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“I love animals, but he drove me to it.”
June 13, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Must cats die so birds can live?
posted by xowie (276 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
"As Ludacris says, you can’t turn a ho into a housewife [...]"

Well, that was a freaking unnecessary bit of sexism, NY Mag.
posted by Skwirl at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [40 favorites]


The most surprising thing in this article is the level of hatred between cat people and bird people. WoW.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


If a non-native feral species that looked like a spider crab killed 2 billion birds a year, people would realize that this is a serious problem.

Birders are very cognizant of this issue, I've found most cat owners don't know and don't care.
posted by banal evil at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [45 favorites]


The most surprising thing in this article is the level of hatred between cat people and bird people. WoW.

Having known a few birders, I'm a bit surprised this hasn't turned into a shooting war.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


...when the country’s cat lobby had him pegged as the Josef Mengele of felines...(pg.4)Why not, when you knock them down, just have them never wake up again? It’s a horrible decision, but it’s a nicer decision...That’s ridiculous,” scoffs Jane Hoffman. “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Should I be killed?”

At a secret training camp, Pol Kat takes note.
posted by clavdivs at 8:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Folks, listen to Bob Barker. Spay and neuter your pets. Also, the second showcase is usually the best, so shoot for that one.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [30 favorites]


So from what I understand, there's this protozoan brain-parasite (toxoplasma gondii) that infects a significant proportion of people, possibly causing an uncontrollable desire to be around cats (the protozoan actually wants cats to eat you, but it's pretty dumb and unable to distinguish a predator from a pet).

My question is: do we consider the radical pro-cat people to be innocent victims of this cruel parasite, whose every judgement is at the mercy of another creature's clever reproductive hack, or do we consider the parasite to be part of the human, just one of a zoo of symbiotic microorganisms? How we answer this question should determine whether the rest of us treat cat-lovers as fellow beings worthy of compassion, or as some sort of freak zombie chimera that must be exterminated at all costs.
posted by pipeski at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


This whole controversy turns a blind eye to the real slaughter going on out there. What of the billions of innocent insects brutally murdered each year by vicious feral feathered predators? Have you seen what a bird does to a bug? It's unspeakably awful. If only there were some way to control the population of these alate Hitlers.
posted by dersins at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [30 favorites]


The conspiracy theorists: “This stinks of anti-cat sentiment.” And the truthers: “If this is so, where are the close to 15 billion eviscerated carcasses?”

Wow. Taking arguments straight from the mouths of holocaust deniers.

I will admit to being on the anti-cat side. Your pet cats are fine. Around here there are a number of places where there are colonies of feral cats. We have a local program to catch, spay/neuter and release them but honestly... just put the captured feral cats down. They're not a native species by any stretch of the imagination and they're killing actual native small animals. The argument is that it's "more humane" which is only true for the cats and not so true for the numerous other animals they kill.

But I'm not so crazy to suggest culling actual pets. And please do spay or neuter your cats to keep those feral cat numbers down.
posted by GuyZero at 8:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


If a non-native feral species that looked like a spider crab killed 2 billion birds a year, people would realize that this is a serious problem.

Straw predator argument.

And: previously, previously, previously.
posted by aught at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rare as it is for me to be in the same camp as Franzen, on this I have to agree. And I have had and loved cats. I don't blame the cats, we brought them here after all.

But I do not self-identify with cats, I don't think they are more important than preserving species and habitats, and we have too many of them. There are not enough homes for all the cats, and many of the homes that are available are either neglectful to the cat or completely fine with letting it roam, hunt, fight and breed.

"No-kill" seems predicated on the notion that with enough time and effort, you can find good homes for all the cats. It's an illusion that seems to be a religious fixation for some people and I don't get this. Yes, it's horrifying to have to kill animals, even humanely. Which is why, in order to own a cat, you should be required by law to neuter it, unless you are a registered breeder who pays for a license. If you are found with an unneutered cat and no license, then you pay a fine and the cat is taken to a shelter and neutered, at your expense, before being returned to you.

We can do that, or we can keep letting species loss, cat hoarding, feral colonies spreading disease, and cat euthanizing happen. Our choice.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [51 favorites]


So from what I understand, there's this protozoan brain-parasite (toxoplasma gondii) that infects a significant proportion of people, possibly causing an uncontrollable desire to be around cats (the protozoan actually wants cats to eat you, but it's pretty dumb and unable to distinguish a predator from a pet).

Stop this idiocy. It's not funny.
posted by aught at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's predators all the way down.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The white man is to cat as Native American is to bird analogy coming from the cat lobby lady is also refreshingly awful. This article is a hot mess.

It's easy: The villians are people who don't spay/neuter and abandon animals.

People who insist on outdoor pets are also awful. (Caution: This is a topic that Metafilter doesn't handle well.)

People who take it upon themselves to poison cats are the most awful. (This happened in my neighborhood: http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/11/a-dc-bird-researcher-is-convicted-of-trying-to-poison-cats.html)

TNR has popular support and addresses the problem, even if it's not fast enough for some. Tough cookies, democracy isn't perfect.

The Auduban Society is awesome as always. Good on them for not accepting the false dichotomy.
posted by Skwirl at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


If a non-native feral species that looked like a spider crab killed 2 billion birds a year, people would realize that this is a serious problem.

In many places, humans are a non-native feral population responsible for killing several billion birds, too. It wasn't cats that took out the passenger pigeon and the great auk, f'rinstance.

People as a whole have overbred cats, and individual people release cats without concern for the ecosystem or the cat itself. The right thing to do would be to take responsibility for both the local ecosystem and the feral cat population, rather than simply responding to one human-induced cull with another human-induced cull.

I own an indoor-only, neutered cat who, for lack of opportunity, has never so much as swung his paw at a bird.

So from what I understand, there's this protozoan brain-parasite (toxoplasma gondii) that infects a significant proportion of people, possibly causing an uncontrollable desire to be around cats (the protozoan actually wants cats to eat you, but it's pretty dumb and unable to distinguish a predator from a pet).

What you "understand" has little meaningful data to support the strong causality, or any causality, regarding human behaviors and T. gondii infection in humans. No one yet knows whether people with certain mental traits become cat hoarders and catch T. gondii, or whether T. gondii causes people to become cat hoarders.

More to the point, I don't know of any study that links T. gondii in humans to its major aliurophilic symptom in rats, that is, a fondness for the scent of cat piss.
posted by kewb at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


But it's a fun thought experiment, isn't it?
posted by pipeski at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Housecats might not be native to North America, but there are many similar species that are.

If I had to guess, I would think that crows are a greater danger to bird populations than cats. They invade nests for eggs and chicks in places no cat can ever get to. And crow populations have also grown at enormous rates in suburban areas. Bird lovers may see cats attacking birds in their yards, fueling their anger, but they won't notice the crows attacking the chicks in hidden nests up in the trees.

But maybe that's just the toxoplasma gondii talking.
posted by eye of newt at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2013


Yes, and yes. Consider cows and chickens as well.

Society places a value on animal lives by law. It's been decided many times that cats are more important than birds.

Or what dersins said.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:08 AM on June 13, 2013


mrgrimm: Yes, and yes. Consider cows and chickens as well.

Society places a value on animal lives by law. It's been decided many times that cats are more important than birds.
Major difference: no one feeds feral cattle, allowing them to breed unfettered.

It's like comparing dumping of trash on the roadside to building a house on the roadside: yes, they both damage a portion of the existing wilderness, but one serves a purpose, and the other causes harm without a redeeming level of usefulness.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Marra's study does not appear to be particularly definitive with regard to the impact of feral cats on bird populations. The predation stats are given with a variance if several billion. The estimates of the feral cat population are also highly uncertain. Ferral cats are naturalized into the North American ecosystem and removing them, if it was even possible, would have significant impacts across a large food web.
posted by humanfont at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2013


What of the billions of innocent insects brutally murdered each year by vicious feral feathered predators?

If the birds are a human introduced species preying on the diversity of local populations, I will be glad to join your cause.
posted by banal evil at 9:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up on a nature reserve and my dad used his 410 shotgun for only one purpose, removal of feral cats from the ecosystem.
posted by schyler523 at 9:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adorable Killers: The Shocking Truth about Cats.

der spiegel February 08, 2013 "the most murderous predator on the planet"

That is like the most killingest killer but other than that sentence it's a decent piece.
posted by bukvich at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2013


I have had several birds in my backyard completely destroyed -- only feathers left, scattered around the yard -- by a juvenile falcon who took up the area as territory. Nobody's suggesting we kill the falcons.

Meanwhile, this morning I watched a bird chasing a local cat across my yard, dive-bombing it. Not entirely helpless, apparently.

By the way, is anyone lamenting the loss of the rats and mice that cats kill? Do they have a human advocate?
posted by davejay at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2013


If the birds are a human introduced species preying on the diversity of local populations, I will be glad to join your cause.

Thank you for your support.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a cat and love cats in general. But the one I currently have will be my last one and I won't replace it once it's gone. They really do a lot of damage and whatever anecdotal evidence people may cite I don't think an indoor cat is a happy cat. So no cat is the logical consequence for me.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Clowder".
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


as Ludacris says, you can’t turn a ho into a housewife

After his early, mostly poultry based casework ("My Chick Bad" and "Chicken-n-Beer") who could have expected Prof. Ludacris' citations would be so well respected in Wildlife Society Bulletins.

I respect my cat's natural inclination to hunt. And we seem to be on the same page there. He seems to totally get that I hunt for myself. How, I don't know. I do let him hunt through the house and the garage and he doesn't bring me little presents (brings them to the dogs though, which is amusing).
One time he chased a chipmunk through the house and gave me a clear invitation to join him. Sort of a "you go 'round the other side of the couch" look. The kids were going nuts, the dogs ran into each other, crashed into walls, barked loud enough to start the smoke alarm (they don't know how to hunt things smaller than them), and despite the devolution of the house into total chaos, the cat was completely focused and sending me subtle hunt signals: *tail flick* "he's behind the curtain" *flick* go there *flick pause flick* "you got this, right?"

So I grabbed the chipmunk, put him in a clear box which the cat fixedly stared into while we got the house back into control, and set the little guy free. He didn't have any claw or bite marks, but I caught it before the cat could get past the foreplay. He had been batting it around with velveted claws. Good thing he had literally just eaten. Otherwise I suspect the chipmunk would have been wounded.

You watch a cat stare out the window. They'd kill anything outside they can get their paws on.
I think for a lot of people who don't hunt themselves, it's easy to ignore kitty's behavior and anthropomorphize it or rationalize it as something cute.
No, they're predators. Apex predators in their own class when they're introduced somewhere. And they will hunt even when not hungry. And a claw wound will kill a small rodent or a bird; a cat bite can break a birds' bones. Then the creature not only dies in pain, but potentially spreads infection.
It's not the cat's 'fault' in any human sense. But disregarding this facet of one's pet is irresponsible.

And I think once one understands that, yeah, you treat them like the potential ecological catastrophe that they are. Spay and neuter them and don't let them out of the house (although we walk our cat on a leash sometimes, the robins don't get nervous).

Cats and birds can coexist in human influenced environments if humans act responsibly. For the most part irresponsible behavior on the part of the humans in the equation are a result of prejudice and ignorance.

“This is not about bad animal behavior,” Fenwick says. “This is about bad human behavior.”
Oh, go figure. Who could have seen that coming. I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling... I'll quit there.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


davejay: “I have had several birds in my backyard completely destroyed -- only feathers left, scattered around the yard -- by a juvenile falcon who took up the area as territory. Nobody's suggesting we kill the falcons.”

Er – do those cases really seem parallel? I mean – is there really a significant number of non-native falcons which have overrun local populations and changed ecosystems irrevocably?
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Nobody's suggesting we kill the falcons.

The issue isn't that nature is cruel.

It's that colonies of non-native feral animals are bad for local ecosystems to the point of being extremely destructive. Feral cats reproduce a lot faster than falcons.
posted by GuyZero at 9:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


If I had to guess, I would think that crows are a greater danger to bird populations than cats. They invade nests for eggs and chicks in places no cat can ever get to. And crow populations have also grown at enormous rates in suburban areas. Bird lovers may see cats attacking birds in their yards, fueling their anger, but they won't notice the crows attacking the chicks in hidden nests up in the trees.

The difference is that crows are a native species and have been doing that for as long as they've existed. Populations of other birds take that into account by laying more eggs and defending them from the crows.

In addition to that, we have the cats, which birds can do fuck all to protect against.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look, cats are horrible for bird populations. yes there are other things that kill birds, including other birds. No one disputes that. But cats have consistently been shown to be a significant force in bird eradication.

I Like Cats. I think they are cute and fun to be around. But they are pretty horrible animals in the ecosystem. I just bought 10 acres of land I plan on living on and any cat roaming about will be trapped and removed.

"But But But people kills birds too."

Yes they do and non food hunting is horrible as well. But a cat is not a person.

I Like Cats. Keep the the fuck inside though.
posted by edgeways at 9:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


I heard from a person who really knows his animals that feral cats don't have much impact on bird populations. Feral cats don't hunt for fun the way pet cats will, it costs them too much energy and they aren't overfed and have energy to burn the way pet cats do. Feral cats focus on prey that are a lot easier to catch than birds.

He also questioned the claims of the number of birds killed by pet cats in general, noting that healthy birds are hard to catch for any kind of cat, and predation on sick and injured birds has minimal impact on bird populations.
posted by tommyD at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would never suggest that people shouldn't spay/neuter pet felines or that domestic cats should be allowed to run free, but I think there are serious misunderstandings here regarding predators and prey and how animal populations reach stasis. ( Hint: it's never pretty, and it's always brutal.)

The simple fact is humans hate/fear predators. In fact, the animals that have suffered/are suffering most at the hands of humans are large predators.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2013


If the birds are a human introduced species preying on the diversity of local populations, I will be glad to join your cause.

I believe that sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles are all introduced species.

So that's a thing.
posted by dersins at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a non-native cat kills a non-native sparrow, do we exult or do we mourn?
posted by le_vert_galant at 9:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe that sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles are all introduced species.

Not grackles.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard from a person who really knows his animals...

there's this guy you know? Down at the bar, knows his shit about...

Anyways, I've heard exactly the opposite and there a fair bit of non hunch based data to back it up.
posted by edgeways at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I believe that sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles are all introduced species.

