an ecological catastrophe
September 13, 2016 4:47 PM   Subscribe

 
Imagine a world without cats.

You are a monster!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:52 PM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


To be slightly more serious, I agree with this:

“Allowing owned cats to roam freely outside,” they write, is an example of “irresponsible pet ownership,”

It's not good for the surrounding area, and it's not good for the cats, either, in the long run. At least in my neck of the woods, where wandering cats tend to fall victim to coyotes, cars, and fishers....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:55 PM on September 13, 2016 [34 favorites]


Also birds are assholes, what with all that damn chirp, chirp, chirp in the morning. Then there are super bird assholes - like bluejays, territorial jerkweasels...... (I'll see myself out...)
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


namely the banning of feral and outdoor cats, forced sterilization, and euthanization

Cosign. Cats are great, so are dogs. But packs of wild dogs are a sign of a bad town. Outdoor cats are the same.
posted by thedaniel at 5:01 PM on September 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


The territorial jerkweasel is rated Critically Endangered by the IUCN and I don't really think we should take it for granted at this point
posted by Countess Elena at 5:03 PM on September 13, 2016 [25 favorites]


`Dinah’s our cat. And she’s such a capital one for catching mice you can’t think! And oh, I wish you could see her after the birds! Why, she’ll eat a little bird as soon as look at it!’

This speech caused a remarkable sensation among the party. Some of the birds hurried off at once: one the old Magpie began wrapping itself up very carefully, remarking, `I really must be getting home; the night-air doesn’t suit my throat!’ and a Canary called out in a trembling voice to its children, `Come away, my dears! It’s high time you were all in bed!’ On various pretexts they all moved off, and Alice was soon left alone.

posted by little onion at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


In Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey (IIRC) there's an episode where the governess witnesses her little boy charge torturing and killing a songbird. She tries to stop him, and his mother reproves her, saying "Oh, but it's just his nature! And isn't the pleasure of a human boy more important than some silly bird?"

I remember being horrified by this at the time, and filling in the obvious-to-us counterargument, unavailable in the 19th-century class context of the novel: it may be natural in the little boy to want to cause pain to an animal, but it isn't a natural situation, and the "naturalness" of the kid's instinct doesn't absolve his parents of the awfulness of allowing or promoting this.

It strikes me as weird that many, many cat owners I've met, who would agree with me exactly about the ethical stakes of allowing their toddler to maim and kill small animals, will cheerfully turn their entirely non-native, non-natural, 100% human-introduced cat outside to wreak havoc on the surrounding ecosystem, because "poor kitty just wouldn't be happy indoors," and "it's natural in a cat to want to hunt." I really don't get the disconnect. Neither toddler nor kitty belongs out in your backyard dismembering that bird. Why would we feel horribly sorry for the bird in the former case, but smugly self-righteous about the cat in the latter?
posted by Bardolph at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2016 [29 favorites]


CAT ADVOCATE CLAIMS: Cats have lived outdoors for more than 10,000 years — they are a natural part of the landscape

SCIENCE SAYS: Domestic cats are an invasive species throughout their current range, including North America


BUDDHAINABUCKET SAYS: Human beings are an invasive species throughout their current range. You gonna cull them, too?

Do not pit my cat love against the environment, people. (my cat is an indoor cat)
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:08 PM on September 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


The LA Review of Books did a review/rebuttal of sorts, which is worth a read. It's by Colin Dickey, who's an all-round smart and cool guy.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:09 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]



The LA Review of Books did a review/rebuttal of sorts, which is worth a read. It's by Colin Dickey, who's an all-round smart and cool guy.


And someone made a metafilter post about it, too!
posted by mrnutty at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


... from my cold, dead hands.
posted by anarch at 5:14 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The territorial jerkweasel is rated Critically Endangered by the IUCN and I don't really think we should take it for granted at this point

That was slightly hyperbolic.... but... story time.... The first summer I had my mutt, he was still a pup. I let him out in the fenced back yard to do his business. It was jay fledgling season. (They tend to hop about on the ground for a couple of days till they get their sealegs? airwings? whatever.) In any case, imagine the pups delight to encounter three fledglings..... I managed to rescue two of them, but sadly the third was a goner. If you've ever been screamed at by angry jay parents - you know how loud and aggressive they can get. I put the pup up - scoop the babies in a box and deposit them safely in the large field on the other side of the fence, a mere two feet from the tree in the yard where the understandably upset parents are. There is much jay yelling for the rest of the day every time pup goes out. The next morning, potty routine again, jays start yelling, other birds join in. Not just other jays - but grackles and robins, too - a cacophony of multiple bird species warning about the dangerous baby eater in their midst. The formerly happy pup cowered and belly crawled back to the door. I had to start taking him to do his business in the front yard. The birds discovered us there, and began the screaming again. This bird behavior straight out of a horror movie/terrified pup cowering (he got to the point where he wouldn't go outside without an adult) continued for the next.... five... days...... Bird brain, indeed.

