Have you seen the recent "news" articles about outdoor and feral cats being responsible for the decline in the numbers of birds and small mammals in the US?  Hello-oh? Here's an excellent rebuttal from the president of Alley Cat Allies:

Alley Cat Allies Advocates To End ‘Junk’ Science Studies About Cats

By Becky Robinson

Newspaper articles and television programs labeling cats as mass killers and the reason for bird species declines have been all over the news, from The New York Times to The Washington Post, most recently reporting on research published in the online journal Nature Communications. Without questioning the integrity of this latest report, these and dozens of other news outlets have helped manufacture a fake debate that outdoor cats are the number one killer of birds and mammals in this country.

Of course, habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are far and away the greatest threats to birds and wildlife. And bogus reports like this recent one funded by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and sensationalized by the media, sidestep serious debate on the real threats to birds and wildlife and end up scapegoating cats.

This current “study” is not new. It is a literature review that looks at a variety of published papers and then speculates a conclusion that suits the researchers’ anti-feral (or outdoor) cat and anti-Trap-Neuter-Return agenda. In the past, Alley Cat Allies has picked apart some of the flawed studies included in the review, and we will continue to do so on this research piece.

Because the basic premise of this research is that no cats should be outdoors, a very real outcome to all of this could be more cats taken to animal shelters, where 7 out of 10 are killed.

In fact, “catch and kill” has been an ineffective standard operating procedure for animal control in the U.S. for more than a century. Yet attempts to permanently clear an area of cats have proven futile because of a natural and scientifically documented phenomenon known as the vacuum effect. Simply removing the cats will open up a vacuum in the habitat that attracts other cats.

Tens of millions of cats have been rounded up and killed in shelters, at staggering taxpayer expense, but with no reductive effect on outdoor cat populations. Where is the media in reporting on these deaths?

When outrageous extrapolations based on small study samples use the word “billions” to describe bird and small mammal deaths by cats, it makes people sit up and take notice. And pitting species against species sells papers. But we don’t need small local studies to point to the millions of animals’ lives lost in shelters each year — we already know that, nationally, more than 70 percent of all cats who enter shelters are killed there.

Catch and kill has been practiced for over a century. The evidence is in: it just doesn’t work. From animal protection experts to individual caregivers, from mayors of small towns to city councils of large cities, people have had enough of this culture of killing — they’ve had enough of the wasted dollars and the wasted lives. They’re turning to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

The best response to feral cats, who aren’t socialized to people and can’t be adopted, TNR is a program through which feral cats are humanely trapped, neutered at a veterinary clinic, and then returned to their outdoor homes to live out their lives. Because TNR is proven to stabilize and reduce cat populations over time, it is fast becoming the predominant approach to feral cat management in the United States. 

More than 300 communities across the country have passed laws or enacted policies supporting the practice of TNR. This does not include the thousands of community groups and the hundreds of thousands of individual caregivers conducting TNR privately.

Major cities — including San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and dozens more — have embraced TNR. Enlightened animal control and public health officials have endorsed it, calling it common-sense and effective. TNR reduces calls into municipal agencies, keeps cats out of shelters, encourages spay/neuter practices, and saves tax dollars.  Since Alley Cat Allies first helped bring TNR to the U.S. from the U.K. and Western Europe, where it is accepted and common practice, every mainstream animal protection organization in the U.S. has embraced TNR.

Unfortunately, TNR is often hindered by fundamental misunderstandings and inaccurate portrayals in the media. It is further complicated by the fringe conservationists who imply the easiest way to save birds is to round up and kill outdoor cats. (Or, they suggest unrealistic ideas such as “confining” the millions of outdoor cats.) Yet, while their “studies” are based largely on questionable extrapolations, not field work, their accusations have been widely reported as fact.

It’s time for the funders of this latest study to disavow the research, stop funding junk science, and turn their attention to remediating the real threats to wildlife populations. Scapegoating cats may seem like the easy answer, but in reality, killing more cats will not save populations of birds or small mammals.

