As reported by the New York Times, by way of the Journal of Ornithology, cats can be a serious threat to native bird populations. The study took place in the suburbs of Washington, DC and followed baby gray catbirds via radio transmitter, finding that almost 80% of the catbirds were killed by predators and that cats represented almost half of those predator kills. The data was further segmented to suggest that half of those kills were by pet cats and the other by ferals. Extrapolated data estimates that pet cats kill roughly 250 million birds a year in this country.
It didn’t take long for this surprising but geographically narrow search to inspire larger claims. The journal Nature Communications published a broader study[i] reporting that the cats of America kill many billions of birds per year. Billions!
But where the initial study presented inarguable facts about a particular ecosystem, the much more widely publicized Nature Communications article was presenting data from meta-analysis. The study pieced together many smaller studies to create an estimate of how much damage the cat population caused to America’s birds, and the result was a media sensation.
The response was strong – one New Zealand man suggested a ban on cats. But the backlash was strong as well. The Ally Cat Allies equated the study to a call for “the mass killings of outdoor cats.” While the hype may already be dying down, the issues being addressed are real and valid. The cat population continues to increase in our country and it can affect the natural environment. It is our responsibility to act humanely and equitably, and for the benefit of people, cats, and the environment at large.
As the Washington, DC study put it: “Predation [of the catbirds] was so serious in some areas that the catbirds could not replace their numbers for the next generation.” For the local citizens, many of whom are caring pet parents, the idea of destroying another animal ecosystem is surely not desirable.
At PetCareRx, we’re interested in where the answers will lie. One solution may be as simple as doubling efforts to spay or neuter every cat, thus eliminating many future feral cats from the equation. Or maybe, sometime in the future, cities and suburbs will have to register their pets with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure a healthy and sustainable ecosystem for all of our backyards.
Don’t worry cat lovers, your pets are safe! With all of the benefits that pets bring to their owners, in both health and spirit, it is important that people continue to love and cherish their cats and continue adopting new kittens.
What do you think?
[i] The Impact of Free-ranging Domestic Cats on Wildlife of the United States; Loss, Scott R., Will, Tom and Marra, Peter P.