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July 11, 2011 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Cats are apparently the culprits behind several avian extinctions worldwide. So, are cats bad for the environment?
posted by peripathetic (138 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Absolutely. Outdoor cats are a blight.
posted by Justinian at 5:05 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Martini, my cute little kitty, sits purring by the window as I read this, thinking, "go to sleep, human, go to sleep...."
posted by digitalprimate at 5:05 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are Cats Humans Bad for the Environment?
posted by ericb at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [25 favorites]


My mother is annoyingly partisan about letting cats outside, saying it's cruel and unnatural to make them live indoors. Um...sorry, there is nothing natural about domestic cats in the first place. Luckily they are too obese (from unnatural food) to hurt anything. The real danger is the feral cat colonies. There are several in my neighborhood in Queens and they are first-rate hunters.
posted by melissam at 5:07 PM on July 11, 2011


wur init togeda
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:10 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just de-claw them. Problem solved. Right, Metafilter?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's their laser beam eyes.
posted by stormpooper at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


We had a feral cat problem in my neighborhood due to a "crazy cat guy" that moved in next to us. At last count we say 30+ cats lounging around his house. Cat calls all night :( Cat fights most of the night :( Cat pee on your cars... on the windows. Not a fun time. He had registered with the city as an official feral cat shelter (wtf??!!) . Maybe they were all neutered (they all weren't - cat litters of dying babies every summer) but the screeching and the stinks were intolerable.

The police can;t do anything. Animal control wouldn't either. So I bought a trap and started trapping o my property. I just drove off and released them in the woods several miles away. 10 days and 20 cats later and a lot of the problem was gone - but not all. It turned out that he was just renting the house so I contacted the owner who had no ider that his home had been turned into a feral cat shelter. The renter was gone within a few months and the owner was out over 20,000 dollars for repairs to his house (carpet, floors and walls had to be torn out). I happen to like cats but these feral cats are just a nuisance - as bad as, if not worse, than a rat infestation.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, spay or neuter your pets.

I'm not sure of the environmental argument here though. They seem to be implying that having a couple extra billion birds in the US is good for the environment, but they don't give any reason why. Certainly they're a problem on small islands, but they haven't convinced me that they're ruining the diverse ecology of the US suburb.
posted by demiurge at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


THEY PROTECT MY GRAIN!
posted by exlotuseater at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well it's no mistake that a group of kittens is called a litter.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:14 PM on July 11, 2011


Meet Tibbles, the resourceful lighthouse kitty who wiped out a species of bird. (with a little help from her feral friends)
posted by nicebookrack at 5:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes they are.

How can you justify letting your cats outside? Keeping them inside is only cruel for the cats, not for the rest of the animal kingdom. If you think keeping a cat indoors is too cruel for the cat, then don't fucking have a cat.

Keeping a spayed cat in a barn or granary, where they'd rather feed on plentiful rodents than on harder to catch birds? Good for the cat, good for the people. These are the happiest cats I've known, and I've known plenty.

To all the people whose cats I killed when I was a teenager trying to get local wild birds to nest in my house? I am still not sorry. Maybe today I'd find a more humane way to do it, but all I had was a crossbow.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 5:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like cats. I loathe the people who let their cats roam outside. Not only will they kill birds in your yard, but they move onto everyone else's. And given the fact cats are pretty content (and much healthier) staying indoors keeping them there is not cruelty.

(and has anyone ever met the nutters who think that neutering cats is evil? My sister took in a stray tiny kitten that end up on her back door one day and after she had it neutered had to hide from a woman who fed the feral cats around there who thought she had ruined its life.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


MUHAAAAHHAAA!
posted by clavdivs at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew they ruined my lawn by crapping on it, but the birds... Damn.
posted by Splunge at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2011


Just de-claw them. Problem solved.

Cats don't kill with their claws. They kill with their teeth. De-tooth them.
posted by desjardins at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, maybe if you're a flightless island bird, evolution isn't doing you any favors.
posted by maryr at 5:24 PM on July 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Cats don't wipe out bird species, people wipe out bird species.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My cats choose to live indoors. On a farm. One of them is terrified of birds, even on TV.
posted by grounded at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2011


I don't approve of outside cats either. Having worked at an animal shelter and having had the dubious pleasure of photographing dead animals that were brought to us in the event their owners came looking for them, I can say that letting them roam free to be hit by cars, eaten by gators, mauled by rabid raccoons, sickened by diseases contracted from other free-roaming cats, and poisoned by sickos who leave poison out for stray animals is a lot crueler than keeping them safe and healthy indoors.
posted by Gator at 5:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Bad for the environment? I'm half serious, but natural selection is part of the environment - if not for cats, all we'd have would be weakling flightless Kiwi birds, or something.
posted by xdvesper at 5:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


looking over the figures, it's obvious to me how we must save the birds - we start at the top of the list and work our way down

first of all are the cats killing 1 billion birds - obviously, the best solution is to keep them all indoors

second of all are 970 million birds flying into buildings - obviously, the best solution is to get rid of buildings

but then there won't be any indoors to keep the cats in

hmmmmm
posted by pyramid termite at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm half serious, but natural selection is part of the environment

This isn't half-serious, it is completely un-serious. We've eliminated almost all of cats' natural predators. How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?
posted by Justinian at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?

Well, there was young Ayn Rand and God, but apparently he stopped.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:31 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter: 1 billion birds - obviously, the best solution is to keep them all indoors
posted by Splunge at 5:32 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?

Wolves, no; foxes, raccoons and coyotes (in the US), yes. Yet another reason to keep your cat indoors.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


the Lower Florida Keys marsh rabbit is a federal endangered species with a remaining population of about 100 to 300. A 1999 study found free-roaming cats were responsible for 53 percent of the deaths of these rabbits in one year, and a 2002 study indicated the species could be extinct within two or three decades. (link)

Officially felis catus is an invasive species when in the wild. (is there anywhere it is non-invasive?)

Bad for the environment? I'm half serious, but natural selection is part of the environment

If natural selection was really in effect, there would be larger predators that would chase and eat feral cats, and there would be no bowls of cat food left out by well-meaning neighbors.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:34 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I bought a trap and started trapping o my property. I just drove off and released them in the woods several miles away.