Now during fledgling season I have to scope out the yard to make sure there aren't any baby birds.... this year we had actual blue bird babies - still anxious parent calling, but much less harsh sounding. I just wish they'd choose the ginormous field and not my little fenced in yard for their ground days......
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 5:22 PM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


i support the banning of outdoor toddlers
posted by poffin boffin at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2016 [45 favorites]


Someday, banning will be too cheap to meter!
posted by sneebler at 5:26 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is anything not an ecological catastrophe though.
posted by bleep at 5:43 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]



It strikes me as weird that many, many cat owners I've met, who would agree with me exactly about the ethical stakes of allowing their toddler to maim and kill small animals, will cheerfully turn their entirely non-native, non-natural, 100% human-introduced cat outside to wreak havoc on the surrounding ecosystem, because "poor kitty just wouldn't be happy indoors," and "it's natural in a cat to want to hunt." I really don't get the disconnect. Neither toddler nor kitty belongs out in your backyard dismembering that bird. Why would we feel horribly sorry for the bird in the former case, but smugly self-righteous about the cat in the latter?

Ok, I'll try. A child that dismembers live animals has potentially serious mental problems and is a risk to harm him/herself and/or others in the future. A cat is engaging in fully instinctive behavior which, if suppressed, their human caretaker must find substitutes for in order for the cat to be mentally (or behaviorally, if you like), healthy. If a child is maiming birds, you don't give them a stuffed bird to rip apart, you try to treat the behavior. The cat is not going to grow up a serial killer, it is already a killer.

Our cat was a stray, came with a dog guardian, and is much happier since we started letting him outside for stretches of time. He does things which bother us--like suckling on the dog's nipples; the sound, it is something else--and attempting to open every drawer that might contain food. We can't stop those behaviors, we've tried, and it is easier for everyone to adapt.

He killed 9 birds last summer, and 4 voles in the fall/winter. Killing the voles is good for our garden. He hasn't found any of the mice in the house yet but he will. Killing the birds was troubling--although most of them were invasive--so this year we took steps to stop it, mostly picking up any fruit that had fallen to the ground (we inherited pears, plums, and a grapevine), as he was using them as bait. Only one bird and one chipmunk killed so far this summer.

He comes back when he calls. He comes back on his own when he's been out long enough. He is clearly a much calmer, content, animal. I'm not going to change that for environmental impact that is exponentially less than either of his owners', and probably any human in the developed world-- I hope anyone that wants to keep cats indoors is a vegan who does not eat soy, drive a car, or use air travel.

If I lived near a nature preserve, I wouldn't have a cat. Most of the wildlife near me are squirrels and invasive bird species. It is my duty to give this creature that is in my charge the best life I can. He clearly needs his time outside, and we give that to him in a responsible way. I haven't read an argument convincing enough to dissuade me.
posted by oneironaut at 5:45 PM on September 13, 2016 [38 favorites]


i support the banning of outdoor toddlers

Okay but I supervise mine really closely, clean up his poops, and try to keep him from eating birds.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2016 [22 favorites]


I've always been skeptical about the claims that cats have a huge impact on North American wildlife. People like to cite the estimated number of birds or mammals killed by cats each year, which is always a huge, horrible-sounding number. (The article cites a figure of 1.3 to 4 billion birds per year.) But to know whether a number like that is really horrible or not you need a lot more information.

For one thing, you need to look at it by species rather than lumping all birds together. Common sense tells us that some birds (scarlet tanagers, say) are hardly ever going to be killed by cats and that the species most often killed by cats will be those that usually do well living near humans - species like robins that generally have healthy populations. (Or house sparrows and starlings, which are invasive species themselves.)

For each species, you need to know how total cat-caused mortality compares to the total population and to other kinds of mortality. And you need to know to what extent increases in cat-caused mortality lead to decreases in other kinds of mortality. (If a cat kills a blue jay in your yard, that may mean that now there are more resources available to the other blue jays in the area, so they're less likely to starve to death.) I have yet to see this kind of information presented in any anti-cat article.

I'm sure there are situations where cats can have a negative impact. Piping plovers, for instance, nest on the ground on beaches that may be in densely-populated areas. And their numbers are already low for other reasons. Cats could be a serious problem for them. But you're going to have a hard time convincing me cats are having a significant impact on populations of red-eyed vireos or Canada geese or red-winged blackbirds.

I'm not a cat lover. I'm a cat-allergic dog person who likes birding and hates cats pooping in my garden beds. I just wish people would look at this issue a little more rationally and critically, because that's the way I want people to look at every issue.
posted by Redstart at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2016 [48 favorites]


For the entirety of my childhood through early adulthood, our various indoor/outdoor cats were vastly more interested in rodents and reptiles. In over 30 years and something like a dozen cats, maybe two or three birds showed up on our doorstep compared to dozens of furry and scaled carcasses.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:12 PM on September 13, 2016


>Human beings are an invasive species throughout their current range. You gonna cull them, too?

Well, yeah, just ostensibly by accident.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:20 PM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


A couple years ago, I "inherited" a low-maintenance outdoor cat. She had belonged to a neighbor in my far-edge-of-town apartment complex, and when he passed away and his wife had to move away, she didn't want to separate Kitkat from her 1000 acre back yard. So I agreed to care for her, just by putting out her food and water (she prefers cheap Meow Mix to other foods... and I tried others). In her 10+ years so far, she has remained unhurt by larger predators in the area (and there are some), all her litterbox activity has been outside the view of all the apartments, she has so far brought back to me ONE mouse, still alive, that escaped her grasp in my living room, and her birding 'instincts' are so bad that for a while birds were getting into her food and eating the non-chicken-and-turkey-flavored pieces until I put out some wild bird food 20 feet away. I don't consider her a threat to anything.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Honestly, be more sympathetic if I didn't automatically associate all anti-cat people with Jonathan Franzen.
posted by thivaia at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


The most proficient hunter cat my family had in the midwest mostly concentrated on voles, baby rabbits, and mice. After we moved to Arizona, the cats hunted lizards, roaches, and cicadas.

