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The real war on cats

Free-roaming and ear-tipped brown tabby catA soon-to-be-released book advocates the unrestrained killing of all free-roaming cats — pets, strays, community cats — all of them.

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, which goes on sale September 13, unabashedly advocates what amounts to felony animal cruelty with a call for the removal of all free-roaming cats “by any means necessary.” As noted by respected ethologist Marc Bekhoff, Ph.D., in a recent Psychology Today article, by any means necessary could allow for poisoning, bludgeoning, trapping, shooting — you name it.

The rationale for the irrational advocacy of killing by the book’s authors, Dr. Peter Marra and Chris Santella, is the assertion that cats constitute an existential threat to small birds and other small wildlife species. However, other than in confined ecosystems, such as small islands, there is simply no evidence that cats comprise an existential threat to any species.

Dr. Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and co-author of a well-publicized 2013 paper estimating predation levels attributed to outdoor cats, is no stranger to hype and hysteria. In this earlier work, Marra & Co. methodically compiled previous studies, most of which had long been debunked. An author of one of these studies explicitly stated that his work should not be generalized to all free-roaming cats.

Never mind, it was full speed ahead as Marra & Co. happily proceeded to generalize and conclude that free-roaming cats in the United States kill billions of small birds every year — more birds than even exist, according to the best estimates. No other realm of science would allow researchers to be so arrogant as to draw such inflammatory conclusions from such flimsy data.

I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychoanalyst, but I occasionally play one in this blog, much as Dr. Marra plays a dispassionate researcher in his book. Marra’s bloodthirsty call for cat killing seems to reflect more than scientific observation. And, while he has claimed in the past that he loves cats, he has a strange way of showing it. His “by any means necessary” call to action seems to be aimed at those who suffer from ailurophobia, a recognized psychological condition pertaining to someone who has an irrational and uncontrollable hatred or fear of cats.

That profile seems to fit the most adamant advocates of the kill-them-all, anti-cat crowd, so get ready for a proliferation of press releases lauding Cat Wars from organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy.

Predictably, Dr. Marra flips the bird to trap-neuter-return (TNR) and other humane cat management policies, but like all opponents to such programs, he fails to offer a workable alternative. The wholesale killing of America’s most favorite pet species certainly is not a workable solution.

Whatever the problem, I would hope that we have learned that more killing is never the answer.

Together, we will Save Them All.

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Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society