Unfortunately this really doesn't work. The best solution for feral cats is trap-neuter-release programs. When the cat is released in its own territory, it prevents other cats from filling the niche created by space and by "benevolent" neighbors leaving out food and water.

Many vets offer very low-cost (or even free) spay/neuters for cats brought in as part of a TNR program.
posted by muddgirl at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, love cats but keeping them indoors is better for both the cats and the world. Its only cruel to keep them indoors if you can't keep them entertained.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wolves, no; foxes, raccoons and coyotes (in the US), yes.

Yeah, but the populations of those species are not subsidized to the massive extent that the cat population is. There are far more outdoor and feral cats than would naturally survive if they had to hunt for all their food.

If coyotes don't catch prey, they starve. If an outdoor cat doesn't catch prey, he cries to momma who opens a can of tuna.
posted by Justinian at 5:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


If natural selection was really in effect, there would be larger predators that would chase and eat feral cats

As Pallas Athena points out, there absolutely are predators that chow down on feral cats. My mother helps with the feral cat colony at CSULB (which, incidentally, they've managed to cut down to something like 1/4 or 1/5 of its original size, thanks to adoption & TNR), and coyotes have killed several cats; even as I type, they're trying to figure out what the heck to do with the two oldest cats, who probably can't outrun the current coyote regime. In my neck of the woods, upstate NY, cats get killed by foxes &c.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just de-claw them. Problem solved.

Cats don't kill with their claws. They kill with their teeth. De-tooth them.


A cat down my street has three legs. It's not very agile and probably couldn't catch a thing. Now I'm not suggesting we de-leg cats, as that would be cruel. However, we certainly could lower their agility so that no cat is capable of eating anything that isn't already dead. This can easily be achieved by 1) mandating the ownership of cats only in pairs, and 2) that should you wish to allow them outdoors, they be tied together with some string or an old shoelace. Cats thus not only enjoy the benefits of the outdoors, they have a minimal impact on the environment, AND they have company at all times. Cats are very sociable, they'll thank you for it.
posted by Jehan at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Natural selection isn't natural when people intervene.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2011


Unfortunately this really doesn't work. The best solution for feral cats is trap-neuter-release programs. When the cat is released in its own territory, it prevents other cats from filling the niche created by space and by "benevolent" neighbors leaving out food and water.

The article in the FPP claims that these programs actually don't work, requiring 71% of cats to be neutered if any real effect would be seen.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2011


Unfortunately this really doesn't work. The best solution for feral cats is trap-neuter-release programs.

That doesn't really help the birds any. You know, I am not horrified at the idea of putting down strays. Putting them to sleep is humane and cost-effective, as opposed to the elaborate cat-colony programs that allow them to continue to exist in a pet/not pet limbo, but with a definite effect on the local wildlife.

We get so weird about pets in this country. We have this fucked-up, children's-tv-special idea that living in the wild is like a cat's dream, that there is an empty wild for them to live in, or at least, a residential neighborhood with some fields and dumpsters, who will it hurt? Never mind that even a neutered and fed feral stray's life is not that long, and likely to be full of dangers and untreated illnesses and at the end, a non-gentle death.

But we're ok with death by car or being eaten by a coyote or infection from a piece of glass in the paw, that's natural. Death by injection, now, that makes us barbarians.
posted by emjaybee at 5:47 PM on July 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


So I bought a trap and started trapping o my property. I just drove off and released them in the woods several miles away.

Unfortunately this really doesn't work.


Au contraire. One year later and we are feral cat free in my area of the neighborhood. It definitely accomplished the objective.

Many vets offer very low-cost (or even free) spay/neuters for cats brought in as part of a TNR program.

Well I could have spent 40 bucks on a humane cat trap or 20 x $40 = 800 bucks neutering them - which by the way does NOT solve the the cat noise at night or the peeing and pooping on your property, cars , etc. Respectfully, I don't care about feral cats at all - my only interest is in stopping the problems that they were causing us.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2011


The article in the FPP claims that these programs actually don't work, requiring 71% of cats to be neutered if any real effect would be seen.

This is certainly achievable within one community.

That doesn't really help the birds any.

Well, it certainly won't help in this generation, but trapping and relocating the cats a few miles won't help now OR later.

my only interest is in stopping the problems that they were causing us.

And my point is that as long as they are being fed, the cats (or different cats) will return. You're absolutely right - the best way is to figure out who is feeding them and get him or her to stop, one way or another. Of course, your neighbor will find another rental house and keep up his practices, so all you really accomplished was "not in my backyard."
posted by muddgirl at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Trap-Bell-Release. Did everybody forget that you're supposed to put bells on cats so they can't sneak up on poor little birdies?
posted by zengargoyle at 5:57 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


get me rewrite
posted by thelonius at 5:58 PM on July 11, 2011


As Pallas Athena points out, there absolutely are predators that chow down on feral cats.

See my follow-up. There are predators, yes. But we've culled their numbers and there are not nearly enough to keep the population of ferals and outdoors cats down to the levels they would naturally be without subsidized feeding by humans.
posted by Justinian at 6:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got home from work just a little while ago. Sylvester, the goofy black-and-white younger brother of my two cats, was waiting in the light drizzle for me. He meowed at me as I came up the walk. I unlocked the front door and he ran inside to get supper. (Always hungry, that one.)

I looked down at the porch and saw the fresh moist pawprints leading into the house.

That's my argument for letting my cats outside.
posted by Trurl at 6:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Poet_Lariat: "Au contraire. One year later and we are feral cat free in my area of the neighborhood. It definitely accomplished the objective."

Dwight Schrute?
posted by Splunge at 6:08 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's my argument for letting my cats outside.

I'm dum. Please to splain.
posted by Gator at 6:18 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm dum. Please to splain.

Squee. I guess. Fuck the wildlife.
posted by maxwelton at 6:25 PM on July 11, 2011


Squee. I guess. Fuck the wildlife.

Pretty much.

