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Fuzzy math on cats, birds clouds highly questionable ‘study’

Did you see it? It was all over the Internet the last couple of days. Sound the alarm, alert the news media. Reportedly, cats are stone-cold killers to the tune of possibly 19 billion animals a year!

USA Today, the New York Times, NPR and just about everybody else have been reporting on a “study,” released in the journal Nature Communications, that claims startling new estimates for the number of prey captured each year by free-roaming and feral cats.

The report, “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States,” unfortunately relies on the agenda-driven analysis of its authors and is devoid of any critical assessment of source material or common-sense implications of its claims.

This particular “study” was designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to directly attack non-lethal programs for outdoor cats and all who support them. It contains no new information and includes estimates from studies dating back 75 years.

While the authors themselves dismiss some of these studies, they nevertheless proceed to use them, along with other source material mathematically extrapolated from the perceived hunting habits of a dozen well-fed house cats. Seriously, that is the extent of some of the research that produced these numbers.

The report claims, for example, that cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds. One has to ask why the only bird deaths that seem to matter are those that are — when combined with misrepresentation and bad math — attributed to cats.

Where are the studies surrounding the annual number of birds killed by sport hunters, pest control or pollution? And, although there has been some work done regarding birds killed by wind turbines, cell phone towers and window strikes, this information lacks the concerted public opinion manipulation that is so evident in this “war on cats and all who love them.”

The “concern” by academics towards the death of wildlife is equally suspect. According to the report, cats kill more than 12 billion small mammals per year — mostly mice, moles, squirrels and shrews. Such a figure would suggest that squirrels (not to mention mice and other rodents) are on the verge of extinction — obviously nonsense to anyone who lives near any city park.

Where are the studies and scientific analysis surrounding the number of rodents killed by poisons intentionally set under kitchen sinks? What about those vicious and equally indefensible glue or mole traps? How about the millions of squirrels killed or maimed annually by hunters or children who gleefully discover their first BB gun under the Christmas tree?

But there is a larger point here. You would think that cat advocates and wildlife biologists (sometimes one and the same person) should all want the same thing — to stabilize and reduce the numbers of stray and free-roaming cats across the country. The difference is in how to get there.

Let’s face it. The authors and the anti-free-roaming cat contingent want stray and feral cats to be rounded up and killed, plain and simple. They want this in spite of the fact that this standard approach to controlling outdoor cat populations has been deemed cruel, cost-prohibitive, inefficient and generally unacceptable to the pet-loving public.

In truth, no one actually knows how many free-roaming cats there are in this country, which makes it impossible — and frankly irresponsible — to pull a number out of the air and multiply it by a theoretical number of birds that the average cat supposedly kills each day. This is especially true when the number is derived in part from observing chubby house cats.

Trap/neuter/return, or TNR, which the authors dismiss, is a proven and humane method for reducing the number of community cats. TNR involves trapping, neutering and releasing community cats back to their colonies. Sterile cats obviously can’t reproduce, and, over time, TNR reduces the number of free-roaming cats in the target colony.

If the number of community cats continues to grow, it means that TNR is not being practiced as widely as it should be. Meanwhile, individuals, such as the report’s authors, keep recycling and repackaging the same discredited information.

Let’s face it, scapegoating cats is a huge and, sadly, lucrative business. If even half the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s energy and funding was geared toward spay/neuter and educational programs, this problem wouldn’t be an issue. But, that, of course, would result in a lot of well-connected, taxpayer-reliant academics being forced out of work.

This latest misguided ”study” is nothing more than a calculated effort to block the universal endorsement of a sound, humane population management strategy for cats that has been successful in municipalities across the country.

Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

  • Karen

    Brilliant, thank you Francis! We are having the same tripe shoved down our throats here in New Zealand right now too.

    After the global war on dogs kicked off by using the Pit Bull as scapegoats to justify it, we now have the global war on cats. How suspect is this?

    I would suggest that people have a very much closer look at PETA and HSUS and the politicians they lobby in their anti-pet agenda.

