Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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This video documents the fact that “feral cat colonies” are a disaster for wild birds. Each year free-roaming and feral cats kill hundreds of million of birds in the United States. One controversial solution to deal with the feral cat problem is trap, neuter and release. However, evidence is growing that this method is not eliminating the cat colonies or the predation of birds and other wildlife. There are other problems created by feral cats as well including threats to human health, and public nuisance issues. [9:19]

Comments

  1. #1 daedalus2u
    June 2, 2009

    I can’t see the video (access to videos is blocked at work), but it does make sense. The “feral cat biomass” that a given ecological niche can support is going to be about the same whether that biomass is non-breeding adult individuals or the whole age distribution in a fertile population.

    If anything I would expect a given niche to support more adult biomass because without young to support, the adults can hunt for longer and can sustain longer periods without food without mortality. Infertile females likely live longer due to the lack of metabolic stress of pregnancy and lactation. A non-breeding population might even have a larger impact on wildlife. The fraction of non-neutered cats necessary to sustain a population is small.

    Releasing feral cats (or any non-native animal but especially mammalian predators) is going to adversely affect prey populations. Even if they are neutered, instead of killing the one cat, one is condemning all the prey that cat will kill and eat in its remaining lifespan.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    June 2, 2009

    Gee, if the cats are a problem why the hell do they let them live? Even if they’re neutered they still need to hunt and they’ll still kill things for fun. Haven’t the cat-neuterers ever had cats (or observed them)?

  3. #3 Sarah
    June 2, 2009

    Domestic animals belong indoors or they must be contained and controlled in such a way that they do not adversely affect the environment. I love cats. I have two, but they are neutered AND kept indoors. They have no place in our outdoor environment. I love birds more than I love cats… I am waging a constant battle against a cat that prowls our neighboorhood and has killed numerous protected birds in my yard. I wish I could find the owner – I feel that the owner is responsible for its cat’s killing of protected species. If the owner went outside with a gun and killed the woodpeckers, robins, and doves that his/her cat has killed, it would be a prosecutable offense. I would kill this cat if I could. It is as dangerous as a chemical spill.

  4. #4 MAL
    June 2, 2009

    Ugh, I’m so confused. I’ve recently seen an alternate view mentioned: that, since cats (and red foxes) have been introduced since the 1500s in North America and because they displaced other bird-eating predators (e.g. weasels, etc) the total predatory pressure on bird populations probably hasn’t changed significantly. Not being a bird expert, I have no clue where to begin to look to determine what’s supported in the literature – is there there a body of studies that indicate that cats (etc), and not maybe something even more drastic like habitat reduction, are driving songbird population declines?

  5. #5 megan
    June 2, 2009

    Every bird lover wants to blame cats when it’s humans destroying the ecology for birds, not cats. Give me call when you are dying from the plague or hanta virus from truly pestulent lifeforms of rodents as you sit looking through binoculars at the pretty birds, giving you the avian flu. More of rodents are killed by the pound than any bird that can fly and situate their nests well away from feral domestic cats. Birds are a challenge but not the norm for a wild cat. It’s equal misplaced hysteria like the mercury anti-inoculation nuts.

  6. #6 Ian
    June 2, 2009

    What bothers me about that video is that it is pure advocacy. There aren’t enough “cat sanctuaries” to handle the feral cats that are out there, and TNR programmes (from what I have read) usually try to find homes for adoptable cats. The alternative is release or euthanise, and euthanising cats is a very hard sell.

    It seems poorly researched. I have come across mention of programmes that have been monitored, but in the video you have someone speaking “from my limited experience”. There is literature out there about programmes that have successfully reduced cat populations significantly.

    With regards to the issue of carrying capacity – feral cat colonies develop where people feed them. TNR will fail if new cats enter the colony, but wouldn’t that be true of a programme that traps and doesn’t release?

    Finally, what bothers me about the video is that they talk about birds killed by cats. But what proportion of that is free-roaming domestic cats? And what proportion of those birds are sparrows and starlings and pigeons? By all means, eliminate free-roaming cats in environmentally sensitive areas. By all means, reduce feral cat populations. But use the data that’s out there and present it fairly. This sort of a message is worthy of Fox News, not of a reputable organisation.

  7. #7 Laura
    June 2, 2009

    I can’t say that I agree with killing one species to preserve another species. Both have a right to live.

