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Rogar
1-30-13, 9:45am
Our local paper featured a long article about the large number of feral cats along the near-by open spaces and their adverse effects on bird populations. Apparently it is becoming a national issue, or always has been and is getting more attention. The current favored method of dealing with this has been to capture the feral animals, neuter them and then release them. Our local article featured an interview with an expert biologist (and friend of mine) who said thee best solution is to trap and terminate them. This is an article that appeared in a recent NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/science/that-cuddly-kitty-of-yours-is-a-killer.html?_r=0

JaneV2.0
1-30-13, 10:23am
There are too many feral cats because people are too stupid/cheap/fill in the blank to spay and neuter their animals. I think trap, neuter, release along with socializing feral kittens is the most humane response.

I think this is another of those non-existent "crises" that pops up at every turn. Cats--from what I have seen and observed--vastly prefer rodents to birds, and birds are much more likely to escape. I have to wonder who's counting all these dead birds and if the herbicide/pesticide manufacturers--who really are killing off birds by poisoning them and their food--are behind all this hysteria. Since half the nation's cats--probably more than half--are permanently locked inside with no hope of fresh air and sunlight, why is this now an issue? If anything, there should be fewer bird kills.

And what about predation by other birds, raccoons, coyotes, etc.? Air and water pollution? No, let's blame it on the cats...Hot button pushed.

Rosemary
1-30-13, 10:27am
Good points, Jane. Our cats are indoors-only but on the rare occasions they've gotten outside, it's the mice we see them going after, not the birds. I completely agree that pesticides are more of a danger to birds and all the other wildlife that eats the birds.
I am not aware of any feral cat problem in our area. We have many, many no-kill shelters that take in strays that are reported to them.

iris lily
1-30-13, 10:29am
There are too many feral cats because people are too stupid/cheap/fill in the blank to spay and neuter their animals. I think trap, neuter, release along with socializing feral kittens is the most humane response.

I think this is another of those non-existent "crises" that pops up at every turn. Cats--from what I have seen and observed--vastly prefer rodents to birds, and birds are much more likely to escape. I have to wonder who's counting all these dead birds and if the herbicide/pesticide manufacturers--who really are killing off birds by poisoning them and their food--are behind all this hysteria. Since half the nation's cats--probably more than half--are permanently locked inside with no hope of fresh air and sunlight, why is this now an issue? If anything, there should be fewer bird kills.

And what about predation by other birds, raccoons, coyotes, etc.? Air and water pollution? No, let's blame it on the cats...Hot button pushed.

Do you remember Chickadee from this board? This was one of her hot button issues and she always cited that study done in England that showed how cats killed a beezillion songbirds. I was halfway convinced 'thought I am all about cats.

JaneV2.0
1-30-13, 10:41am
It's really people who are the problem, with their noxious chemicals, habitat reduction, and general destructiveness. Perhaps we should trap and terminate the most egregious offenders.

Way to get an old woman's pulse racing early in the morning.

Rogar
1-30-13, 11:03am
This is from the article and contradicts some of the posts:

"The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes."

It is indeed a people problem, but once cats are released into the wild it is a wildlife problem.

JaneV2.0
1-30-13, 11:07am
And then I found this blurb:

In a new study, biologists estimate cats kill billions of birds, mice and small mammals each year. (Image via Shutterstock). Your pet cat may not be as cute and cuddly as you might think.

I interpret that as "lots of mice and small mammals and some birds." Maybe they're cutting into exterminators' profits.

JaneV2.0
1-30-13, 11:11am
This is from the article and contradicts some of the posts:

"The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes."

It is indeed a people problem, but once cats are released into the wild it is a wildlife problem.

I'd be interested in checking out their methodology. Frankly, I just don't believe it. The whole idea that there are huge gangs of feral cats roaming the fields and forests of this country more than strains credulity.

Rogar
1-30-13, 11:28am
I'd be interested in checking out their methodology. Frankly, I just don't believe it. The whole idea that there are huge gangs of feral cats roaming the fields and forests of this country more than strains credulity.