    Here’s the theatre we’re seeing in NZ right now too:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8207475/Morgan-creates-website-for-anti-cat-cause

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=10862720

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/8246503/Website-spoofs-Morgans-cat-campaign

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10861953

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10862577

    Before you go believing that Bob Kerridge is on the cat’s side just because of who he is, remember that he is inviting Morgan to help him financially to embark on a massive spay/neuter campaign to desex and chip every cat in the country. Same result, no more cats.

    He is also vehemently anti-Pit Bull and abused his position to tell the public that “All Pit Bulls are born bad”. I smell a rat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530401628 Layla Morgan Wilde

    Thank-you for your voice of sanity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolyn.kristof Carolyn Kristof

    uh, yeah… what he said

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolyn.kristof Carolyn Kristof

    uh, yeah… what he said

  • Bonnie Carollin

    THANK. U Frank and BF for taking this to the truth meter!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/marlene.taylor.102 Marlene Taylor

    I love birds, too, but I have to ask what about habitat destruction, both overwintering sites in the southern US and S.A and northern summer sites? Ditto for other parts of the world? It’s my understanding that fewer and fewer birds return to both winter and summer homes among many species. Has anybody factored in the loss of habitat in both their summer and winter homes? A hundred or more years ago in the U.S., birds were preyed upon by bobcats. These predators are very scarce now, living only in forests where they won’t interact with humans. Is it possible that the domestic cat filled that niche? I understand that domestic cats are far more abundant than bobcats ever were, but bobcats didn’t have plates of food put out for them everyday. A bobcat eats many kinds of prey, just like the house cat will, but far more. AND what people NEVER seem to get, is that the end goal of TNR is UNTIL THERE ARE NONE. With adequate spay and neuter services or ordinances and robust adoption facilities, the hope is to end the surplus of cats. Until that happens, we can’t condone killing animals. BESIDES, we’ve being trapping and euthanizing ferals for decades and look where we are — we have more than ever! Thank you for your comments on this flawed study.

  • Karen

    Spot on Marlene. And human destruction of wild life habitat and pollution does far and away more harm than any feral cat ever did.

  • moonsister22

    It’s odd that all these people are shaking their heads in grief and telling us what vicious killers cats are. They are killing billions of birds, mice, rats, voles, and other rodents. Yet, just a few years ago, in the highly cat-populated section of the city where I lived at the time – downtown San Antonio, TX, there was a pigeon problem. Yes, PIGEONS were pooping at the front of stores, on restaurant tables where tourists might sit sipping a cold drink, on windowsills and balconies of hotels. The city government was proposing dropping poisoned pellets that the pigeons would eat and then die. Fortunately, someone pointed out to these less-than-bright bulbs who ran the government that mockingbirds, cardinals and all manner of songbirds would also eat the poison and die. The pigeon poisoning plan was tabled. What I would like to know is why there were so many nice fat juicy pigeons in an area of our city where feral cats roamed the streets? Because cats are usually nocturnal. They also don’t have wings and can’t fly. They can climb, yet all those thousands of pigeons roosting on tree branches, windowsills, balconies, the Riverwalk, everywhere downtown were not being eliminated by the Killer Cats. The pigeons are still there, being fed by the tourists. The cats need to be fixed and returned to downtown. One hazard of having a River Walk lined with restaurants is that it attracts all those poor rats and mice that the scientists seem to think are necessary to our fair city and country. Well, I for one would rather feed a pigeon than find a mouse in my expensive downtown dinner (no offense meant to mice).

  • http://www.facebook.com/petecrowe Peter Crowe

    Francis, as usual, you provide a very well written and supported response to articles that I also read, and was very affected by (enough to post them on FB).

    Unfortunately, there seems to be something that is missing. I completely agree about ferals and the entire TNR concept. I think you know that. It is as clear as day how we need to deal with them.

    The problem I have is with homeowners letting their cute little kitties outside, most likely because they are too lazy and “grossed out” to clean litterboxes. And I thought this was a point made by the NY Times authors.