But if I ever get hauled before the Wildlife Hague, in their list of indictments against me, my having kept domesticated cats in an urban neighborhood is so insignificant a charge compared to my having lived life as an American consumer that I doubt they would bother with the extra paperwork.
posted by Trurl at 6:43 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Jonathan Franzen, a professed birdwatcher, referred to outdoor domestic cats as "the sociopaths of the pet world" towards the end of Freedom in a side-story where a new housing development introduced murderous felines to a hard-fought songbird sanctuary. The disgruntled greener-than-Greenpeace main character at first tried passing out neoprene bibs to humanely prevent the cats from catching wild birds, but eventually resorted to feline kidnapping. (link)
posted by marco_nj at 6:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?

My dog used to kill cats on a regular basis. Next you'll be asking who kills the feral dog population...
posted by xdvesper at 6:46 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Diary of a sociopath.
posted by homunculus at 6:50 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


My cats were feral alley cats living under the neighbor's porch, now they're fat, happy and strictly indoor cats who keep my house free of mice, kibble and unshredded upholstery.
posted by octothorpe at 6:54 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why millions and millions of dollars, pounds and euros can be raised for research into rare exotic diseases while not a farthing is spent to explore the insidious curse of toxoplasmosis. It's clear that there's a lot of big money working behind the scenes, and it's easy to imagine the sinister hand of icanhascheezburger.com manipulating public awareness.
posted by fredludd at 7:00 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a recent Radiolab episode linked elsewhere today that goes into the history of the Kirtland's Warbler. Basically, 50 years ago the warbler (which lives almost exclusively around Michigan) was almost extinct, due not so much to humans (or cats) as to Cowbirds.

(For anyone who might not know, cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, where their chicks will generally hatch first and grow quickly, thus outcompeting the other chicks for food, and often starving the other chicks or just kicking them out of the nest entirely.)

So they set about killing the cowbird population by the thousands, via suffocation, which is a program which continues to this day. But it didn't bring back the Kirkland's Warbler population, because forest fire prevention had been so successful in the area that there was very limited new growth forest around anymore, which was the birds' natural habitat. So they started a program of prescribed burns, one of which got out of control and wiped out surrounding homes, killing one fireman.

The Kirkland's Warbler population has since largely recovered. It is a beautiful bird, and I'm glad that it is no longer threatened with extinction. (The episode presents a case for the bird being fairly controversial in the area, as a result of the unintended consequences of saving it. The deceased's family want to make it the state bird, however.)

I don't know. Listening to that and reading this. Maybe I just don't care about birds as much as I should.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


In 195 millions years there will be flying animals whose ancestors were cats. So who cares?
posted by TheTingTangTong at 7:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Compared to all the other expensive ways to protect birds, keeping your cat indoors seems like a rather painless and cheap option that harms neither you nor your cat. If you feel the need for wet paw prints, just stick its feet in a bucket of water. That way you also get a free show of feline grumpitude.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:08 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless I'm mistaken, housecats aren't really even native in the US/Americas. Outdoor cats are also more likely to end up injured from fighting, or contracting FIV, which is a pretty big deal.
I'm a backyard birdwatcher as well, and the fact that cats are amazingly silled at killing makes me not want them around, but the two former excuses leave me baffled as to why cat-lovers would want them out of the house in the first place.
posted by Gilbert at 7:08 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I'll add that yes, please, spay and neuter your cats, and if you can, help with programs to do T/N/R if you're near a feral cat population. But I won't go so far as to call domestic cats unnatural. They evolved in synergy with humans, yes, as did dogs. But the ones dependent upon humans to feed them are not really what is causing avian extinctions. Most of those cats were never taught hunting skills by their mother, if the mother even knew them. So yeah, keep them indoors (or better yet, if you live in an urban environment, it's great to have an upper-story apartment with a patio or balcony) but it's the feral cat populations that are causing extinctions, and as has been said here, the problem there is not that cats are assholes (seriously, every animal is the sociopath of the animal kingdom. They're animals.) but that their natural predators are greatly diminished.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:13 PM on July 11, 2011


We've eliminated almost all of cats' natural predators. How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?

We have a nice coyote "problem" around here, and it seems to keep the feral cat population near zero, and has scared owners of outdoor cats into keeping them indoors.

As a bonus, the coyotes have driven the cottontails out of the ravines and into our fenced backyards. (Yay! Bunnies!)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:13 PM on July 11, 2011


I kinda think birds suck. They never shut up and all they're doing is locating each other so they can breed. So you might hear birdsong, when I hear, "Wanna fuck?" Vermin of the sky. If you had that many mice around your house, you would freak out.
posted by CarlRossi at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is there a way to physically (and cheaply) cat-proof trees, bushes and gardens so birds can have better protection?
posted by amusem at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2011


To make matters worse cat sh*t may be to blame for the decline in sea otters in California
posted by specialk420 at 7:20 PM on July 11, 2011


I used to have cats. They died and I never got new cats because I am allergic to cats and dogs. I kept my cats indoors.
There was a time a small family of Gerald lived in my yard. The horrible winter of '96 killed off the entire family. I could not bring them in. I already had two house cats.
De-clawing or taking out cats teeth means they can't defend themselves.
You don't want them hunting, figure out a way to bring them in or trap
and euthanize them. The whole trap and release concept is worthless and actually cruel. Those cats get hit by cars, mauled by loose dogs, picked up by dog fight 'trainers' to give their dogs a taste of blood.
Cats as we know them are native to Egypt, the Libyan deserts, Ethiopia and Arabia. Everywhere else cats are invasive.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:26 PM on July 11, 2011


I like cats and fogs, but live on an island where there are tons of strays and spaying and neutering are uncommon. It is sad for both the pets and native species, some of which are endemic to this 87 sq km rock. It would be impossible to get rid of cats and dogs as pets, but really all the strays should be put down. It's more humane and ecologically sound. Unfortunately, more people would rather feed a suffering cat occasionally than kill it to save lizards and birds.
posted by snofoam at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the graphic we can save just as many birds by eliminating buildings and power lines. There's your solution.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 7:30 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: all we're doing is locating each other so we can breed.
posted by Gilbert at 7:45 PM on July 11, 2011


I thought we were playing an elaborate game of Marco Polo.
posted by Gator at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


>As Pallas Athena points out, there absolutely are predators that chow down on feral cats.

