Saving threatened habitats worldwide

The Cat Menace: Or how to make myself unpopular

13 June, 2011 - 09:16 -- John Burton

Friends, colleagues, and readers of this blog will know that I have several pet hates. Among them are pet cats. Not all cats, but feral cats and pet cats that are allowed to roam the countryside. And this is the time of the year when baby birds, flopping out of the nest and learning to fly, are at their most vulnerable, and cats are a significant predator on wildlife.

There is overwhelming evidence about the massive impacts on wildlife that our domestic moggies have.  Bird Calls (the newsletter of the American Bird Conservancy) summarises a recent report on the impact that cats have in the USA (where it is probably proportionally much less severe than in the UK). None-the-less, cats are estimated to kill 480,000,000 birds every year, and this impact has been calculated at costing 17 BILLION dollars a year. Worldwide, cats have also been responsible for the extinction of at least 33 species of birds (as well as mammals, reptiles and other wildlife).

There is absolutely no excuse for this continued massacre of wildlife, as cats can easily be kept confined to their homes. No other 'domestic' animal is allowed to freely roam the countryside slaughtering wildlife at will. It is great to see the ABC taking such a strong stand (and it has done so for several years). By contrast nearly all British conservation societies and organisations  have been relatively reticent in any suggestion that cats should be kept confined within the premises where they live. The argument being that this would deter supporters.

I am not sure I agree with this. In fact I have to confess that I live in a household that has cats. And nothing other than legislation will convince the other occupant of that house, that cats should not be allowed the freedom to hunt.  It is summer, and baby birds are flopping out of the nest. But how many will survive the gaping jaws of Britain's most numerous predator?

The World Land Trust is not a campaigning group, and we are not lobbyists, so this is a purely personal view.  But it would be interesting to know what other conservationists thought about this issue? Would the RSPB lose scores of members if it campaigned to have free roaming cats outlawed? There is certainly a strong case if we are to conserve biodiversity the way recent white papers envisage.

More information about cat species in WLT reserves

Cat species living in the reserves that WLT supports include  Geoffroy's cat, Ocelot, Puma, Tiger, Jaguar and Jaguarundi

Comments

Submitted by Will on

Definitely agree. Very sensible. Who would disagree?

Submitted by Jorgen on

U migth be rigth and u are wrong, this is a point thats accepts the fact that, unbalance made by human inpactc is ok ! u can not count birdlife in money, how ? start with protecing birds from getting killed when the crosses Italy, Malta, Turkey and other countries, and maybe help to regulate the number of wild (domestic) cats.

Submitted by Abi on

I agree with what you say, but on the other hand a housebound life for a cat seems rather unfair and unnatural and with the number of cat lovers in the country I can’t see it would ever become a reality.

Submitted by Steven on

Hi, Whether you love cats or not (I have cats), they are not native to this country nor most others and have a massive untold impact on many indigenous species. For that reason law should exclude them from being allowed outside. This would be a difficult transition but the only other option is to allow species to continue to decline until extinct.

Submitted by J. James on

If people are to be allowed to keep domestic cats then i feel it would be wrong to keep them with in the confines of the home. i am an under graduate zoology student and there for well aware of the detremental effect the domestic cat population has on british wildlife, i do not however feel that the welfare of one specise out weighs the welfare of the other. cats are predators, surely you do not feel that all lions should be rounded up and locked indoors fo the protection of the herbivores of the african plains. to my mind a far wiser scheeme would to be to enocorge policy to deal with the substancial feral cat population including the promotion of nutering schemes and higher penaltys for those who abandon unwanted pets.

Submitted by Morven on

And yet the RSPB are really quite relaxed about the issue, suggesting that most victims of cats are the weak who would have died anyway…..
http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/birddeclines.aspx

Submitted by John Burton on

J. James equates domestic cats with lions. Not a fair comparison. Most domestic cats are not killing for food. It doesn’t matter how well fed a cat is, it will still kill.
Abi and J. James both feel it is wrong to confine cats — but no other domestic animal is treated in this way. And there is no evidence that cats when confined (as are most pedigree cats) are distressed or ‘unhappy’, is there?