    We have one such cat (household) stalking our neighborhood. We used to have a vibrant and very active community of chipmunks that lived locally, and traveled via a labyrinthine series of tunnels that, in some cases, I helped construct. I’ve seen them largely disappear since this cat started appearing in our backyard and around our house.

    I also routinely come across local kill sites. Places where a bird has obviously been caught and eaten (a halo of feathers surrounds).

    In our state, there are many feral colonies of cats that are being maintained by a “shadow” army of caretakers. I inhabit the periphery of this army, and am the trapping/spaying/neutering (TNR) contingent.

    These little guys (ferals), one can’t keep them from being out there, we can only deal with them in a humanitarian way. It’s not their fault their original owners let them go (or failed to fix them). If the authors of the articles have an underhanded agenda to euthanize them all, they are dead wrong.

    But household cats roaming about and indiscriminately adding to any death toll? What is to be done about them? Surely they, and their effects need to be addressed?

  • Anonymous

    There are so many variables those idiotic studies don’t cover. How many of the bunnies, rats, mice and yes BIRDS are actually INTRODUCED INVASIVE species themselves? House sparrows are horrible around blue birds…blue bird populations are declining due to house sparrows’ habit of destroying eggs/killing hatchlings and taking over the blue bird nest. To me, cats have evolved to be a living part of our human environment. If you truly want to save the birds then do NOT lure them into a feeder situation where they congregate in unnatural numbers with unnatural proximity to other species of birds. Feeders provide lush hunting grounds for cats (and other predators) as well as serious transmission points for disease. West Nile obliterated bird numbers in some areas…and I would be curious to know if this study was conducted during a bad West Nile year…yes, cats are going to kill the sick and unhealthy. Birds need their natural environments…and by that I mean their habitats in Central and South America all the way up to the Arctic. If you destroy the dense habitat they used to enjoy and force them to nest in suburbia, they simply are NOT ADAPTED TO IT!

  • Cheryl

    Yes, it smells like a war on cats to me also……I believe the main reason for the decrease in birds is that farmers and ranchers use all sorts of poisons and pesticides to protect their crops and livestock feed. So, birds die by the thousands and probably millions due to collateral damage. Remember the news stories of birds dropping dead by the thousands on homes, streets, etc; after cattle ranchers put out poison to keep them from eating the feed for their livestock. That is just one example, there is widespread use of poisons and pesticides in many other ways. I have lived in my country home for over 30 years, I always keep bird feeders in my yard; I have always had 10 to 20 cats living here (all spayed and neutered of course) and I have only seen 2 dead birds in my yard……this is in a 30 year span and dozens of cats. However, I have noticed a big decrease in the number of birds in the last 5 or 6 years, there is definitely not as many as there used to be.

  • Ruthann Panipinto

    Thank you for this article. When I saw the “vicious cats” article on CNN’s website I knew we feline-lovers were in for another battle. HOw many folks are out trapping lose cats right now as a result of it and dumping them off at the local shelter in a panic? Who knows? BUt I’ll bet they are doing it…And what will happen to those cats? Most likely they will be killed – most of them anyway.

    I jsut did a search on Google using the term “Songbird mortiality” and this is one of the first articles to come up from Audubon: Addressing the FCC regarding bird deaths due to communications towers:

    ‘Needless Deaths:
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that millions of birds are killed each year because of communications towers. Scientists have shown that—especially during bad weather conditions—migrating birds become disoriented and trapped by the halo of light surrounding towers using steady-burning illumination, circling endlessly until they either collide with the structure, collide with each other, or simply fall dead from sheer exhaustion.

    In one instance, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 dead birds were documented at three nearby towers in one night!’

    5K-10K dead birds under one tower (unknown location) in one night?!!!!

    And it’s the free-roaming cat’s fault that songbirds are in decline?

    Really???

  • John

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Our cat of 21 years brought home countless bid offerings dropping them at our patio door. Domestic cats kill many birds and animals because it is their nature. Feral cats do even more damage.