    One is nature taking it’s course. The other smacks of just killing.

  8. #8 WotWot
    June 2, 2009

    Love cats. But I have chosen not to have a cat (or a dog) as a pet for over 20 years now because of the damage they wreak in my country (Australia). I live on a rural property and the amount of wildlife here is more than sufficient replacement for cats and dogs. Nothing like seeing wild wallabies and bandicoots grazing just metres from my house.

  9. #9 noboby
    June 2, 2009

    Just shoot the damn cats. They are our fault, we have to clean it up. Just as we knocked out all the wolves in the US, we now have to hunt deer to keep their population in check, something the wolves would have done.

    So here we are where we introduced a species that is ruining everything for everyone. We do the same with those giant rodents in Alabama. What are they called? The keep digging out the levies. They gotta go.

    Patrol and start shooting. Make a few jobs in a down turned economy. Bring a garbage can and a shovel.

  10. #10 noboby
    June 2, 2009

    Just shoot the damn cats. They are our fault, we have to clean it up. Just as we knocked out all the wolves in the US, we now have to hunt deer to keep their population in check, something the wolves would have done.

    So here we are where we introduced a species that is ruining everything for everyone. We do the same with those giant rodents in Alabama. What are they called? The keep digging out the levies. They gotta go.

    Patrol and start shooting. Make a few jobs in a down turned economy. Bring a garbage can and a shovel.

  11. #11 JPS
    June 2, 2009

    noboby they are called nutria, I’ve seen them in Texas too. I tend to agree with the just shoot the damn cats position. I have an indoor cat and it NEVER goes outside where it would be a menace.

  12. #12 Carrie Burrows
    June 2, 2009

    This is just sad for everyone.

  13. #13 Laurella Desborough
    June 2, 2009

    The Feral Cat colony folks are passionate about the cats but stubborn about recognizing the real damage they do. I agree that it is time to start legal proceedings against ANYONE feeding feral cats. Those cats are killing endangered species. Here in Florida they catch the baby sea turtles that hatch on the beach before the hatchlings reach the ocean. They kill baby birds by the millions in the US because most species of passerine birds leave the nests before they are well flighted. In California the feral cats EAT THE BABY EGRETS ALIVE in the egret nesting area along the Sacramento River. Cats are not natives. They don’t belong in the wild. AND if the feral cat people or others believe these cats have a RIGHT TO LIFE, then it needs to be a life INSIDE a structure where they cannot harm OUR native wildlife. Wildlife belongs to all the public and feral cats are “illegally taking” native wildlife. If people went out with guns and shot those turtles or rabbits or birds, they would go to jail. Time for the feral cat lovers to stand up and get responsible. And, I am a cat lover. I have re-homed several from the local animal control…but those cats stay INDOORS.

  14. #14 Mark
    June 2, 2009

    And at what point does it become necessary to trap, neuter, and release other animals, say humans, who are responsible for the extinction of entire species and the destruction of the general environment?

    To criticize cats as a “problem” can only come from a mind that regards itself as above looking in the mirror. Cats, and what they do, have every bit as much of a right to populate and pursue their interests as any other living thing. Except, oh course, humans, who taint the biosphere and then in the same stroke pretend to be so advanced a lifeform that their destructiveness is a sign of intelligence.

  15. #15 marne
    June 2, 2009

    I agree with Ian @ comment #6. I am an avid birder and am the owner of 3 strictly indoor cats. Feral cats are problems and at least there is an effort to try to control their population; obviously, if there was more funding for sanctuaries and shelters (does ABC, Audubon, etc provide any funding?), more of the cats could be removed and ultimately adopted.

    But owners of domesticated cats are an equal, if not more of, a problem than feral cats. Most owners think it’s OK to let their cats out, so they do. I am constantly chasing and hosing (w/ water) other people’s cats out of my yard. Interestingly, many shelters require people adopting cats to sign a contract promising not to let the cats outdoors–I signed such a contract each time I adopted my cats. At least there is an effort by animal shelters and pet adoption programs trying to educate the public that it’s not a good idea to allow cats to roam free, not just for the birds’ sake but to protect the cats’ health and well-being. I agree outdoor cats are a problem, but there needs to be more cooperative measures in place as well as education that cats will thrive and live longer if kept indoors.

  16. #16 Jo
    June 2, 2009

    @ #4: Red Foxes were not introduced to North America. They are a native species. Perhaps you meant Australia?