Submitted by Morven on

From the ABC estimates in John’s post, each dead bird is valued at an average of just over 34 dollars. That is interestingly specific, and unexpectedly high. I do wonder how the estimate was reached….

Submitted by John Burton on

I’ll ask ABC

Submitted by Imogen on

I think that educating cat-owners about the issue and about ways to reduce the impact of their cats on wildlife might strike a compromise between legislation and laissez-faire. For instance, I have read that if the cat wears a bell on its collar this helps to warn its prey and gives it a better chance of getting away. People might also think twice before getting a cat in the first place, which would help reduce their numbers, and could perhaps limit their roaming time rather than stopping it altogether. I’m not a cat-owner, though, so I might be barking up the wrong tree :)

Submitted by Robert Burton on

Our two cats are now arthritic, part blind and deaf so don’t go out except to sit in the sun. But like their staff, they were once more active outdoors and I consoled myself that they were mainly hunters of small mammals. And who cares about them? There is no RSPM!
Nevertheless, I feel guilty about their youthful depredations and when/if they are replaced,I will consider confining them indoors, perhaps with an outdoor enclosure. And even take them for walks on leads. That will put them on a par with dogs. I wonder if they would use exercise wheels like gerbils!
An interesting statistic: between 1874 and 1902, the keepers on an estate in North Wales shot 98 polecats, 13 pine martens and 2310 cats (presumably mostly feral).

Submitted by Viv (WLT) on

Since I am ‘the other occupant’ of the house I feel I should respond on behalf of the other two feline occupants. Unfortunately it is a fact that cat lovers are literally that. We love them unconditionally and close our eyes to their less charming side. I console myself that my cats mainly hunt baby rabbits and rodents and will argue vehemently that cats specialise in their prey – if they’re bird eaters that’s what they are, but that mine do not catch birds. To keep a certain equilibrium in the house I aim to keep my cats shut in the house from dusk until dawn, the hours when they are most dangerous to wildlife. (I also have an ulterior motive since go to bed hoping that they will deign to sleep on my feet during the night). John knows that to be married to me means having at least one cat in the house – I do my best to avoid wildlife bloodshed and have to agree that as a committed wildlife lover there is a dilemma.
Viv Burton

Submitted by John Burton on

And what is wrong with rodents? Harvest mice are among the rodents found within preying distance of the last correspondent’s cats. Not perhaps endangered, but certainly quite rare (and cute). And in a previous residence, water voles were also predated by cats.

I think the RSPB’s argument quoted earlier is rather “leaky”. Presumably those prey items killed by cats might have provided sustenance for a wide range of other, more natural predators and scavengers, or even burying beetles.

And Robert (unrelated) Burton’s figures are quite staggering — but probably reflect the current situation as well. Feral cats in rural areas are remarkably secretive, but often surprisingly numerous.

Submitted by John Burton on

ABC provided the following reference(see comment no 8 )

This analysis “Feral Cats and Their Management” http://elkhorn.unl.edu/epublic/live/ec1781/build/ec1781.pdf was the basis for an ABC press release http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/101208.html

Submitted by Morven on

Not sure if the RSPB argument is so leaky. If the cats kill for pleasure, not hunger, then the corpses will still feed the other scavengers. If they eat their prey then they will consume less commercial cat food, the origins of which tend not to be very animal-friendly either.
Cat lovers 2, Cat haters 1

Submitted by John Burton on

No, cats often bring the prey in to their owners, who then put it in the garbage. So no good for even Burying beetles.

And Not Cat Haters, haters of domesticated cats roaming the countryside.

Submitted by Robert Burton on

Nothing wrong with rodents! I was being ironic or sarcastic – the emphasis is always on birds. A well-known “nature writer” sounds off about sparrowhawks but is pro barn owls.
From what Viv writes, the J Burton household is like the R Burton household except that it is me who has the cats on the feet.

Submitted by Morven on

OK – I admit that there isn’t a watertight animal-welfare related argument for allowing cats to roam and therefore hunt at will and that, as Viv said, there is a dilemma. I do believe though that living with an animal,any animal,and allowing it to follow its innate instincts, brings a valuable reminder of some of just those dilemmas and contradictions of species co-existence.
And sorry – didn’t mean to suggest total cat hatred – that was my sloppy commenting.