  • Anonymous

    John,

    Nobody here is suggesting that cats don’t ever kill wildlife. They obviously do, but the question is, do they kill 20 BILLION mammals and birds combined every year?

  • Anonymous

    Here’s how these ignorant, self-serving, and uneducated TNR-advocates are destroying all life on the planet.

    The TNR CON-GAME

    FACT: Trap & Kill failed because cats cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control.

    FACT: Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) is an even bigger abject failure because these man-made ecological disasters cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control, and they also continue the cruelly annihilate all native wildlife (from the smallest of prey up to the top predators that are starved to death), and the cats continue to spread many deadly diseases that they carry today — FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO VACCINES AGAINST THEM. Many of which are even listed as bioterrorism agents. (Such as Tularemia and The Plague — Yes, people have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA. No fleas nor rats even required. The cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own.)

    FACT: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY _NOTHING_ HUMANE ABOUT TNR. Nearly every last TNR’ed cat dies an inhumane death by road-kill, from cat and animal attacks, environmental poisons, starvation, dehydration, freezing to death, infections, parasites, etc. And if very very lucky humanely shot to death or re-trapped and drowned (the two most common methods employed on all farms and ranches to protect their gestating livestock’s offspring and valuable native wildlife dying from cats’ Toxoplasmosis parasites). This doesn’t begin to count the thousands of defenseless native animals that cats skin alive and disembowel alive for their daily and hourly play-toys. The only difference in destroying cats immediately and humanely instead of trapping, sterilizing, then releasing them to an inhumane death; is that money isn’t going into an HSUS or SPCA board-member’s pocket, veterinarian’s pocket, cat-food company CEO’s pocket, or a drug-company CEO’s pocket. And that’s the ONLY difference!

    FACT: Cats are a man-made (through selective breeding) invasive species. And as such, are no less of a man-made environmental disaster than any other caused by man. Cats are even worse than an oil-spill of continent-sized proportions. They not only kill off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines from run-off carrying cats’ Toxoplasma gondii parasites, they destroy the complete food-chain in every ecosystem where cats are found. From smallest of prey gutted and skinned alive for cats’ tortured play-toys, up to the top predators that are starved to death from cats destroying their ONLY food sources. (Precisely what cats caused on my own land not long ago.)

    FACT: Hunted To Extinction (or in this case, extirpation of all outdoor cats) is the ONLY method that is faster than a species like cats can exponentially out-breed and out-adapt to. Especially a man-made invasive species like these cats that can breed 2-4X’s faster than any naturally occurring cat-species.

    FACT: In _TWELVE_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here’s how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES’ deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES can’t even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it.

    FACT: When researching over 100 of the most “successful” TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon’s 50,000 TNR’ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 80%-90% to be the least bit effective.

    FACT: Their mythical “vacuum effect” is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived “vacuum” is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there’s no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own land. ZERO cats replaced them FOR 3 YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats’ resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of “vacuum effect” at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void.

    FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being — IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!

  • Anonymous

    I think the worst part of all, anyone associated with TNR aren’t adhering to the mandatory REQUIRED BY LAW SIX-MONTH QUARANTINE for any animal when harvested from the wild and intended for any sector of the pet-trade. This is why rabid kittens are now being adopted direct from shelters without the REQUIRED BY LAW 6-MONTH QUARANTINE (Like this one for example, Google for: rabid kitten adopted wake county) The 10-14 day holding period for bite & scratch cases is ONLY meant to see if they were infectious at the time of the incident, but DOES NOT IN ANY WAY prove that that cat does not have rabies. The incubation period for rabies can be (on average) from 21 to 240 days. And in some cases as much as 11 months. One rare case being 6 years. This is why when you take your pet to another country they MUST quarantine your pet for a MINIMUM of 6 months to be relatively sure (not 100% certain) that you are not bringing rabies into their country. Giving a rabies shot to an animal that already has rabies and has not been quarantined for AT LEAST 6 MONTHS FIRST does NOTHING to ensure that that animal does not have rabies!