    The real problem with this issue is that cats are domesticated, and we view them differently then we do, say, Australian rabbits or cane toads. If you see cats as pets, then treat them as pets and make every effort to get them off the streets. If you see them as just another predator in an ecosystem, treat them the same way you’d treat any other invasive species. The neuter and release program tries to have it both ways.

    I once read that a large part of an urban coyote’s diet is cats. If you can agree that the cat population needs to be controlled, and you believe that there is nothing wrong or cruel about leaving a cat feral (the two points on which the neuter and release program seems to be based), then how can you argue that humane euthanisation is unethical?

  17. #17 Scrabcake
    June 2, 2009

    I’m going to second megan here. I’ll bet if someone did a study on how many birds were hit by cars versus killed by cats per year, we’d find yet again that humans are the issue. Humans have done far worse to birds than a plague of cats.
    Most housecats are too slow to catch any but the dumbest birds…mine used to sit on the porch and stare at the hummingbirds, drooling. The only time she ever “caught” one was when it crashed into the window and fell to the ground. I’ve had cats that have managed to grab the occasional songbird, but the number that they’ve actually caught has been really low.
    The folk-wisdom rule is that smart and fast is inversely proportional to “pretty”. I’m not sure that’s true, but I have a hard time believing that the animal rights crowd would give a crap if housecats were pruning the starling or crow populations.

  18. #18 MAL
    June 2, 2009

    @17: Nope, I meant North America. Red foxes are non-native in temperate habitats; probably introduced from European populations for fox-hunting in the southeastern US and spread from there.

  19. #19 MadScientist
    June 3, 2009

    @Scrabcake: I would suggest you don’t take Megan’s advice because it is such ignorant nonsense. Here, let me show you:

    1. “Every bird lover wants to blame cats when it’s humans destroying the ecology for birds, not cats. ”

    That’s utter nonsense. Both humans and cats do damage. Cats do a hell of a lot of damage; it seems to be instinctive for them to kill things just for fun. It is a false dichotomy, giving you the ridiculous choice of “humans vs cats” threatening birds.

    2. “Give me call when you are dying from the plague or hanta virus from truly pestulent lifeforms of rodents as you sit looking through binoculars at the pretty birds, giving you the avian flu. More of rodents are killed by the pound than any bird that can fly and situate their nests well away from feral domestic cats.”

    Written like a true ignoramus. Anyone who’s observed cats even for the relatively short period of a week would know that cat’s don’t care for killing rodents. They kill far more birds (and other wildlife) than rats and mice. The “cats kill and eat rats” is really something of a myth; perhaps they do when there’s little other choice, but everywhere I’ve traveled to I’ve seen cats preferring other food. Not to mention the bird flu is not easily contracted by humans; you’d have to eat an uncooked infected animal and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll get the disease.

    3. Birds are a challenge but not the norm for a wild cat. It’s equal misplaced hysteria like the mercury anti-inoculation nuts.

    Any of the responsible cat lovers who have posted here can vouch that this is 100% bullshit. Cats like to kill things – lizards, snakes, birds, small possums, and once in a while even rats and mice. Why are birds a “challenge” for cats? Why are they “not the norm”? That is mere ignorant hearsay. If you care to spend many hours tracking and watching cats, you’ll see that killing birds is high on the list of things cats do. I have seen feral cats, perhaps only in their 5th generation, and they are vicious killing machines; nothing like the cute cuddly things you might keep in your house. You have to remember that the small domestic cat varieties came from a region encompassing North Africa, the “Middle East”, and India. They were bred from the native wild cats and selected for their temperament; if you try to touch a wild cat and it fights rather than runs, you’ll get some really serious injuries.

  20. #20 Mike Olson
    June 3, 2009

    I’m certainly all for protecting wildlife. I also like cats. We’ve got three, all spayed or neutered. Two are quite comfortable indoors. One was picked up stray between six months and a year old. He yowls to be let out. Constantly. In the summer his dry food goes untouched and he lives on insects, rodents and birds. We live in a town of 700 surrounded by cornfields. The mice get in the house in the winter and grackles will drop their feces the length of the pool in the summer. At least until we got the one demanding outdoor cat…that is universally loved by even the most cat hating members of our family. He is friendly, likes to be petted and generally is non-destructive of property. I have a tough time with the fact this pet kills rather than eat dry food. But, he is a predator and not killing endangered species. I also worry that a raccoon, fox or coyote might get him. Again, I don’t like to disturb the enjoyment others have of wildlife…but this cats behavior is pretty similar to how humans and cats first developed companionship in the first place.

