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Feral Cats; good or bad?

Feral Cats; good or bad?

A debate rages in Salem over the environmental impacts of the feral cat population.  In the February issue of Salem Audubon’s newsletter, Ray Temple and Doug Spencer aptly define the two positions as, “concerns for bird populations by predation” on one side, and “the humane treatment of cats that no one owns” on the other.

The Humane Society of the United State estimates there are more than 70 million stray and feral cats in the United States.  Temple and Spencer observe that in the wild the animals “have short, risky and often unpleasant lives due to disease, predation and starvation,” Though they dont explicitly recommend euthanasia, they suggest that people concerned with wildlife loss discuss with a veterinarian options for humane euthanasia.

Salem is also the home of the Coalition Advocating for Animals (CAFA,), which, among other animal work, helps local people feeding stray cats with spay and neuter assistance.  CAFA strongly believes in trap/neuter/release (TNR) a policy in which people trap unowned cats, have them neutered and return them to the wild.  The group calls TNR “the most effective way to work with feral or free-roaming cats.”

In contrast with Temple and Spencer’s statement that neutered cats “are still bird predators,” CAFA cites a 2011 Australian study which showed that when feral cats were eliminated from islands off Australia, the rodent population of rats and rabbits exploded.  This severely impacted birds living there because rats ate bird eggs and fledglings, and rabbits ate ground cover and nesting materials.

Alley Cat Allies is the largest national organization to back the TNR effort.  Alley Cat Allies argues cats have lived out doors for more than 10,000 years and are a “natural part of the landscape.”

Citing evidence from scientific studies, Alley Cat Allies says most feral cats find food by scavenging, mostly on human garbage, rather than killing songbirds, and when they hunt, kill mostly rodents.  They say a 2011 Smithsonian Institution study suggesting that feral cats kill too many wild birds is “irresponsible” and “biased.”

Though Alley Cat Allies agrees with the documented drop in wild bird populations, it blames “humans and human-led activities, including habitat loss, pollution and climate change,” rather than cats.  Its Facebook pages includes tips on how to keep unowned cats warm in winter, outdoor feeding stations and other strategies to support feral animals.

Peer-reviewed science does not support both feral cat TNR and feral cat euthanasia as equally valid options.

World Conservation Union, an international group, included domestic cats in its list of “100 of the Worlds Worst Invasive Alien Species.”  Species were selected, among other things, “on the basis of their serious impact on biological diversity.”

A 2009 Los Angeles study compared arguments of “feral cat advocates with scientific literature,” and found that “the scientific literature contradicts each of,” the most common claims used by TNR proponents.

Most significantly, the Smithsonian Institution’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Center assembled a comprehensive review of every U.S.-based cat predation study (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) in the scientific literature.

Published in December 2013, the study quantified bird and small mammal mortality.

“We estimate,” it concluded, “that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality.”

The study’s findings suggest that “free-ranging cats… are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals.”

Salem nature advocate Aileen Kaye is alarmed by the damage done to wildlife by feral cats and the support they receive from the public.  She cites the disproportionately large donations Oregonians give to support feral cats and TNR efforts, as opposed to contributions to other environmental causes, as revealed by the 2013 Willamette Week Give Guide.

“These people are short – sighted,” Kaye says, “and they do not understand the ecosystem.”

3 Comments

  1. Birds are just a minor subset of all the thousands of native animal species (billions of individual animals) that cat-lickers (criminally irresponsible cat-advocates) are annihilating around the world with their man-made invasive species vermin cats

    Not only are these demented invasive-species house-cats-ONLY “animal lovers” now killing off all Big Cats in all wildlife reserves around the world:

    thenational D0T ae SLASH news/uae-news/big-cat-owners-warned-to-keep-them-acres-away-from-feral-strays