Pheasant aren't even native to Europe when they were imported, either.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2013


dersins: “I believe that sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles are all introduced species.”

Starlings, yes – as I believe someone pointed out above. However:

Pidgeons: "... this species has such a long history with humans that it's impossible to tell exactly where the species' original range was." [wiki]

Grackles: "... native to North and South America." [wiki]

Sparrows are indeed non-native, however.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2013


I have had several birds in my backyard completely destroyed -- only feathers left, scattered around the yard -- by a juvenile falcon who took up the area as territory. Nobody's suggesting we kill the falcons.

Falcon populations are not maintained at a density 100x their natural levels by people supplementing their food supply so that none of their chicks ever starve.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd be interested in knowing about any endangered (in either the legal or the normal sense) bird species that cats prey on.
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2013


I'd be interested in knowing about any endangered (in either the legal or the normal sense) bird species that cats prey on.

New Zealand called; it wants all its extinct birds back.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Birders have been complaining that cats have been killing bird populations in huge numbers since the end of the 19th century and there are still a lot of birds around.

Cats generally kill birds for fun. Not food. I find it unlikely that feral cats are wasting energy hunting birds as there isn't much of any meat for them to eat when they catch it.
posted by inthe80s at 9:45 AM on June 13, 2013


Birders have been complaining that cats have been killing bird populations in huge numbers since the end of the 19th century and there are still a lot of birds around.

Well, except the species of birds and lizards that cats hunted into extinction in the link above your comment.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Grackles: "... native to North and South America." [wiki]

You're right about grackles-- I was clearly mistaken / misremembering something. But--

Pidgeons [sic] : "... this species has such a long history with humans that it's impossible to tell exactly where the species' original range was." [wiki]

Approximately three sentences later in the same paragraph you link to:

"The species was first introduced to North America in 1606 at Port Royal, Nova Scotia.[11]"
posted by dersins at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe that sparrows, pigeons, starlings and grackles are all introduced species.

There are lots of different sparrow species, many native to the US.

Birders have been complaining that cats have been killing bird populations in huge numbers since the end of the 19th century and there are still a lot of birds around.

There's still lots of rainforest left, too. And lots of oil. And lots of a lot of things that there eventually won't be if nothing changes.

I find it unlikely that feral cats are wasting energy hunting birds as there isn't much of any meat for them to eat when they catch it.

Feral cats hunt birds all the time. Like they hunt mice and gophers and lizards and frogs. All you have to do to see this is live somewhere that there are both birds and feral cats, and you can watch the feral cats hunt the birds.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd be a lot more sympathetic to "let's work out better plans for the feral cats" if bird people would acknowledge that actually TNR will work, if much more slowly than they want, and that just going ahead and poisoning cats is not ok. I'm not even necessarily against euthanising some feral cat colonies, but some of their arguments seem to be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by jeather at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I had to guess, I would think that crows are a greater danger to bird populations than cats.

If you want to come and humanely kill (or not humanely, I'm not picky) the murder of crows that take up residence in my trees every summer...
Well, let's just say there aren't going to be many protest signs.
posted by madajb at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that the NZ example is not really analogous in this particular situation, though. NZ had no native mammalian predator species, unlike most of the other places on earth where feral cat predation-to-extinction has been an issue. Presumably birds there had no native adaptation to that kind of hunter, so the introduction of the cat had an immediate and massive impact.

someone who actually knows stuff about biology can probably make better sense of these random musings, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2013


The issue to native songbirds is (generally) rural populations of feral cats, which are killing great numbers of native, declining species of songbirds. I have no doubt that urban feral cats are (mostly) killing urban, introduced birds, but they are also breeding and their offspring are expanding out to rural areas, where they are killing goldfinches and warblers instead of house sparrows and european starlings. So, they are part of the problem as well.

So seriously, stop with the argument that they are only affecting populations of introduced birds, because it's demonstrably false.

"there are still lots of birds around"...holy crap is that a troll to anyone that knows what's happened to songbird populations over the last 100 years, esp. the last 25-50.

Also, well fed house cats will most certainly kill for sport, but feral cats are eating everything they catch. There's plenty of nutrition in songbirds for a 7 lb. feral cat when they are killing and eating them by the dozens.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


""No-kill" seems predicated on the notion that with enough time and effort, you can find good homes for all the cats. It's an illusion that seems to be a religious fixation for some people and I don't get this. Yes, it's horrifying to have to kill animals, even humanely. Which is why, in order to own a cat, you should be required by law to neuter it, unless you are a registered breeder who pays for a license. If you are found with an unneutered cat and no license, then you pay a fine and the cat is taken to a shelter and neutered, at your expense, before being returned to you."

I'm as anti feral cat as the come, but this is an incredibly regressive tax that would destroy families. Not everyone has a couple hundred bucks for the unsubsidized cost of spaying/neutering, much less more for a fine.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2013


Cats are cuter. Cute little killing machines. I would give 1000 birds for each cat.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2013


I'd be a lot more sympathetic to "let's work out better plans for the feral cats" if bird people would acknowledge that actually TNR will work

I don't think anybody really doubts whether it would eventually work, so much as it seems like a really roundabout way of going form more cats to fewer cats. Trapping, neutering, and releasing a cat gets you one fewer (presumably destructive) cat in the wild in 0-5 years. If you just trap it and kill it right now, then you have one fewer destructive cat in the wild right now.

The only reason to trap, neuter and release the cats instead is because you think cats are cute and killing them makes you sad. I would argue that trying to protect the biodiversity that not losing bird species to feral cat predation is more important than that, but people (not birders) just don't care as much about wild birds as they do cats that they view like their own pets.

Yes, it's horrifying to have to kill animals, even humanely
I don't see how people can argue this in a society that eats meat as a staple. We kill animals constantly by the millions. The issue shouldn't be about what animals are dying as much as what sorts of animals we want to populate our world in what concentrations. It's wildlife management, essentially.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was caught completely unawares by the intensity of emotions on both sides while caring for a friends cat. A humongous, formerly abandoned (neutered!) Maine coon/ barncat, there was very little I could do to keep him indoors. For the month or so I had him, I tried to let him out only at night to minimize the damage he undoubtedly wrought. My number was on his tag. On mornings when he didn't return by 9am, I became incredibly anxious in anticipation of the hissing hateful voicemail I knew was coming: a neighbor would grab him and stick him in an old dog kennel until I could come get him.

She called me names, called him names, invoked my responsibility to keep him in MY property I chose to keep him outsoors...oooh how I feared her and felt powerless a I couldn't really reside this beast to be an indoor guy for a month!
So blah blah yes, tensions run high!
posted by Lisitasan at 10:01 AM on June 13, 2013


I'm as anti feral cat as the come, but this is an incredibly regressive tax that would destroy families. Not everyone has a couple hundred bucks for the unsubsidized cost of spaying/neutering

Nobody's forcing them to have a cat. And they somehow come up with hundreds of dollars a year to feed it. Why isn't that "destroying" their family?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:02 AM on June 13, 2013 [23 favorites]


I don't think anybody really doubts whether it would eventually work, so much as it seems like a really roundabout way of going form more cats to fewer cats. Trapping, neutering, and releasing a cat gets you one fewer (presumably destructive) cat in the wild in 0-5 years. If you just trap it and kill it right now, then you have one fewer destructive cat in the wild right now.


Okay, but TNR has support from all those cat lovers, and "kill 'em all" doesn't. (Especially in places where there are rodent issues.) It's slow, not roundabout.
posted by jeather at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2013


Sparrows are indeed non-native, however.

Your wikipedia article is at odds with my wikipedia article.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, it is a lot easier to solicit donors/volunteers for TNR programs than presumably it would be to solicit donors/volunteers for a "go out and kill cats" program. I think it is fair to say that the latter would recognizably be an unholy PR nightmare.
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2013


I think that the NZ example is not really analogous in this particular situation, though...
...someone who actually knows stuff about biology can probably make better sense of these random musings, though.


The reason it's analogous is that feral cats are more efficient predators of native songbirds in the U.S. than any native predator, and it's having a large and lasting effect on those populations, including eventually to extinction for some. NZ didn't have any mammals historically, so the effect was quicker (particularly since some of these NZ's native birds are flightless), but the analogy still works. But, if that one doesn't work for you, make the quick cross over to Australia and ask them how that rabbit thing went.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, so the simple answer seems to be spaying and neutering and educating cast owners as to why keeping their cat indoors is both better for the cat and better for the bird population.
posted by dazed_one at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2013


To clarify, the House Sparrow seen commonly in most U.S. cities is actually a member of the weaver finch family, and is an introduced species in North America. There are dozens of native sparrow species in the U.S., which generally occupy rural and native habitats. Which, again, harbor a huge population of feral cats.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


She called me names, called him names, invoked my responsibility to keep him in MY property I chose to keep him outsoors...oooh how I feared her and felt powerless a I couldn't really reside this beast to be an indoor guy for a month!

Even leaving the bird issue aside, lots of people don't want to deal with your cat on their property for a variety of reasons. Imagine your cat is a pile of crumpled beer cans laying around on someone else's porch or car. Why are they obligated to deal with that? A cat is also potentially a lot more destructive and a lot harder to get rid of than some discarded cans, too, so you'd expect people to get *more* angry about it, no?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


jeather: “I'd be a lot more sympathetic to 'let's work out better plans for the feral cats' if bird people would acknowledge that actually TNR will work, if much more slowly than they want...”

What evidence do we have of this? It seems very, very far-fetched to me. TNR has been hugely popular for years, and I've never seen a single study suggesting it's had any real effect on the feral cat population at large. It might seem to work in small, isolated circumstances, but how in the world can we expect that it'll work on a large scale? You can say "it will actually work, if much more slowly" but that's like saying having schoolchildren pick up litter will save the planet just as effectively as international carbon-emissions restrictions, "if much more slowly."

To be more direct: I literally do not believe that it is possible to catch and spay / neuter all seventy million feral cats in the United States. If we mobilize all pet owners and throw ourselves into a nationwide TNR campaign, I can't imagine that we'd succeed in fixing even ten million cats (which is a huge, huge number of cats!) – which would leave sixty million cats running around and reproducing about as quickly as before.

This isn't a situation where TNR will accomplish the same thing, just "much more slowly." TNR doesn't appear to have any hope of really solving the problem at all.
posted by koeselitz at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski: “Your wikipedia article is at odds with my wikipedia article.”

Huh. Maybe these are "naturalized" species which are now considered native? I'm not sure.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2013


Huh. Maybe these are "naturalized" species which are now considered native? I'm not sure.

The range map shown does not include any part of Europe or Asia. You'd think if they were imported, there would still be some left in whatever part of the world they came from.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:18 AM on June 13, 2013


What koeselitz said. I'm all for having this conversation and I wish I believed it would lead to something, but I can pretty confidently predict that in most places we will do nothing, and in some urban and suburban areas there might be a TNR program which will not last for many years nor produce a measurable result.

I like cats. I also like rodents, in approximately the same context -- i.e. not feral, diseased and unsocialized to humans. There is absolutely no rational basis to favor the killing of rodents and not feral cats.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. Maybe these are "naturalized" species which are now considered native? I'm not sure.

I am. They aren't.

American Sparrows
Old World Sparrows

House Sparrows are in the latter group. They are introduced to North America.
American Sparrows are native.

Cats pose a substantial threat to the native group, particularly in rural areas.

Can we stipulate now that this point is true?
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


mcstayinskool: “Can we stipulate now that this point is true?”

Well, geez. I didn't have any axe to grind, and I don't think it even has anything to do with any of the points here. I just think animal ranges are interesting. Sorry if that annoyed anybody.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


an anecdote: I was sitting around a table of other mammalogists at the 1996 American Society of Mammalogists meeting (this really exists), and over lunch we were discussing the growing understanding that feral cats were absolutely decimating populations of native songbirds. So much so that if a bird nests within a couple miles of a farm, their chance of nest success goes from fair-to-middling to not-a-fucking-chance.

an aside: the lunch room was loud (you know how mammalogists get), and at first I thought the discussion was about feral kids rather than cats. Which would make a great sci-fi film.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I literally do not believe that it is possible to catch and spay / neuter all seventy million feral cats in the United States.

So given you can't catch them, what do you plan to do? Leave out big piles of poisoned food that will magically not poison anyone or anything but feral cats? I'm not sure what solution you're proposing, if "it is impossible to catch a significant enough number of feral cats" is one of your premises.

And I'm not even against euthanizing feral cat colonies, but without ALSO having TNR for those colonies that are not feasible to be euthanized for whatever reason, and without ALSO having low cost spay-neuter programs, I don't think it's going to be particularly effective.
posted by jeather at 10:28 AM on June 13, 2013


(So, actually reading the Wikipedia links, apparently the confusion I was having was due to the fact that American Sparrows and Old-World Sparrows are just completely different and unrelated birds. Interesting.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2013


It might seem to work in small, isolated circumstances, but how in the world can we expect that it'll work on a large scale?

It seems to work better in localized bits of urban areas than it does in rural areas, ironically. However even with 4 (that i can think of offhand) programs operating in NYC, I'm not sure that they're making a significant dent in the overall populations.
posted by elizardbits at 10:32 AM on June 13, 2013


So given you can't catch them, what do you plan to do? Leave out big piles of poisoned food that will magically not poison anyone or anything but feral cats? I'm not sure what solution you're proposing, if "it is impossible to catch a significant enough number of feral cats" is one of your premises.

My late wife worked on a project raising and studying a particular bird species in California's Channel Islands. The island she worked on was also home to an endangered fox species which was threatened by feral cats competing for its food supply. The solution here was literally hire hunters to go out at night and shoot cats. They'd put out traps and shoot anything they caught, and also just shine lights on cats at night and shoot any they found. This was on an entirely rural island owned and run by the US Navy though, so this sort of approach really isn't going to be practical in most places.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone allergic to cats, I'm with the birds on this one.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2013


jeather: “So given you can't catch them, what do you plan to do? Leave out big piles of poisoned food that will magically not poison anyone or anything but feral cats? I'm not sure what solution you're proposing, if ‘it is impossible to catch a significant enough number of feral cats’ is one of your premises.”