Submitted by Morven on

PS have just read the ABC report. Most of the cost is ascribed to the rearing of birds – so not wild birds then, and the 2nd highest element of the cost is what hunters would have spent to shoot the birds if the cats hadn’t got there first. Personally I would rather see the hunters kept indoors or only allowed out on a leash !

Submitted by Robert Burton on

Morven, that’s a novel idea and conjures up some interesting images!

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

So look, John.
You want to get “feedback” on your blog?
Easy peasy.

Just offer comment upon a) bird collectors
b) domestic cats.
Sorted.

So…. Mouth off criticism (however mild or justified and measured) – light blue touch paper – stand back safe distance, and wait for hoards of OUTRAGED replies.
How dare you?!!! Who the BH are you to…? Ludicrous tack spiralling off on something not relevant anyway…etc etc ad nauseam.

Submitted by ruth on

Thank you Dominic, that was helpful and constructive. Heaven forfend that people might feel more passionate about animals near them rather than in remote places !

Submitted by John Burton on

Perhaps I am being thick, But I am not quite sure of the point Dominic is making — and he is usually very much to the point. But the reason I have blogged on Bird Collecting and Cats, is that both are very relevant to our mission. Collecting is still very much a hot topic in the Americas, and I will shortly reblog (is that a word?) and summarise my conclusions. And domestic pets are an interesting conundrum. I couldn’t live without them. But I do worry about the environmental costs.

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

No, look, I’m just amused to see the sheer level of response as compared with other blogs and other issues.

Points on human population impacts and biodiversity preservation (ARE there any more pertinent issues?) seem to stampede past without much fanfare or comment, but you know, point the finger at our domestic cat/bird-collector colleague..?! Hey – wait a goddam minute here, Buster, now we’ve got issues…20 + emails incoming…

Mild bemusement, that’s all.

Submitted by Woodsman on

Don’t, for even one moment, fall for the song and dance about cat-lovers being animal-lovers, they are anything but that. They don’t have ONE concern about any other animals nor even other humans. Cat-lovers are just like cats, the only thing they care about are themselves.

Their TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs are a dismal failure too. A smokescreen and time and money waster. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Do a search online for the truth about all TNR failures. Cats are an invasive species. Bred by man for man’s purposes through selective-breeding, a form of genetic engineering. They are NOT an indigenous species anywhere on the planet today and have NO PLACE in nature. They have NO natural predators due to their bold patterns in their coats. ALL wildlife sees this as the universal symbol for toxic or olfactory defense mechanisms and won’t go near them, even if starving. They have no more right to be out in the natural world than some genetically engineered insect that, if released out into nature, would destroy all wildlife. JUST AS CATS DO. A cat destroying wildlife is NO MORE NATURAL than if someone was raising piranha for pets and then dumping a tank of them into your bath with you in it, or in local swimming areas, or in your backyard pools. They deserve the same freedoms as cats, don’t they? In fact, this would be even more natural, the piranha haven’t been genetically engineered through selective breeding to make them unique from all other fishes.

These invasive-species cats that are released will still be decimating the food-chain for all native wildlife. If you feed a TNR cat-colony they kill even more wildlife. A well-fed cat kills more animals than a starving one. They don’t stop killing other animals just because they’re no longer hungry. The healthier they are the more they kill. It’s what they do, it’s what they are. Lousy little killing machines, nothing more.

It’s not just the loss of bird populations either. Feral cats and farmers that let theirs roam free have decimated the natural food-chain in my woods. The resident foxes, owls, and other predator animals no longer had a food source. The feral cats destroyed all the smaller animals that all others depended on. The native species all starved to death. That’s what cats do to ALL native animals.

There has also been research done to prove that cats are now spreading their potentially deadly Toxoplasma gondii parasite-disease to wildlife even in remote areas.

http://www.labspaces.net/view_news_comments.php?newsID=110760

When disposing of cat carcasses now, be sure to bury them deeply enough or incinerate them so no other wildlife can become infected by them from eating the cat-meat. Wear gloves while doing so to protect yourself as well. Women who are pregnant can have their child born with severe neural birth defects (microcephaly or hydrocephaly) or miscarry or be still-born; or those with compromised immune systems (taking anti-rejection medication for transplants and skin-grafts at ANY time during your lifetime) can be deadly if you have contracted this disease. People with HIV may not be able to be kept alive by drugs if they contract this cats’ disease.