The methodology described in the article seems pretty sound to me. This is the article from our local paper, and it indicates 100,000 feral cats in the Denver region.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_22154584/takes-village-philosophy-over-caring-feral-cats-causing

With due respect, I don't think it is correct to release pets into the wild and then support their survival with spay and release. If it were dogs or pigs it would cause different problems. Of course it starts as a people problem and there needs to be some education, but once pets are in the wild there is a different solution that needs to address the problem more directly. I am a lover of wildlife and understand folks affections for their pets, but from my best understanding feral cats are causing a significant man made issue that is not part of our natural world. Songbirds have been in the decline for years and there are many reasons why and this may be a contributor.

redfox
1-30-13, 2:38pm
The data seems pretty clear to me as well. I succeeded in convincing my then-suspect family that we could only get kittens IF they were totally indoor cats. I am a birder; I am also averse to vet bills from injuries & illnesses cats suffer when outside.

8 years later, it is a great success. My cats are happy, super healthy, they smell good, and no fleas, tracked mud, dead presents, injuries, etc. One of them likes to escape every so often, mostly to chase away the 2 ferals I feed; his mother, who we trapped & got spayed years ago, and his sister's father, who I need to trap and get fixed. He's gotten out a handful of times for just a few minutes so no shenanigans.

Cats are a scourge for birds. Birds in urban areas have a hard enough time surviving. I wish every domestic cat was required to be indoors or on a harness when outside.

ctg492
1-30-13, 2:58pm
imo: Pet cats are Indoors only. Once feral, they are wild animals not pets.

Gardenarian
1-30-13, 3:08pm
I'd be interested in checking out their methodology. Frankly, I just don't believe it. The whole idea that there are huge gangs of feral cats roaming the fields and forests of this country more than strains credulity.

Believe!

I live on the edge of a state park and one of my neighbors feeds over 30 feral cats every day. There are others in town doing the same. I never take a walk on any of our trails without seeing cats.

Our local humane society will spay/neuter, vaccinate, and give a checkup to feral cats FOR FREE, but the cat feeders won't take them in because if they are diagnosed with feline leukemia they are put down. (It is otherwise a no-kill shelter.) The state park has a couple of species of butterflies that live nowhere else, as well as being home to the endangered San Francisco garter snake.

When we bought our current house, the previous owner left their four cats behind - just left them! One was adopted by our neighbors - and she had never been spayed.

Over a million songbirds a day. It's a disgrace.

(This happens to be my pet peeve. Outdoor/feral cats, and billboards.)

Tussiemussies
1-30-13, 3:42pm
I just don't believe that killing the cats is the way to solve this problem, if there really is one...

Gardenarian
1-30-13, 3:49pm
Our humane society does a spay and release program. Not ideal; the cats are put back into the wild, but at least they can't multiply. Most feral cats can not be trained to be pets.

Gardenarian
1-30-13, 3:57pm
IMPACTS OF FREE-RANGING DOMESTIC CATS (FELIS CATUS) ON
BIRDS IN THE UNITED STATES: A REVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH
WITH CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS (http://www.shop.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/pdf/impacts_of_free_ranging_domestic_cats.pdf)
Abstract. American birds face an estimated 117 to 157 million exotic predators in the form of free-ranging
domestic cats (Felis catus), which are estimated to kill at least one billion birds every year in the
United States. Cats have contributed to declines and extinctions of birds worldwide and are one of the
most important drivers of global bird extinctions. In this paper, we review recent scientifi c research
on the impacts of free-ranging cats on birds, with an emphasis on threats to migratory landbirds in
the United States. Studies have shown that cats pose threats to many bird populations, including
priority species for conservation, through their predation of adult, nestling, and juvenile birds. Cats
also have impacts on birds through competition with native predators such as raptors, and through
the harboring and transmission of zoonotic and other diseases to birds and other wildlife. In addition
to direct mortality, cats may also cause stress responses in birds due to predation risk that may result
in bird population declines. A substantial increase in public outreach is urgently needed to educate
citizens about the conservation and welfare problems caused and faced by outdoor cats. Effective cat
and wildlife management in this context will also require strengthening and enforcing policies and
laws that control outdoor cats, many of which are already in place.

Rosemary
1-30-13, 5:41pm
125 million feral cats/50 states = 2.5 million cats per state. I really don't think there are even half that number.

Rogar
1-30-13, 6:50pm
125 million feral cats/50 states = 2.5 million cats per state. I really don't think there are even half that number.
The number of cats is undeniably large. Even if conservative estimates of prey taken are considered, the number of kills is immense. (Paraphrased from the article). The article that Gardenarian referenced also talks about the failure of spay and release programs.

