Letters

Cats Kill Millions

Oct 30, 2019

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to Ms. Giannantonio, who has difficulty believing that cats kill hundreds of millions of animals each year (“Blame Humans,” 10/23). Actually, the most current estimate based on peer-reviewed research is that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3 billion to 4 billion birds and 6.3 billion to 22.3 billion mammals annually in the U.S. Science does not care what individuals believe.

Further, Ms. Giannantonio mistakenly believes that she is saving wildlife by feeding feral cats. She may not realize that well-fed cats are no less motivated to hunt. In fact, by feeding feral cats, she is making them better equipped to hunt, attracting wild rabies vector species to the food source, and increasing risks to public health. She is probably also aggravating nearby property owners who may not appreciate what she is doing.

Additionally, cats did not save mankind from the Black Death by killing rodents. New research disseminated in 2018 suggests that humans are the culprit, spreading plague through human fleas and body lice.

She is right about one thing: Humans are to blame for environmental destruction and wildlife decline. When individuals permit their cats to roam freely or dump unwanted pet cats outdoors or re-abandon them through the misguided and ineffective practice of TNR, those are all human actions that result in the destruction of native wildlife.

If feral cats cannot be socialized for adoption or properly contained on private property, they should be euthanized. That is better for wildlife and public health and far more compassionate than life and death on the streets for a domestic animal.

Linda Cherkassky

Voorhees, N.J

Comments (4)
Posted by: Nancy Keating | Oct 31, 2019 22:53

Re Linda Cherkassky's letter about cats. I believe that she is referring to the 2013 'study' based on 49 dead birds. It was published by a lab at Smithsonian whose post doc went to trial for poisoning community cats. The study contained projections and assumptions, none of which took into account the morbidity of both feral and outdoor cats nor the many other reasons for bird death.

The most recent study, published in SCIENCE, stated that there are 2.9 billion less birds than 50 years ago in North America; the loss being attributed to habitat loss at breeding grounds,heavy pesticide use and climate change. That somehow doesn't square with the 1-3 billion birds per year claimed in her letter.

When the 2013 study hit the news, I am probably one of very few who actually read it, though I confess, I did not check out all the citations. If the numbers were true instead of projections, I think we all would have noticed the loss of that many birds/year.

Blaming cats is easy, always has been, when the root cause is irresponsible humans. I support keeping cats inside for their safety. We have a large coyote population and cats are easy prey. I don't fault the coyotes; once again, it's my responsibility to keep my cat out of harm's way. Below is a link to the NYT's recent article.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html

Nancy Keating,

Oceanside, CA



Posted by: Linda Cherkassky | Nov 20, 2019 02:05

Nancy, the peer-reviewed study was published in Nature in 2013 and combined information from 56 other studies to obtain the estimate of cat-caused wildlife mortality in the United States.  I see you did your best to disparage the study by putting the word study in quotes, making a reference to some 49 dead birds, mentioning a post doc going on trial, and complaining about not taking into account the morbidity of feral and outdoor cats.  If you actually did read the paper, you would know that putting the word study in quotes perhaps because you don't like the results in no way diminishes the validity of the study; that there is no mention of 49 dead birds, but there are 56 other studies on cat predation that were combined to obtain the estimate; and that morbidity of feral/outdoor cats is in fact taken into account by basing model parameters on published data.

 

Cats do contribute to wild bird mortality and wild bird population declines (even if you don't want to believe the 2013 study, cats are directly responsible for the extinction of some bird species).  Habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change do as well.  But, this is the reason to put even more effort to protect birds from cats, not less.  And this has nothing to do with blaming the cats.  The blame is on humans who abandon pet cats, let pet cats roam outdoors, maintain TNR colonies, prevent cat removal from ecologically sensitive areas, and disparage scientific studies because they do not like the conclusions.

 

Finally, you are confusing wild bird mortality with population declines.  The two concepts are related, but different.

 

p.s. there is no such thing as a community cat.  That is a contrived term that misleads the public into thinking that domestic cats are a natural part of the landscape.  They are not.



Posted by: Linda Cherkassky | Nov 21, 2019 01:04

Nancy, the peer-reviewed study was published in Nature in 2013 and combined information from 56 other studies to obtain the estimate of cat-caused wildlife mortality in the United States.  I see you did your best to disparage the study by putting the word study in quotes, making a reference to some 49 dead birds, mentioning a post doc going on trial, and complaining about not taking into account the morbidity of feral and outdoor cats.  If you actually did read the paper, you would know that putting the word study in quotes perhaps because you don't like the results in no way diminishes the validity of the study; that there is no mention of 49 dead birds, but there are 56 other studies on cat predation that were combined to obtain the estimate; and that morbidity of feral/outdoor cats is in fact taken into account by basing model parameters on published data.

 

Cats do contribute to wild bird mortality and wild bird population declines (even if you don't want to believe the 2013 study, cats are directly responsible for the extinction of some bird species).  Habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change do as well.  But, this is the reason to put even more effort to protect birds from cats, not less.  And this has nothing to do with blaming the cats.  The blame is on humans who abandon pet cats, let pet cats roam outdoors, maintain TNR colonies, prevent cat removal from ecologically sensitive areas, and disparage scientific studies because they do not like the conclusions.

 

Finally, you are confusing wild bird mortality with population declines.  The two concepts are related, but different.

 

p.s. there is no such thing as a community cat.  That is a contrived term that misleads the public into thinking that domestic cats are a natural part of the landscape.  They are not.



Posted by: Linda Cherkassky | Nov 21, 2019 16:50

Nancy, the peer-reviewed study was published in Nature in 2013 and combined information from 56 other studies to obtain the estimate of cat-caused wildlife mortality in the United States.  I see you did your best to disparage the study by putting the word study in quotes, making a reference to some 49 dead birds, mentioning a post doc going on trial, and complaining about not taking into account the morbidity of feral and outdoor cats.  If you actually did read the paper, you would know that putting the word study in quotes perhaps because you don't like the results in no way diminishes the validity of the study; that there is no mention of 49 dead birds, but there are 56 other studies on cat predation that were combined to obtain the estimate; and that morbidity of feral/outdoor cats is in fact taken into account by basing model parameters on published data.

 

Cats do contribute to wild bird mortality and wild bird population declines (even if you don't want to believe the 2013 study, cats are directly responsible for the extinction of some bird species).  Habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change do as well.  But, this is the reason to put even more effort to protect birds from cats, not less.  And this has nothing to do with blaming the cats.  The blame is on humans who abandon pet cats, let pet cats roam outdoors, maintain TNR colonies, prevent cat removal from ecologically sensitive areas, and disparage scientific studies because they do not like the conclusions.

 

Finally, you are confusing wild bird mortality with population declines.  The two concepts are related, but different.

 

p.s. there is no such thing as a community cat.  That is a contrived term that misleads the public into thinking that domestic cats are a natural part of the landscape.  They are not.



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