  21. #21 Jennifer Calkins
    June 3, 2009

    As an evolutionary biologist studying both avian behavior and the efficacy of trap neuter return on the control of feral cat populations this issue is of central importance to me. A few points:

    1. People have been shooting, poisoning, and otherwise removing feral cats for upwards of fifty years. Except for on the smallest islands, this approach does NOT work.

    2. Currently, there are few empirical studies of the effect of trap neuter return on population sizes of feral cats–papers tend to be projects based on ecological models and the results vary depending (of course) on the constraints and parameters. The jury is still out.

    3. There are limited data demonstrating a significant effect of feral/free-roaming cats on avian populations except for the Stephen’s Island wren–but there are data showing that removing “invasive” species can actually result in a reduction in the population of the species targeted for rescue. This is because a species such as feral cats reduces the population of rodents as well affecting avian populations and the rodent population might ultimately be more of a problem for the birds.

    4. Labeling of species such as cats, starlings, cane toads etc. as “invasive” releases us from the responsibility we should be taking for the problem by putting the blame on them. If they are “alien” or “invasive” we no longer need to approach our dealings with them in an ethical manner (if you are curious: http://jdcalkins2001.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/language-and-cats/)

    5. The fundamental issue is the pet overpopulation problem and the irresponsibility of people. Were people more responsible shelters would have room for these cats. At present 3-4 million cats and dogs (sorry I cannot find a better number right now) are euthanized annually because they arrive in shelters without space.

  22. #22 Monado
    June 3, 2009

    I believe that the spay/neuter and release program is meant to leave a non-breeding colony in place so that other cats, fertile and virile, don’t move in.

  23. #23 Scrabcake
    June 3, 2009

    I think that the crux of the biscuit here is to spay and neuter your pets, and for the love of whatever God there is or isn’t, don’t abandon them. Take them to the shelter. Give them away. Even if there’s no non-killing shelter around, most people know a crazy cat lady or two who is willing to take on just one more. When you adopt a pet you take on the responsibility to take care of the thing and that includes making arrangements for the animal should you need to give it up.
    As for letting kitty roam around outside, as long as she’s not spawning a brood of kittens every year which then go wild, and as long as you live in a safe place for a cat to be outside, I don’t see a problem with it. Yes, cats kill things. Lizards, tomato worms, rats, mice, birds, etc. That’s nature. If people fixed and didn’t abandon their pets, it wouldn’t amount to much more than hobbyist predation.
    For the record, my cats liked rodents, bugs and lizards far more than birds given from my very scientific survey of the carcasses left on the doorstep in the mornings. It’s kind of sweet in a disgusting sort of way. :P

  24. #24 Scrabcake
    June 3, 2009

    I’m not sure how anyone thought that trap neuter and release was going to work in creating sterile colonies. You can’t possibly fix all of them, and the two that you miss are going to have masses of kittens while the sterile ones die off and then you’re back where you started.
    The feral cat problem is not one that I’m sure has an easy or morally straightforward solution. It would be interesting to see any study done on their populations over time, and whether they do end up with any natural predators. It seems like as small tasty mammals, and given that there are small cat species on almost all continents with the exception of Australia, that they should have potential predators in many ecosystems.

  25. #25 Glen
    June 3, 2009

    this is why God had us invent varmint rifles

  26. #26 Mu
    June 3, 2009

    I remember years ago in Tucson, someone wrote a passionate letter to the editor of the local paper advocating the elimination of coyotes to protect the cats. Someone send a follow up, copying the exact letter but replacing coyote with cat and cat with bird. Quieted the discussion quickly.
    Any human intervention into the natural predator/prey balance leads to huge, often unintended shifts in populations. The feral cat problem is exacerbated by the “well doers” who supplement their food, preventing the population to be established at the natural sustainable food supply limit. This keeps the predator population artificially high and leads to an unsustainable hunting pressure on the prey species.

