Study: “The impact of free-ranging cats on wildlife in the United States-“

The Wildlife News has reported earlier on the large number of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibian, the common cat, felis domesticus, kills. Because cats are so highly regarded by many as pets, a look at their side effects on wildlife makes for  intense discussions.

Yesterday, the journal Nature Communications put on-line a shocking study, “The impact of free-ranging cats on wildlife in the United States.”  This is hardly the first study of its kind, but this one said cats kill twice to four times as many as previous studies. Some prey are common pests like house mice, and the Norway rat or the black rat, but they are the tiny minority. About 4 billion birds and 20 billion other animals fall prey to cats a year. Percentage-wise almost all are wildlife.

The large majority of animals killed by cats, however, are by feral cats, not pets that are allowed to roam. Even so, pet cats kill billions.

The ultimate cause of this tremendous take, however, is human culture which has led to this huge number of pet cats, leading to a huge population of feral cats. A person can be jailed in some places for killing a feral cat. At the same time, we have people worrying about and shooting foxes and coyotes as pests when the fox protects humans from Lyme disease by feasting on the white footed mouse and coyotes help reduce the population of feral cats.

Perhaps one reason the effects of feral cats are not noticed by people who worry about coyotes, cougars, wolves, and bears is simply that people notice larger animals. Big animals in general frighten some people. If feral cats were the size of bobcats, and in anything like their current numbers, there would be a lot of concern.

– – – –

To read more, here is the study (for a fee). The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nature Communications. Jan. 29, 2013
NY Times article: That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think. By Natalie Angier.
Reuters. Friendly felines are really natural born killers, US study finds. By Laura Zuckerman

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

116 Responses to The deadly domestic cat

  1. avatar rork says:

    “coyotes help reduce the population of feral cats” – bless them! I think it has helped allot near me. Yes, it means I can’t just let my 2kg Yorkshire terrorist (“owlbait”) run around outside unattented – I gladly accept that. I feel honored and delighted to see yote behavior on occasion.
    My fellow hunters are typically not-so-good at seeing any upside to their presence though, and there is hardly even any debate about leaving them alone a bit more, since in the minds of almost all of the humans killing coyotes, there are no questions that need asking – less is better, obviously. I’m crazy if I even bring the subject up. *sigh*

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      rork,

      Yes,indeed.

      People get into a cultural or sub-cultural mind set (hunters, pet owners, and hundreds of more examples), and they develop a group tunnel vision, sometimes called “accepted wisdom.”

      By writing negatively of cats, even feral cats, we may have offended some loyal readers.

      Ken and I are, of course, immune to all that ;-)

      • avatar mikepost says:

        Ralph, I for one will never get catty with you.

        We have a Great Horned Owl that likes taking barn cats. Has there ever been a study about attracting owls to deal with feral cat populations?

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          mikepost,

          I don’t know about a study, but I know too that owls take cats. A couple ancedotes . . . Salle’s cat was attacked and survived.

          Another friend of mine worked at Dornan’s in Grand Teton. She lost her cat to an owl (great horned or great gray) when it was right next to her in the parking lot!

      • avatar Nancy says:

        Some possible (and funny) explanations for the cats in our lives:

        http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=248268

        I have two cats. Brothers, got them when kittens, born to a feral mother, hanging out at a neighbor’s house.

        A neighbor who’s tried hard to keep up with the cats (spaying and neutering when free clinics were available – on a senior’s income) that were dropped off near their house.

        My two “boys” keep close to home, catch their share of mice, and unfortunately the occasional bird that doesn’t recognize that big body rushing at them and they keep the ground squirrels (gophers by another name out here) on alert and at bay.

        Out here – like cattle and sheep, this non-native, invasive species (cats) are here to stay, until mankind can get a positive handle (as in population control) and address, their destructive nature, when left unchecked on the landscape :)

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Cats don’t take orders. Men hate things that they can’t control.

          Ha! Funny. My first (seal point) Siamese cat was from someone who needed to find a new home for her, so I took her – and I’ve never regretted it. I was very lucky! I then fell in love with the breed. I have had shelter cats also.

          I do understand that cats left to roam or become feral can pose a danger to wildlife. But I wonder if owls, coyotes, foxes, raptors, etc. keep a balance of nature also.

          • avatar Nancy says:

            “I do understand that cats left to roam or become feral can pose a danger to wildlife. But I wonder if owls, coyotes, foxes, raptors, etc. keep a balance of nature also”

            Given how many natural predators are being trapped out annually, for profit, what is actually left to address rodent over populations in many areas?