See my follow-up. There are predators, yes. But we've culled their numbers and there are not nearly enough to keep the population of ferals and outdoors cats down to the levels they would naturally be without subsidized feeding by humans.


Here in Maine, what keeps kitties indoors (or should) is the fisher, a member of the weasel family and a highly skilled predator (it is "the only predator specially adapted for taking down porcupines"). Though endangered in the Pacific Northwest, the fisher population in the easten U.S. has benefited from reintroduction programs and restrictions on trapping.
posted by virago at 7:50 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a bonus, the coyotes have driven the cottontails out of the ravines and into our fenced backyards. (Yay! Bunnies!)

I see that you do not grow vegetables, then.
posted by emjaybee at 7:51 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a time a small family of Gerald lived in my yard.

Autocorrect wins again!
posted by zeptoweasel at 8:01 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I kinda think birds suck. They never shut up and all they're doing is locating each other so they can breed. So you might hear birdsong, when I hear, "Wanna fuck?" Vermin of the sky. If you had that many mice around your house, you would freak out.

I don't know. Listening to that and reading this. Maybe I just don't care about birds as much as I should.


Wow, MetaFilter is amazing. I just discovered a new topic that I'll have to do my best to stay away from. Damn. Who the fuck would figure it?
posted by Splunge at 8:11 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My father hates cats. This is not unrelated to his love of songbirds. He is also an expert marksman. This means that stray cats are not a problem in his neighborhood. Stray dogs are also not a problem.

He is not alone in this - there's a thing in rural areas called the 3-S treatment - shoot, shovel, and shut up.

If you love your pets you'll keep them indoors.
posted by winna at 8:12 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


THE CATPOCALYPSE IS NIGH
posted by XMLicious at 8:16 PM on July 11, 2011


THE CATPOCALYPSE IS NIGH

THE EPIC STRUGGLE CEILING CAT AND BASEMENT CAT SHALL COMMENCE.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There used to be a lot of feral cats around my place but a few years ago a pair of Swainson's hawks started nesting in my trees so I imagine this is the last thing most of those cats saw.
posted by the_artificer at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2011


If you love your father you'll keep him away from my cat, because I won't kill him quickly. I will leave his head on your porch to show you what a good boy I am, though.

I'm sure that would make you the belle of the ball! Undoubtedly the cars, stray dogs, birds of prey and diseases that may also attack your wandering pet will be traced to their lairs and beheaded as well. Of course, the cat will still be dead, but hey, it's more important that it be free to wander the streets than to be alive and safe.

I'm not sure how you behead diseases (or cars?), but I'm sure you're clever enough to figure it out.
posted by winna at 8:30 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is not alone in this - there's a thing in rural areas called the 3-S treatment - shoot, shovel, and shut up.

People around here do that too. Mostly they're sociopaths who have found an outlet to be needlessly cruel while alienating most of their neighbors.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:33 PM on July 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


Ok, let's clear this up:

1) Natural selection is happening everywhere all the time to everything that lives.

2) Humans are a product of natural selection. Our behaviour, the shit we build, the animals we breed and the chemicals we spew all result from the processes of natural selection that created us. The changes we make to the environment cause natural selection in other organisms. We are nature. Everything we do is natural.

3) Cats still suck.
posted by klanawa at 8:33 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


My Cody is a real pussy. First thing in the morning, he sits by the door and howls loudly until I let him out. When he's out he just finds a comfortable patch somewhere and lays there to watch the world go by. He seems to have no interest in chasing birds. They'll just walk right past him & he won't even get up. He might make his bird noises and occasionally watches intently when they're on a window ledge that he can't reach.
posted by mike3k at 8:34 PM on July 11, 2011


You cannot take my cats away. They're mine, and I keep them indoors, and if they ever get out and kill a bird I'll be sad, but I also understand that cats kill birds so if I were a bird I'd stay the hell away from cats, seeing as how I'd have wings and could fly.

Don't blame the cats for the stupidity of birds who, eve if cats did not exist, would still be flying into windows and turbines and dying. For all we know, a huge percentage of birds are just suicidal. Seriously, we've domesticated cats, arguably overfed and interbred them over the years, and yet they still catch birds and kill them in the wild? What have the birds been doing all this time, eating berries from the stupid tree?

But I am sad that, since dinosaurs evolved into birds, and cats are killing off entire species of birds, cats are therefore responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. That's the transitive property, bitches. I learned that in math class.

/hamburger/

I do like kittehs, though.
posted by misha at 8:38 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Mostly they're sociopaths who have found an outlet to be needlessly cruel while alienating most of their neighbors.

Not to say that shooting cats is fine, but I think the real sociopaths are the people who poison animals, sometimes tossing poison into people's yards (that seems to be more of a thing with dog-killers, though.) We lost a dog this way when I was young and he died horribly before we could get him to the vet.

Misha, as for cats and dinosaurs...well, I've often thought of cats as cute, mini-dinosaurs. You know they'd stomp you if they were bigger. And then eat you. But as they're smaller and furry they can only watch in cute, impotent rage as you pet them. But one day, one day....
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:41 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


lesbiassparrow, I could definitely see my Maine Coon as a woolly mammoth, now that you mention it.
posted by misha at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm tired, yes, and grumpy tonight, but this has to be one of the dumbest conversations on M'filter in many moons. Look, loony cat people, house cats are not native to North America, and represent a uniquely destructive hyper-predatory influence on local ecosystems because they are subsidized (by you). They are mostly healthy and well-fed, so they are hunters in their prime, hunting out of instinct (or, if you will, for sport), casually, and very successfully. Over-population of house cats (including their feral communities) has been well-documented in native small animal and bird declines and extinctions.