And it’s time for the national media to start reporting on the thinly-veiled agenda of these researchers: their proposed “solution” really endorses the continued mass killing of cats. In a nation of professed animal lovers where cats are by far the top companion animal of choice, why attack TNR when it makes sense both practically and ethically?

Alley Cat Allies celebrates and protects cats, but we’re also lovers of all animals. And we agree that wildlife protection needs serious consideration, but let’s not think killing millions of cats is going to somehow abate the true threats to birds and wildlife.

A policy of more killing is never the right answer.

(Becky Robinson is president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, the only national nonprofit dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats. The organization is based in Bethesda, MD.  For more info visit www.alleycat.org)



 

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Replies to This Discussion

There is absolutely no excuse at all for anyone of the human species to point the finger at any other species' overpopulation or environmental destruction. If you support indiscriminate killing of cats because of the environmental problems they cause, at least be consistent and end your own existence.

Oh? Didn't I post this information here already? Silly me, I could have sworn I already posted this. Sorry about that. This could have saved you from making your thoroughly asinine comment. My apologies.

While it is true that overpopulation of humans is the #1 problem that we and all other species face today (humans are a "weedy" species, but they ARE NOT an "invasive species", please educate your sorry selves); this still doesn't excuse all the responsible, wise, and intelligent people from stopping all the ecological disasters caused by those phenomenally stupid and criminally negligent people who should have never been born in the very first place. (edit: You know, people just like you.)

Cats are a man-made (through selective breeding) invasive species. And as such, cats being a product of man's intervention, are no less of a man-made environmental disaster than any oil-spill, radiation-fallout, chemical-spill, or other environmental disaster _caused_by_man_. Cats are _not_exempt_ from having to be removed from every natural environment, wherever and whenever they are found away from supervised confinement. Just as you would do all you can to remove Zebra Mussels from any waterway where they don't belong. Or Burmese Pythons and African Cichlids from every habitat where they exist in N. America today. Burmese Pythons and African Cichlids started out as pets too. Many of our destructive invasive species pests started out as PETS discarded by criminally-irresponsible humans. (Or from pets' habitats, e.g. Eurasian Watermilfoil that is annihilating native aquatic life in many regions of the USA came from people irresponsibly dumping their pet-fish aquarium water into lakes and streams.) And guess what happens to all those other non-native pets that became destructive invasive species? They are destroyed on-site by any means possible -- no questions asked -- none required.

Cats are even worse than an oil-spill of multi-continent-sized proportions. They not only kill off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines (just as all oil-spills do) from run-off from the land carrying cats' Toxoplasma gondii parasites, they also destroy the complete food-chain in every ecosystem where cats are found today. From smallest of prey that is gutted and skinned alive for cats' tortured play-toys (not even used for food, just for senseless play), up to the top predators that are starved to death from cats destroying their ONLY food sources. (Precisely what cats caused on my own land not long ago.) They don't destroy just birds. They destroy everything that moves -- directly or indirectly. They will even destroy valuable native vegetation by destroying those animals that are required pollinators for those plants or those that act as seed dispersers for those plants (as many smaller rodent and bird species do) or those that act as pest-control for those plants. Cats can and will wipe out whole ecosystems eventually -- animal and plant.

Cats need to be made to disappear from all non-native habitats -- PERMANENTLY. And the sooner the better. They are breeding out of control at an exponential rate. The reason for "the sooner the better" is that you can only hope you can halt the problem before it is beyond the reach of any method you eventually choose. Luckily, I caught the problem in time where I live (by humanely shooting and burying every last cat I spotted, collared or not, I have a box full of collars to prove it, totally LEGAL, believe it or not). It seems nobody else is faring as well -- their time is being wasted by cat-lickers trying to stop them from doing the right thing. Asking or listening to any deranged invasive species advocate for advice on how to clean up the ecological disaster that they created and perpetuate is about as useful as asking your local career thieves for advice and help to hide your valuables from their daily motives and activities. Ignore anything they might say and you too will solve the problem where you live.

It worked 100% where I live!

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