I live where it is perfectly legal to defend your property and animals from destruction by others’ animals. I lost count after dispatching the first 20 vermin with a good .22, outfitted with laser-sight and zoom rifle-scope. I didn’t have to waste even one bullet, making this solution highly economical as well. 5000 rounds of .22′s on sale for $15, that’s 3 dead cats per penny! No further costs, ever. Think of how many dollars and hours of your lives that you have spent trapping, transporting, calling, complaining, restoring damaged property, et.al. … and still all the problems that these useless cat-lovers have caused remains. If your aim is good this is far more humane than methods that “humane” societies use. Instead of dying a slow death by animal-shelter methods they don’t even know they’ve been shot. It is now the preferred method for disposing of feral cats in many states. (In fact, shooting is too good for them. By all rights, to make things perfectly even, they should be made to starve a slow death, just like they caused to all the predator wildlife. Or maimed with entrails hanging out to die a slow death, just like they did to all the prey they destroyed and never ate. But I’m not as inhumane as cat-lovers and their cats are.)

It’s time to give cats and cat-lovers the same consideration and respect that they have for all humans and all wildlife–that means NONE. Don’t waste your time arguing with disrespectful, inconsiderate, and ignorant cat-lovers either, as I stupidly tried to do for years. Just do what needs to be done and there’ll be nothing to argue about.

This year owls and foxes have returned to my woods. Through a large effort of my own, including raising and releasing native mice and voles to help repopulate some of the species that their useless cats destroyed. Their lousy cats are finally gone. But I’ll shoot again on first-sight the first chance I get. The rewards for ridding one’s land of ALL cats and restoring the native wildlife population are far too great.

If you don’t have approval from your local law enforcement like I did to fix the myriad problems that all “cat-lovers” have created for all of humanity and the world, then you might be interested in a far more effective cat management program than TNR. It’s called SSS — for Shoot, Shovel, & Shut-up. It’s now popular worldwide and “legal” everywhere. It may be the only thing that saves us from this ecological disaster that all the spineless and ecologically-ignorant law-makers have created. The drastic problems that cat-lovers have created by their blatant disrespect and lack of consideration for their environment, all other humans, and all animals now requires drastic actions by all those who actually care. It takes real strength of heart to do the right thing.

Here’s a little insight to help you further understand the root-cause of the problem. Now you’ll know EXACTLY why cat-lovers do what they do. It really has nothing at all to do with their concern for cats, nor even the lives of anyone nor anything else, quite the opposite.

Human Territorial Behavior By Expendable Proxy

I have come to the inexorable conclusion that the vast majority of cat-lovers and cat-owners that let their destructive invasive-species roam free, and especially those that defend the rights of feral cats to overtake public property and wildlife areas, are only (cowardly) using cats as a proxy for their own territorial behavior. Not unlike uneducated inner-city youth that will disrespectfully and inconsiderately use loud music to stake-out a territory for themselves. As long as they can have one of their possessions defecate in another’s yard or destroy their property, animals, and wildlife, and the yard-owner not have any recourse; the cat-owner owns that territory. It’s time to put a stop to them using their “cute kitty” excuse for usurping and stealing others’ property. If they want territory they can buy it just like anyone else. Instead they’re using underhanded, disrespectful, and manipulative means. By putting (and sacrificing) live animals in the path of their envy and greed. Again proving why they don’t care about cats nor anyone else at all. Cat-lovers only really want your lawn, yard, or forest while making all others and all other animals suffer for what they can’t have nor own. Bottom line–they want to control you and your property. That’s ALL that “cat-lovers” are really after. It’s why they don’t care at all if their cat nor any other animals, nor even other humans, get harmed by their goals and (lack of) values in life.

Submitted by Woodsman on

A little more info to help the rest of you understand the gravity of this worldwide cat-infestation and ecological disaster that we now all face.