Saying that buildings are the number one cause of bird-kill doesn't change the fact of cat depredations as the number two cause. Saying that cats are cute, or that birds are loud, is just more silliness and selfishness. Saying that bird-extinctions from introduced exotic predators represents natural selection displays an ignorance so profound that it leaves me thinking we must be the unwitting subjects of a bored sociology student playing troll. That's it, right? These responses are an experiment of some kind designed to elicit counter-comments from the too-literal and the too-earnest? Like me?

Well, you fooled me there for a few moments. I'll finish my long-winded comment while I'm at it - playing along with your little joke.

Yes, other (native) predators will hunt house cats. In localized areas, predators like coyotes can even hunt or otherwise limit cats to the point that bird populations remain intact. Of course, people freak out when a coyote eats their cat; then it's poisons and shootings and the whole arsenal of wildlife-control unleashed (heh) on coyotes. Apparently, the only acceptable subsidization of predators is down the food-chain.


PS: People who shoot or poison or trap-and-release-animals-in-my-neighborhood are all dickheads, too.
posted by slab_lizard at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


Let me say, for the record, that I like cats as pets. I've owned cats. But I always kept my cats inside, because a) cats kill birds and other small animals, aside from shitting in people's flower beds and other annoying things and b) the best way to make sure your cat has a long happy life is to keep it safe inside where there aren't people with guns or poison or mean dogs or cars.

I don't agree with my father's behavior, but I know that he's not the only one out there who does things like that. Keeping pets inside keeps them safe.
posted by winna at 8:50 PM on July 11, 2011


Splunge, I don't hate birds. I enjoy them enough. I'm even (I think) in favor of the efforts to save the Kirkland's Warbler. (I mean, obviously the one guy's death was a tragic accident, and sometimes rejuvenating fires are necessary for an ecosystem. I don't blame the bird for this.)

But there's also something which should give us pause - even if it's the right thing to do - about the fact that we are intervening by way of actively killing tons of one species of bird every year, in order to save a much smaller bird population. And I will happily admit it that I've never quite understood bird-watching. I understand intellectually the macro-scale that must be considered when talking about invasive species and dwindling populations and all of that.

What I don't understand are the multitude of comments her about "fuck cats and here's how I kill them and this article means I'm right." Birds are cool. Birds are fine. Keep your cats indoors for their own safety if nothing else. Fuck right off to hell if you are revelling in killing cats.

This seems pretty basic to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:53 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wasn't aiming at you, winna. And, you're right.
posted by slab_lizard at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2011


And MOST things in North America are not native to North America.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:54 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: all we're doing is locating each other so we can breed.

"HI! ARE YOU FROM THE INTERNET?"


They're mine, and I keep them indoors, and if they ever get out and kill a bird I'll be sad, but I also understand that cats kill birds so if I were a bird I'd stay the hell away from cats, seeing as how I'd have wings and could fly.

I can't read that and not think this.

posted by maryr at 9:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


MOST things in North America are not native to North America
Animal, vegetable or mineral? Because I'm thinking I might have to call shenanigans on that one. MOST?
posted by Gilbert at 9:15 PM on July 11, 2011


This isn't half-serious, it is completely un-serious. We've eliminated almost all of cats' natural predators. How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?
We eliminated them through natural selection. Wolves thought they were so fit with their sharp teeth and endurance running. Ha ha. How'd that work out.
posted by planet at 9:15 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live on a quarter acre with seven cats, two dogs and a zillion birds. The cats mostly hang out on the deck staring at one another and run into the kitchen whenever it looks like a human is passing through. Have they hunted? Yes. Do they hunt on a regular basis? No. They are too well fed and lazy.

My terrier on the otherhand has killed many rodent like critters who have ventured into our kitty kingdom. He lays them out nice and intact on the flower beds, that's how I know he did it and not the kitties.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:24 PM on July 11, 2011


Cats do not need to be taught how to hunt. They work it out just fine on their own. And a healthy, well-fed cat is a greater threat to wildlife than an urban feral, whose condition is often negatively impacted by disease and malnutrition.

Belling cats also does not work.

I am a former outdoor cat lady, who currently has no cats and will not get any more until I can keep them inside comfortably. The main cause for this change of heart was Sen, a small, black moggy I'd acquired mostly because she had a perfectly black pelt, luminous green eyes and looked exactly like basalt carvings of Bast. She was also the runt of the litter, and at six weeks she could fit in a teacup. She was gorgeous. She grew into a luscious looking generic oriental mix, with a lean graceful frame and those lovely big eyes fading out to gold. She had the attitude to match, too - she knew, somewhere in her soul, that she descended from gods, and the primates were expected to honour this.

She was also a tremendous hunter and escapologist. I'd kept her inside as a kitten, since we lived on rail lines at that point and I didn't want her smeared. Once we got somewhere nicely suburban, we belled the shit out of her and our other indoor kitty, and proceeded to let them have yard time during the day when everyone was at work.

The carnage began.

She started out small -geckos, sparrows, small game. Still impressive, since she was at this point still small enough for me to carry in one hand. In retrospect, that smallness -coupled with her long, graceful legs - probably made her quick and hard to spot. We weren't too worried, since the animals she was bringing in were largely invasive species here in Oz and it kind of worked as a karmic balance.

She got a bit bigger. She started bringing in native noisy mynah birds, a social species that hangs about in flocks of a dozen or so and that attack en mass to defend themselves. You take on one of them, you take on all of them. I've seen them harry raptors so efficiently that they leave an area permanently. Then there was the magpie, an animal so fierce that our councils post alerts so that great big human beings can avoid their territories.

She had three bells on at this point. She was only out during the day, though it was not uncommon for her to break out of the house overnight to go hunt. To this day I have no idea how she was getting out of that house, only that she would show up the next morning with some sort of decapitated bird.

It's worth noting the other housecat, a plump fluffball, had steadfastly refused to have anything to do with outside, and would spend yard time largely trying to get back into the house.

We moved house and she starting bringing in scrub turkeys, first the chicks, which we would do our best to rescue, and then the larger adults. By this point I had tried pretty much everything. We locked her in - she would get out, or well meaning visitors sharing the view that cats should have outdoors would release her. We belled the crap out of her, five bells, and no impact. We ditched outdoor time altogether.