Then someone moved in down the street who had an outdoor cat that hunted other cats, and left them with terrible abscesses and my parents became firm proponents of keeping their cats indoors.

When I got my own cat, I lived in ratty apartments on a series of very busy streets and chose to go indoors only too. That cat only ever got to hunt big old roaches (she would kill them and hide them under the rug), and once a mouse, who ran up inside a lamp to hide.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:33 PM on September 13, 2016


The jerkweasel Blue Jay referenced above I presume to be Cyanocitta cristata, which is IUCN least concern.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Someone pointed out to me a while ago that cats are ruthlessly efficient killers but are eternally pissed off that they weigh eight pounds so we just pick them up and kiss them.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


John Brandshaw (Cat Sense, The Trainable Cat, some BBC shows, etc) says in his books that we should treat our cats more like we treat our dogs. Train them, supervise their activities and pay attention to them. Being a city kid anyway, I would never let my cat outside without a leash (not that we've done that either) and I don't think most responsible dog owners would either. That people feel the need to write tirades about the scourge that are cats rather than campaigning for cat owners to be more responsible is really distressing. Cats are awesome, cat owners are sometimes less so.... people who dislike cats less so more.
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


I would never let my cat outside without a leash (not that we've done that either) and I don't think most responsible dog owners would either.

That's something that has changed withing my lifetime. When I was a kid, dogs were either let run loose around the neighborhood or were chained to a post, but these days free-range dogs in the US are vanishingly uncommon, and I see a lot fewer chained up, too.

I have wondered if there will be a similar change for cats, too. Certainly when I was a kid our cats were all free-range (and none lived very long, as a result), but if I had a cat now it would likely be entirely indoors.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really don't get the disconnect

Viewing the operation of the natural killing machine that is a cat in human terms in the individual case seems totally bizarre to me, honestly - even if it is your pet. On the other hand I do buy that people have intentionally multiplied and distributed the population of cats to the extent that they are killing things they really shouldn't be killing, and that this should be kept in check. (But then some of the animals cats kill, like common rats and mice, are also riding humanity's wake in a lot of ways.)
posted by atoxyl at 7:03 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I would never let my cat outside without a leash."

Perhaps I am in a different century but WTF?
posted by atomicmedia at 7:03 PM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Okay but I supervise mine really closely, clean up his poops, and try to keep him from eating birds.

shouldn't he be paper trained by now
posted by poffin boffin at 7:14 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is why God made Coyotes.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:29 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've seen a few cats that were toilet trained, but no dogs. Just sayin'.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:40 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


previously (when Marra's Nature paper came out)
posted by one_bean at 7:47 PM on September 13, 2016


I've seen a few cats that were toilet trained, but no dogs. Just sayin'

Dogs can be trained to poop and pee on command, which is more than most of us can do.

disclaimer: I have never managed to teach a dog to do this
posted by Countess Elena at 8:01 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Keep indoor cats, problem solved.
posted by Ferreous at 8:05 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


And some were more troubled about the possibility of cats being killed than they were about the life of a researcher.”

There's this thing that occurs when reasonably sane people go rabid about these types of issues or upon hearing about animal abuse. I HATE abuse and think there should be major fines, animals removed from possession, restrictions on owning an animal, and/or significant jail time for these people. I don't wish physical harm or death on anyone though. When I hear the vitrol some supposed animal lovers spew out, it astounds and confused me.

That said, I have been accused of abuse because my cats are barn cats, and don't stay indoors.
I live in a rural area where there is a significant mouse problem. Our cats are indoor/outdoor cats and are great mousers. We keep them neutered, and I'm not above making a neighbor's unneutered cat that way, too. If the neighbors cats piss on on my stuff or have kittens on my property, I consider them feral. $10 takes care of the problem.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:22 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have wondered if there will be a similar change for cats, too. Certainly when I was a kid our cats were all free-range (and none lived very long, as a result), but if I had a cat now it would likely be entirely indoors.

Yes, cat owners I know in the SF Bay Area are increasingly internalizing "indoor cats live longer and are healthier." In this non-religious world making it about health is the first step to allowing a moral component to be attached to it and making it Our Business. We're sometimes ahead of the trend and sometimes an outlier, but I wouldn't be surprised if the view that outdoor cats are only attached to irresponsible and somewhat immoral pet owners is normalized in my lifetime.

I have mixed feelings about that but can't argue that it would be good for much of local wildlife. Which in a human suburb isn't "natural" either but it is what we have left.
posted by mark k at 8:29 PM on September 13, 2016


I used to be into cats when the Internet was into cats, but now the Internet is into puggos and doggos and puppers and I have a pupper, so now puppers are the one animal I can stand. And also I lived with a cat and it shit everywhere and got into fights and smelled bad. But really the idea of keeping any animal - a non-human thing - near us is strange.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2016


I'm pretty sure they want to cull feral cats in Australia, because they're yet another invasive species killing our native wildlife, which are apparently a big tourist draw.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:37 PM on September 13, 2016


But really the idea of keeping any animal - a non-human thing - near us is strange.

