Wildlife group speaks out on blight of free-ranging cats
In lieu of a massive Rob blog this week, I’m posting an
excellent press release from a Maryland-based organization called
The Wildlife Society. The group emailed this on Thursday and it
sums up many of my feelings on the free-ranging cat issue
I haven’t done a long “cat rant’ in a while, but one is brewing
inside my gut for later this spring. I like this piece because it
doesn’t mince words. Most wildlife and birding groups are very
careful about bashing free-ranging cats lest they upset some of
their membership. A few organizations have begun using starker
language recently, including the commendable Virginia-based
American Birding Conservancy. www.abcbirds.org
My take on free-ranging cats is simple: Wipe them out. And if you
own a free-ranging cat that is killing native birds, you should be
charged with a crime under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Stark enough for everyone?
Anyway, here’s the piece from the Wildlife Society, which spells
out the logical reasoning behind keeping your cat indoors. It also
explains why these goofy – in my opinion, criminal –
trap-neuter-release programs don’t work.
I used to write calm, logical, educational pieces about this topic,
but free-ranging cat advocates argue with and ignore me, so now I
write in blunter tones for these morons.
Outdoor cats or wildlife conservation? Pick
The Wildlife Society
Anyone who has ever owned an outdoor cat knows that cats kill
wildlife. It’s in their nature. Whether hungry or not they’ll stalk
and pounce, killing their prey and, often, depositing the corpses
on doorsteps like hard-won trophies. Pet owners may throw away the
victims with a twinge of guilt, then convince themselves that one
little cat can’t possibly make a difference in the balance of
nature. It’s time to think again.
“Allowing free-ranging pet and feral cats to roam outside, breed
unchecked, kill native wildlife, and spread disease is a crime
against nature,” says Michael Hutchins, Executive Director/CEO of
The Wildlife Society (TWS). As North America’s largest scientific
organization for professionals in wildlife management and
conservation, TWS is taking a strong stand in favor of keeping pet
cats indoors and removing feral cats from the environment to
protect wildlife from cat predation.
As part of this effort, the Spring 2011 issue of the Society’s
magazine, The Wildlife Professional, has just released a package of
articles titled “In Focus: The Impacts of Free-Roaming Cats.” These
articles explore the widespread negative impacts of outdoor, stray,
and feral cats on wildlife, habitats, and human and animal health.
By some estimates, outdoor cats in the U.S. kill more than one
million birds every day on average. Some studies put the death toll
as high as one billion birds per year. Other studies suggest that
cats kill more than twice as many rodents, reptiles, and other
The number of free-roaming cats is on the rise, now between 117 and
157 million in the U.S. While cat numbers are rising, nearly
one-third of the more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. are
endangered, threatened, or in significant decline.
Cats can spread rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, plague, and numerous
other viral and parasitic diseases to other wildlife and humans. By
2008, the number of rabies cases in cats was approximately four
times the number of cases in dogs.
Now the most abundant carnivore in North America, domestic cats are
not even native to this continent, instead descending from wild
cats native to the Middle East. The International Union for the
Conservation of Nature labels domestic cats as one of the “world’s
worst” invasive species, predators that can devastate native
wildlife populations, particularly on islands and in fragmented
Trap-Neuter-Release is NOT the answer
Growing numbers of cities and towns across the nation are adopting
trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs to manage overabundant
populations of stray, feral, and abandoned cats. In outdoor TNR
“colonies,” cats receive food, water, and shelter. Many are
trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and returned to the colony, where
they’re free to prey on wildlife at will.
Proponents of TNR claim that this approach will eventually reduce
the numbers of unclaimed outdoor cats, but research shows
otherwise. TNR colonies often become dumping grounds for unwanted
pets, and because it’s impossible to sterilize and vaccinate all
feral cats in an area, populations may remain stable or rise. In
turn these colonies attract other wildlife, such as raccoons and
skunks, expanding the threat of disease transmission and
Since the science is clear about the harm associated with outdoor
cats, why do people let cats roam free? The answer lies in human
hearts. Much-beloved as pets, cats intrigue, amuse, and captivate,
winning champions who go to great lengths (and expense) to advocate
on cats’ behalf. Wildlife conservationists who oppose TNR often
find themselves unable to budge passionate cat advocates, who lobby
persuasively for TNR and against any kind of ordinance to curtail
outdoor cat populations. Lawmakers will often go along with the cat
advocates, as was the case last year when commissioners in Athens,
Georgia, adopted a TNR program against the advice of a host of
wildlife conservationists and veterinarians.
Ironically, as the battle over TNR festers, millions of taxpayer
dollars each year go toward government efforts to protect
endangered species and migratory birds-many of which fall prey to
outdoor cats. Both the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act make it a crime to “take” protected species, so
isn’t it also a crime to allow cats free reign to feast?
Wildlife suffer from outdoor cats, but so do the cats themselves.
“Cats left outdoors have short life spans and often experience
cruel and painful deaths from collisions with vehicles, coyote
predation, and disease,” says Hutchins. “Misdirected compassion and
support of ineffective TNR management by cat advocacy groups is
actually resulting in vastly more animal suffering, rather than
less. It i s high time that our society addresses this significant
and growing environmental, human health, and animal welfare
To help educate policymakers and the public about this issue, TWS
has created five Fact Sheets about stray, feral, and outdoor cats.
Perhaps by understanding the impacts of outdoor cats, people on all
sides of the issue will begin to develop solutions that not only
benefit cats, but also the native wildlife we hope to
For more from the Wildlife Society, visit:
Twitter: Twitter: @wildlifesociety