In the end she disappeared. It's my opinion she got tired of our efforts to curtail her hunting and just moved on, as cats are sometimes wont to do. She was clearly tagged and chipped, so the RSPCA or animal shelter would have contacted us if she'd surfaced there.

If she had been less prideful, we would never known the impact one tiny little fluffball could have. She took great delight in showing off her skills and displaying her kills to the mortals. She was very small the whole time, and passed as an adolescent kitten even when she was grown. It would have been very easy to underestimate the impact that one little animal had. But she was a formidable predator. She could jump a full storey, from standing, and could silence five bells with an intricate pattern of shoulder contortions. She was small enough to penetrate burrows and to get out onto thin branches and into nests. She was absolutely fearless.

I do miss her. She was one hell of a personality. But the damage that animal did - my god. A well fed, pampered and healthy predator, doing what predators in top condition do best, and the results were undeniable.
posted by Jilder at 9:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [21 favorites]


My cats love watching birds as much as any Audubon member, and the squirrels walk right past them to get the peanuts we toss out for them. Perhaps the natural selection at work is raising cats that are too damn lazy and overfed to chase anything. But then, very little in suburbia is what can be considered truly natural anymore
posted by Redhush at 9:29 PM on July 11, 2011


We eliminated them through natural selection. Wolves thought they were so fit with their sharp teeth and endurance running. Ha ha. How'd that work out.

Man, it's going to be hilarious when cockroaches outlast us. I'd like to see the look on your face then!
posted by IjonTichy at 9:29 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, it's going to be hilarious when cockroaches outlast us. I'd like to see the look on your face then!
Too bad we'll both be dead.

But may the best species win! Isn't that the beauty of natural selection, though. It's not over until the whole planet is burned up. Until then, we're on top now, but step back a little and we're just paving the way for the cockroach people! Or whatever.
posted by planet at 9:35 PM on July 11, 2011


Fat, well-fed cats will still hunt. It's instinct for them and just because you haven't seen it happen doesn't mean it doesn't. (Not to say that all cats are efficient predators, but most of them are, even the tubby ones.) I've known of two Siamese cats that wiped out pretty much every nesting bird in an entire 20 house row, because their owners could not be persuaded to keep them in. They just moved from garden to garden picking off birds.

Surely, the issue is more than about wanting to see birds in your back yard; birds provide useful ecological functions, killing harmful insects (anyone remember what happened when Mao had sparrows in China nearly wiped out because they ate grain?). It makes sense for us as a species to keep as many birds alive as possible; every sparrow a cat kills means more bugs. And then more chemicals to kill those bugs, that move into our foodsystem, and so on.

(Though I'm not quite sure what function pidgeons have. Beyond amusing me as they waddle.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:41 PM on July 11, 2011


But may the best species win! Isn't that the beauty of natural selection, though.

No, actually that's not how it... I can't tell if you're joking, but this being the internet, you never can tell: natural selection is about finding and adapting to niches, not about winning. And if it were, we wouldn't have a chance compared to, say, beetles, which in terms of numbers and longevity are the princes of the animal kingdom.

In any case, preservation of biodiversity is good for humans, in the long run, a fact which we are sure to realize far too late. Our children will hate us. And our cats.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Alright everyone calm down, I think I have a solution.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:47 PM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, a human being calling cats bad for the environment is some blackly funny stuff.
posted by Decani at 9:55 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I guess back a few decades ago, people let their dogs roam loose around their neighborhood. This is practically unheard of now.

I wonder if it will go the same way for cats.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:30 PM on July 11, 2011


Oh, hey. This was on tonight's Daily Show.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2011


I guess back a few decades ago, people let their dogs roam loose around their neighborhood. This is practically unheard of now.

Please tell me, where is this wonderland you live in? I will move there
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:00 PM on July 11, 2011


We just need to introduce a kudzu that eats feral cats.
posted by klangklangston at 11:07 PM on July 11, 2011


Then we would need wild gorillas to eat all the kudzu.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:08 PM on July 11, 2011


Then we would need big cats to eat all the gorillas.
posted by homunculus at 11:13 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And some of the humans. Just the ones who haven't received the blessing of toxoplasmosis, of course. The big cats will know.
posted by homunculus at 11:16 PM on July 11, 2011



"Misha, as for cats and dinosaurs...well, I've often thought of cats as cute, mini-dinosaurs."

Immediately thought of this.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:39 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


cats climb tree, we are screwed!
posted by clavdivs at 3:16 AM on July 12, 2011


what is not mentioned in the article is that cats eat nothing but meat, they shit in clay that strip-mined off the face of the earth, and their poop is toxic.

as pets go, rather destructive.
posted by eustatic at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2011


No problem, simply deactivate them.
posted by bwg at 5:54 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can you justify letting your cats outside? Keeping them inside is only cruel for the cats, not for the rest of the animal kingdom.

God fucking forbid a birdie gets eaten by a predator.
posted by unigolyn at 6:01 AM on July 12, 2011


This isn't half-serious, it is completely un-serious. We've eliminated almost all of cats' natural predators. How many wolves do you see wandering around most suburbs eating the feral and outdoor cats?

How many Canis lupus are there in my neighborhood, that would kill every cat they can get their teeth into?

About as much as there are Felis catus.

Fuck birds, if they can't handle cats, they're free to turn back into dinosaurs.
posted by unigolyn at 6:09 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Birds say we also need to neuter those tar sands we love so much.
posted by amusem at 6:28 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


[I removed a few middle of the night comments that most people shouldn't miss, carry on]
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humans are an invasive species in most parts of the world.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:43 AM on July 12, 2011


God fucking forbid a birdie gets eaten by a predator.

This is a pretty awful attitude that speaks ill of you. I say this as someone who likes cats a lot.
posted by Justinian at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: "Aasif Mandvi consults a bird conservationist and a cat whisperer to learn how he can end the conflict between immigrant cats and America's birds" [video | 04:01].
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2011


People who let their dogs roam around* also tend not to spay/neuter them. Thus making more dogs. And shorter dog lives also.