Lots of species have mutual beneficial arrangements, so it happens all over the animal kingdom. And certainly the domestication of animals by humans far precedes what we'd normally call "human civilization."

Crude googling suggests early keeping of dogs and cows (domesticated 10 to 15k years ago) predate any domesticated crops (~9 to 10k).
posted by mark k at 8:56 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


You could suggest that that was an early form of technology, before we had the tools to make better ones.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:59 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dogs can be trained to poop and pee on command, which is more than most of us can do.

... Seriously? You can't pee on command? (Your own, I'm assuming.) Or poop, admittedly with effort? How on earth do you manage the "everyone go potty BEFORE we get in the car for the long drive!" thing?
posted by The otter lady at 9:07 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


This thread is basically a whole bunch of people saying "well there is a study but I don't agree with it and my opinion is...." Functionally I don't ee a difference between most cat owners like this and people who don't vaccinate their kids. Either the science says one thing or another. If you want yo do differently, knowing the consequences that's your right (most). But why make up all the weird justifications and attack people's conclusions who actually reached them objectively?

This thread is reminding me of that Stephen Colbert quote about wanting to be a Christian nation but admitting we don't want to help the poor. If you want to have an outdoor at don't pretend its some special cat that doesn't confirm to the well studied cat norm.
posted by fshgrl at 9:09 PM on September 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


One thing I love about Portland is that that the Portland Audubon is so large, the Feral Cat Coalition is so large, and they, (or at least the ED of Audobon,) recognize that they have goals in common, (reducing feral cat populations, encouraging indoor cats,) and that they should not fight over polemic BS about sociopath killer cats and such. It saves the world a lot of hot air and chest pounding.
posted by Pembquist at 9:18 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Human beings are an invasive species throughout their current range. You gonna cull them, too?

Turns out humans are self-culling.
posted by jamjam at 9:21 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


@fshgrl: Most people seem to me to be saying indoor cats is the way to go. I only see one disagree-with-the-science post and allowing that I missed a few I don't think characterizing the MeFi consensus as equivalent to anti-vaxxers is a fair reading on the mood. Heck, my "mixed feelings" post definitely felt on the forgiving-of-cats-and-owners side (and I don't challenge the studies at all.)

@Charlemagne in Sweatpants: Yes, early tech is exactly how I view domesticated plants & animals. I think this is the standard view of scholars FWIW.
posted by mark k at 9:24 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure they want to cull feral cats in Australia, because they're yet another invasive species killing our native wildlife, which are apparently a big tourist draw.

You know your country culls kangaroos, sharks, camels, horses, etc., etc., etc.? Adding cats to such a long list of species to mow down every year doesn't strike me as all that controversial, frankly.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 PM on September 13, 2016


Count me for team indoors-only-cats!

A couple years ago I was in New Zealand, where basically any feral mammal is a problem, and feral cats are especially good at being problems. The docent at one wildlife preserve (Zealandia, IIRC) suggested that cat owners should basically wait out their current cats' lifespans and then switch to a different animal to keep as a pet. I thought it odd that "keep 'em inside the house" wasn't their suggestion.
posted by aubilenon at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


You know your country culls kangaroos, sharks, camels, horses, etc., etc., etc.? Adding cats to such a long list of species to mow down every year doesn't strike me as all that controversial, frankly.


I have no problem with any of that, especially if science supports it. Privleging any species other than Man over another is absurd, frankly - we should eliminate them all and then genetically re-engineer them from the ground up to serve Mankind's purposes.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:38 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


My cat hangs out in our (walled) backyard for a couple of hours every day. Fortunately, she hasn't figured out that she can probably climb to the top of the wall and into the next yard if she tried. Mostly she just hangs out and enjoys the sights/sounds/smells she doesn't get indoors.

We generally don't leave her out very long unsupervised and on the occasions I have seen her catch something (usually the ubiquitous in Arizona house geckos, although a couple of times a baby quail or a hummingbird) I scold her and separate her from her prey so it can go about its business. This seems to work both for keeping her from killing everything she can grab, but still allowing her to be a cat.
posted by gizzmo at 10:12 PM on September 13, 2016


Without my cat who will protect me from the mysterious red dot that roams my house?
posted by humanfont at 10:28 PM on September 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


Maybe everyone defending cats from the cull is the final stage of toxoplasmosis' plan.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:38 PM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


We recently got a cat. Apparently domestic cats of no particular breed, which had kittens all over the place when I was a kid, are now semi-hard to get hold of. I had to scour the classifieds, and three out of four advertised kittens had already been snapped up when I called. When I took the young cat to the vet for his ID chip and vaccines she told me the same thing. We briefly speculated that it might be that people are finally spaying and neutering their cats, and that means less (unwanted) kittens. Which is probably a good thing, I guess. This is in Norway, BTW.
posted by Harald74 at 11:35 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


This thread cannot go without mention of Margaret Atwood's new graphic novel "Angel Catbird", which doubles as a not-so-subtle propaganda tool intended to encourage cat owners to keep their pets out of the way of both cars and birds.
posted by pascal at 11:41 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


The problem is that, though they are an invasive species, they've pretty much invaded. Invased? They're pretty much everywhere now, and the case could be made that this is the status quo, going forward.

