The Terrible Threat of House Cats

The American Bird Conservancy is an international leader is the efforts to save the world’s bird populations, especially birds of the Western Hemisphere. Across the Western Hemisphere, 12 percent of the New World’s 4,230 bird species are declining in population and headed for extinction in our lifetimes without immediate conservation action.The Conservancy has published its annual report recently, which contained this extraordinary graphic:

Source: American Bird Conservancy

Source: American Bird Conservancy

WC directs your attention to the upper left hand corner. House cats – both feral cats and pets permitted to be outdoors – kill 2.4 billion birds a year. That four times more than collisions with buildings and windows. In facts, house cats are twice as bad as all other threats to birds combined. The message couldn’t be clearer: if we want to protect our declining populations of wild birds, we have to do something about house cats.

It’s a subject that is fraught, because cat lovers are extremely difficult to reason with. The obvious solution – euthanize wild cats and sanction cat owners who let their animals outside – is anathema to most cat lovers. It doesn’t seem to matter to the unreasoning cat lovers that cats make their living killing birds; the cat lovers don’t want the cats killed. It’s okay that cats kill birds – that’s just “cats being cats.” But it’s not okay to kill cats that are threatening the very existence of birds. That not only specieisist; it’s threatening dozens of bird species with extinction.

WC has complained before about the cruel insanity of Trap-Neuter-Release. Cruel, because feral cats lead miserable, harsh lives. Insane because the problem is cats in the wild, and putting cats back in the wild obviously isn’t going to address the problem. The marginal benefit that they aren’t able to breed is far too slight to justify the cruelty and insanity.

Allowing cats to continue to live in feral cat colonies is neither humane nor effective. Allowing your cat to be outdoors is very dangerous to your cat. You risk disease, accidents and predators. And it is deadly to our dwindling avifauna.

We don’t need this invasive species loose in the wild. We don’t need to jeopardize, let alone lose, more native bird species. Control the cats.



5 thoughts on “The Terrible Threat of House Cats

  1. You are correct. I was once in a position (small city mayor) where I was able to turn down a TNR funding request from our local shelter. At the time, I was friends with several of the board members; in fact, I had been asked to serve on the board. Subsequent to the council meeting where I made my point, my Inbox and voicemail runneth over. It’s a LONG story, since I thought I had provided a pretty good rationale – all of your points, PLUS the facts that I am an always-indoors cat owner, former cat breeder, AND graduate of a cat judging school. I also have modest credentials as a bird conservation guy. I think I know a little about cats. I think I know a little about birds. In my view, it boils down to data vs emotion, and emotion is winning this one. Keep on spreading the word (I do), but I hope your frustration threshold is higher than mine. And one more little irk – when confronted with the (to me) obvious case that free-roaming cats are harmful to the environment, one person told me she was allowing her cats to run, but doing her part for the environment by driving a Prius. ‘Nuff said…

  2. Why we have a neutered indoor “only” cat. Since we adopted him from the Idaho Humane Society where he had been found feral at about 1 year old … he was fat and healthy so however long he had been outside on his own he made a good living on something birds, mice probably a combination of both. Watching his attention and stealth toward the birds he sees outside and his speed and leaping ability with his feathered toys I would bet he ate a lot of birds.

    Anyone know if the ABC or anyone else has done a study on the impact of off leash dogs on nesting ground birds and just hatched and fledged birds. I have seen them chase them and after a 2 or 3 flushes the young have died. I have also seen small unleashed pet dogs catch adult birds trying protect a nest and their young and I have intervened at nests of ground nesting birds more than once when off leash dogs headed toward them. The on leash only rules on the Bethine Church River Trail are openly flaunted on a regular basis. One dog owner whose dog I chased away from a Spotted Sandpiper nest was incensed that I did that. She also said she new about the rule but did not care and was going to run her dog since he liked it.

    Yup cats will be cats and dogs will be dogs and people will be people …. it boils down to, the age old tale, it is the people not the cats and dogs that are the problem. We are supposed to be the intelligent species given the ability to domesticate animals and the responsibility to be good stewards of our environment and the other inhabitants living in it with us. So give the critters an A and we humans overall a D.

  3. Premise: I am the caretaker (I don’t feel owner of anything…) of two sterilised and in-house-only cats.
    Yet I agree with you completely that the real point is that feral cats, as dogs and other “nice” species, are still invasive and out of control pests, and should be taken care of because they are a man-made problem of bio imbalance.
    Will it be done? Cats and dogs are much cuter than rats and other so-called “real” pests, so it’s an uphill battle, unless we change the way we educate people… and there we open the present day Pandora box…

  4. I have always been intrigued how we casually label some non-native species with the pejorative “invasive” and others are merely a nuisance. Feral cats, rock doves, feral burros and feral horses all seem to have some sort of emotional attachment to us that makes the hard work of eliminating them from North America and preventing them from eating or competing with native species almost impossible.

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