*i.e. my dad. Our family owned about 9 dogs between when I was 4 and when I graduated HS. Because dad would always get male dogs, never neuter them, let them run around, then they'd get creamed by cars while out Looking For Love. And let's not forget my sister, who bought/got tired of/released geese, ducks, rabbits, and six motherfucking emus into the "wild" of N. Texas.
posted by emjaybee at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, feral emu invasions would be so cool.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:17 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


God fucking forbid a birdie gets eaten by a predator.

This is a pretty awful attitude that speaks ill of you. I say this as someone who likes cats a lot.


Predators eat prey -- what's the issue?
posted by coolguymichael at 1:09 PM on July 12, 2011


> Predators eat prey -- what's the issue?

Responsible management of introduced species. Humans are able to do this, thus they probably should.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:14 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Predators eat prey -- what's the issue?

And yet strangely enough, if my greyhound ever kills a neighborhood cat I rightly don't expect their owner to be so "circle of life" about it.
posted by muddgirl at 1:24 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have been surrounded by cats my entire life, both indoor (my own) and outdoor barn cats (the houses around me) and I can say without question, that indoor cats have longer, healthier, and it may be subjective, but to all appearances, happier lives.

I say this as someone who has outdoor cats constantly trying to become indoor cats, and an indoor cat that occasionally makes it out the front door and freezes....

...Just sitting there, under the giant endless blue sky, his sudden onset agoraphobia growing by the second, he'll start to moan, and get bigger and bigger, trying to intimidate the entire world around him, and if you can give him an open path back to the inside, hell move past so fast that hearing a cartoon sonic boom wouldn't surprise me at all.

We also have birds, and while a vicious Siamese managed to kill a few finches and parakeets when we still had them, the simplest solution to avoiding cat on bird violence, was to keep birds like parrots that are big enough that the cats take a single look and just keep walking, because they don't want any piece of that fight.
posted by quin at 1:37 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


coolguymichael: "Predators eat prey -- what's the issue"

Cats are nasty and gamey. Even with ketchup.
posted by HFSH at 1:40 PM on July 12, 2011


Predators eat prey -- what's the issue?

Invasive predator species, such as house cats, tend to decimate local populations of animals, who have not had time to gradually evolve defenses to those predators over many, many years. This leads to widespread extinction and impoverishment of the ecosystem. Even if an invasive species is not a predator, they can significantly disrupt the ecosystems into which they're introduced via disease dissemination and habitat destruction--look up what happened to the birds of Hawaii when pigs were introduced, for example.

Do you people just not care about the maintenance of biodiversity, or what?
posted by IjonTichy at 1:46 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Natural selection isn't natural when people intervene.

People are nature, in an amusingly self-aware sort of way.
posted by Gymnopedist at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


> People are nature

The universe is also a monad. I always find it a bit odd when people refer to human actions as part and parcel of "nature" as if these things are as implacable as the laws of physics. There are choices, and some choices can support a more thriving ecosystem. I think comparing people-as-nature to theories that are perpetually being redefined is kind of a cop out.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:07 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about biodiversity and invasive species: over the long haul, invasive species tend to stabilize in population (i.e., become intrinsic to the new ecosystem) and promote genetic adaptations in their prey (where appropriate), competitors (for space, sunlight, prey, what-have-you), and ultimately in their predators (that is, unless they are top predators in the new system, something evolves that can feed on them; in fact, if you include parasites, it doesn't matter if they're top predators or not).

Here's the thing about the long haul: we won't be there then. And the short haul (the next few generations of humans, at least) are going to have to adapt to these forced changes. "Adapt" almost never means "benefit serendipitously"; it means "lose", as in "lose out on seeing flower X, because it went extinct", or "lose the battle to cancer, because flower X had a significant chemical compound, but we never had a chance to synthesize it."

tl;dr: invasive species suck. But over eons, they are merely part of the dark, merciless process we call "Nature".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:14 PM on July 12, 2011


I think comparing people-as-nature to theories that are perpetually being redefined is kind of a cop out.

I don't mean to say that because people are nature that they're excused of all responsibility for everything. I just think it's a fun idea to think about and bring it up when appropriate. It's strange to be the only part of nature that thinks about its impact on the rest of nature. Or something like that. I have a hard time expressing exactly why it's fun to think about.
posted by Gymnopedist at 2:41 PM on July 12, 2011


Inasmuch as "nature" even exists. It's largely a convenient shorthand for the incomprehensible amalgam of organic and inorganic forces taking place in a particular locus at any given time. We can start to tease apart what we mean by "nature" by looking at our own actions first.

But anyway, cats are a menace!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:49 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


tl;dr: invasive species suck. But over eons, they are merely part of the dark, merciless process we call "Nature".

Domesticated animals are different, though; we prop up the population so that they grow to numbers that in the wild they never would. If we were taken out of the equation, cats would be just one more predator among many, and would be vulnerable to all sorts of pressures that they are not now. In the greater scale of things obviously there are considerably more threats on bird and other wildlife than domesticated cats, but they're not an insiginificant part of the equation especially in urban areas. And the solution to cutting them out of the equation seems rather easy and not involve any suffering on the part of cats, birds, or owners. Personally, I'd like to see more concern about bird numbers on the parts of governments, but until we're all over run with insects and pests that seems unlikely to happen.

And in the sphere of human social relations keeping your cat inside in an urban area makes you a better neighbour and means that you're inflicting your pet and the harm it can do on anyone else.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:59 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


look up what happened to the birds of Hawaii when pigs were introduced

Is this an Angry Birds joke ?
posted by banshee at 3:16 PM on July 12, 2011


If a cat kills one bird, it's evolutionary instincts stretching out its claws and night vision.

If a bunch of cats every single bird of a species, they have caused the extinction of that animal. Imagine that, an entire species of animal wiped from existence because we think cats are cute, and should be encouraged to be little predators.

Oh, and if a bunch of cats kill a bunch of birds and other things, it's art.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:24 PM on July 12, 2011


> Predators eat prey -- what's the issue?

Responsible management of introduced species. Humans are able to do this, thus they probably should.


