime, which can also result in a closer bond between you and your furry friends.

With these methods and some time and patience, even cats who are used to going outdoors can learn to live happy indoor-only lives. And in the long run, those lives will likely be much longer, safer, and overall happier ones.

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Comments Off on Food For Thought: 51st Earth Day

Food For Thought: 51st Earth Day

| Food For Thought | April 22, 2021

An Op-Ed from Sitka Citizens Climate Lobby

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. Roughly 18,600 trips around the sun later, we see the vast effects of climate change. Just in the past year, we’ve seen hurricanes, forest fires, landslides, heat waves, coastal floods, a freeze in Texas, and human climate migrations – all heightened in an environment of Covid-19 and racial & economic injustice.

Earth Week 2021 is a chance to re-think what we owe our planet, ourselves and future generations. What impact can one person, one family, one town/state/country possibly have??

You and I can be part of solutions to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions, decrease CO2 levels and cut emissions in half by 2030.

We can conserve energy by: turning off lights and computers; insulating our homes; walking, biking, carpooling; taking buses; using LED lighting: retiring old cars for electric vehicles; planting a garden; eating less barged-in beef; and switching from fuel oil heat to electric heat pumps. There are ways to find funding for these more energy efficient ways of living.

We can also speak up about policy to our city and state officials. Cities, for instance, can institute (on-bill) financing for landlords and homeowners to install heat pumps, and other measures, with energy savings paying for these upgrades over a few years.

Businesses can benefit with C-PACE. The Alaska legislature in 2017 opened the way for municipalities that do property assessments to develop “Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy” programs. Anchorage is the first city in Alaska to do so, on April 1, 2021. C-PACE makes it possible for owners and developers of commercial properties to get low-cost, long-term financing which is paid back through an annual assessment on the organization’s property tax bill. Since energy retrofits require local labor, we keep more money and jobs in our communities, too!

As Alaskans, we can remind ourselves about the power of moving water – wave and tidal power can be pivotal, given our thousands of miles of coastline and many rivers. We can also be advocates for electric grid improvements by promoting micro-grids and renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar. Wind and solar combined technology would provide year-round energy.

Individual and municipal actions are not the whole story, though. We also need bipartisan national action. A national fee on fossil fuel production can motivate businesses to invest in green energy and infrastructure that will not only protect the environment but will also save money.

With collected fees paid as a monthly dividend to households, most Americans will be protected from increased prices arising from fossil fuel fees. A carbon-fee-and-dividend bill (re-introduced in Congress as HR 2307) may also inspire international cooperation, with a border tariff placed on goods from countries who do not have comparable carbon fees. Forty countries already have some form of carbon pricing.

These strategies will work. They will strengthen local economies and protect our health by decreasing air pollution. We can all be advocates for our planet by calling or writing our legislators – Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Don Young – asking them to support carbon-fee-and-dividend as a first step.

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