Has your cat ever brought you “presents” from out of doors that include tiny victims like mice or birds? Are you a good pet owner – have you placed a bell around the neck of your outdoor cat? A recent study published in online journal Nature Communications blames cats for the death of billions of birds and mammals.
Researchers herding ‘domestic’ and ‘feral’ cats
The study states that cats – both domestic and feral – are responsible for killing approximately one to four billion birds and seven to 21 billion mammals in the U.S. annually. This is “a huge number considering that the entire population of North American land birds is estimated to be just 10 to 20 billion,” reports the CBC. Now, is it just me or did you also wonder how researchers were able to document and identify the activities of ‘domestic’ versus ‘feral’ cats?
Cat-loving readers responded swiftly to the study’s claims, many logically noting the value of felines in helping keep the vermin population under control. “Said mammals being largely rats and mice, the most destructive and disease-spreading vermin on the planet. Thank you, cats!” notes a comment from ‘refiner’.
When cats start running in packs…
“And if cats weren’t killing all those other critters we’d probably be reading about the results of a study on out-of-control bird populations destroying our food crops and befouling our cities. When cats start running in packs and taking down humans in the streets, I’ll start to panic. Until then, I’d have to say that the one thing we appear to have far too many of is researchers with not many useful things to do,” writes online commenter ‘bob on the job’.
That’s why it’s called a food chain
“Look, all joking aside, I am far more concerned about the fact that these cats are left alone to run feral than that they eat birds and other mammals,” writes ‘JenniferVW.’ “I think that’s the sad part. Cats kill birds. Birds kill insects. Humans kill lots and lots of animals (not a vegetarian – just saying). It is what it is. That’s why it’s called a food chain.”
I tawt I taw a puddy tat!
Questions abound about the biased nature of the study led by Scott Loss at the Migratory Bird Center of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The Feral Cat Coalition notes that an earlier survey by an Australian zoologist was disputed and discredited as the “figures which were extrapolated from 709 survey returns…627 of which came from ornithological society members.” The blog also notes that “…cats were often blamed when in fact the ‘victim’ was already dead, sick or injured.”
Catster.com has pounced on wealthy New Zealand businessman Gareth Morgan who launched a website encouraging a ban on cats on the island.
Banning cats “a rash decision”
“The effect of feline predation on native bird populations is an important issue,” states feline health expert at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Bruce Kornreich. “It is undeniable that cats do prey on birds, and that in some cases this predation can have negative impacts on native bird populations…Continued research is required in order to understand the potential effects of cats on not only birds, but other species as well.”
Kornriech believes the cat ban approach “is a hasty one” that “may result in unforeseen negative effects on the ecosystem…Issues such as the control of feral cat populations, optimization of habitat for native bird species, and education of cat owners about the potential effects of cats on bird species certainly warrant our support, but we feel that the banning of cats in this case would be a rash decision, and one that may have unintended consequences for the ecosystem…”
Is the bell tolling for kitty?
Other than putting a bell on Fluffy’s collar, do you have any other suggestions to alleviate bird lovers’ fears?