Why TNR (trap, neuter, release) and Cat Advocates Even Exist …

Toxoplasmosis: Behavioral changes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasmosis#Behavioral_changes

It has been found that Toxoplasma gondii parasite is capable of changing the brains of whatever organism it infests. In mice, they lose the fear of cats and are even attracted to cat-urine. Making the asexual portion of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite’s life-cycle faster to complete in order to replicate more quickly into its sexual reproduction phase in all host cats. This loss of fear and apprehension manifesting itself in humans in a similar manner, even when common-sense tells them they should depend on that sense of fear or doubt for their own survival.

Here are other ways that this parasite have been known to alter the thinking patterns of humans: http://wildlifeprofessional.org/blog/?p=3929

I strongly suspect that it might even be responsible for all cat-lovers’ wholly contradictory behavior of putting cats, all other animals, and even all humans in harm’s-way through their adamant insistence of promoting TNR programs, just to ensure the survival and spread of more Toxoplasma gondii parasites throughout the food-chain and in more humans. They are, in effect, being controlled against all reason and common-sense by the very parasite that is reproducing in their cats.

Get tested for T. gondii if you are defending these invasive-species cats’ lives. You’re actually obeying parasites in your brain. You no longer think and reason like a human, ignoring all common-sense.

The stuff that sci-fi used to be made of comes to reality. Real-life “pod-people”. They can’t think nor reason beyond the need of ensuring the survival and proliferation of Toxoplasma gondii. It won’t let those who are parasitized think for themselves, nor allow them to destroy itself.

Some further reading on the subject, “Toxoplasmosis and psychology: A game of cat and mouse”
http://www.economist.com/node/16271339?story_id=16271339&fsrc=nlw|hig|06-03-2010|editors_highlights

Submitted by John Burton on

I should emphasise that I do not condone the methods advocated by Woodsman, which depsite what he says would be illegal in most civilised parts of the world. I am not too well up on gun law since, fortunately I live in England where most of us are unarmed, and unlikely to have access to any form of firearm. And in any case using firearms in suburban areas, I am sure is illegal.

Submitted by Woodsman on

Some further help:

If you live in an area where firearms can’t be discharged legally, then get any of the high-powered CO2 air-guns available that shoot at 700 fps or more. Far as I know, these are legal to own everywhere in the world, even in densely populated urban areas. Many kids use them just for target practice in home-built shooting-ranges in their basements and garages. You can even buy pointed slugs for better penetration. These guns and rifles can also be outfitted with a good scope and laser-sight for a precision hit in a vital area. Go for a chest-shot instead of a head-shot though. The slower pellet speed might only glance off of a cat’s hard skull. You’ll only get one chance. If you miss the first time you may not see them again and it’ll be off terrorizing someone else’s property or spreading its deadly diseases to more wildlife and humans.

“Shoot, Shovel, & Shut-Up” seems to be most people’s only option to solve this ecological disaster today. Until law-makers get at least high-school level of education in ecology and biology to rid themselves of their blatant and perpetual ignorance. Oh, and when they finally grow adult spines too.

Submitted by Woodsman on

If it’s illegal worldwide to torture animals using any method (bullfighters seem exempt), then why are cat-owners allowed to torture ALL wildlife with their cats? Cats don’t just kill wildlife humanely (like one can kill a feral cat with a well-aimed bullet), cats torture any animal to play with it while it’s still alive and twitching with its entrails hanging out. It seems that the longer that they can keep an animal alive the more enjoyment that cats get out of it. Shouldn’t outdoor-cat owners and all TNR groups be charged with this crime of animal-cruelty, fined heavily, and all of them serving severe jail sentences? There seems to be a drastic double-standard going on. They may not be torturing other animals with baseball-bats or other weapons in their hands, but their cats are just as much a tool of theirs.

Would a dog owner be fined with the crime of animal-cruelty if he continually let his dog attack other animals? Of course, and it’s already happened, many times. Fined and convicted. It’s in the news often.

This drastic double-standard needs to be corrected. With the fines that all cat-owners and TNR groups would have to pay we’d have the money to clean up this ecological disaster they created. Think of all the new jails that would have to be built to house them all too, all the new jobs. We could turn this ecological disaster into an economic recovery by finally making some use of useless cat-lovers.

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