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 3:51pm
I think one of the articles says 15% of bird deaths are caused by cats. Wonder what the other 85% are caused by.

How about predation by coyotes? I know they kill cats by the score around here, and I'm sure they kill their share of ground-nesting birds, as well. Along with the previously-mentioned raccoons and raptors, foxes, snakes, rats, free-ranging dogs, etc.

Habitat destruction? Chemical-saturated air and water? Hormones? Cats are not the problem; birds have always had natural predators. People are the problem.

The more I see of so-called "scientific studies," the less I believe them; they all seem to have an agenda. This one will be popular with cat haters (license to kill, anyone?), pesticide peddlers (gets them off the hook), and exterminators (neutralizes competition), I'm sure, as well as drumming up contributions for the Audubon Society (which would be a good thing, of course).

People should spay and neuter their animals--including barn cats. The fact that we still have large numbers of throwaway pets (after decades of free and low-cost spay programs) is a tribute to inexcusable irresponsibility. We should continue with feral catch, sterilize, and release programs (along with rescuing and socializing feral kittens)--which our many local animal welfare agencies strongly support. And we should learn that headline-grabbing scare tactics always beg skepticism.

pcooley
2-1-13, 4:15pm
Our totally indoor cat slips out the door every chance he gets. He has brought home moles, several baby rabbits, mice, and songbirds. He also fights with a big orange cat that hangs out in our yard, and we've dealt with about $400 in vet bills for fight-related injuries in the past year.

I wish we could keep him in, but he waits by the door for someone to come in, and whoosh... At least he's neutered.

Rosemary
2-1-13, 4:23pm
Paul, we had a cat that often slipped out. We kept a spray bottle of water on both sides of the door as discouragement. It didn't take long for the cat to decide it wasn't worth it.

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 5:00pm
Of the four cats I've been fortunate to share my adult life with, three were indoor-only. The fourth was a drop-in indoor-outdoor cat. He was the healthiest of the lot until I got paranoid and sentenced him to house arrest to keep him from an early death. I think I broke his heart. He'd lie on his window perch and pine for fresh air and sunlight until he sickened and died (with no diagnosis). Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing. I hope so. At any rate, if (when?) I have another cat, I'll secure the yard (probably not possible here) and allow for some outdoor time.

As I type, I'm looking at 10,000 sparrows and chickadees chirping away in the madrona outside my window. Later tonight, a million crows will fly over on their way to their nightly roost on the other side of town. See how easy it is to just pull random impressive numbers out of one's posterior? http://www.kolobok.us/smiles/remake/biggrin.gif

Obviously, unwanted cats are a problem. I have the greatest respect--bordering on awe--for the saints among us who rescue, spay, neuter, socialize, and otherwise make life easier for them. I send money when I can.

To paraphrase Will Rogers (who cited dogs) "If there are no cats in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

Rosemary
2-1-13, 6:14pm
Love the quote, Jane.
I grew up with indoor/outdoor cats and my parents had many vet bills (mostly from other cat fights, and one cat was attacked by a bobcat or something similar), and most of them died young (2 hit by car, one ate rat poison at a neighborhood barn, 2 simply vanished). So I guess my experience is the opposite of yours.
When I lived in Phoenix I used to put my cats on a harness and leash, and stake the leash in the back yard. They enjoyed being out in the sun and could hunt insects. There were no fleas or ticks there.
But otherwise all my cats since grad school have been indoors-only. They get lots of play time, sunny corners with cat perches, and baskets placed all over the house for cozy nap spots. In Tucson we even had geckos in the house to entertain them (nothing like a lizard on the ceiling for a cat!) They seem happy!
Many shelters require that people who adopt their cats commit to keeping them indoors due to the dangers they face from cars, dogs, other cats, wild animals, etc.

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 6:47pm
The very healthiest cats I know (and admittedly it's a small sample) are indoor-outdoor cats. I think particularly of one friend whose cats enjoy their back yard and regularly live to nearly twenty years. I won't sign any such agreement because--although one of my indoor cats did live to 19--I don't think being held back from fresh air and sunshine can possibly be a healthy thing. Not to mention I think such an agreement is high-handed and unreasonable. I've seen some pretty impressive cat enclosures, so maybe that's a way to address the issue.