    But these TNR advocates, and the veterinarians and shelters and local government “officials” that support them? EACH AND EVERY ONE IS IN *DIRECT* *VIOLATION* OF WELL-ESTABLISHED *NATIONAL* & *INTERNATIONAL* *LAW*. They ALL need to be sued — fast, hard and so deep that they never recover from it.

    Now add on top of that that anyone who feeds these cats is training them to approach humans for food (contrary to them always claiming feral cats run from humans). What happens to the child or foolish adult that reaches down to pet or try to pick up that now seemingly friendly “cute kitty”? The wild animal lashes out and bites or scratches the hand that has no food for them.

    Google for: feral cat attack rabies

    Don’t be surprised at the number of search-hits you get or the horrendous stories that go with them. The number of suspected rabies cases and the then required mandatory rabies shots for each individual costing them well over $1000 out of their own pockets, has been growing as exponentially fast as cats breed. Ask a cat-feeder to pay for your shots and lost work-time and suffering? Neither they, nor shelters, nor the local government who supports TNR carry ONE PENNY of liability insurance for the deadly dangers they are bringing to their communities by allowing them to feed and TNR stray cats. Two recent reports even document rabid cats entering a home through their pet-door and one even came through their ceiling searching for human-supplied foods — one attack so bad it required hospitalization for the family.

    Let’s make 2013 the year where ALL aspects of TNR are ILLEGAL nationwide. It’s the only solution.

  • chrisgee

    don’t forget our gov’t kills millions of birds, although it usually takes some prodding to get them to admit it: http://www.disinfo.com/2011/01/usda-admits-to-causing-mass-bird-death-with-poison/

  • Karen

    In twelve years my two cats have killed less than a dozen critters and
    most were either rats or sparrows. Both are introduced species here.
    It
    needs to be remembered also that cats do most of their hunting at night
    when their victims are usually rodents. If you take the cats out of the
    equation birds will be at even greater risk from those creatures who
    feed on their eggs and chicks, like rodents.

  • Deb Barnes – Zee and Zoey

    Thank you for this rational and level headed post, Francis. If only the mainstream would flood the media with stories like this that provide proper insight and solutions to the problem…

  • KittyResQ

    I find a couple of things were overlooked in this report. For one thing, this problem is caused by irresponsible people and is not the cats’ fault. The other issue is the “science” behind the number of birds killed by feral cats. My understanding from someone I consider an expert on ferals, is that true feral cats do NOT hunt during the daytime because they don’t want to be out in the open. They do their hunting at night, mostly catching rodents. I used to think mice were cute, but then I found them in the house and could not believe the amount of damage they can cause. The cats can have them.

    My personal belief is that pet cats belong indoors. It’s safer for the cats and eliminates them as suspects for neighborhood bird slayings. My cats enjoy watching the birds, not eating them.

  • KittyResQ

    Pet cats should be indoors. There is no need for them to be out “hunting” and irritating neighbors who like to feed wildlife. I have neighbors all around me who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors.

  • Annie

    I, too, have seen individual cats with incredible hunting abilities. I know not all cats fit that description, but more than enough do!

    In my county, the ordinance is the same for cats as for dogs. Very fair and simple. Pets outdoors must be under their owners’ control. My own cats love to hang out with me while I garden, they come when they are called and go inside when I do! Training was easy.
    We still have to get the word out to more neighbors, but the ordinance sets down clear rules. Stray and feral cats can be taken to animal control. I know people who have nice enclosures in their backyards to house feral cats if they don’t want them euthanized- sure it costs a little more money to put up a fence, but the cats and wildlife are both unquestionably safer!

  • Annie

    Yes, cats are not the only problem for our native wildlife, but they our in our backyards and it isn’t so hard to do something about them! It is good your cats aren’t reproducing, but it sounds like there is no shortage of them doing so nearby! Not all cats are big hunters, but some recent studies (like those cat cams) have shown that we only see a small percentage of our cats’ kills. It is possible that just a couple of your cats are affecting your local bird population. Also, species composition is important. Some are more vulnerable than others. Those more vulnerable species may be long gone from your yard.