It's not a premise; it's a conjecture based on the available evidence and a consideration of the factors involved. It's also not a proposal for a solution. I just don't think we should lie to ourselves about this; it seemed like you were saying something like 'well, mass killing of cats is abhorrent, so let's pretend that TNR will work.' I don't think that's a very good option at all. At this point, we'd be better off ignoring feral cats and asking volunteers to give blood or help out with Habitat for Humanity or do something else that's actually useful.

I do hope we can come up with something other than TNR or euthanasia. That would be nice. In my mind, the best solution would be some sort of targeted, advanced method of sterilizing cats – something that can be scattered and left to be ingested by them. That seems like a difficult problem, I know, especially since we'd want to make sure it didn't affect other animals; but it seems like a better and more immediate solution. The whole process of trapping and neutering and releasing just takes to long for it to be an effective solution; what we need is some way to make the process more efficient, by several orders of magnitude.
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sparrow is a common name, which is probably the source of the native/non-native confusion. Common names have a way of doing that.

As a person living on farm land, I am going to see things a little differently as cats are working animals here. But as it's Moderator Day, I'm just going to keep my opinions to myself and hopefully reduce their workload.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2013


koeselitz: That was the point, yes. I'm incredibly fascinated by animal ranges, so we are not on different pages here, and did not mean to seem snarky or annoyed.

I do, however, mean to underline the point about native species being at risk though, since on the topic of the thread the "they only kill introduced birds in large numbers" is often brought up as to why it doesn't really matter that cats are massive killers of wild birds. It's not true. If protecting native bird species is important, and I believe that to be true, then feral cats are a huge problem.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The continuing war of dinosaur vs mammal.
posted by stbalbach at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


“The bird community’s position is, we need to get rid of the feral cats, and that means cats must die,”

Dude, holy hell. Is this a real position, or is it just crazy NY Mag stuff?

one is either a bird person or a cat person, like one is Sunni or Shiite, a Blood or a Crip

Wait, I figured it out, they're trolling us!
posted by corb at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2013


– or – I'm just thinking a bit out loud here, I guess – if we could come up with some chemical that would sterilize cats that could be administered by poison dart, it would probably make it a lot cheaper and quicker to sterilize a whole population.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2013


I actually find the idea of euthanizing them to be preferable to the idea of letting them die in the wild. Firstly, they are going to kill a lot of animals before their time comes, and so we're merely expressing a preference for one animal death over another, and that's not a preference I share -- according to the BBC, feral cat populations are responsible for the extinction of 33 species. Secondly, there is concern that feral cats can be a disease vector.

Lastly, the lives of these feral cats tend to be pretty miserable. They have been found to be flea-ridden to the point of anemia, they are beset with intestinal parasites, which frequently leads to death from dehydration. They get into fights with each other and other animals and die of infected wounds. The develop and die from feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. Depending on where they are, they get preyed on by coyotes or other larger predators. Their lifespan averages about four years, about a third of what it is in captivity. And you might think, well, that's how it is in the wild, but this is a domesticated species, and they really just don't do that well in the wild, and are not adapted to it.

We're not trapping and killing feral cats because we associate them with pets, but, by not doing so, we are condemning them to a hard, miserable life and an agonizing death that they are not adapted for.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


corb: "Is this a real position, or is it just crazy NY Mag stuff?"

It seems perfectly reasonable as long as you don't imagine the qualifier "all" being applied. Some cats will need to die, yes.
posted by idiopath at 10:53 AM on June 13, 2013


The thing is, I don't think there's been enough really dedicated TNR -- four groups to cover NYC? So I'm not even convinced that we're sure TNR, if enacted well, wouldn't work. But it might well not ever be possible to do it well enough -- however, given that the other option ever suggested is "kill them!", I didn't understand how the problems with TNR could be solved to make mass euthanasia viable.

A targeted food-based sterilization program would indeed be perfect, though I don't think it's anywhere close to solvable at this point. (Can't affect other mammals. Can't get into the food or water supply and affect humans. Etc.) I'd be happy to be wrong about that.

I don't think mass euthanasia is abhorrent. Sure, I have an emotional reaction to the idea -- I also find it sad to know that when shelters get pregnant cats, they often abort and spay the cat immediately even though I agree it is the right solution -- but I could get behind that as part of an overall strategy to reduce feral cat populations.

But the article brought up people poisoning feral cats or feral cat colonies, or taking individual cats in to be killed because their owners are assholes, and I do think that's abhorrent. (Ineffective also, but mostly abhorrent.)
posted by jeather at 10:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm as anti feral cat as the come, but this is an incredibly regressive tax that would destroy families. Not everyone has a couple hundred bucks for the unsubsidized cost of spaying/neutering, much less more for a fine.

Then they shouldn't own a cat. Maintaining a cat costs money. If you can't afford to pay for your cat's neutering (which doesn't have to be hugely expensive), then the expense of cat food, shots, and vet care will probably be a burden to you also; if you can't pay for those, what happens? You let it loose and it starves or dies sick or ends up euthanized. And so, for the cat's sake, you shouldn't own a cat if you can't afford to spay it and license it.

Cats should be a luxury item. If they were, they'd be better cared for, not starved in hoard houses or flattened on roadsides or dying of disease in abandoned lots.

Owning pets is not in the same camp as the right to healthcare, or to control your reproductive choices.
posted by emjaybee at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


nooneyouknow: "The most surprising thing in this article is the level of hatred between cat people and bird people. WoW."

But what if they are cat AND bird owners?

Do they shoot themselves?

Or is this just me and another crazy ex?
posted by Samizdata at 10:58 AM on June 13, 2013


aught: "If a non-native feral species that looked like a spider crab killed 2 billion birds a year, people would realize that this is a serious problem.

Straw predator argument.

And: previously, previously, previously.
"

Not so much. More of a straw headcrab argument.
posted by Samizdata at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2013


Oh and I did forget to add, I would never advocate for poisoning cats, because they die in pain, and it's cruel. Or with stealing someone's cat and taking it to the pound. I am talking about humane ways to reduce the feral cat population and keep tame ones from causing damage/overbreeding, that's all.
posted by emjaybee at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2013


Speaking of invasive birds, the kids and I watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill the other night, and in that film there was a similar discussion about these parrots, and if as an invasive species, did that automatically mean they were problematic. It clearly wasn't a given, and it was very interesting to discover the greatest threat to that small flock was humans and native hawks. The St. Francis character in the film figures this out by noticing a strange behavior in the parrots. Every now and then one would squawk a rather alarming squawk, and all the other birds would tilt their head. He soon realized they were actually looking at the sky with one eye, and what they were looking at was hawks, typically Red Tails, which could easily pick off a parrot in mid-flight and did more to decimate their numbers than anything non-human. Very rarely did a cat get one of these birds, but it seemed rather common for them to be injured or killed by hawks. Of course that is probably much more a result of the difference in the size of a parrot versus a sparrow. It was an excellent movie that had a lot to say about invasive species.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2013


It was an excellent movie that had a lot to say about invasive species.

I'd be hard pressed to call this very small and not-expanding group of parrots "invasive". We are talking about 70 million cats versus something like 100 parrots. The parrots cannot possibly have the same scale of impact. Nobody would be particularly worried about feral cats either, if the entire population was a few dozen of them living on one neighborhood of one city.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was thinking more about the argument that if cats killed invasive birds rather than native birds, that was somehow less problematic.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, when does an invasive become native? 200 years? 300 years? Never?
posted by Toekneesan at 11:19 AM on June 13, 2013


As usual, I refuse to be polarized, and I hold opinions denigrated by all sides. I love my cats. I (a) don't treat them as if they were human (b) don't let them go outside (c) believe they should be spayed or neutered and (d) have no problem with euthanasia, if it's respectful and kind. My latest cat is a stray that was starving and begging for food, and I took her in, but my twenty-year-old cat was put to sleep last month because it was time.

And cats catch birds, and mice. I don't mind the mice getting killed, because they're vermin, however adorable. But I had a bird once, a goldfinch that I kept in my classroom during the school year when I taught science. That bird was going to go DOWN when I brought it home for spring break, and the cat made it clear. I will never know whether the bird made it out the open window when the cat worked the closed door open and broke the cage open or whether the bird disappeared into the cat.

Cats are sweet, affectionate, dumb, proliferating killing machines, and responsible pet care to me means keeping them inside so they don't die young or kill other organisms that deserve to live.
posted by Peach at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are several definitions of invasive species. The one we're using to regarding cats is that they adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade. If they do not damage the ecology, or if their relationship with the ecology reaches equilibrium, they are typically called "introduced species."

But a species introduced by man will never be called an indigenous species. Those must happen on their own, without the intervention of humankind, as part of their natural range of distribution.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2013


Koeselitz: From later in the same paragraph in the Pigeon article you linked:

The species was first introduced to North America in 1606 at Port Royal, Nova Scotia.
posted by 256 at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2013


By the way, is anyone lamenting the loss of the rats and mice that cats kill?

For what it's worth, some common rodents—Norway rats, black rats, and house mice—were introduced into North America via shipping from Europe.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:30 AM on June 13, 2013


So given you can't catch them, what do you plan to do? Leave out big piles of poisoned food that will magically not poison anyone or anything but feral cats? I'm not sure what solution you're proposing, if "it is impossible to catch a significant enough number of feral cats" is one of your premises.

Autonomous drones.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition to that, we have the cats, which birds can do fuck all to protect against.

Except fly. Last time I checked, my (100% indoor) cats can't fly, much to their chagrin.

I agree that cats should not be allowed outdoors, ever. Besides the damage they do to local wildlife, the average lifespan of outdoor cats is so much lower than indoor ones that the argument pretty much resolves itself. Cars, feline leukemia & AIDS, infections - all can be avoided by simply not giving in to the little fuzzy demons' incessant demands to be allowed outdoors. That said, motherfuck putting cats down because their owners aren't responsible enough to've fixed the reproductive systems of their parents. I'd be much happier to see asshole pet owners be put down and/or fixed; hell, make it legal and I'll apply for the job myself.
posted by item at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We're not trapping and killing feral cats because we associate them with pets, but, by not doing so, we are condemning them to a hard, miserable life and an agonizing death that they are not adapted for."

Yeah, which is why PETA supports euthanasia. It's a rare day when I agree with PETA or Jonathan Franzen, but here we are.
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


We cull the deer population every freakin' year. Why is that so different from culling the feral cat population?

If I had to guess, I would think that crows are a greater danger to bird populations than cats.

Yeah it's too bad there isn't actual data or information so we're forced to use wild ass guesses.
posted by Justinian at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


nooneyouknow: “The most surprising thing in this article is the level of hatred between cat people and bird people. WoW.”
My Dad used to feed the birds until the empty-nester neighbor decided she would "adopt"—i..e. put out food to attract but otherwise minimally supervise—the neighborhood strays. I cut her slack because she and her husband kindly came to my mother's funeral last year. Otherwise I'd be quite angry indeed.

Bunny Ultramod: “Having known a few birders, I'm a bit surprised this hasn't turned into a shooting war.”
I… how 'bout that hockey game last night?

corb: “Wait, I figured it out, they're trolling us!”
Negatronic, Ghostrider. I like wild birds way more than I like feral cats. Ideally there would be a balance. Some predation encourages a healthy population. It's gone too far though when one can't feed the birds because of all the cats. I'd definitely trade feral cats for wild birds.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:56 AM on June 13, 2013


If we want to make radom equivalences, if you say "feral dogs" people are generally pretty much universally in favour of trapping them and not releasing them with the most likely outcome being euthanasia. Hunting of feral dogs isn't considered unacceptable even.

And in even crazier equivalencies, they make TV shows about people who hunt feral pigs. No one in their right mind is going to go the TNR route for feral pigs.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Negatronic, Ghostrider. I like wild birds way more than I like feral cats.

Sure, sure, but Crips/Bloods? Seems just a touch hyperbolic.

On a sidenote: what are the natural predators of cats? Hawks?
posted by corb at 12:02 PM on June 13, 2013


And coyotes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2013


We cull the deer population every freakin' year. Why is that so different from culling the feral cat population?

The relationship between humans and deer isn't really like the relationship between humans and cats, excluding, as always, Audrey Hepburn who I think we can all agree was more than human.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:15 PM on June 13, 2013


You guys are being so mean. Look how sad you are making kitties.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because cats are a non-native species there are no predators for them in many areas. Like in my local suburban area if a coyote showed up... I don't know exactly who'd trap or shoot it, but I'm pretty sure no one is going to want coyotes wandering around my local office parks. Cats are the apex predator of suburban office complexes.
posted by GuyZero at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2013


That kitten is just sad it is not in the process of murdering something.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


That kitten is just sad it is not in the process of murdering something.

Jesus you're right. Fucking toxoplasma.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm pretty sure no one is going to want coyotes wandering around my local office parks. Cats are the apex predator of suburban office complexes.

You might very well be surprised.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2013


Oh man, I lived in Hollywood, which was the foothills of the Hollywood Hills, and we had coyotes wander down all the time (generally at night; in the day you would sometimes see them peering back at you from the brush or the brambles or whatever wooded areas are called.)

There were always signs in my neighborhood for missing chihuahuas. It would have a picture of the little animal with a note that said "Chico: Lost." I was always tempted to put a similar sign below it with a picture of a a coyote that said "Chico: Delicious."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Because cats are a non-native species there are no predators for them in many areas.

Well, right, but I mean, what would the effective predators be in their native area?
posted by corb at 12:45 PM on June 13, 2013


Domestic cats don't have a native area.
posted by Justinian at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2013


(That's not snark! It's the actual answer.)
posted by Justinian at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2013


By far the greatest threat to bird populations is habitat loss due to climate change, sprawl, and increased farming. Getting rid of all the cats won't solve that much bigger problem.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, right, but I mean, what would the effective predators be in their native area?

Hm. Cats are descended from wildcats. There is the Jungle Cat of southeast asia, which get eaten by crocodiles, bears, wolves, and larger cats. There is the European Wildcat, which as a kitten, is preyed on by pine martens; as adults, they are eaten by wild dogs and wolves, as well as large raptors. There's the Chinese Mountain Cat, which barely exists anymore. And there is the Arabian Sand cat, which looks like it sometimes gets eaten by jackals.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:54 PM on June 13, 2013


The thing is, predators aren't the check on populations of wildcats. Availability of prey is. And domesticated cats aren't population limited in that way because they are fed by humans, so their population is far, far higher than it would be if they had to depend on predation.
posted by Justinian at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


oneirodynia: “By far the greatest threat to bird populations is habitat loss due to climate change, sprawl, and increased farming. Getting rid of all the cats won't solve that much bigger problem.”
It does solve the problem of neighborhood cats leaving the partially-eaten mutilated remains of what used to be his hobby for my Dad to clean up.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The island she worked on was also home to an endangered fox species which was threatened by feral cats competing for its food supply. The solution here was literally hire hunters to go out at night and shoot cats.

