We had a rule when I was growing up, Mom's Rule. Anything we killed, with a few notable exceptions, we had to be willing to eat. Exceptions included snakes, rats and crows, all of which we considered vermin in those less enlightened days.

Other wildlife — rabbits, squirrels, gamebirds, fish, frogs and turtles — we could hunt, kill and clean and mom would fry, fricassee or roast to our mutual delight. Fried rabbit, squirrel or quail, with mom's biscuits and gravy, provided excellent table fare, in season, of course. Mom and dad did not allow us to break game laws, either.

And we almost always had a mess of fish on hand, caught fresh from the creek that ran through our property. Dad taught us where to seek out fat bream and catfish from the same productive spots he fished when he was a boy.

Mom's rule, we finally figured out, prevented us from decimating the songbird population with our small-gauge shotguns and .22 rifles. And dad taught us to leave a covey of quail alone if the numbers dropped below a half-dozen.

“Leave some for next year,” he said. Fortunately for the quail, neither of us was a good enough wingshot to threaten them with extinction. And it took most all winter to collect enough doves to feed our family of seven.

We learned wildlife conservation lessons without knowing we were in school. We felt no need to mount heads or waste good fish flesh on a plaque. We admired the game animals we harvested. We particularly admired them on the plate.

So it was with more than a bit of outrage that I read of the proposal in Wisconsin to allow hunters (and I use that term loosely in this context) to shoot cats roaming around without collars. Apparently, feral, and other, outdoor cats, have played havoc with native songbirds, or so goes the reasoning, prompting some self-styled wildlife conservationists to suggest enacting a law that allows folks to hunt and kill any cat wandering around without a name tag. That spells doomsday to many a good mouser, many of which often live in and around barns and earn their room and board by keeping rodent populations in check. Many go collarless.

I propose that if the scheme becomes law, legislators should tack on an amendment, Mom's Rule.

No one should be allowed to shoot a cat, except when under attack by same, unless he's willing to clean, cook and consume it.

I can't imagine my mother cooking a cat. I can't imagine my dad eating one. I can't, for the life of me, imagine having to clean one for the roasting pan. I've skinned, gutted and cut up lots of fish and game but the closest I ever came to skinning a cat was in biology class and that made me nauseous.

My grandfather told me once that he killed and skinned a cat one time to collect gut for fiddle strings. He also related that once was more than enough.

State legislators (Some have already OK'd cat killings.) need to look harder at other options, including heavy fines to anyone dumping a cat out to fend for itself, before declaring open season on an animal that's merely trying to survive and obeying its natural instincts.

What's next, Chihuahua hunts?

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com