  • Annie

    I agree that habitat loss is a huge problem for our native species. However, many species of birds can do quite well in our backyards. It would help if we didn’t put high concentrations of subsidized predators there for them to deal with in addition to all of the other challenges they face.

    The scientists who did those studies are well aware of other invasive species and problems like west nile – with so many variables, yes it is hard to calculate the exact effect cats have, but it certainly isn’t benign.
    I agree that cats have evolved to live around humans – they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years. But that doesn’t mean we should just let them roam and hunt at will; there are just too many of us and them to do that any more.

  • Annie

    I agree that habitat loss is a huge problem for our native species. However, many species of birds can do quite well in our backyards. It would help if we didn’t put high concentrations of subsidized predators there for them to deal with in addition to all of the other challenges they face.

    The scientists who did those studies are well aware of other invasive species and problems like west nile – with so many variables, yes it is hard to calculate the exact effect cats have, but it certainly isn’t benign.
    I agree that cats have evolved to live around humans – they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years. But that doesn’t mean we should just let them roam and hunt at will; there are just too many of us and them to do that any more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1178953290 Linda Porter

    Are you familiar with the “cat cam” study where fledglings were dropped in the front yards owned by domestic cats in suburban Washington, DC? As a lay person, I found it laughable. How do you view it as a professional?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1178953290 Linda Porter

    The goal of the bird scientists is to eliminate all outdoor cats, feral or domestic. To allow tax payers to continue to fund studies on birds conducted by bird lovers, year after year, is an abuse of our tax dollars.

  • Anonymous

    I would also consider dropping fledgling birds in areas where cats were known to be outdoors to be unethical. If those birds were deliberately placed at risk, then the creators of the study should be considered bird killers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.mcguckian.1 Mary McGuckian

    Thank you Marlene & Karen — habitat destruction is the biggest factor in migratory bird decline, pesticides would be another. Cats, whether feral or domestic, are way down on the list of bird population decline. If anyone would like a better view of what birds go through – watch the amazing “Winged Migration” documentary – you’ll never see a bird in quite the same way again :)

  • Anonymous

    Left out of this otherwise excellent critique is the role of developers in killing off birds. By clearing brush, particularly the wild growth at the edge of forest stands, which are the primary nesting sites of choice for most small birds, as well as filling in wetlands, developers are the true decimaters of small birds. Then there is the pesticide industry, and the suburban obsession with weedless lawns, which eliminates most of the food — bugs and seeds — upon which birdlife depends. It’s clearly not wild cats, which have been around for centuries in the US and europe, that are leading to the recent collapse of songbird populations. It’s these major industrial groups — developers and pesticide makers, plus the people who buy their wares.

    The trouble is, you won’t see that article circulate in the corporate media because both developers and chemical firms have big PR companies to keep them out of print and off the air. Ferral cats don’t have PR agencies to help them.

    Dave Lindorff

    editor of ThisCantBeHappening!

  • llida

    dave – you are absolutely right about the issues with pesticides, clearing brush, wetlands, etc. And as a resident and homeowner – I work on minimizing all of the above as much as it is within my control (don’t use/buy pesticides, support local wetlands and attend conservation meetings regarding their status, complain to Public Works about brush cleanup, leave brush in my own yard, etc. So as a responsible citizen – I AM already playing a role with these factors. But when the cats are free-roaming, or when no ownership is claimed, that is something that I am not responsible for controlling, and can only *react* to something when/if needed. And if there are no bylaws in place in our town, that means I am free to trap the cats on my own or via a private company; would that be a preferred scenario? I think not….. So many cat owners/keepers fear that bylaws would be the path to damnation for cats, when in actuality – they can be also used for their protection along with satisfying the needs of non-owners….

  • llida

    what county / state is that?