There's a recently closed navy base near me that's home to a colony of endangered California Least Terns. There are sharpshooters around the colony to shoot anything that threatens them, including birds of prey. No large trees or structures over one story are allowed because they provide habitat for owls and hawks.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2013


How do you suggest we go about culling the mcmansion buyer and palm oil plantation customer populations? I'm thinking cybernetically enhanced mutant tigers. With frickin' lasers on their heads.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And domesticated cats aren't population limited in that way because they are fed by humans, so their population is far, far higher than it would be if they had to depend on predation.

It's the most adorable infestation.

I think part of the issue is that it doesn't really inconvenience humans, the way other infestations do.
posted by corb at 1:06 PM on June 13, 2013


Don't no one need to cure warts anymore?

"...you heave your cat after 'em and say, 'Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I'm done with ye!' That'll fetch any wart."
- Adventures of Tom Sawyer
posted by sammyo at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


All cats should be indoors cats. Feral cats should be rounded up, spayed or neutered, offered for adoption and if not adopted should be placed in giant cat enclosures where they can live out their lives high on catnip and mini-pumpkins. All other positions are stupid. Now, since I have won this thread, I'm posting only lolcats til I get a mod timeout.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry I late
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think part of the issue is that it doesn't really inconvenience humans, the way other infestations do.

Yeah, I would disagree with that.
I have no problems with cats as house pets, but when my neighbors outsource their waste disposal to my yard, they are dicks. If I take my dog to crap on their yard . . . somehow they fail to see the equivalence.
But the inconvenience is very much the same as other infestations. When the rat population exploded because a local group started a program that provided them a huge increase in protected breeding locations right next to food sources, the came into my house and, whoopee, rat crap.

As for feral and free-roaming domestic cats, I see the direct effect on the local native bird populations. I think they should be treated as we treat any other invasive species, eradication. Yes, I support that for starlings and other birds, too. My kid thinks we should get BB guns and hunt the invasive birds in the neighborhood and eat them. He's a good kid who doesn't like waste. I am not sure what his suggested use for the cats would be. I am also not sure that the neighbors would take kindly to our invasive bird safari hunt on their front lawns.

This is such a loaded topic. My neighborhood listserv is currently having the same conversation. Imagine if you were my neighbor, had a free-roaming cat and heard my advocacy for their elimination and complaints about poop on my lawn. Oh yeah! Things haven't been this divisive since the election!
(sigh)
I don't really want to kill their cats, I just want them to keep them inside or in their own damn yard.
posted by Seamus at 1:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is such a loaded topic.

Yes. I moved past complaining about neighbour's outdoor housecats in my yard years ago because the two options are endless impotent rage or turning into an animal abuser. So I just gave up having any emotional investment in it.

You've broken me, cat-owners. I hope you're happy.
posted by GuyZero at 2:10 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If bird lovers really wanted to save their precious tits, they should start burning down cities. Cats are a sympton of a human problem.

But wiping out the human race to save some rare bird is as irrational (though highly effective) solution as shooting 70 million feral cats.

Someone posted above they have a cat and when the animal passes they won't be replacing it because "An indoor cat is an unhappy cat." I strongly disagree, my cats are plenty happy. One of my cats is deathly afraid of the great outdoors. The other loves going outside, but is only allowed on a leash/harness getup. She resents it and would rather roam the front garden free and will occasionally whine at the front door. TOO BAD KITTY, MY HOUSE MY RULES.

In angers me so much to see other people's cats roaming the neighborhood, dodging traffic, getting into screaming fights..they are going to die, and terribly painful way. Cats need to stay indoors, period. If not for the birds, for their own safety. Outdoor cats life expectancy is 4 years, indoors is around 20. Even a working cat needs to be caged at night to keep the raccoons from getting it.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seamus, I'm glad to hear you don't want to kill my cat. It is a loaded subject.

My cat roams outside. My neighbours are mostly happy about that, because he helps keep the rodents under control; mostly mice, but every now and then he catches a mole as well. Birds: only very rarely. I think he's caught and brought home two or three of them. He's just no good at birds. Back when he was young, and quicker, I gave him a bell on his collar in springtime, to give the birds a better chance. He's 16 now, too old to catch them anyway.

There are plenty of birds around the house. In my small yard alone, watching from inside the house, I have identified over 12 different species.

My cat, of course, is neutered. I think it's pretty stupid to let a cat breed freely. It's not as if the shelters aren't full. At least one of those shelter cats got a forever home, here with me. If he hadn't been neutered when I adopted him, I would have taken him to the vet myself.

My cat will usually poop and pee in our own yard; we have provided him with a patch of loose sand especially for that purpose. He has a catbox too, he just prefers to go outside.

Of course, the situation here is not the same as in other parts of the world. Here, outside cats are pretty much accepted (and there are no coyotes). Most cat owners do their best to prevent random breeding and other downsides of letting their pets roam freely. The others should be hissed at, and scratched.

I don't think I deserve a cookie or anything. I just want to say that I believe that not all people who let their cats go outside are irresponsible pet owners.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Birds: only very rarely.

I suspect if you put a camera on your cat, you'd be very surprised. Cats will swipe at passing bird, sometimes catching them with a claw, and tearing the open. The birds fly away, but die shortly after that.

Unless you're actually following your cat around, you have no idea what it is actually killing.

If I see the neighbor's cats in my yard, I squirt them with a squirt gun.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yep, if your cat brought home 2 or 3 birds it's likely he killed far more than that. Cats shouldn't be allowed outdoors. If you think that means they would be desperately unhappy then don't get a cat.
posted by Justinian at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless you're actually following your cat around, you have no idea what it is actually killing.
He is rarely out of sight. Most of his outdoor time is spent around the house.

If I see the neighbor's cats in my yard, I squirt them with a squirt gun.
Good idea. If my cat would go into other yards and people wouldn't want him there, I'd happily buy them a great big Super Soaker. It's a great way to teach him to stay away.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:19 PM on June 13, 2013


Twenty-three percent of cat prey items were returned to households; 49% of items were left at the site of capture, and 28% were consumed
posted by junco at 2:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


When people claim that the life expectancy of an indoor-outdoor cat is identical to that of an outdoor cat, they lose their audience of people who let their cats out, because people who let their cats out know that indoor-outdoor cats do not live, on average, 3 or 4 years. There are lots of good arguments for indoor-only cats! Use those instead.
posted by jeather at 2:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too-Ticky, respectfully, that's the same tired argument many have. Everyone thinks their cat isn't a problem. When millions think this way, and let their cats outside, it is a problem.
posted by agregoli at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I treat my cats like they are human. But I don't let them out. Because we live in Philly, and I fear they would be beat up or something
posted by angrycat at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2013


Agregoli, I'm not sure what kind of problem you think my cat is.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2013


Instead of squirting them, people in Philly would probably huck batteries at them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Contributor to mass bird death, the very topic of this thread. I'm certain you knew what I was talking about, there's no other subject at hand.
posted by agregoli at 2:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agregoli, I'm not sure what kind of problem you think my cat is.

The kind that kills birds and small animals and occasionally poops in other people's yards?

Sure, it's only a very small problem by itself. But multiply it by tens of millions...
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2013


The solution is to give the birds tiny handguns of their own.
posted by elizardbits at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Agregoli, I'm not sure what kind of problem you think my cat is.

Three birds observed brought home / 23% = thirteen lifetime bird kills or ( / 16 years) = ~.82 birds killed per year * 3.5 million cats = 2,870,000 wild birds killed per year in your country (many species of which likely have worldwide populations less than that number.). Assuming your cat is the median cat and a normal distribution.

Not to pile on, but not thinking honestly about your personal contribution to a ecosystem-wide problem is the root of, well, many of the world's problems.
posted by junco at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, if cats bring home 23 percent of their kills, and my cat has brought home three birds in all his 16 years... as mass death goes, that's not very impressive.
Less than one bird a year. If each cat killed one bird a year, would we really call it a problem?

Of course that one bird is still a bird. Just like the pollution from one car is still pollution. Multiplied by tens of millions of cars, that is a problem. But many of us still have cars...

Of course I'm responsible for whatever problems my cat causes. And my car.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2013


Yes! Birds should be allowed to carry holstered weapons! They don't have this problem in Kansas!
posted by Toekneesan at 2:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]



I love cats and have always had several growing up in the city. They were indoor outdoor cats.
I move to a rural area which happens to be smack dab in the middle of a major bird migratory path. It's consider one of the bird watching meccas in NA and is known for having many rare and endangered birds come to stay in the summer or pass through on their way further north. My property is on the edge of a wild marsh and fen so I get tons of birds all around. Some days in the spring especially the bird noise is deafening. It's pretty amazing at times.

I gained some rescued cats and decided to keep them indoors. They grew from kittens so don't know the difference. While they like to sit in windows most times if they do get out they are back inside pretty fast. There are a lot of things around here that like to eat cats so that's one reason. The other is the bird killing. In the city our cats always caught birds. Ones that were abundant, like starlings and others. Here is a different story. It would really bother me if they caught any of the endangered or rare ones that come through. Those birds are having a tough enough time as it is and don't need my cats hunting them out of pure instinct.

Maybe in the city and other largely urban areas where the types of birds around have adapted to it isn't such a big deal if cats are out killing Starlings for instance are like rats. Some even call them rat birds. In areas on the urban edges and in areas like mine which host many rare species it would be a bigger deal. Cats also kill small reptiles, many of which can be rare as well.

I love cats but they are killers. Mine can be satisfied with the mice that come into my house.
posted by Jalliah at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know that giving handguns to birds is the long-term fix for this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, we can't really know until we try it out for a while.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man, I lived in Hollywood, which was the foothills of the Hollywood Hills, and we had coyotes wander down all the time (generally at night; in the day you would sometimes see them peering back at you from the brush or the brambles or whatever wooded areas are called.)

There were always signs in my neighborhood for missing chihuahuas. It would have a picture of the little animal with a note that said "Chico: Lost." I was always tempted to put a similar sign below it with a picture of a a coyote that said "Chico: Delicious."


I have chickens which free range during the day. If they're not locked up at night they will die to various predators. Even with me doing that the occasional one would disappear. It was a mystery until one day I was on my deck and happened to be looking in the right direction. A bald eagle swooped down and grabbed one of my chickens. It was the coolest and most horrifying thing to see. On one hand I was awed by the site and thought 'wow that was amazing' and on the other 'omg my chicken!'. Props to the eagle though. I couldn't be upset for long. It was just doing what it does.

If one of those would take a fully grown chicken I could easily see them taking small dogs and cats.
Just one of the reason my cats stay indoors...
posted by Jalliah at 3:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, we can't really know until we try it out for a while.

Yeah, but then we'd need a control group, and what IRB is gonna let those control birds just get slaughtered.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm as anti feral cat as the come, but this is an incredibly regressive tax that would destroy families. Not everyone has a couple hundred bucks for the unsubsidized cost of spaying/neutering, much less more for a fine.

ASPCA - Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs

As others have pointed out, if such a family can afford to feed a cat, they can afford to sterilize it. The ASCPA makes it very affordable.
posted by botono9 at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2013


As others have pointed out, if such a family can afford to feed a cat, they can afford to sterilize it.

But maybe they can't afford both. Then they should do what?
posted by Toekneesan at 3:28 PM on June 13, 2013


But maybe they can't afford both. Then they should do what?

Buy a goldfish.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


They didn't buy the cat. They took in a stray. Some families don't buy pets.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:45 PM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, and what's more, if they spay or neuter it they won't be able to afford christmas presents for their adorable little moppets. Why do you people hate cats, kids and christmas?
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


They didn't buy the cat. They took in a stray. Some families don't buy pets.

Find a home for the pet. If they can't afford to spay it ($30-$40 through the humane society here in Omaha; similar prices are widely available), they aren't going to be able to afford many of the responsibilities of owning a cat. The litter box is going to cost $20, and require new litter ($7 for a 20-pound box; more expensive if bought in lower quantities), food (.50 cents per day at cheapest, so somewhere between $180 and $200 per year), vet bills (annually somewhere between $50 and $180, depending on shots, treatment, etc), and end-of-life care. Just having a cat put down will be $50-plus.

Taking responsibility for a cat is a financial undertaking. The average monthly cost is about $50. If you don't have the money for it, you don't have the ability to take responsibility for the cat, and your responsibility becomes finding someone who does.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, that assumes there is one way to have a cat. There isn't. The human/cat relationship is old and comes in many colors. Even a cat box isn't a given. In spite of the fact that people who have opinions on cats are concentrated in urban areas, that doesn't mean the affected cats and birds are in urban areas. I would argue that they are not. They are in fact in suburban and rural areas, and there are very different populations and classes and resources there.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2013


The Channel Island cat eradication program public comments were epic. I wonder if they're still available?

Having said that public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of euth'ing feral cats. Only a certain subset of city people hold the belief that cats and humans have some kind of special relationship and only a tiny subset of those believe in no-kill. And only a subset of people who actively do TNR continue to think it's the answer 10 years in. Because it's obviously not: we used to pick up 30-50 stray cats a year on our property near a college town. I think we adopted one once, all the rest got put to sleep. The rate at which people dump cats and they reproduce is astonishing.

I think a good analogy is the BLM mustang that they are prohibited from euth'ing or sending to slaughter. I'm a life long horse lover and I think all of the horses they can't adopt should be euth'ed, shot or slaughtered asap. The No Kill thing has turned into a bunch of cruel bullshit.
posted by fshgrl at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod, that assumes there is one way to have a cat.

I would be curious to hear about some of these alternatives. I lived on a farm for part of my childhood, and have lived in a large variety of places, and almost all of the alternatives I have seen involved not taking care of the cat under the presumption it would just take care of itself.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:06 PM on June 13, 2013


You have never known a person who lives in the country and cared for many cats, but none were allowed in the house? How about the person who takes pity on the alley cat, and occasionally takes it in through the window and gives it water and food (Aubrey in Breakfast at Tiffiany's). Are we villainizing these people? Even in this story, is the bad person the person sprinkling food in the parking lot, or the person sprinkling poison on that food? I suppose we have problems with both, but are we really angry with the woman feeding strays? They are the problem, but it comes from the best of what makes us human. Be careful about calling for the end of that.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have never known a person who lives in the country and cared for many cats, but none were allowed in the house?