One could say it's pretty much, uh

(puts on glasses)

Out of the bag.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:50 PM on September 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


My cat hangs out in our (walled) backyard for a couple of hours every day.

Our cat was indoor for the first year of her life but now does this too. She still has a litter tray but it's just outside the back door, so it seems a hybrid indoor/outdoor situation can work for some. She stares at birds utterly cluelessly.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:16 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


In a neighborhood near mine lives a German woman who was outraged by the feral cats wandering around. City Hall refuses to do anything about it, so she decided to take the problem into her hands. She got together with a group of her other Northern European friends, bought some veterinary books to study up on neutering, and set up an operating room in her house. They ride around in a white van, lure cats into the van with food, bring them to her house and cut them up. Then they release them where they found them. I sure hope they know something about anesthesia. She says it's a "hobby", and a public service.

After a few years, the result is that her neighborhood is overrun with rats, and her neighbors are starting to put out rat poison to deal with the problem. Score one for ecological correctness!
posted by fuzz at 2:58 AM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


They ride around in a white van, lure cats into the van with food, bring them to her house and cut them up. Then they release them where they found them. I sure hope they know something about anesthesia.

Then Sparky woke up in a bathtub full of ice with a sore groin, the tip of one ear missing, and "Call 911" written in bloody pawprints...
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:34 AM on September 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


After a few years, the result is that her neighborhood is overrun with rats, and her neighbors are starting to put out rat poison to deal with the problem. Score one for ecological correctness!

This happened in the early 2000s in Beverly Hills: the nice rich people eliminated the feral cats, only to find themselves sharing their houses with the now-much-happier local rat population.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:58 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is anything not an ecological catastrophe though.

Everything having to do with humans seems to be. Imagine there's no humans. Cats wouldn't have become a problem.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


What's all this this about 'letting' cats do things? Are these cats chained to something?
In my experience, cats go and do as they like.
posted by signal at 4:45 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


A modest proposal would be to ban outdoor cats. Put out poison traps, and have pest-control officers with guns shooting to kill any felids found outdoors. Also, require all cats to be registered, and owners to have a licence. If your cats are caught outside more three times, your licence is revoked and your remaining cats are seized and destroyed. (Collective punishment can be an effective deterrent, as history has shown over time.)

The licence will be tiered, with the vast majority of licences only allowing for the keeping of sterilised cats. Licences allowing unsterilised cats will be strictly capped and regulated, and reduced over time.
posted by acb at 4:53 AM on September 14, 2016


... Seriously? You can't pee on command?
Having undergone many random urinalyses, I can confidently state that no, I can't pee on command without a good 30 minutes of forcing water and doing jumping jacks.

posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:02 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Has anyone tried Birdbesafe collar covers? They do look a tad ridiculous, but if they work then they work.
I have one indoor cat and one indoor/outdoor cat. They sort of decided that themselves. But then again I live in Ireland and we've had cats here for much longer so birds have had to deal with them for quite a while. Also not too many larger predators. I have heard that foxes will kill a cat, but don't know how true that is.

Hobbs "the cat" Johnson, who goes outside, mainly kills rodents. And not in huge numbers from the evidence left behind. Have only seen one dead bird, and that may not have been him. We also have buzzards nearby, and cars and tractors which do much more damage. And keeping rodents out of the house is part of his job so I'm reluctant to turn him indoor only.
posted by Fence at 5:31 AM on September 14, 2016


That people feel the need to write tirades about the scourge that are cats rather than campaigning for cat owners to be more responsible is really distressing.

I agree! I don't know why the call is "Kill! Kill! KILL! SLAUGHTER SLAUGHTER SLAUGHTER 'EM ALL!" and not "campaign for responsible cat ownership" a la John Bradshaw. I have cats. I keep them indoors. My previous batch of cats was converted from indoor-outdoor to indoor only for their own safety and my peace of mind.

Like mark k, I live in the Bay Area, and in my neighborhood, most cats are inside-only or allowed out onto screened-in "catios" or enclosures. It's getting to be like with dogs - which were free-range when I was a kid in the 70s, but now are leashed and supervised. I don't see why it can't be any different with cats - keep them indoors or allow them out in enclosures unless they are barn cats.

I note that the authors of this anti-cat book are both men. I think that misogyny is at least somewhat behind the cry to Exterminate All Cats Now! Cats and women are closely associated in Western culture. You never hear of crazy cat men, nor are men told to "enjoy living alone with cats, ha ha!" if they refuse to take up their culturally enjoined role of husband, father, and provider. Most voices calling for the extermination of cats seem to be male, with maybe a few Chill Girls in the mix. It makes me wonder.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:36 AM on September 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


and do you know what other species is an ecological disaster?
posted by entropicamericana at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I thought that the indoor/outdoor cat discussion was one of Metafilter's forbidden topics.
posted by Melismata at 5:40 AM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


My cat was initially indoor/outdoor because he liked being outside as a kitten and then got big enough to climb the 8ft picket fence. He was mostly a snake catcher, but he was super awesome at keeping the other cats out of our yard (seriously, there were at least 3 pooping in different potted plants until our kitten got big enough to show them who's boss).

