The Cat Menace: Or how to make myself unpopular
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.