I knew one. I remember his solution to the problem of spaying and neutering was to drown unwanted kittens, which is a long tradition in the history of human/cat relations. I wonder if you have another alternative?

Even in this story, is the bad person the person sprinkling food in the parking lot, or the person sprinkling poison on that food?

Neither are heroes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]



there was very little I could do to keep him indoors.


I would've thought doors are standard on all houses these days.
posted by jpe at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2013



Even in this story, is the bad person the person sprinkling food in the parking lot, or the person sprinkling poison on that food?


Poison is stupid. Birds are killed by pesticides as well, with direct deaths estimated to be 72 million per year (US Fish and Wildlife numbers). That number does not include indirect deaths, such as deaths of chicks of poisoned birds, or the death of birds with neurological impairment from pesticides. If other animals get into that poisoned cat food, you can expect birds to die as well.

Some other ways humans cause bird deaths, besides letting cats outside: window collisions, estimated 97 to 970 million bird deaths per year; power lines, estimated to be 170 million deaths per year; cars, 60 million; tens of thousand of seabirds die in fishery catches; two million birds in oil and wastewater pits; and an unknown number in oil spills.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


man, i just can't hate on people feeding stray cats. i mean, yeah it'd be better if the person took all the cats to be fixed, but if you are of little means it would be hella easier to feed a clowder of cats than to get their feral butts to the vet.
posted by angrycat at 6:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Housecats might not be native to North America, but there are many similar species that are.

Aww.
posted by homunculus at 6:33 PM on June 13, 2013


Too-Ticky: Back when he was young, and quicker, I gave him a bell on his collar in springtime, to give the birds a better chance. He's 16 now, too old to catch them anyway.”

I could sit here telling you all the stuff I know about this, as a lifelong (indoor, always indoor) – that every cat they've ever studied killed more than their owners believed they did, that bells are useless and don't work at all, etc. But I'm not sure that's the best thing. I'm not here to convince you that you're a terrible cat owner.

What I will say is this: how can you believe that all the tens of millions of cat owners in the United States are like you? Are you going to educate them? Train them in how they can take care of cats? Force them to move to neighborhoods like yours where cats (apparently) have a low impact and fit in well? I don't believe that will happen, and I don't believe it should be your responsibility (or anybody's) to try to make it happen.

This is why I believe that, for most communities in the United States, it makes sense to strongly encourage that cats be kept inside 100% of the time. It isn't going to solve all the problems, but it's the only good start – and it's the only way to prevent cats from dying a short, wretched death on the road or at the claws of another cat.

Maybe some people are incredibly diligent; maybe some people don't have day jobs, and can watch their cats and keep them in line of sight every moment that they're outside. Most can't, though.
posted by koeselitz at 6:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before I go to bed I will add that feral cats are a terrible problem, but kindness, while occasionally mis-directed, and sometimes fraught with unintended consequences, probably is not.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Toekneesan: “Bunny Ultramod, that assumes there is one way to have a cat. There isn't. The human/cat relationship is old and comes in many colors. Even a cat box isn't a given. In spite of the fact that people who have opinions on cats are concentrated in urban areas, that doesn't mean the affected cats and birds are in urban areas. I would argue that they are not. They are in fact in suburban and rural areas, and there are very different populations and classes and resources there.”

I lived in rural areas for many years, and for many of those years I had cats. I worked in horse barns in Colorado, and sometimes we had cats in the barn.

But that was always a mistake, because they always died within two or three years. Letting cats outdoors in rural areas is in many ways worse than letting cats outdoors in urban areas. Why? Coyotes, hawks, wild dogs, even wolves – all of these are potential predators; and even aside from them, there are all kinds of things that cats can get into that can hurt them. People don't think about the fact that cats are the most domesticated animal on the planet; they're not built to roam.

One particular mistake that lots of people tend to make in rural areas is to keep outdoor cats and dogs in the same house, and to let them get friendly with each other. Cats that are friendly with dogs are cats that will act friendly with coyotes – and die.

Rural cats should be indoor cats, just like urban cats.
posted by koeselitz at 6:44 PM on June 13, 2013


It's a much better thing thing for the world as a whole for a cat to be eaten by a coyote than for it to be poisoned in a parking lot.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, this: http://new.livestream.com/FosterKittenCam/Mythbusters
posted by Toekneesan at 6:53 PM on June 13, 2013


man, i just can't hate on people feeding stray cats.

I know the impulse is a good one, but the results aren't. My girlfriend's sister fed stray kittens. One bit her and she had to go through an entire cycle of rabies shots. In Hollywood, there was a woman who left out plates of food for a feral cat colony across the street from me. Not only did this result in a massive pile-up of rubbish, but it left my block bereft of birds. It also encouraged coyotes to come down from the hills, and when enough coyotes are spotted in urban spaces, the officials presume that the issue is that the number of coyotes is too large for the food supply in the hills, and they respond by culling coyotes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


And it's not just that cats attracted the coyotes. Leaving out food for cats will attract them too, as they tend to scavenge any available food.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:07 PM on June 13, 2013


Toekneesan: “It's a much better thing thing for the world as a whole for a cat to be eaten by a coyote than for it to be poisoned in a parking lot.”

Is it really better for the cat, though? I know what I'd choose.
posted by koeselitz at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2013


Since you have demonstrably never been either eaten by a coyote or poisoned to death I am not sure how you'd be certain.

my apologies if you are a spooky ghostie
posted by elizardbits at 7:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be fair to the feral cats though, they are likely only 1/3 of the problem. Forest fragmentation and the resultant brood parasitism by Brown-Headed Cowbirds are just as responsible for the reduction of neo-tropical migratory songbirds as feral cats.
posted by schyler523 at 7:59 PM on June 13, 2013


My cats have always been indoor/outdoor. The last one who died lived to 19. The remaining one is 15. I live in the urban core of a big city, and while I've seen hawks, herons, flickers and bluejays in my yard, my cat has only ever killed house sparrows, which are indeed not native (and which also kill native birds), and pigeons. And squirrels, mice and voles.

I've done some research on this, because I have a longtime online acquaintance who is a major birder and blogger, whose followers just looooove to hate on cats and "irresponsible cat owners" (definition: anyone who does not love birds more than cats) every fucking chance they get.

It's fascinating how birders will swallow whole any study, no matter how flawed, that purports to show that cats are the embodiment of evil. To them, cats are "brutal murderers," but birds who eat other animals (including cats!) are not. They like to call cat owners "cat crazies." I have never found an instance of a cat lover calling birders "bird crazies." Maybe I should start.

Most cats, like mine, live in urban areas, where the most common birds are house sparrows and pigeons. Birders will never acknowledge that cats are doing important and valuable work by keeping their numbers, and the numbers of vermin, down. Nor will they acknowledge that even though domestic cats are not native to this continent, they have been here for centuries, much longer, in fact, than some of the non-native birds they feel need to be protected from cats at all costs.

Domestic cats have taken over the ecological niches of some animals that have been displaced by human encroachment, like foxes, coyotes, and other small predators. Cats kill animals that compete with birds for food, and cats catch the weakest birds, culling the flock.

The most endangered birds in North America are the whooping crane, Gunnison sage-grouse, Kirtland's warbler, piping plover, Florida scrub-jay, ashy storm-petrel, golden-cheeked warbler, and Kittlitz's murrelet. None of these are threatened by domestic cats. They are threatened by loss of habitat and global warming. And finally, birders will never acknowledge that domestic and feral cats are not the greatest threat to birdkind - humans are. Because they have to blame something, apparently, and it's easier to blame cats than their own species.
posted by caryatid at 9:27 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


caryatid: “... my cat has only ever killed house sparrows, which are indeed not native (and which also kill native birds), and pigeons. And squirrels, mice and voles.”

How do you know? Honestly, this is exactly what every single cat owner I have ever met has said. As someone who has owned cats, who knows how inscrutable they can be, who knows that they're living creatures with their own inner lives, I ask you: how do you know exactly what your cat killed?

“My cats have always been indoor/outdoor. The last one who died lived to 19. The remaining one is 15.”

I guess it's always nice to hear about a few cats who beat the odds. What's interesting to me is that, whenever I advocate for cats being kept indoors 100% of the time, I'm called a "birder," and people assume that I haven't seen cats die on the street.
posted by koeselitz at 9:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Less than one bird a year. If each cat killed one bird a year, would we really call it a problem?

Well considering that would add up to about 70 million birds per year, yeah, I'd say it would probably still be somewhat of a problem.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to leave these POSSIBLY DISTURBING recent articles about giant feral cats here.

Second and third article in case the first doesn't work where you are. The "natural born killers" link at the bottom of the second is well informed and instructive about feral cats in Australia.

(Blokes in the images are senior traditional owners and rangers. They know what belongs on their land and in what numbers. They know how to manage their land and its fauna. When they call for help, they really need it.)
posted by Ahab at 10:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Toekneesan: “very now and then one would squawk a rather alarming squawk, and all the other birds would tilt their head. He soon realized they were actually looking at the sky with one eye, and what they were looking at was hawks[…]”
A friend has a parrot and also skylights. "Vulture" would make that alarm sound and turn her head sideways all the time. Sometimes it was a hawk. More often it was a jet.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:58 PM on June 13, 2013


I guess it's always nice to hear about a few cats who beat the odds.

Whatever the argument or discussion going on here, that's a bit condescending, don't you think?

I've always had indoor / outdoor cats, since I was a kid. I've read this thread, and others on the subject. I've always been on the "let them be free" side of the argument. I have a cat-flap window where they come and go as they please. My kits, 6 & 7 years, will live their lives this way. I used to consider the trapping a cat indoors forever was cruel. My mind has been changed on the subject over time and conversation.

I'm willing to consider my next gen of kitties be harnessed and outdoor-controlled in some fashion. My buddy does this and his cats are quite content, they are safe and get some sunshine and grass to munch. Certainly no more high-maintenance than my cats who want out the front door instead of the readily available flap...

I work at an office that is adjacent to a large park and a neighborhood. We adopted a stray that was someone's pet, abandoned. Fed her outside. There was a feral colony we weren't aware of and here they come. I called the local Humane Society and they work with a feral cat organization. I'd never heard of TNR before this. We put out traps and caught several ferals. They were vaccinated, fixed and chipped, and returned. Most disappeared -- the process is traumatic. Our second office pet was an ear-tip who was skittish until I loved her up and now she's the sweetest office kitty ever. A third lives under the building -- we know she's there but keeps her distance. A couple others are out there but they're cut and not making kittens. If we see new ones, we'll call the feral org and do the traps again.

I'm not arguing for or against TNR or euthanasia or whatever. We had a situation and our town had a solution, where we as a small business didn't have a clue. I'm grateful for their help and I don't care whether it's a good idea or a bad idea -- it's more than I could deal with on my own.
posted by wallabear at 11:07 PM on June 13, 2013


koeselitz
how can you believe that all the tens of millions of cat owners in the United States are like you?
I can't, and I don't. Also, things are different wherever you go, and the place I live differs from the US. So I can't support generalising statements like 'cats should always be kept indoors' or 'cats should never be kept indoors'.

like_a_friend

Well considering that would add up to about 70 million birds per year, yeah, I'd say it would probably still be somewhat of a problem.

I don't know that I'd say the same, since I don't know how many birds die of other/natural causes every year, or how many birds there are (I'm assuming we're talking about the US here). 70 million sounds like a high number, but it lacks context.

Still, I'm willing to say that it sounds like y'all have a bigger problem with feral cats than you do with pet cats.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:13 PM on June 13, 2013


Humane Officer Accused of Killing Litter of Kittens in Front of Kids
posted by homunculus at 11:13 PM on June 13, 2013


Too-Ticky: "Still, I'm willing to say that it sounds like y'all have a bigger problem with feral cats than you do with pet cats."

Yeah, I'll totally agree with that one. Feral cats are a much, much bigger problem. And maybe I need to let go of the "cats should be inside" thing; I will always keep my cats inside, since I don't want them to die, but as far as endemic and widespread problems go pet cats are not the issue (for most values of "pet" anyway.)

me: "I guess it's always nice to hear about a few cats who beat the odds."

wallabear: "Whatever the argument or discussion going on here, that's a bit condescending, don't you think?"

Sigh. Well, yes, I guess so. Sorry if it seemed that way (particularly to you, caryatid - no offense intended there.). I just get frustrated with this argument; the same thing always happens. Person A points out a study that shows that indoor/outdoor cats tend to live much, much shorter lives on average, and someone responds "well, my three indoor/outdoor cats lived very long." These are simply not helpful sources of information. They're purely anecdotal. So I don't really need to hear from another person who had a cat about what did or didn't happen with that cat. And to be completely honest with myself I guess I'm doing the same thing. What I'd really, really like is for somebody to do a few really good studies about the average life expectancy of cats and their environments, and for those studies to be published. (Or, alternately, if such studies already exist, I'd like to know about them.) Until then, I have my suspicions and observations, and others have theirs.

Also, I guess I should be clear, given Too-Ticky's very good point above: there are two issues here for me. One is: should pet cats be kept indoors? I think so, but that's my opinion as a cat lover who hates to see them suffer, and that's really the main basis of that issue for me. The other point - and the one this thread is mostly about - is: what do we do about the very real problem of seventy million feral cats (in the US alone) that we have no idea how to take care of or manage the population of? As I think we've seen, TNR isn't really efficient enough to be workable; the thought of trapping, neutering, and releasing seventy million cats is mind-boggling.

On this point, I'm beginning to wonder why we haven't considered other options. It appears that species-targeted oral contraceptives have been in development for some time. That would solve this a lot faster than anything involving trapping. But perhaps I'm being a bit idealistic in hoping that that might be possible.
posted by koeselitz at 11:37 PM on June 13, 2013


Wow, that sounds like it could potentially be a great option. I hope it materializes.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:57 PM on June 13, 2013


I just think it's kind of surreal that people who are advocating for feeding stray birds (and thus, perhaps, enhancing their population beyond what it would naturally be) have a problem with feeding stray cats (and thus, perhaps, enhancing their population beyond what it would naturally be.) The same with how people who are advocating for killing feral cats are opposed to coyotes or hawks doing it. Coyotes and hawks are endangered, the more feral cats they kill the better for them.