  • zeitentgeistert

    maybe it should also be clarified that in the “systematic review” the authors are using:

    1. estimations of the overall feral cat population (which includes large numbers of managed city cats with no access to songbirds + all unfed country felines whose survival depend on catching protein & calories with the least amount of effort and no time to waste on a small prey with relatively little meat and feathers it can not swallow),
    then multiplying this number with
    2. the reported hunting behaviour of managed (fed) cats in suburban centres (with access to song- and other birds species and a much greater likelihood for a specialization on birds)

    this must have led to an inflation of the actual numbers and i wish marra et. al would have collaborated with a behavioural ecologist who could have pointed out some errors in (animal) ‘logic’.

  • Annie

    Which study was that?

  • annie

    I do know of a recent DC study using cat cams, however no fledglings were dropped in front yards, back yards, or anywhere but their own nests after they were banded.

  • Surika M.

    Cats are lovable animals. Why should these people target cats based on something that probably isn’t 100% accurate? I think we all know that cats can bring home a dead mouse occasionally, but does that really make them killers? No. If you think about it, dogs can kill just as many small critters as cats can, if not more. Cats are the only culprits in this and they shouldn’t be accused of mass-murdering birds and other small animals, because they are not the only animals out and about on this planet. Francis, your post is great. It is sufficiently supported and well put together. Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to reading more posts from you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000841658853 Robert Cruder

    Check out the Supplementary Information in : http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/extref/ncomms2380-s1.pdf
    That should put to rest any concern that the sources have been cherry-picked to support a hypothesis. The methodology is credible although one could ask for more sources in the U.S.

    With that said, the “Supplementary Table S3 | Average proportion of total bird mortality caused by cat predation for individual species.” shows only two species for which cats are responsible for more than 10% of deaths and only four for which cats are responsible for more than 5% of deaths. None of the four are threatened and two (House Sparrow & Red-winged Blackbird) are considered by many to be pests. The take is no worse than what one would expect from small feral canids such as foxes.

    Those percentages overshadow philosophical arguments from both the pro and anti cat positions. If cats are taking that small a percentage of a bird population, especially from species that should double their numbers with each breeding season, they earn no great priority for intervention.

    Regardless of the methodological merits of the study as a whole, that one percentage of deaths table negates the author’s conclusion. Factors that interfere with breeding success offer a far more beneficial area of study.

  • Eva

    I have had cats all of my life and cared for ferals, living in the area. To this date, I have NEVER had one of them kill a bird. They have brought me mice and rats, one gopher, but that is it.

    To have an aged/sick bird killed by a cat/dog is natures way to weed out the weak. I love all creatures (except fleas, roaches & mosquitoes) but birds have no natural enemies to help keep the breed strong. Lay off of our cats!

  • dotlit

    This kind of reporting is outrageous! They totally did not mention the largest predator of all – the humans! We constantly destroy habitat with our subdivisions, our mall, our office complexes, and then complain that the cats are killing the birds! Better they advocate the spaying/neutering of our pets! But, no! Blame cats.

  • Judith

    I like cats. But please don’t let your love for your own cats blind you to the situation that we humans have, once again, created: an introduced species having a huge impact on native species of wildlife. Yes, there are MANY human-related causes of deterioration of animals and habitat, and all need to be addressed, but raising defensive hackles about domestic or feral cats and blaming everything else does no good. I was a wildlife rehabilitator for many years and saw first-hand the damage caused by cats and dogs. If people would keep their cats indoors, building outdoor “catteries” adjacent to their houses and taking the cats for walks on leashes, that would make a huge difference. I do not let my dogs roam, and would love to see the same attitude extend to all cat households. Please don’t forget that it’s not only the birds, snakes, reptiles, and amphibians that are being decimated—many well-fed cats are competing with wildlife for their natural prey species. Owls, hawks, foxes, and so many other animals don’t have a full food bowl to go home to. And don’t think letting your cat out only at night is OK—besides the dangers to the cats themselves, they will prey on fledglings perched low in trees and ground-nesting birds. The trap neuter release thing is a whole other big complex issue—I would just like to encourage cat guardians to take responsibility for their pets’ actions, recognize the impact they have on other creatures, and step up and change things.