    And they’ve already made their ONE AND ONLY native cat species EXTINCT in the UK (the inventors of that TNR insanity):

    guardian D0T co D0T uk SLASH environment/2012/sep/16/scottish-wildcat-extinction

    “A report, produced by the Scottish Wildcat Association, reviewed 2,000 records of camera trap recordings, eyewitness reports and road kills, and concluded there may be only about 40 wildcats left in Scotland in the wild today. ‘However you juggle the figures, it is hard to find anything positive,’ says Steve Piper, the association’s chairman. ‘The overwhelming evidence is that the wildcat is going to be extinct within months.'” … “However, it is not the loss of habitat that is causing the current cat crisis in the Cairngorms. It is the spread of the domestic cat.” … “‘Essentially the Highland wildcat is being eradicated by an alien invasive species: the domestic cat.'” (report quoted from last year, they are no-doubt extinct by now)

    As well as killing off all their inland River Otters in England (and elsewhere) with their cats’ parasites:

    wildlifeextra D0T com SLASH go/news/otter-toxoplasmosis D0T html

    As well as cats’ parasites killing off all rare and endangered marine mammals on all coastlines around the world (worse than any oil-spill that has ever existed or could even be imagined):

    news D0T msn D0T com SLASH science-technology/deadly-cat-feces-killing-thousands-of-marine-mammals
    environmentalhealthnews D0T org SLASH ehs/news/hawaiian-monk-seals

    And these cat-licking “animal lover” psychopaths and sociopaths are also killing off all the Mountain Lions (Cougars, Puma, Endangered Florida Panther, etc.), and all other native cat species in North America:

    rapidcityjournal D0T com SLASH sports/local/feral-cats-pose-threat-to-birds-lions/article_8ec451c9-4b03-55a3-baa7-71ac577905cb D0T html

    But now these cat-lickers are even killing off rare whales and causing massive birth-defects in the indigenous Inuit people who depend on seal-meat for their very survival. Seals that were infected (and are also dying-off) from these cat-lickers’ cats’ parasites.

    Cat parasite found in western Arctic Beluga deemed infectious
    news.ubc D0T ca SLASH 2014/02/13/bigthaw/

    Let’s thank these psychotic bible-home-schooled cat-lickers for all the fine work they do for being such fantastic “animal lovers”, shall we? THEY JUST LOVE CATS SO MUCH! So caring! So thoughtful! So FULL of love for living things! So much so that they will even sacrifice whole races of humans to death-by-birth-defect to prove how much they love their cats.

    I’d love to thank them all, each with a gift of a solitary-confinement prison-cell — FOR LIFE. Better yet, for their VAST ecological crimes and sins against all of nature and all of humanity, hanged-until-dead would be a far more fitting “gift” for them AND the whole planet. That used to be the punishment for engaging in bio-warfare against the human population and all other animal life in any country. I say bring it back.

  2. Please…The only thing I’ve seen my ferals go after are mice and bugs. They sit and watch the birds, and one of the ferals tries to catch them, but doesn’t even come close…no bird is ever going to lose its life to her. There are 30 cats that come to/live on my property, and I feed the birds. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t think they were safe. The squirrels come and grab food from the food dishes sometimes…they wouldn’t if they thought they were in danger. A baby opossum is using one of the cat hide-outs as a shelter right now, and he comes to eat at night WITH the cats. They’re getting a bum deal with these studies. Slapping a camera on a pet cat that roams all day is NOT the same as putting a camera on a feral cat that mostly hides all day and comes out at night. :./ There are cats in places with nobody to care for them (colony caretaker), or where people put out food but cat haters throw it away…these are the places where they are eating critters to stay alive. Do you think any other animal will starve to death rather than eat what comes naturally to them? Why would you expect it of a cat? If you hate cats, you, more than anyone, should be out there with a trap doing trap/neuter/release so that the numbers start going down instead of up, up, up. Thank you for reading.

  3. The notion that you have to be for wildlife or cats is a purely false dichotomy. We both recognize that cat overpopulation is the true problem. The most economic, effective, and humane method of population control is TNR. Does a spayed cat still predate wildlife? Sure, but if you can curb the exponential breeding cycle of cats, you reduce the number of cats predating wildlife tomorrow. We invite the Salem Audobon Society to join with us to address and deal with this problem.

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