Maybe the solution is more hawks!
posted by corb at 2:25 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Coyotes are not endangered. Some hawks are endangered, but the most common ones, like Red-Tailed Hawks are not.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on June 14, 2013


It appears that species-targeted oral contraceptives have been in development for some time.

Yep. This problem will go away quietly when someone finds a way to sterilize feral cats with something safe and inexpensive you can distribute in their food. Feed the nice kitty every day but simultaneously make sure it has no kittens. "One female cat can lead to the production of 420,000 offspring in her lifetime." When it dies a natural death, no more kitty to feed, and none of those potential 420,000 descendants.

I would like to see something like this used to keep deer populations down, too. (As opposed to shooting them every year.)

And it would help places like Moscow, which has something like 35,000 feral dogs roaming in sometimes dangerous packs.

And of course there are the rats.

Though you'd have to be careful not to end up breeding animals that don't like the taste or smell of the contraceptive.
posted by pracowity at 5:15 AM on June 14, 2013


Coyotes and hawks are endangered, the more feral cats they kill the better for them.

Coyotes are sooooo not endangered. This is in part because of cats (and dogs), which are easy prey. Thanks, cats!

I also seem to recall a news item a couple years ago about a town overrun by skunks, where it turned out they were being sustained by cat food left out for feral cats. (The cats and the skunks seemed to get along fine.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 AM on June 14, 2013


(I suspect the increase in the range of opossums is also related to cats. My cousins have an opossum family living in their barn right alongside the barn cats, because food. See also urban raccoons.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:52 AM on June 14, 2013


huh. i don't really get it. i'm on team keeping cats inside, spaying, neutering, etc. but the argument against feeding feral cats is:
1) you are preventing them from starving to death, ergo more feral cats
2) possums
3) raccoons
4) skunks
I'm not trying to be condescending, just really not getting it.

A friend of a friend survived a fucked up childhood and went on to be social worker and one of those people who nurture unloved things. there is a feral cat population that she feeds, and she managed to get a couple to the vet, but she works all the time to stay afloat and she is really doing all she can. Is she being irresponsible? And if so, is it on the grounds that she is attracting possums/skunks/raccoons?

I mean, I can see one making the argument that she should brain each cat with a hammer or something (thus preventing the suffering of starvation) but is that a reasonable argument to make?
posted by angrycat at 6:19 AM on June 14, 2013


I wasn't making an argument; just stating some of the fun (and beneficial, if you're one of those critters) side-effects.

But the food also attracts the coyotes that eat the cats. There are better ways to nurture unloved things.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:24 AM on June 14, 2013


Those giant ferals that Ahab links to in the Northern Territory are amazing and a bit disconcerting. There's a large African cat called the serval that people are breeding and crossbreeding here in the states as pets. I figure it's just a matter of time before those start becoming feral and perhaps become the next Everglades python problem.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:54 AM on June 14, 2013


... how do you know exactly what your cat killed?

Well let's see. I have witnessed my cat, over 15 years, killing lots of house sparrows and the occasional pigeon (when he was younger). He has brought only house sparrows into the house. I have found only house sparrow feet and feathers in the yard. House sparrows are by FAR the most common bird I see at my feeder. They are one of the most common animals (not just birds) in the world. They are easy to catch. And I have never, ever, not once in 15 years of owning this cat, found any evidence whatsoever that he has killed any other type of bird, and I would know it if I saw the remains. So although I cannot state with 100% certainty that I know exactly what my cat has killed, your honor, I do know enough to make a highly educated guess.

I guess it's always nice to hear about a few cats who beat the odds.

You guess?

Look, I know that anecdote does not equal data. But the fact that you hear this so often should tell you that the "data" of outdoor cats living an average of four years does not tell the whole story. Like so many of the bird studies, it does not recognize that all outside cats and cat environments are not the same. It lumps ALL outdoor cats together, from the feral kitten to the barn cat to the pampered housecat who has a catflap and likes to hang out in a large, fenced urban garden.
posted by caryatid at 7:20 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to be condescending, just really not getting it.

There are other arguments in this thread.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2013


People defending feral cats have obviously never lived in an area with a legitimate feral cat problem. There was an old warehouse near where I lived as a teen that the city finally decided was too much to tolerate; birds, rabbits, and other small animals were being virtually eradicated in a large radius around the structure by a feral cat colony. They even took a couple of kittens and puppies from peoples' yards. There were worries about the potential for rabies or other disease outbreaks.

They had some of the local farmers shoot them. There were well over 100 cats (something like 150-160) in the colony.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:27 AM on June 14, 2013


I'm not sure anyone is defending feral cats. I think what's happening is some people are complaining about conflating the problems feral cats present and applying them to all outdoor cats.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:29 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


And yes, I specifically defended the intentions of people who showed kindness to ferals, but I think I can do that and still think ferals are a problem.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:35 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be silly to blame feral cats. Feral cats are not feral because they want to be; they are feral because they were abandoned or found life with their particular humans intolerable. Feral cats are only trying to stay alive.

And yes, whenever this topic comes up and there are bird lovers and cat lovers present, the birders skip right over the true culprits (people who abandon or mistreat cats) and go right to blaming "cat owners." I asked once why they thought this was effective, blaming the people whose help they could use. One of them told me it is because that will make cat owners police their own kind. Huh?
posted by caryatid at 7:56 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


there is a feral cat population that she feeds, and she managed to get a couple to the vet, but she works all the time to stay afloat and she is really doing all she can. Is she being irresponsible?

Yup.

And if so, is it on the grounds that she is attracting possums/skunks/raccoons?

No, it's on the grounds that she's feeding feral cats, which helps prevent them from dying.

I can't see why you wouldn't get it, except that you don't accept the premise that feral cats are a problem. Do you think that people should feed and nurture snakeheads, or Asian carp, or wild rats, or other animals that are more widely acknowledged to be problematic?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:19 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be silly to blame feral cats. Feral cats are not feral because they want to be; they are feral because they were abandoned or found life with their particular humans intolerable. Feral cats are only trying to stay alive.

Blame doesn't enter into it; cats are not moral agents. Of course they're only trying to stay alive. So are Asian carp and zebra mussels and kudzu.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blame doesn't enter into it; cats are not moral agents. Of course they're only trying to stay alive. So are Asian carp and zebra mussels and kudzu.

And yet there's a heavy-handed blame vibe from some corners directed toward cats, feral and not feral, as well as cat owners, every single time this topic gets posted to the blue.
posted by aught at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2013


When birders find a new non-native (exotic) bird, it's an EVENT. They flock (haha) to see it and photograph it; they go into ecstasies over adding it to their life list. Non-native birds good, non-native cats bad.

I mentioned to my birder acquaintance that I hoped the Great Blue Heron who once scoped out my pond would not return and eat my fish. Her reply: "Herons can't help it. They see backyard ponds as a special kind of bird feeder." And yet I have no plans to poison it to save my fish.

It's the double standard that gets to me. Herons (and eagles, hawks, ospreys, falcons, owls, etc.) "cant' help it" but feral cats should be poisoned for doing what they can't help.

And yet there's a heavy-handed blame vibe from some corners directed toward cats, feral and not feral, as well as cat owners, every single time this topic gets posted to the blue.

Exactly.
posted by caryatid at 8:37 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think that people should feed and nurture snakeheads, or Asian carp, or wild rats, or other animals that are more widely acknowledged to be problematic?

Like, say, pigeons or geese?
posted by corb at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2013


We cull the deer population every freakin' year. Why is that so different from culling the feral cat population?

If I had to guess, I would think that crows are a greater danger to bird populations than cats.

Yeah it's too bad there isn't actual data or information so we're forced to use wild ass guesses.
--Justinian


Reductions in foxes and crows led to an average threefold increase in breeding success of lapwing, golden plover, curlew, red grouse and meadow pipit.
posted by eye of newt at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the double standard that gets to me. Herons (and eagles, hawks, ospreys, falcons, owls, etc.) "cant' help it" but feral cats should be poisoned for doing what they can't help.

I'm not much into poisoning. As horrible as it sounds if you can't catch and put down in a vet type situation shooting is much more humane.

It's not a double standard. If those birds bred like crazy and their population and was causing other animal populations and/or people (disease etc) then yes looking at doing something to try to control that population would be warrented.

All animals do what they do. Most people don't have issues of widespread killing of rats and other vermin if they get out of control. In many areas coyotes (a highly adaptable species) are a problem or becoming a problem putting the natural populations as well as domestic populations of animals as well as people at risk and are culled. A few years ago a pack of feral dogs, a couple of which bred with coyotes (coydogs) was destroyed. Deer culls are common. Rabbits and gophers can also overrun areas.

Feral cats and I say this as a cat lover and hate the thought of having to deal with them this way but I've seen what happens when a colony gets out of control. It's incredibly sad but in terms of animals doing what they do once they are out in the 'wild' they become just like any other non-domesticated animal in terms of how they function in an ecological system.
posted by Jalliah at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like, say, pigeons or geese?

Yes, exactly. Pigeons are like cats in that they're problematic but charismatic and popular. Geese less so.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2013


It's not personal, unless you take it personally. Outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats kill birds and live much shorter lives on average than indoor only cats. If you're uncomfortable with those facts, good! Please consider making your cat an indoor only one.
posted by agregoli at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2013


I can't help thinking of when Ambassador Delenn refused aid to G'Kar on the grounds that she had no right to choose between Centauri and Narn lives. I think I'm a geek, but I think it still applies.
posted by corb at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2013


If those birds bred like crazy and their population and was causing other animal populations and/or people (disease etc) then yes looking at doing something to try to control that population would be warrented.

That's just it. Some of them do (overbreed, spread disease, endanger other native birds). House sparrows, in particular. The only difference between them and "exotic" non-native birds is that they have been here longer and we can observe the effect they have on native animals. Want to know an effective way to keep their populations under control? Cats.

If you're uncomfortable with those facts

I'm not uncomfortable with them, I just dispute the notion that these are good reasons to keep all cats indoors. It is just not. that. simple. My cats (this one and any future ones) will continue to be indoor/outdoor cats, kill squirrels and sparrows and pigeons and mice in my yard, and live to healthy ripe old ages.

Please consider your specific situation before you apply over-broad general rules to it.
posted by caryatid at 9:28 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's just it. Some of them do (overbreed, spread disease, endanger other native birds). House sparrows, in particular. The only difference between them and "exotic" non-native birds is that they have been here longer and we can observe the effect they have on native animals. Want to know an effective way to keep their populations under control? Cats.

Those weren't the ones that you listed in your comment which I was referring too.

And I agree, some birds do fall into a category of being an issue as some have already commented about. If they are an issue then and it's considered enough of one that something could be done about it then the same standard applies. There's no double standard.

And unless cats can be made to somehow only target those specific birds would they be effective population control. Perhaps in very specific circumstances they would be. However cats are indiscriminate killers. Any thing small enough, cats will kill it. You can't control what a cat kills.
posted by Jalliah at 9:38 AM on June 14, 2013


Stating your case is the exception isn't a convincing argument to me.
posted by agregoli at 9:55 AM on June 14, 2013


There's a whole humane society page on house sparrows, their problems, and what to do about it. A large population of outdoor cats picking them off is not one of their recommendations.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:55 AM on June 14, 2013


I think I found the solution! This. How could the birds not see a cat in one of these, and the ferals will willingly take their own lives if forced to wear one. Problem solved.

You're welcome.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


banal evil: "If a non-native feral species that looked like a spider crab killed 2 billion birds a year, people would realize that this is a serious problem.

Birders are very cognizant of this issue, I've found most cat owners don't know and don't care.
"

We care and this is partly why our cats are exclusively indoor cats.

I genuinely am perplexed by the apparent hundreds of thousands who are incensed that people are correctly identifying their pets as the predatory carnivores that they are. Sure, cats are cute. They also, when not kept indoors, kill animals.

That said, I think once you give cats a taste of the outdoors, they will no longer be satisfied staying inside. Which is why if you care for native bird species you can unfortunately never let a cat outdoors.

tommyD: "I heard from a person who really knows his animals that feral cats don't have much impact on bird populations. Feral cats don't hunt for fun the way pet cats will, it costs them too much energy and they aren't overfed and have energy to burn the way pet cats do. Feral cats focus on prey that are a lot easier to catch than birds."

If this is true this information really needs to be shared widely, because I think most people think it *is* the feral cats that are doing it, and not their own cute little Mr. Minkins who wouldn't harm a fly and is anyways well fed.

Cats instinctively hunt and, given the opportunity, will hunt, even if they don't need to for food. That much I did know.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I genuinely am perplexed by the apparent hundreds of thousands who are incensed that people are correctly identifying their pets as the predatory carnivores that they are. Sure, cats are cute. They also, when not kept indoors, kill animals

I'm not sure who you think you're talking to.

When I had indoor/outdoor cats, they absolutely killed animals. Sometimes, they ate them. They preferred killing and eating animals to eating dry food.

I saw, and see, nothing wrong with that.

Choosing that birds must be prioritized over cats is just choosing which animal you think is adorable and needs to stay.
posted by corb at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those weren't the ones that you listed in your comment which I was referring too.

I acknowledged that in my reply.

There's no double standard.

Indeed there is a double standard. There are many species of non-native birds in North America. Most of them have been present on this continent for a shorter period than domestic cats. Many of them are grave threats to native birds. Birders don't insist that people should stop feeding them. And yet one of the basic foundations of birders' stance against cats is that they are non-native. That is a double standard.

And unless cats can be made to somehow only target those specific birds would they be effective population control. Perhaps in very specific circumstances they would be.

The circumstances don't have to be specific; quite the contrary. Most cats live in urban areas. So do most birds. Urban cats kill urban birds. If you live and own a cat in an urban area, the likelihood of your cat killing an endangered bird species is practically nonexistent. In fact, if cat predation were as big a threat to bird populations as it's been hyped lately, those populations would have died out long ago.
posted by caryatid at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Choosing that birds must be prioritized over cats is just choosing which animal you think is adorable and needs to stay.