There was also a feral cat colony about a mile from our old house. The city's policy was to neuter them and put them back in the colony (as opposed to just euthanizing them), which actually helped the colony stabilize or shrink.

I don't want to be one of those people who thinks "My cat can do it. What effect can one cat have?" but when there's literally 40+cats living less than a mile away, no I don't think my cat made a difference.

All this is moot now anyways as we live in an apartment. He is now an indoor cat, but does enjoy hanging out on the balcony and going for walks (on a leash). He mostly just catches waterbugs now.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:54 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


You never hear of crazy cat men

I'm doing my best to embody and spread that gospel.
posted by wotsac at 7:07 AM on September 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Okay but I supervise mine really closely, clean up his poops, and try to keep him from eating birds.

Do come back and let us know whether he grows up to be a serial killer.
posted by biffa at 7:30 AM on September 14, 2016


This is one of those times I am so glad Metafilter Consensus does not rule the world. I absolutely do not agree that all cats should be kept indoors. I find it completely absurd to apply this extremely strict (and yes, invasive) perspective onto the lives and destiny of an entire species, and literally imprison them indoors, cut off all access to the world of fresh air and freedom and stimulation and experience, beyond that provided by their 'owners'. It is maddening how quickly people will rush to apply a dystopic solution in the name of good intentions, and I am horrified by these comments, regardless how unpopular this perspective is.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:38 AM on September 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Who's a tiny little ecological catastrophe? You are! Yes you are! Wubba wubba wubba! Yes you are!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:47 AM on September 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


Meh. I personally like having the cats indoors. No fleas, no ticks, no FIV. No worries that I'll come home and find my son's beloved cat crushed on the pavement because he either misjudged his timing or because some asshole swerved to intentionally hit the cat (yes, some people do this, out of cruelty or irrational hatred of cats)... the thought of having to look into my son's eyes and explain why his kitty is now dead? Yeah. That's enough to keep the cats indoors for me. Indoor cats - if you live near a busy road, or in coyote country, or etc. - that's how you stay a cat owner, rather than an ex-cat owner.

Some day my son's cat will die. But I'm doing my damnedest to ensure that it won't be from a hit and run. Bad enough that he'll be devastated, at least he won't have to look at a mangled body in the process. He doesn't need that kind of trauma.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:50 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


My cat used to be a small suburban ecological catastrophe. She is indoor / outdoor because I have 3 large dogs, a big fenced yard and a dog door so everyone can come and go as they please. I'm lazy. So for most of her life she left corpses: mostly voles and shrews but, yes, the occasional bird. Then this spring she retired. She's 9 and rather plump and although in good health, she has utterly given up hunting. She doesn't even bring me slightly maimed grasshoppers anymore and that was a big thing for a while, when she was trying to hone my apparently pathetic hunting skills. Now she lies around on the garage roof, hangs out in the garden and does everything she ever did but there's a difference: she's retired. The voles are wreaking havoc in the garden and the family of Carolina wrens who hang out on the porch fly right past her nose and she just blinks. I have no idea what caused this shift, but she's still happy (or was, before I brought in the terrible, cruel diet catfood) and I kind of envy her, to be honest.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:02 AM on September 14, 2016


Or poop, admittedly with effort?

that's how u get piles
posted by poffin boffin at 8:04 AM on September 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


invasive bird species

Yup. If you want to bring up the point that the domesticated cats in not native to North America, it's almost important to note that many of its victims/prey aren't either.
posted by thecjm at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2016


You never hear of crazy cat men

They walk among us (previously) (previously).

I used to be pretty stridently indoor-only for cats. I now have a cat that for reasons I won't bore you with is some special cat that doesn't confirm to the well studied cat norm. Ratchet goes outside on nice days when she asks demands, comes in at night, and my front entry mat doesn't get peed on. It seems like a pretty good system to me.

I still feel guilty about it, but since she's never brought home "presents" (Mr. Motion says he saw her trying to stalk a pair of ducks once... she backed up quick once they noticed her), and in my observation doesn't leave the yard (she mostly doesn't leave the front porch anymore), I think the noticeable improvement in her mood/behavior when she's let outside when she wants is worth both the risks to her and the critters that she might kill.

Even though our other two cats are still indoor-only, I'm less judgey now of people letting their cats outside, unsupervised, on occasion. I'm still pretty pissed at the lady near my old house that was feeding a feral colony, but I feel like that's an entirely different class, and I'm not convinced that the NO.OUTDOORS.EVAR folks all really understand the difference.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:44 AM on September 14, 2016


I'm pretty sure they want to cull feral cats in Australia, because they're yet another invasive species killing our native wildlife, which are apparently a big tourist draw.

Australia's tourism animals are koalas and kangaroos. Are your cats killing kangaroos!?
posted by maryr at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2016


All I know is I've lost two cats to cars (and we don't live on a busy street at all) and my mother-in-law lost one cat to a neighbor's dog.

One was too many. Two is heart wrenching. None of my cats, when they were outdoors, killed many critters, and it was mostly moles. I don't think any of them ever brought down a bird.

