DEAR JOAN: I adopted a stray kitten that gave me great pleasure for 17 years, but within days of adoption Booger had killed a number of birds -- once an entire nest full -- and ambushed every fence and alligator lizard on our hillside.
After watching him torture a mouse for an hour one day, before the hapless creature died of exhaustion and loss of blood, I could hack it no longer and Booger went off to the vet.
The happy result was that he never killed another thing to my knowledge. He learned to grip tree branches and trunks with the pads of his feet just as if he still had his claws, but he could not catch anything again.
I knew that some day he might have to face a large dog without his deadly claws, but it was a chance we had to take. Fortunately that day never came. Hundreds of small wild creatures are still alive and happy today as a result of my decision. The owls may even return now that there are a few mice to catch.
Cats, both domestic and feral, devastate populations of small wild creatures and rob creatures like owls of their dinner before going home to their food bowls.
DEAR BUD: I think you missed the bigger picture. Instead of declawing Booger, you could have kept him as an indoor cat. Wildlife would have been safe and his "fingers" would have been preserved.
I'm really happy to know Booger lived 17 years, but I think he probably used every one of his nine lives to get there. Letting a declawed cat wander outside is a dangerous thing to do. Even if Booger could escape into trees, he had few weapons to use in fights with other cats, which can produce serious injuries and infections.
I've had letters from other people reporting how happy they and their cats are after declaw surgery. The furniture is preserved and the cat doesn't get yelled at.
But in all of the justifications cited for declawing, there are plenty of nonsurgical solutions.
I've had cats, and I've had shredded furniture, and I was not happy. But even if you do nothing to discourage the scratching, the things are just that -- things. If you value your couch more than your cat, then may you need to rethink having pets.
You can do things to lessen or prevent the scratching. When your cat claws at your furniture, say "no" in a strong voice and give him a squirt from a water bottle. If you're not around when the damage occurs, you can cover items with double-sided tape. Admittedly, it's not a good design look, but once the cat has learned to ignore it you can take the tape off.
Scratching posts do work. Rub them with fresh catnip and the cat will fall in love with even a long ignored scratcher.
DEAR JOAN: I enjoyed your loving coverage of the Mother Goose story last year.
Is there to be no camera this year? It's the first year I have been organized enough to look on March 1, and there seems to be no news.
DEAR MARY ELLEN: Sadly, we have no access to set up the webcam this year. Our old building, where Mother Goose nested for the past several years, has been sold and we have moved out.
But I think I caught a glimpse of Mother Goose back on her nest, so all is right with the world.