I don't see how. It seems to me that the equation actually is: Choosing to have a cat and let it out doors is prioritizing a completely unnecessary luxury for a cat over the lives of millions of other animals per year.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:59 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most cats live in urban areas. So do most birds

Where are you getting these statistics?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Choosing to have a cat and let it out doors is prioritizing a completely unnecessary luxury for a cat over the lives of millions of other animals per year.

Seriously? One cat's "unnecessary luxury" versus the lives of millions of other animals a year? I must have overlooked the rotting remains of millions of animals in my back yard somehow.

Where are you getting those statistics?
posted by caryatid at 1:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Super cool stuff recently posted at the BBC on a new study looking at what cats get into when roaming. Nothing all that surprising, just kind of fascinating.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:25 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


caryatid: “In fact, if cat predation were as big a threat to bird populations as it's been hyped lately, those populations would have died out long ago.”
Nobody wants to hear what I really think so I'll just say this: Even if overall bird populations are stable or growing, the neighbor's cats have ensured that the population at my Dad's feeder is near zero. After the second or third mutilated bird on the deck because the cats would come up the steps from the yard 12′ below, Dad stopped filling the feeder for the first time in 30 years.

Feuds have started and names recorded in the Book of Grudges over less.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously? One cat's "unnecessary luxury" versus the lives of millions of other animals a year? I must have overlooked the rotting remains of millions of animals in my back yard somehow.

You misunderstand. I'm not saying that each cat kills millions per year, I am saying millions of cats do that. It's sort of the theme of this thread, actually.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously? One cat's "unnecessary luxury" versus the lives of millions of other animals a year?

Yes, owning a cat is a luxury, and a choice, and a privilege. Owning an outdoor cat means taking your share of the responsibility for the overall problem. Your cat isn't somehow an exception just because it belongs to such a special snowflake.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Owning an outdoor cat means taking your share of the responsibility for the overall problem.

I take total responsibility for my cat killing house sparrows, an invasive, predatory, non-native threat to native birds. I just don't think that's a problem.
posted by caryatid at 1:49 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of my neighbors don't consider owning a giant gas guzzling SUV and driving it a half mile to save a walk to be part of the problem either.
posted by Justinian at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I take total responsibility for my cat killing house sparrows, an invasive, predatory, non-native threat to native birds. I just don't think that's a problem.

Looks like you're from Denver, and it looks to me like house sparrows aren't the only issue with cats there.

I suspect if it was, we wouldn't be having this discussion, and I am not clear on why you are truing to limit the discussion of the behavior of outdoor cats to to house sparrows
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:16 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


caryatid: Most cats live in urban areas. So do most birds.
You've... never been out of the city, have you? That is so patently wrong it makes people dumber just to read it.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:31 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just don't think that's a problem.

yeah I know my dog bites the mailman and the paperboy and he killed that one infant, but he also bites burglars.
posted by GuyZero at 2:34 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


aught: “And yet there's a heavy-handed blame vibe from some corners directed toward cats, feral and not feral, as well as cat owners, every single time this topic gets posted to the blue.”

Well – I want to confront this, because I feel like I'm kind of on the other side, even though I've owned cats for most of my life and absolutely adore them. But I've felt that feeling. I've felt the frustration, and there have been times when I've turned away and told myself that cat owners are too sentimental and closed-minded to see reason on this.

But that's unfair of me.

I guess it makes more sense to put it this way:

We need to recognize that, no matter what side we're on, outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) cat ownership is of an entirely different character than ownership of any other pet in North America.

For instance: I own a dog. I am lucky enough to work at home, so I am home with that dog all day. When it's not indoors, that dog is either (a) running around in our little ten-by-ten backyard, or (b) playing with other dogs at the dog park. He is not capable of killing things, to his sadness; he chases squirrels, but I'm always there to watch him do it – that is, he's always on a leash when he does it – and, yeah, he has not once been successful at catching them, much as he'd like to. Now: dogs are probably the most likely to kill, outside of cats, and they aren't really very successful at it. Because dogs tend to get into things they shouldn't and eat things they shouldn't, dog owners don't let them roam. (And wild dogs are euthanized much more readily than wild cats, largely because wild dogs actually sometimes attack humans.) Even counting dogs, we keep very, very few actually dangerous and active predators as pets in North America.

Basically, in short, of all the pets humans in North America keep, cats are vastly the most dangerous, and the most likely to kill, by a very, very wide margin.

So it's pretty clear that outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) cat ownership is fundamentally different from ownership of any other type of pet. There is no other type of pet that humans usually keep here that is likely to kill regularly in the way that cats do. So I think cat owners have to face up to that and deal with the issue. And, yeah, it can be frustrating to me how unwilling cat owners sometimes seem to be to deal with that issue.

caryatid: “The circumstances don't have to be specific; quite the contrary. Most cats live in urban areas. So do most birds. Urban cats kill urban birds. If you live and own a cat in an urban area, the likelihood of your cat killing an endangered bird species is practically nonexistent. In fact, if cat predation were as big a threat to bird populations as it's been hyped lately, those populations would have died out long ago.”

There are a couple of things here. For one thing, like I said, I support indoor cat ownership. I think urban and rural and suburban cats should all be indoors. But that's kind of a side point, honestly.

Let's think about numbers: there are 84 million owned cats in the United States, if I have my numbers correct. This is unscientific, but I'd guess between a third and a half of those are indoor / outdoor cats. That makes, at most, 22 million outdoor pet cats. Even so, that is dwarfed by the 70 million feral cats we have roaming around.

What I'm saying, basically, is that I think it would be better for cat advocates and bird advocates alike to focus on finding a humane solution to the feral cat problem, which seems much more significant than any outdoor pet cat problem. I believe in responsible pet ownership, and so I will continue to advocate keeping cats indoors. But that's not the major problem, when we talk about impact on ecosystems. The major problem is feral cats, and everybody would be better off if we could find a humane (actually humane) and effective solution to that problem.
posted by koeselitz at 4:11 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


caryatid: “In fact, if cat predation were as big a threat to bird populations as it's been hyped lately, those populations would have died out long ago.”

I appreciate where you're coming from, and I don't think you're some crazy cat owner or anything like that. Honestly, I've liked this conversation a lot, in part because of your thoughtful contributions to it. However: I think you need to confront the fact that bird populations are not any more monolithic than cat populations. Like cats, birds have local populations. And like local populations of cats, local populations of birds have people who care about them and are worried about them. And individual circumstances need to be taken into account. You said above that the most endangered species of birds in North America are not threatened by birds – I haven't seen a citation, but I'll take your word that that is true. But even so, there are still local populations, some very significant, which are threatened by feral (not pet, feral) cats. And that really is a problem that needs to be dealt with. I agree that simple so-called "euthanasia" is not humane; but it remains a problem that needs to be dealt with.
posted by koeselitz at 4:20 PM on June 14, 2013


other than being an INDOOR cat lover, I don't have a dog in this fight. Yes, there should not be feral cats prowling about, and and yes, I cite bird death as a reason to keep cats inside.

Humans, being a fucked-up species, sometimes own animals and let them breed/dump the animals rather than deal with them. So we now have this problem, and question of how to do it humanely is a big one, because we brought it on ourselves.

But I did not really appreciate the ferocity of well, for lack of a better term, bird people. I dunno, I'm influenced to my dislike of Walter's characater in Freedom, maybe, but some (and only some) of the posts here are kind of in the fuck it I'm right so I"ll call people stupid territory. Which, I mean, fuck it, it won't change my behavior (I'll still keep my cats indoors and all of them are fixed), but I was genuinely curious to see if somebody could provide an answer to the question -- is this person I know of irresponsible for feeding feral cats -- that I could lay on the few people I know who do take care of feral cats. Arguing that the cats should starve and hence not breed more cats would not stop those who are taking care of them now, I think -- after all, that's why they are doing it -- so the cats won't starve.

Koeselitz is right in that the issue is finding a humane alternative. Because some people love cats too much to let them suffer death via starvation.
posted by angrycat at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with euthanasia? It's not like the cat suffers or is in any pain. I mean, assuming they're smothered by CO gas or something similar.

I'll keep up with the mostly-false equivalences: for absolute serious, there used to be a woman who would feed the coyotes in High Park in Toronto. Was she being humane or irresponsible?

Hint: SUPER IRRESPONSIBLE
posted by GuyZero at 5:16 PM on June 14, 2013


could you spell it out a little more i don't know if she was spreading rabies or if she was turning into coyote woman or what
posted by angrycat at 5:21 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I might add, it seems a bit of a false equivalency to equate a woman who feeds coyotes (not a domesticated animal) with a person who feeds feral cats.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:21 PM on June 14, 2013


Why? Because the coyote might hurt you but the cats will only hurt other creatures?

Feral cats aren't domesticated creatures either. They're feral.

I mean, I agree that it's not a completely fair comparison, but then again, why not? Why would you feed feral/wild cats but not coyotes or feral dogs or bears, etc? Why do cats get special treatment?
posted by GuyZero at 5:23 PM on June 14, 2013


Domestication by definition is a two-way street. We love pets. It is a natural thing to love a pet. It goes against a natural fear of predators.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:25 PM on June 14, 2013


Why? Because the coyote might hurt you but the cats will only hurt other creatures?

Um, yes?

Sorry for my speciesist exceptionalism (actually not sorry, but whatevs), but I do in fact place a higher value on human life.

This is why I eat meat, and have belts & shoes made out of leather, and so forth.

And if you've ever so much as swatted a fucking mosquito, you agree with me whether you're willing to admit it or not.
posted by dersins at 5:35 PM on June 14, 2013


There's been a weird way of talking about feeding feral cats in this thread, to be honest. Yeah, it's probably a bad idea. No, not feeding feral cats will not solve this problem. Yeah, it would be more responsible not to feed them, and I probably won't do it myself. But we seem to keep phrasing it as a question about whether people who feed feral cats are terrible people, and it seems obvious to me that they aren't. It clearly comes out if good intentions. So let people feed feral cats, if it scratches an itch for them; by all accounts it does relatively no harm or good either way.
posted by koeselitz at 5:41 PM on June 14, 2013


if it scratches an itch for them; by all accounts it does relatively no harm or good either way.

My only intent is to judge the behaviour, not the people. Yes, good people do bad things especially for very small values of bad.

I suspect if cats carried rabies people would be less willing to have big feral colonies of them around.
posted by GuyZero at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2013


Cats do carry rabies. I'm confused.
posted by agregoli at 5:59 PM on June 14, 2013


Sorry for my speciesist exceptionalism (actually not sorry, but whatevs), but I do in fact place a higher value on human life.

This is why I eat meat, and have belts & shoes made out of leather, and so forth.


Yes. We're all militant vegan animal rights terrorists for wanting feral cats dead. Makes sense.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I think the obsession over feeding ferals comes from the original story in the fpp. And it creates a perplexing dichotomy, if perhaps significant only in this instance, between feeding ferals and euthanizing them.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:30 PM on June 14, 2013


I also want to say that euthanizing is one thing, but in the fpp, the perp was accused of using rat poison on the cats. That's not humane in any stretch of the imagination. Rat poisons are usually anti-coagulants and often take a week or so to die from, typically from painful internal hemorrhaging, or bleeding out. This is not putting an animal to sleep. This hurts like a motherfuck for a long time, and then you die.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:43 PM on June 14, 2013


Oh if cats carry rabies, my bad. I'd never heard of it.
posted by GuyZero at 6:45 PM on June 14, 2013



In the US at least, more animal rabies cases that are reported are cats. They outnumber dogs.

CDC

Cats are more likely to come in contact with wild animals that carry it then dogs.

Any mammal can carry rabies, some are just more typical then others.
posted by Jalliah at 7:22 PM on June 14, 2013


Toekneesan: "I also want to say that euthanizing is one thing, but in the fpp, the perp was accused of using rat poison on the cats."

Well, and also the article cast a fairly huge amount of doubt on whether she actually was the "perp." That is: it wasn't clear that that accusation was true; in fact, it seemed just as plausible (perhaps more so) that it wasn't. So there's that, too.
posted by koeselitz at 7:23 PM on June 14, 2013


Yes, there is that. But we should never find anticoagulants on cat food. And we also shouldn't ruin people's lives without proper evidence. *Gruff.* The whole thing is very upsetting.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:30 PM on June 14, 2013


Metafilter: *Gruff.* The whole thing is very upsetting.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:35 PM on June 14, 2013


Some of my neighbors don't consider owning a giant gas guzzling SUV and driving it a half mile to save a walk to be part of the problem either.

There's a fragrant red herring! Please explain to me how my cat killing a few invasive, non-native, predatory birds that threaten native birds equates to driving an SUV.

But if you insist on going there, fine: I own a 15-year-old compact that gets over 32 mpg. I plan to own it another 10 years, at least. I drive less than 5,000 miles a year, because I work from home and take public transportation whenever I can. I compost. I xeriscape. I buy in bulk (no packaging). My (tiny) lawns are native buffalo grass. The rest of my yard is devoted to growing my own (organic) produce, which I can and preserve. I support my local farmers. I haven't used plastic bags (not just grocery bags, ANY plastic bags) for years. All my light bulbs are CFLs. I have a swamp cooler, not AC. My house is 123 years old, not new construction. That's just off the top of my head; I'm sure I could find a few other examples if you want to play more-respectful-of-the-environment-than-thou.

Look, the bird crazies are using a few extremely flawed studies to spread the mistaken idea that cat owners like me who allow their cats to go outside into a large fenced, urban yard are some ginormous threat to endangered birds and the environment in general. That is just NOT the case. I'm honestly surprised that such a normally inquisitive group of people has fallen for it.

Again, I ask you: what is the harm to the environment of my cat killing a few non-native, invasive, predatory birds that threaten native birds, and what does that have to do with driving an SUV?
posted by caryatid at 8:42 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


But even so, there are still local populations, some very significant, which are threatened by feral (not pet, feral) cats. And that really is a problem that needs to be dealt with.ny

And I am not disagreeing with that in any way.
posted by caryatid at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2013


I am not clear on why you are truing to limit the discussion of the behavior of outdoor cats to to house sparrows

I am bewildered as to why you think that is what I am doing.
posted by caryatid at 8:49 PM on June 14, 2013


You do seem to be attempting to limit the discussion to you and your persecution complex, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:53 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You do seem to be attempting to limit the discussion to you and your persecution complex, though.

Or maybe you just don't have any good arguments to make.
posted by caryatid at 9:09 PM on June 14, 2013


You've... never been out of the city, have you?