  27. #27 Luna_the_cat
    June 3, 2009

    Several years ago the BBC sponsored a project following domestic and feral cats in various places around the UK. What they found was that the most massive destruction of local wildlife, birds and rodents both, was from domestic cats left outside at night. They don’t have to kill to eat, and the better fed they are the more energy they have — and they spend it all killing for fun. Cats with energy to spare will kill anything that moves and is small enough for them to catch, and they’ll simply leave it if they aren’t hungry or it doesn’t taste good to them.

    It is NOT OK to leave a domestic cat wandering around outside, Scrabcake. Not to mention the fact that very few humans have any *real* notion of what other wildlife lives in the neighbourhood and what their cats like to kill, or how much of it they are capable of killing. What ends up on your doorstep is, in the vast majority of cases, only a fraction of what they kill.

    …And it’s not like I have a grudge against cats. It’s just that I know them.

  28. #28 mimi
    June 3, 2009

    right. blame it on the cats.
    What about all the human beings who have built skyscrapers which are so invisible to birds that they kill untold numbers of birds every year?
    what about all the birds that are killed by our automobiles?
    what about all the birds that are killed by pesticides?
    what about all the birds that are killed by loss of habitat.
    How dare you people blame the plummeting numbers of birds on CATS! at least cats just kill the slower, sicker birds.
    Our skyscrapers, cars and poisons kill them so wantonly we don’t even notice their demise.

  29. #29 mimi
    June 3, 2009

    right. blame it on the cats.
    What about all the human beings who have built skyscrapers which are so invisible to birds that they kill untold numbers of birds every year?
    what about all the birds that are killed by our automobiles?
    what about all the birds that are killed by pesticides?
    what about all the birds that are killed by loss of habitat?
    How dare you people blame the plummeting numbers of birds on CATS! at least cats just kill the slower, sicker birds.
    Our skyscrapers, cars and poisons kill them so wantonly we don’t even notice their demise.

  30. #30 mimi
    June 3, 2009

    yes, let’s kill the cats. What about all the human beings who have built skyscrapers which are so invisible to birds that they kill untold numbers of birds every year?
    what about all the birds that are killed by our automobiles?
    what about all the birds that are killed by pesticides?
    what about all the birds that are killed by loss of habitat.
    How dare you people blame the plummeting numbers of birds on CATS! at least cats just kill the slower, sicker birds.
    Our skyscrapers, cars and poisons kill them so wantonly we don’t even notice their demise.

  31. #31 Mike Olson
    June 3, 2009

    1. I’d have to agree with the poster who suggests domestic cats who are left outside have more energy to hunt. My understanding is that cats brains have different areas devoted to hunting and hunger satiation. Therefore even when full they feel compelled to hunt. I disagree with your conclusion however. In the case of this single cat I was discussing, my observation is that he prefers what he hunts to what we provide. He isn’t gaining any energy.
    2. I don’t think you should be hunting cats or using varmint rifles. I love cats, they are amazing creatures. But, clearly I can’t stop you. I’d only ask that as a good predator you eat your kill. I’m thinking a mangy, underfed feral cat would probably be kinda stringy. But, if you can eat it, go ahead.

  32. #32 mimi
    June 3, 2009

    yes, let’s kill the cats. What about all the human beings who have built skyscrapers which are so invisible to birds that they kill untold numbers of birds every year?
    what about all the birds that are killed by our automobiles?
    what about all the birds that are killed by pesticides?
    what about all the birds that are killed by loss of habitat.
    How dare you people blame the plummeting numbers of birds on CATS! at least cats just kill the slower, sicker birds.
    Our skyscrapers, cars and poisons kill them so wantonly and we don’t even notice their demise.

  33. #33 BirdAdvocate
    June 3, 2009

    Domestic cats are a pet species which has evolved to rely on humans over thousands of years. This makes their abandonment or re-abandonment animal cruelty and inhumane. Their presence outdoors is entirely an environmental issue, not an animal welfare one. There is nothing compassionate, non-lethal, nor humane about their murder of our wildlife, I’ve watched it in my own yard for years. Anyone abandoning them or enabling them to murder protected wildlife should be prosecuted.
    It will take a committed organization of birders, biologists, ecologists, and other concerned citizens to overcome the pandering and myths of the cat enablers and apologists.