But I look at my two sweeties now and I cannot imagine letting them outdoors because I've already lost two others much, much too early because they were outside. Chloe wants nothing to do with the outdoors (she lived on the streets, MAN, and she ain't doin' that again!) while Remy does definitely pine occasionally. But we play with him lots and he gets yummy food and he doesn't try to scamper out when the door is open so I don't feel guilty at all keeping him inside.

Let's make a deal: those people who think I'm a monster for keeping my loves indoors can just keep their opinions to themselves and I won't tell them what I think of them for letting their cats outside. But if they come crying to me if their kitty gets hit by a car, I will provide a shoulder to cry on because I've been there and oh my god it sucks SO. BAD.

The guilt still occasionally keeps me up at night.
posted by cooker girl at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


>>i support the banning of outdoor toddlers

>Okay but I supervise mine really closely, clean up his poops, and try to keep him from eating birds.

Do come back and let us know whether he grows up to be a serial killer.


He absolutely murders Cheerios.
posted by maryr at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]




2.1 kills per week.

Cats are obligate carnivores. Which means that every cat eats meat. Obviously, most pet food is by-products of human consumption, but most cat owners have come to terms with the fact that other animals die in order to sustain ours.

I can live with a 30% chance of 2.1 kills per week. Especially since I know it would be quite a bit more than that if cats needed live feeding.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:20 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I grew up with cats who were indoor/outdoor, but once old enough to live on my own and thus have my own cats, I've had to have indoor only cats - I've always lived in urban areas with lots of traffic, and generally in apartments where I had no yard and it would be hard to get the cat in and out of the building with any kind of ease even if they didn't get turned into road pizza. Letting cats outside is something I think of as being for rural or at least suburban areas, if then.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:36 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Australia's tourism animals are koalas and kangaroos. Are your cats killing kangaroos!?

It's Australia, so I assume the cats weigh 1000 kilos, and have poisonous claws on all six legs.
posted by happyroach at 11:50 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


A counter to the study cited above.

"... decades of studies prove that when cats do hunt—which is not nearly as often as they scavenge—they much prefer a diet of rodents. ... Birds are consumed only incidentally and not according to a regular feeding pattern."
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've had indoor-only cats since I moved out of my parent's house 25 years ago. My parents went through many, many outdoor cats when I was a kid. Some of them lived to be 4 or 5 years old, but not many. My indoor cats have lived to be 21 to 23 years old.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


If your cats are caught outside more three times, your licence is revoked and your remaining cats are seized and destroyed.

Well now this is where it breaks down. Apparently there are 3 million pit bulls in the USA for some reason.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:58 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apparently there are 3 million pit bulls in the USA for some reason.

Jumping straight to the pitties with out detouring into declawing first? If you're going to survey the classics you need to make sure to be thorough. Are you going to skip ear/tail docking too?
posted by sparklemotion at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry for derail - defusing if possible, this is not a thread about rescue animal stuff.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:33 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is one of those times I am so glad Metafilter Consensus does not rule the world. I absolutely do not agree that all cats should be kept indoors. I find it completely absurd to apply this extremely strict (and yes, invasive) perspective onto the lives and destiny of an entire species, and literally imprison them indoors, cut off all access to the world of fresh air and freedom and stimulation and experience, beyond that provided by their 'owners'. It is maddening how quickly people will rush to apply a dystopic solution in the name of good intentions, and I am horrified by these comments, regardless how unpopular this perspective is.

I mean you can look upthread and see I just said I'm quite unconvinced that it's inherently wrong to let cats kill things - and I'm also less than convinced by the argument that it's better for cats themselves to be indoors because longevity isn't the only thing that counts. But domestic cats in the aggregate act as an extension of human beings and if they are an instrument in the ecological catastrophe that is us we are responsible for keeping that under control.

(Though it strikes me that you might actually be making an argument against cat ownership?)
posted by atoxyl at 12:34 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is one of those times I am so glad Metafilter Consensus does not rule the world. I absolutely do not agree that all cats should be kept indoors. I find it completely absurd to apply this extremely strict (and yes, invasive) perspective onto the lives and destiny of an entire species, and literally imprison them indoors, cut off all access to the world of fresh air and freedom and stimulation and experience, beyond that provided by their 'owners'

The problem isn't that cats are outdoors, it's that cats are outdoors in numbers and in places where they far outstrip the ecology's ability to absorb their hunting.

Do you just not recognize that the environment can only absorb so much hunting? Are you okay with humans hunting lions and tigers? I assume not. Is it only human overhunting that bothers you? If so, why? Animals are just as dead if its the cats overhunting.

I'm okay with outdoor cats if outdoor cat people are okay with people hunting outdoor cats. It's nature after all.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Everybody who is in favor of outdoor cats should have to wake up at 6AM to the sounds of a bird screaming because a cat is about to break its wing. I'm just glad I separated the two before it happened (I assume the wing wasn't broken, as the bird was able to fly afterwards). I can't find a video with the correct sound, but the sound was loud, powerful and reminded me of an infant in pain. It was near the end of the time I was living there, but that cat soon learned to be indoor only. She now kills mice in the house for my mom.

Follow your cat around for a few a days, see what it kills and how it kills. Then decide if you still want to let it outdoors.