You've ... never actually looked it up, have you?
posted by caryatid at 9:20 PM on June 14, 2013


Not wanting to join the debate, I just keep watching in earnest waiting for someone to mention the food chain.
posted by Betty Tyranny at 9:30 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Feral cats aren't domesticated creatures either. They're feral.

Feral animals are, by definition, either formerly domesticated (such as abandoned cats) or descended from domesticated animals. You may already know that, but it wasn't clear.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:23 PM on June 14, 2013


Again, I ask you: what is the harm to the environment of my cat killing a few non-native, invasive, predatory birds that threaten native birds, and what does that have to do with driving an SUV?

Not in response, but this is exactly the sort of attitude that makes me think that simply educating cat owners will not be enough. If the issue is the be addressed, there will have to be laws passed and punative measures taken, because some cat owners simply will never accept that their cat is a problem when let outdoors.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:31 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


caryatid: "Look, the bird crazies are using a few extremely flawed studies to spread the mistaken idea that cat owners like me who allow their cats to go outside into a large fenced, urban yard are some ginormous threat to endangered birds and the environment in general. That is just NOT the case. I'm honestly surprised that such a normally inquisitive group of people has fallen for it."

A couple of things here:

First of all - can we maybe just slow down with the talk of "the bird crazies"? I know you feel like you've been called names like that before, but it really hasn't happened in this thread; I appreciate that you aren't directly applying that term to anybody here (not directly) but tossing the "crazies" name around seems like a bad road to go down no matter who's doing it. (And we should avoid the "cat crazies" thing, too - I totally agree on that. If that has happened in this thread, and I missed it, well, I'm against that too.)

Second - there are a couple of points where you're really simplifying things. You refer to "extremely flawed studies," but as far as I can tell many of the studies that have been done of cat behavior aren't flawed; for one thing, every collar-cam study I've seen showed pretty clearly and consistently that cats kill more than their owners realize, sometimes exponentially more. And, more to the point - why do you feel it's satisfactory to completely eschew scientific study of this subject and stick to anecdote? This seems like it's pretty important. Shouldn't we at least try to find out what the realities are, instead of just assuming (as you seem to be) that we know exactly what our cats kill, that every cat acts just like ours, and that every cat owner is just as responsible as we are?

And - third - you're really ignoring the fact that we are not talking about one or two or a few thousand or even a few million cat owners in the US. There are 84 million pet cats in the United States alone. And, as I said above, this thing that cat owners ask - that their pets be allowed to predate openly - is a thing that no other pet owner asks in our society. No other animal we keep as pets does this - roams around killing small animals freely. There's a dimension here that has to be appreciated.

I say that not because I think cats or cat owners are scary; I say that to underline my point that it's extraordinarily hasty to dismiss out of hand all the studies that have ever been done regarding cats and cat behavior and simple fall back to relying on your own experience. In your neighborhood, there are apparently no threatened species of birds that are killed by cats. That's wonderful. I'm very happy about that. But there are still almost a hundred million pet cats out there in different circumstances. You yourself made the (counter-intuitive, but true) point that most birds live in urban areas. That means that most birds - including the threatened species - face a higher concentration of predatory cats. The surmise that eighty-four million cats roaming around could conceivably be a threat to a not-insignificant number of threatened species is not a far-out surmise; in fact, it makes a lot of sense, as an educated guess.

Now: predation is absolutely not an evil thing. Birds are not somehow more innocent simply because the species of birds most often killed by cats are generally not predatory. It's important to note that, and I think it is true that a lot of people begin to read weird human moral equivalences into this situation, assuming birds to be somehow more innocent or more perfect than cats because these particular birds aren't really predators. (Of course, people who own or have owned pet cats often do the same idealizing with cats; I know I do.) The important point to note is that predation is essential for a balanced world. I would agree that there are a lot of environs where the predation of cats on house swallows is a necessary and very useful part if the system.

But it would be a mistake, I think, to assume that that's how it always is - or to assume that trying to gain some control over this process is a terrible thing. I think it's essential that we be able to say, in a given time or place: we need to make sure cats here are kept indoors. That might not mean all the cats ever anywhere, and it certainly doesn't mean spreading a bunch of blame around; it means educating people, not talking down to them, and setting up a system where it's easier for us to ask these things of cat owners in the interest of managing each ecosystem properly.
posted by koeselitz at 11:30 PM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


No other animal we keep as pets does this - roams around killing small animals freely.

This isn't a bug, it's a feature, at least in rural areas, and very likely why they were domesticated in the first place. I can live with vermin or cats. I choose cats. Cats are still predators because we want them to be, and in some cases need them to be. That instinct saved humans from disease and famine many times in the past. I understand the concern about that instinct going unchecked, and perhaps in general they've lived beyond those utilitarian origins, but that isn't true for all cat owners, everywhere, even today. There have been times where I've gotten a second cat, because the first was clearly a very shitty predator, and where that was most evident was in the garden and the pantry. For most cat owners, that predation instinct is really just fun to watch, especially when it turns its focus on a ball of yarn, but for others it is absolutely necessary to preserve and protect their food stores, and to keep disease out of the home.

Also, the study at the root of this, The Impact of Free-Ranging Domestic Cats on Wildlife of the United States, is very questionable, and I'm not the only person saying that. From the article:

Truth be told, even bird people had problems with the study, which, as Marra admits, was really a literature review that used figures from studies conducted as long ago as 1987, multiplied by “estimated cat abundance,” to reach its impressive conclusions. “I probably shouldn’t say this,” says Kerri Ann Loyd, the University of Georgia student who conceived of the KittyCam, “but I wish they’d waited for some more research.”
posted by Toekneesan at 5:04 AM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are there a lot of endangered birds living in urban areas? This really surprises me. Not that most birds live in urban areas (though that surprises me too).
posted by jeather at 5:29 AM on June 15, 2013


I just told The Ms. about this thread, and she replied, "Those people are being silly. If they really are serious about helping endangered bird populations, people should never be allowed to leave the house. That's how you help those birds."

Also, about cats being the only pet with predatory instincts:

SQUIRREL!!
posted by Toekneesan at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Truth be told, the first thing she said was, "You're arguing about cats on the Internet? Really?"
posted by Toekneesan at 6:24 AM on June 15, 2013


If the issue is the be addressed, there will have to be laws passed and punative measures taken, because some cat owners simply will never accept that their cat is a problem when let outdoors.

This argument looks completely out of control, but it is things like this that make me consider leaving the city.

Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying? No one has mentioned this. There's this assumption that birds need not to have predators that goes completely unchallenged and I fundamentally don't understand. We have one person saying that it makes them sad not to be able to feed the birds, but I don't see how that's any different from someone saying it makes them sad not to be able to feed the cats.

Cats being indoor/outdoor - or having a feral cat population - in cities would be absolutely a good thing. Why? Because cities have higher rates of vermin than any other area. We have rotting garbage on our sidewalks and in our subways. We have pigeons (another non-native species introduced and breeding exponentially) being a nuisance all over. Both are far more dangerous/a nuisance to humans than feral cats are. Feral cats cover their feces, and they don't attack humans. From a beneficial-to-us standpoint, the system is working. If some of them get hit by cars, some of them get hit by cars. They have still performed a valuable service.
posted by corb at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2013


Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying? No one has mentioned this.--corb

Although, as I have mentioned, I don't think cats are the biggest threat to birds; nevertheless there is an easy answer to your question. In China, Mao Zedong started a campaign against birds, which contributed to one of the biggest environmental disasters in history in which an estimated 30 million people died of starvation .

We need birds.
posted by eye of newt at 7:10 AM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


we could replace birds with insect-eating bats. Could a cat catch a bat?
posted by angrycat at 7:34 AM on June 15, 2013


A recent Smithsonian Institution study found that cats caused 79 percent of deaths of juvenile catbirds in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Bad news, since birds are key to protecting ecosystems from the stresses of climate change—a 2010 study found that they save plants from marauding insects that proliferate as the world warms.

Could a cat catch a bat?

Can, do, and its one of the reasons feral cat colonies might be the perfect vector for rabies.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Toekneesan: "I just told The Ms. about this thread, and she replied, 'Those people are being silly. If they really are serious about helping endangered bird populations, people should never be allowed to leave the house. That's how you help those birds.'"

I know this is sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke, and on one level it's a good point. However, several people have seriously made allusions to this point -'cats aren't the problem, humans are!' - so I think it's worth pointing out: cats are humans being a problem. When invasive species are introduced irresponsibly, it's not the fault of the invasive species; it's the fault of the sentient species that introduces them. We have a responsibility to manage the species we choose to introduce into any given area; it is part of the job we have to do as humans - that is, as an intelligent species that has a large impact on the world and that has an interest in making sure the world remains healthy and functional.

That's not to say that cats unreservedly need to be eliminated or anything. I just think the 'humans are the real problem, not cats' argument is fundamentally a dodge of our responsibility.

corb: "Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying? No one has mentioned this. There's this assumption that birds need not to have predators that goes completely unchallenged and I fundamentally don't understand. We have one person saying that it makes them sad not to be able to feed the birds, but I don't see how that's any different from someone saying it makes them sad not to be able to feed the cats."

Everyone has mentioned this. Like, seriously, just about everyone in the article and just about everyone in this thread. There's nothing wrong with predation, as I said explicitly above. There is something wrong with killing of threatened species that serve important parts of an ecosystem. Your argument, which seems to be that all cities are exactly the same in every detail and that therefore in all cases cats are helpful because they tend to kill nothing but vermin and never harm humans or any creature worthwhile to humans, is really ignoring the diverse realities that are faced in the US today.

American cities are not all the same. All cases are not exactly like the ones you've observed. We are talking, again, about a population (if we include feral and pet cats together) of a hundred and fifty million animals across a country of many thousands of miles. That is a huge population and a huge range. We are not going to solve this, we are not going to deal with it responsibly, by snorting at the conversation here and dismissing any idea that we have a duty to manage our resources and impacts.
posted by koeselitz at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying? No one has mentioned this.

The populations of migratory songbirds are declining and their continued decline or extinction will have further effects on the tattered remnants of North America's ecological networks.

Seriously, this is like asking "What's wrong with catching sardines?" or "What harm can a few rabbits cause?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


corb: “We have one person saying that it makes them sad not to be able to feed the birds, but I don't see how that's any different from someone saying it makes them sad not to be able to feed the cats.”
There are two differences.

First, songbirds do not eat cats, obviously.

Second, and most important, when the neighbor's cats are eating wild birds in their yard, that's nature, red of tooth and claw. Their cats, their yard, and none of anyone else's business even if it hurts their feelings. In my Dad's yard, on his deck, at his feeder, those same 'pet' cats are vermin.

We're not on a farm trying to keep the rats out of the corn crib. We live in the suburbs right on top of one another. It's unneighborly to allow your pets to roam free, whatever the species.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:43 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Choosing that birds must be prioritized over cats is just choosing which animal you think is adorable and needs to stay.

There is no shortage of cats. They are everywhere. They will stay as a species.

Whereas songbird populations are declining thanks in large part to feral cats. (And to urban sprawl, which also should be checked. Build up, not out.)

Cats are cool as house pets, but if someone can come up with a way to do it safely and cost effectively, mass sterilization of feral cats with contraceptive-laced food is definitely the way to go. The feral population of domestic cats in North America should be somewhere close to zero. (And if your house cat wanders, it might also get sterilized. As with any other type of pet, your cat has to stay in the home or tied up on your land if you want to maintain control over what happens to it.)

Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying?

One invasive species (domestic cats, Felis catus) is doing serious damage to the populations of a number of natural species. That is no good for biological diversity. From the article linked above: Dr Pete Marra from the SCBI said: "Our study suggests that they are the top threat to US wildlife."
posted by pracowity at 1:13 AM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oops: "natural species" should be "native species" above.
posted by pracowity at 5:01 AM on June 17, 2013


pracowity: One invasive species (domestic cats, Felis catus)
TIL 2 things:

1 The species name really is Felis catus. I had thought that was a joke.

2. Some people who can read still think that losing masses of bird species wouldn't be a problem. Not sure if they haven't read history, or have poor memories, but... that's scary. Reread eye of newt's link about how 30 fucking million people died because one bird species was locally eliminated - not even enough to make them endangered worldwide!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:54 AM on June 17, 2013


Seriously, what is wrong with birds dying? No one has mentioned this.

"for one out of every three bites you eat, you should thank a bee, butterfly, bat, bird or other pollinator"

The "birds and bees" aren't just a euphemism for sex education. They are essential to our ecosytem.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:40 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been in the field for a weeks so I'm late to the party, but I wanted to share some anecdata. I love my cats (as this purring black ball of fluff on my lap would attest, if I ever let her use the computer), but ferals are such a huge problem for ecosystems that I tend to agree with the harsh measures being proposed.

A few weeks ago I was doing some work in the middle of a desolate desert area in Australia, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere with a population greater than fuck-all. This part of the country easily gets up above 45C (113F) in the summer, and if our vehicle thermometers are to be believed, sometimes even into the mid-50s (mid-120s F). No water hits the ground for months at a time, the plants are few and far-between and mostly inedible, and the animals that do survive out there are hardy bastards (and, being Australia, sometimes rather poisonous).

It's winter now, so the weather is a more manageable 30C/85F, but it's still a harsh place. So it was quite a surprise when I clambered down a rock face and came face-to-face with this little beast, who stayed still just long enough for me to get a picture off. As it ran I got a good look at it, and in all honesty most urban ferals I've seen are skinnier and less healthy than this one. This cat was clearly well fed.

Kitties are the cutest animals on earth, but they're tearing the life out of ecosystems in lots of places around the world, and they're much better survivors than we give them credit for. I firmly believe we've got to get these alpha predators under control, because nothing else can.
posted by barnacles at 9:08 PM on June 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


This thread has been worth it just for TwitterFilter having introduced me to birdsrightsactivist:
allow Me to introduce myself. bird.— birdsrightsactivist (@ProBirdRights) June 19, 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 8:32 PM on June 18, 2013


...And: previously, previously, previously.

Seriously - what does it take to make it past a double post these days ?      3 months ?      2 weeks ?       48 hours ?
posted by y2karl at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2013


Double post? I don't really understand. This is the first time this article has been posted, isn't it?
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 PM on June 22, 2013


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