As far as the panic about some cats killing birds, if the issue were presented in a way that showed as much concern for all the cats being thrown away, abandoned, or abused as it does for birds that are regularly killed in huge numbers by human activity (How many birds are killed by agriculture, one wonders...) along with numerous natural predators including cats, and if people were encouraged to support their no-kill shelters and spay-neuter programs to address the problem, I'd be satisfied. Instead, it's all about killing and locking up cats.


And I've seen inflated statistics used time and time again to pump up outrage, so I don't even begin to be convinced by these.

Rogar
2-1-13, 7:25pm
Jane, sounds like your opinion is pretty much set in stone. I might just add that people can buy cat bibs that allows them to be outside and slows them down enough that they don't catch birds. http://www.catgoods.com/ They are recommended by the Audubon Society.

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 7:42pm
Jane, sounds like your opinion is pretty much set in stone. I might just add that people can buy cat bibs that allows them to be outside and slows them down enough that they don't catch birds. http://www.catgoods.com/ They are recommended by the Audubon Society.

Yes, but does it stop other cats from pointing, laughing, and beating the wearer up? http://www.kolobok.us/smiles/artists/just_cuz/JC-hysterical.gif

The above-mentioned friend's latest cat lies near their bird feeder and watches (kind of like kitty TV). So far (some years now), he's happy with that. They had a couple of rabbits come into the yard that he was friendly with. Apparently, he's not Dexter of the cat world. I like that the bib ad talked about "known bird-killing cats."That makes all the difference.

pinkytoe
2-1-13, 8:01pm
I'm not sure how it happened but my two Siamese are "trained" to go outside for short periods of time to get a dust bath, sleep in the sun and scrath their claws on trees. I could not deny them those pleasures. They never leave the backyard and have no interest in trying to catch birds though they do watch them. As a birder, I agree that many birds are killed by cats but I see both sides since I love cats too. I think these kind of articles just stir up sh--.

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 8:50pm
"I think these kind of articles just stir up sh--."

Exactly. Either propose solid, realistic, humane solutions to the throwaway cat problem (without wildly inflated, impossible-to-verify numbers), or STFU. The old lady delicately suggests.

creaker
2-1-13, 9:22pm
"I think these kind of articles just stir up sh--."

Exactly. Either propose solid, realistic, humane solutions to the throwaway cat problem (without wildly inflated, impossible-to-verify numbers), or STFU. The old lady delicately suggests.

In Florida they have state sponsored hunts for pythons (they are blamed for decimating the wildlife in the everglades), but they've been wildly ineffective.

It's really a management problem, I doubt there's an actual solution. Spay and release is more humane than extermination.

Rogar
2-1-13, 9:48pm
It's really a management problem, I doubt there's an actual solution. Spay and release is more humane than extermination.

The article that Gardenarian posted discusses spay and release for feral populations. It is the most humane solution if it worked. The article indicates that recruitment of new animals into the population exceeded or matched the population rate that was reduced by the spay and release, so the populations continued to flourish.

The hunting of pythons actually brings up an interesting comparison as the snakes and feral cats are both invasive species in the natural habitat that upsets the balance of things. And they both appear to start with irresponsible people releasing pets into the wild. Not that cats should be hunted

JaneV2.0
2-1-13, 9:51pm
There are people/organizations who adopt feral colonies, spay/neuter/treat/rescue/socialize and publicize their efforts to raise awareness. It shouldn't be necessary, but people being what they are, I guess this kind of problem will be with us for the foreseeable future.

MissMandy
2-21-13, 11:59am
Our local paper featured a long article about the large number of feral cats along the near-by open spaces and their adverse effects on bird populations. Apparently it is becoming a national issue, or always has been and is getting more attention. The current favored method of dealing with this has been to capture the feral animals, neuter them and then release them. Our local article featured an interview with an expert biologist (and friend of mine) who said thee best solution is to trap and terminate them. This is an article that appeared in a recent NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/science/that-cuddly-kitty-of-yours-is-a-killer.html?_r=0

This is a tough call. I don't see why fixing them would stop them from killing birds. Sure it will cut down on future generations of feral cats, but it doesn't exactly fix the problem, but I also can't condone the idea of trapping and killing them :/