Anecdote: A friend of my dad's was a birder and reported with relish the finding of a coyote den with 22 cat collars in it. This is the range for coyotes in North America.
posted by Hactar at 2:05 PM on September 14, 2016


Recommendation that cats be killed, check, glee over dead pets, check, natural/unnatural comments check.... hey, I got BINGO! What do I win?
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


A reciprocal sense of smugness.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:36 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's context-dependent. In a large European city where birds have had to coexist with the domestic cat population for a very long time, I'm not going to get too upset about outdoor cats. If you live in rural New Zealand and you're letting your cats out to roam among a bounty of flightless birds that evolved in the complete absence of carnivorous mammals, that's different.

And cats aren't people, they don't have an existential urge to seek meaning for their lives through new experiences. House space, toys, and social interaction with other members of the household are plenty of mental stimulation for them. (Why is it that nobody ever seems to have this worry about dogs whose only outdoor time is a never-changing leashed walk around the block? They're descended from free-ranging predators too . . .) Of course it's hard to take away outdoor time from a cat that's used to it, but cats raised indoors from kittenhood are usually totally fine with it.
posted by ostro at 2:44 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why is it that nobody ever seems to have this worry about dogs whose only outdoor time is a never-changing leashed walk around the block?

As a matter of fact I do worry about it, which is one reason I don't own a dog. I can't imagine I'm the only one.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:48 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why is it that nobody ever seems to have this worry about dogs whose only outdoor time is a never-changing leashed walk around the block?

I'm pretty sure that dog parks exist for at least this reason.

I don't think we need to start fundraising for a national system of cat parks, but maybe that's not such a terrible option for people whose lives include combinations of: cats that won't tolerate being indoor-only, and an ecosystem that cannot support 0.7 kills per week per outdoor cat.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:07 PM on September 14, 2016


I grew up with irresponsible indoor/outdoor cats, and I currently have an indoor/outdoor cat. I think there are multiple differences which can differentiate the two.

The cats do not have free reign over their outdoor privileges. They are let into my side yard, which is adjacent to 4 backyards, and about 200 concrete filled feet to the street. If they head towards the street, they are shuffled back inside. While they are outside, the door is open. So if they get scared, they know the best hiding spot is back inside. This happens regularly, and my unadventurous cat now rarely wanders beyond the nearest sunbeam. My adventurous cat comes to me when I call for her. I'll usually do it every hour or so, and as long as she shows up within a few minutes, I will just pet her and let her stay outside. If she takes longer, I close the door when she finally arrives.

There have been no kills brought from outside. I think this is significant, because the one dead rodent from inside the house was left for me while I was in the shower. And she regularly brings me her stuffed mice, with this crowing mew announcing how fierce a provider she is.

It's not an ideal scenario. But it was one that I arrived at when they started darting outside whenever a door opened. Since they knew it wasn't allowed, they would immediately try to get out of my reach, heading towards the road, under the house, or into other yards. Regular trips outside during the day in a controlled radius is much safer and less stressful than a cat darting outside at night, potentially wandering into the street or across predators.
posted by politikitty at 3:08 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sparklemotion: I can't help but think of that Amy Schumer "Cat Park" sketch when I hear "cat park!" More seriously, cats being as territorial as they are, I don't know if a cat park is the solution, though I agree that helping cat owners provide options for their restless kitties is a good idea. Maybe it means helping build a catio or other outdoor enclosure, or just ensuring that a backyard is fenced so that it is escape-proof.

And as ostro said, I think it also depends on where the cats live. In my area, cars and predators are more an issue than birds, because I haven't seen a rare or endangered bird at my feeders ever. I see tons of house finches, chickadees, mourning doves, and that invasive species the house sparrow. If I lived in Australia or New Zealand I might feel differently. But my cats stay inside (and like it!) for their safety and my peace of mind. Bonus: no fleas!

I really think that there is something more than just love for our feathery friends behind this book. It is more anti-cat than pro-bird. Between the pearl-clutching about OMGTOXOPLASMOSIS! and the call to kill cats - not just advocate for responsible pet ownership, and the insinuation that cat lovers are uneducated and anti-science, I smell an agenda. My suspicions were deepened when I found that Jonathan Franzen (!) wrote a puff-piece endorsement for the book cover. Why get a novelist, who is not a scientist or a conservationist, to endorse your presumably nonfiction science book? Are the authors hoping Franzen readership will overlap with theirs by some sort of default?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:29 PM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


A lot of lawn sprays are weed, feed, and pesticide. They kill a lot of bird's food. One reason for the loss of song birds is loss of bugs. My cats also catch bugs, and mice. They rarely show up with a bird, in fact only once.
posted by Oyéah at 5:27 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen a rare or endangered bird at my feeders ever.

Do you think that might have something to do with the fact that they are endangered?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:27 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


A reciprocal sense of smugness.


Metafilter, forever and ever.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:43 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Came here to say KILL ALL HUMANS, delighted multiple people beat me to it.
posted by duffell at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2016


and do you know what other species is an ecological disaster?
Jellyfish
posted by Going To Maine at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


As somebody who's beach days regularly get interrupted by floods of bluebottles, I support a jellyfish cull.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:18 PM on September 15, 2016




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