I'm not arguing "kill the birds" or anything, but I wouldn't be so sure we could handle this; we have a terrible track record when it comes to "responsible" species management.

The obvious example is the introduction to rabbits to Australia, but I can think of others right off the top of my head.

From 1914-1935, in an effort to protect the elk in Yellowstone, the Federal government decided the gray wolves had to go. So we killed many of them, and in the process inadvertently caused a lot of sick and lame Elk and other large animals to suffer because the predator we left in place, the coyote, wasn't big and tough enough to bring them down. Plus, the grazing of the Elks just tore up all the foliage in the area and it was practically a wasteland. Who ends up on the Endangered Species list? Gray Wolf. So we reintroduced different wolves, borrowed from Canada--fortunately, because in the meantime the Elk had overpopulated. The Bush administration decided to delist gray wolves again in 2009 because, hey, they're posing a threat to the Elks (but really because Montana ranchers complained). After several court battles, the best we could come up with? Some wolves are protected, some not.

In 1917, when the Locks were built in Seattle, salmon died because their migration route was cut off. So the Army Corps of Engineers eventually built a fish ladder--wrongly. Salmon went around the locks and kept dying, running into predators or boat propellers. So the fish ladder was built again, and now the salmon seem to be okay--but it took 60 years for us to get that right.

We nearly hunted the American bison to extinction, then protected the ones that had survived (not because of anything we did, but because they hid from the hunters) in Yellowstone for about 85 years. But then we decided there were too many again, and slaughtered over a thousand in the 1990s. In 2008 because there might have been a danger of infection to local cattle, we slaughtered over a thousand more. Rather than allow the American bison to migrate so they can graze, rangers have to keep herding them back into the park; the minute they step out of bounds, they are fair game for hunters (plus they make delicious burgers).

There's a Tiger reserve in India with no tigers left.

And the list goes on and on. Really, we do best when we leave animals alone.
posted by misha at 7:04 PM on July 12, 2011


I had a neighbor with one female cat. The cat had kittens. The neighbor said, "Oh, those aren't mine. Only this one [the mother] is mine." No one was caring for these cats, but they reproduced just as much as the single initial cat did. The population of these increasingly in-bred and sickly cats exploded; about half a year after the first litter that we saw, we had 40-ish wild cats roaming around. There were so many they were a road hazard, among all the other problems. Eventually another neighbor trapped them all and took them to animal control, but the mother cat was still there. I left before the population re-exploded.

Cats *do* that. Left to their own devices they form what some feral caretakers call "cat oceans," huge groups of cats. There's no one taking a hand in the lives of many of these cats; they just manage to scrape a bare living somehow and keep on multiplying. And they'll move in to anywhere there are no cats. Blaming "people who are feeding these cats" for feral cats is a little odd, since so many of them are managing with no caretakers at all.

Five years ago a momma cat moved into my barn and brought her kittens. I well remembered the cat explosion I'd seen before; I got her and the kittens TNR'd. They're the only cats here; we see others from time to time but this group is territorial and chases them away. There's no explosion, there's no cat ocean, there's no wild kitties making more and more and more problems as the population keeps growing or others move in.

Of my own volition I wouldn't have an outside cat, but I didn't acquire these cats; they acquired me. So my choices were: ignore them and watch the population explosion, cart them off to be killed by animal control--and do it again when the next bunch shows up--and again and again, or get them fixed and leave them in place. It's not ideal. I'm not happy about the wildlife they kill (except the barn pests; they can have those), and I'm not happy about the fact that these animals nominally in my care are at risk from predators and cars. But it does seem, to me, to be the most effective way to handle the problem of feral cats: fix/vaccinate them and leave them in place, and they form a stable, reasonably healthy population.
posted by galadriel at 5:47 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm one of the evil people who let my cats roam outside (two of them - the deaf, toothless, old dude stays inside, sadly for him). They get extra shots at the vet annually for this privilege. They are neutered and wear bells on their collars, which I'm sure they hate. They have to come inside at nightfall. Indoor cats are far more likely to be obese and lethargic, and to exhibit odd behaviour (when I lived in a highrise that didn't allow me to let my cat outside, she used to repeatedly run up an upholstered chair and fling herself into the picture window).

I realize it's a risk to the cats (my neighbourhood, while laden with roaming cats and quiet is not predator-free: coyotes follow rabbits into the street, cars often speed by in defiance of the 40 km/h speed limit), but I feel that letting them out is worth it for their psychological and physical well-being. My cats get a lot of mice when the mouse population booms cyclically, but I've never seen them get birds. Domestic cats are only one of many symptoms of environmental destruction: the common cause is human beings. The pavement I drive and bike on, the upgraders polluting the air to east of the city and garbage collected along the alleyways are also all symptoms of human beings' collective scourge of the earth. On balance, I think I'm doing pretty decent by the environment as a bicycle communter living in a central neighbourhood and consuming as little as I can. Not having children puts me far ahead of most folk, environmentally, as more humans --> more destruction to the planet. So, in return for that, I'm honestly quite OK with allowing my cats the pleasure of bathing in the little bit of sunlight we get in my city, marking the hedges, hunting some mice and wandering the alleyways. I have my cats, you have your kids and SUVs, and we'll all just do what's reasonable for us.
posted by Kurichina at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Domestic cats who for one reason or another contribute to a population of feral cats are a real problem.

People more patient that I have elaborated above why letting whiskers roam outdoors is a bad idea for vulnerable native species. Wikipedia documents some of the historical examples of "bad" kittehs.

The kind and number of these species depends on where your version of whiskers lives, and responsible human beneficiaries of animal companionship should keep in mind that next to spaying and neutering, keeping whiskers indoors is a good idea for both the health of your cat (e.g. feline leukemia) and vulnerable (non-)native species.

tl;dr Don't be a selfish and thoughtless cat owner. Spay and neuter whiskers and keep whiskers indoors.
posted by mistersquid at 7:10 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've trained my cat to only eat starlings who are themselves an invasive species in North America.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In other feline news: Endangered Snow Leopards Caught on Camera in Afghanistan
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on July 17, 2011


Reporter Says Man Has More Kitty Than He Can Handle
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2011


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