  34. #34 Mike Olson
    June 3, 2009

    I’d say domestic cats are alot closer to the wild cats they evolved from than any domestic dog. Having said that, I really think you’ve gotten caught up in your own rhetoric. “Enabling them to *murder* protected wildlife…” You’ve anthropomorphized a predatory animal into a wanton serial killer and a prey species into a helpless innocent in need of our protection. I may in fact identify with cats, but I don’t go so far as to label even the people who intentionally kill them as murderers. Idiots maybe. Cruel, heartless bastards, without a doubt. But, murderers? Nah!

  35. #35 BirdAdvocate
    June 3, 2009

    I will accept they are idiots. Cruel, heartless bastards, too, I still think they are murderers though. We have to fight fire with fire. The pet enablers think they have words like “compassion, non-lethal, and humane” patented, and use them incessantly on our politicians.
    Remember Frank Luntz, the speech coach Rove used to teach the GOP to frame their discussions? You could get the votes of an entire forum of birders with a closeup picture of the remnants of a clutch of murdered fledglings. The politicians have to be reminded feral cats are destructive abandoned pets.

  36. #36 Luna_the_cat
    June 4, 2009

    Don’t get me wrong, though, I am ABSOLUTELY NOT advocating hunting cats, either. There are arguments for shooting feral cats, in small, isolated and protected wildlife sanctuaries where there is both a need to keep them out and a possibility of doing so. (Even so, I still don’t like it.)

    A better management system in most places, I would have thought, was doing as they do in Australia and penalising cat owners who let their cats roam. And on the feral side, it would probably be far more effective to capture feral cats and subsidise additional shelters to take care of them until they are either rehomed or euthanised. (I prefer no-kill shelters, but realise they aren’t always possible.)

    To a large extent cats ARE a problem that humans have created, by not neutering pets and dumping pets. I really do wish there were a way of tracking people who dump pets and punishing them severely.

  37. #37 pearlsperson
    June 4, 2009

    In 2007 Audubon published a major research paper called “Common Birds in Decline”. In it they stated the reasons for declining bird numbers as intensified farming techniques, logging, urban sprawl, industrial development, pesticides and loss of wet lands. The paper did not mention cats!

    Going to the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds website one can find this “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, (by cats) there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide. This may be surprising, but many millions of birds die naturally every year, mainly through starvation, disease, or other forms of predation. There is evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly birds.”

    ”Prof. Daniel Klem, Jr.(Bird Observer Vol 34, 2006)”Even considering the remarkable number attributable to cats, this figure is more than likely to be far less than the annual kill at glass. Further, cats are active predators that most often capture vulnerable prey, while sheet glass is an indiscriminate killer that takes the strong as well as the weak and is astronomically more abundant than cats in the environment.”
    Sadly, if all the feral cats were removed and all domestic cats were kept indoors, the bird population would continue to drop, because it’s human caused habitat destruction that is destroying the bird population. It’s a people problem, not a cat problem.

  38. #38 pearlsperson
    June 4, 2009

    In 2007 Audubon published a major research paper called “Common Birds in Decline”. In it they stated the reasons for declining bird numbers as intensified farming techniques, logging, urban sprawl, industrial development, pesticides and loss of wet lands. The paper did not mention cats!

    Going to the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds website one can find this “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, (by cats) there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide. This may be surprising, but many millions of birds die naturally every year, mainly through starvation, disease, or other forms of predation. There is evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly birds.”

    ”Prof. Daniel Klem, Jr.(Bird Observer Vol 34, 2006)”Even considering the remarkable number attributable to cats, this figure is more than likely to be far less than the annual kill at glass. Further, cats are active predators that most often capture vulnerable prey, while sheet glass is an indiscriminate killer that takes the strong as well as the weak and is astronomically more abundant than cats in the environment.”
    Sadly, if all the feral cats were removed and all domestic cats were kept indoors, the bird population would continue to drop, because it’s human caused habitat destruction that is destroying the bird population. It’s a people problem, not a cat problem.

  39. #39 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    pearlsperson, you forgot to mention that Audubon also cites in the 2007 state of the birds, invasive, non-native animals and plants – the domestic cat falls under that.

    Take the least storm petrel or the Florida scrub jay – both cite cats as a threat. One would have to look at the specific species listed to see exactly what conservation challenges there are, but make no mistake – cats are part of the equation.

    Further, take a look at the first US State of the Birds 2009 – a joint effort of government wildlife agencies and conservation groups – they studied 40 years of data and concluded that, yes, cats are indeed, part of the problem:

    http://www.stateofthebirds.org/challenges/invasive-species

    You are correct in noting that glass (window strikes) kills many birds, maybe as many as one billion, but that does not mean we should ignore the impact of cats.

    Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. That does not mean we ignore breast cancer. On the contrary, we focus on ALL issues for optimum health and well-being. Same deal for the environment.

    There are only so many isolated and fragmented patches of habitat left. Too often what is otherwise suitable habitat for breeding and resident birds is also occupied by cats.

    Here is a bit more info about the cat as a prime cause of decline in the house sparrow and starling population in the UK:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scientists-blame-cats-for-decline-of-sparrows-650138.html

  40. #40 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    This is not about blaming the cats. The cats are most certainly not to blame – it is their instinct to hunt. The blame lies with humans – any human who lets his cat roam freely, or dumps it after not wanting it any more, or releases one back to the wild through TNR – all these HUMAN actions result in the destruction of native wildlife.

    You can clear cut an acre of woods or sustain dozens of cats there – either way, that habitat has been degraded.

    The American Veterinary Medical Assn has stated that any reduction through TNR is INSIGNIFICANT. Think about this, there are an estimated 60 to 100 million ferals. Add up all the TNR all over the country and we won’t even get to one percent of the population as having gone through TNR – that would be 600,000 cats if we use the lower estimate!

    Operation Catnip, probably the country’s largest spay-neuter clinic devoted just to ferals, since 1998, has done about 25,000 surgeries. That sounds impressive, but is a drop in the bucket. TNR is a bandage for a gushing wound. We won’t change the behavior of people if we condone outdoor lives and deaths for cats.

  41. #41 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    This is not about blaming the cats. The cats are most certainly not to blame – it is their instinct to hunt. The blame lies with humans – any human who lets his cat roam freely, or dumps it after not wanting it any more, or releases one back to the wild through TNR – all these HUMAN actions result in the destruction of native wildlife.

    You can clear cut an acre of woods or sustain dozens of cats there – either way, that habitat has been degraded.

    The American Veterinary Medical Assn has stated that any reduction through TNR is INSIGNIFICANT. Think about this, there are an estimated 60 to 100 million ferals. Add up all the TNR all over the country and we won’t even get to one percent of the population as having gone through TNR – that would be 600,000 cats if we use the lower estimate!

    Operation Catnip, probably the country’s largest spay-neuter clinic devoted just to ferals, since 1998, has done about 25,000 surgeries. That sounds impressive, but is a drop in the bucket. TNR is a bandage for a gushing wound. We won’t change the behavior of people if we condone outdoor lives and deaths for cats.

  42. #42 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    pearlsperson, you forgot to mention that Audubon also cites invasive, non-native animals and plants – the domestic cat falls under that.

    Take the least storm petrel or the Florida scrub jay – both cite cats as a threat. One would have to look at the specific species listed to see exactly what conservation challenges there are, but make no mistake – cats are part of the equation.

    Further, take a look at the first US State of the Birds 2009 – a joint effort of government wildlife agencies and conservation groups – they studied 40 years of data and concluded that, yes, cats are indeed, part of the problem:

    http://www.stateofthebirds.org/challenges/invasive-species

    You are correct in noting that glass (window strikes) kills many birds, maybe as many as one billion, but that does not mean we should ignore the impact of cats.

    Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. That does not mean we ignore breast cancer. On the contrary, we focus on ALL issues for optimum health and well-being. Same deal for the environment.

    There are only so many isolated and fragmented patches of habitat left. Too often what is otherwise suitable habitat for breeding and resident birds is also occupied by cats.

    Here is a bit more info about the cat as a prime cause of decline in the house sparrow and starling population in the UK:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scientists-blame-cats-for-decline-of-sparrows-650138.html

  43. #43 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    A few other things to keep in mind… The population of the domestic cat has tripled in the last 40 years. Humans and cats may have had a relationship for a very long time, but the population has reached epidemic status. The out of control population of the domestic cat is vastly larger than ALL native predators put together. A single cat can extirpate native fauna from a given site.

    There is no scientific evidence that TNR is effective in reducing the cat population through natural attrition. If there is a study to be cited, please do so.

    For information about cat predation on wildlife, public health issues, etc., see here:

    http://tnrrealitycheck.com/references.asp

    Cats do not defend their territorities. They do not prevent other cats from joining the colonies. Migrants find the food, pet owners dump cats at colonies, even colony caregivers relocate cats into existing colonies.

    Good point Jo – the TNR folks try to have their cake and eat it too. They want the cats to be treated as if they are a natural part of the environment – even a form of wildlife, until the suggestion is made that they be treated like other wildlife (don’t feed them and/or have open season on them) – then they backpeddle.

    The reality is that these are domestic unsocialized cats – not wild animals. They depend on humans.

  44. #44 Linda
    June 9, 2009

    Mike, #21, knowingly letting your cat outside to feast on birds could be considered a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. How do you know he is not killing threatened or endangered species? Do you observe him constantly? Does he roam off your property?

    #22 – Ferals do need removal, just as other non-native species. A problem does not arise because cats were removed from a particular island, but because other non-natives like rabbits were not removed also and should have been. And this is not a blame game. If something is spreading like wildfire, it is invasive and needs to be controlled – TNR is not the way to go – there is no control.

    #24 – it is not nature when cats are in the environment – they are not a natural part of any North American ecosystem – they are a human engineered product – we domesticated a wild cat, let it roam unaltered and now we have a serious problem.

  45. #45 BirdAdvocate
    June 13, 2009

    I have been saying it for years, people! The cat fanciers are united, we have to unite, too! How did it become such a sin and crime to dare to wish bad things on little fuzzy-wuzzy kitties? Thousands of cat enablers wrote our politicians complaining! Those of us opposing them have to make it very clear domestic pets should never be allowed to prey on our natural fauna!

  46. #46 Linda
    June 14, 2009

    Domestic pets should never be allowed to prey on natural fauna, BUT, no bad wishes here for the felines either! That needs to be made clear, BirdAdvocate – my wish is that every cat gets a home. That is not possible, but many of them can be socialized for adoption or re-homed or given sanctuary or fenced in. Those that cannot, euthanasia to me is a compassionate outcome for these cats. What I see as a bad thing, as re-abandonment, as an act of cruelty, is the method of TNR because these cats, regardless of the wildlife issue, should not be living and dieing on the streets or in the wild. That is not an act of compassion to release them back out there.

  47. #47 Carol
    June 21, 2009

    What about the fact that if feral cats are caught and neutered/spayed and released over time their population will degrease as they will no longer breed and repopulate but if you let them continue un-neutered/spayed they will continue to multiply and the end result is the less cats that will be killing birds. I know from experience as I’m dealing with that issue right now when 3 years ago a neighbor renter went off and left cats and they had kittens and those kittens had kittens and so and so on and some of these females are having as many as 3 litters a year so now my property and the property of my neighbors is being over run and they are tearing insulation out from under my house and doing other damage too not only to birds, so right now I know of at least 13 kittens that were born in various buildings on my land and I have never put on grain of food out for any of them, I also have seen at least 15 to 20 wild feral cats on my land or crossing over it, if I live trap them and take them to our local shelter they said it would cost me $15 per cat so I’m taking them to a free spay/neuter clinic who wants to cut down on the number of feral cats and by stopping them from breeding common sense says the population will degrease in the next year or 2. I am catching the kittens, socializing them giving them shots and finding responsible homes for them. This plan does work if you give it a little time.

  48. #48 joezy
    December 15, 2009

    There will be no TNR once we have national/state laws that will hold cat owners accountable for there cats.it is in the best interst of the cat-humans-wildlife safety and health to have accountability laws for cat owners. it is our human responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone involved-not just the cats.no cat laws=anarchy within communitys and division between neighbors.TNR IS ONLY A BAND AID- TNR does not benefit the well being of ALL involved. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL WORK IS HAVING owner ACCOUNTABILITY LAWS FOR CAT OWNERS.OWLS AND HAWKS WERE CREATED TO TAKE CARE OF THE RODENT POPULATION. cat owners need to supervise and care enough about there cats to not allow them to roam IT IS NEGLECTFUL TO ALLOW YOUR CATS TO ROAM WHEN YOU WILLINGLY KNOW THEY ARE AT RISK AS WELL AS YOUR NEIGHBORS AND WILDLIFES HEALTH AND SAFETY. as well as allowing free roaming cats to desrtroy propery costing people thousands of dollars in repairs,This is irresponsible and poor citizenship and lack of respect for the communitys you live in.We must hold cat owners responsible for there cats it is right, it will end the cat issues.weeding out good vs neglectful cat owners as well.