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              Yes.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                Nancy and Ida I usually agree with most of your thinking but I have to admit I think its extremely irresponsible to let cats roam. The idea that coyotes will take care of nuisance cats may have some merit but unfortunately then the coyotes are blamed as cat killers. I know many people who fear that coyotes might kill their cats, are then less likely to support laws to protect coyotes or other carnivores. I hate that cats kill so many birds and rodents and I hate that cats provide a reason to not support native wildlife like coyotes, foxes or other carnivores. Its easy to keep your cat indoors. Not easy to keep cats from being the natural born killers they are. I love all animals, but it makes my blood boil to see a cat stalking a wild bird or small animal and I get irrational when I see them bringing in dead wildlife and their owners think its cute. There is no excuse for an owner to let a well-fed animal loose to kill for recreation. These cats are destroying entire ecosystems. There are laws to prevent dogs from roaming, its time for laws to keep cats indoors. If people won’t be rational, are squandering natural resources and terrorizing wildlife with their cats then they should be stopped. Sorry IMHO

          • avatar mikepost says:

            Ida, it has been my experience that the domestic cat kills far more than what it may eat. They are one of the few critters that does seem to kill for sport.

            Those owls, coyotes, foxes, etc dont seem to do that…and thus do not rack up the numbers like this report contains.

            • avatar Nancy says:

              “Ida, it has been my experience that the domestic cat kills far more than what it may eat. They are one of the few critters that does seem to kill for sport”

              So Mikepost – in what catagory does that put those thousands of humans, every year, that kill simply for the biggest heads and fur wall hangings?

              • avatar mikepost says:

                Well, for starters if they waste the meat they go to jail.

                Unfortunately many of our discussions about specific subjects get hi-jacked by this kind of obtuse comment. Feral cats are a real problem and I dont have time for people who want to throw their anti-hunting rhetoric into every conversation we have.

      • avatar Snaildarter says:

        I like cats, I like coyotes. Life isn’t simple. Last February I was walking my two dogs on about 1200 acres of protected land along the river near metro Atlanta. Being a slightly indulgent and irresponsible pet owner I usually let the dogs run loose after we leave the park on to a private track of adjacent land. Last February Tater who weighs about 40 lbs got into it with a smaller coyote that had him on the run after about a minute. He’s quick and irrelatively good shape but the coyote was quicker. I believe that’s mating season and there is a den near by. I took the dogs home and came back and blocked the trail that leads near the den. Hopefully preventing others from making my mistake

  2. avatar Mark L says:

    Ironically, pythons take a lot of feral cats in South Florida.

  3. avatar alf says:

    Our cat — a shelter cat — was a bird killer when we got him. A friend told us he cured his cat of killing birds by putting a bib on it.

    We ordered one, and it works ! We order them from Cat Goods, Inc., in Springfield, Oregon (catgoods.com).

    Now believe it or not, he’s completely given up on even trying for birds, but he still manages to occasionally get a mouse or vole or chipmunk (Which is OK with me. The more of them he gets, the better, as far as I’m concerned.).

    Nevertheless, we still put a bib on him in the spring and summer, when the juveniles are fledging and most vulnerable, just in case.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      “… when the juveniles are fledging and most vulnerable, just in case.”

      Add into the fray the occasional unfortunate stunned flyer that collided with a window.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      “There are laws to prevent dogs from roaming, its time for laws to keep cats indoors”

      Louise – pretty sure most, if not all of our species would object, loudly and often to being “kept indoors” round the clock, so my thought is – regarding cats – keep them, like children or dogs, under supervision when outside.

      Like the bib idea Alf :)

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Nancy,

        Not to split hairs, oh heck split one or two. Got a big dog chasing wildlife up here, they can be shot, depending on time of year, by anyone.

        Little dog chasing wildlife, sort of an oxymoron, as the wildlife will e entually eat the little dog.

        Thing about dogs, if one invests the time with them, they will respond to “NO”! Takes work, but they will stop, and per that possible cognizant ability, perhaps apply it to future occurences.

        Cats? I’ve never had one. Can’t pull a sled, carry a pack, or when I’m in the woods, not lost, but not quite knowing where I am, when I say let’s go home, the dog will take me back to trail…

        Feral cats, or for that matter house cats that wander to far from safety, won’t last long up here because of canids x 3. Yet, one of my friends “house cat” comes back with the occasional bird. No starlings or “junk” birds up here.

        I understand the usefulness of barn cats, and the warmth of house cats, but allowing cats to procreate beyond usefulness(oh but for the stories of the farmer hiking down to the freak with a gunny sack full of kittens) is, to throw that word out there in terms of wildlife, immoral. Wow! Back to run-on sentences!

        • avatar Immer Treue says:

          Agghhhh! Down to the creak!

        • avatar Nancy says:

          “Thing about dogs, if one invests the time with them, they will respond to “NO”! Takes work, but they will stop, and per that possible cognizant ability, perhaps apply it to future occurences”

          LOL! So will cats if you invest the time Immer. Although the back hairs will ripple up and down (a sure sign of impatience or disgust with the lesson) but they will also apply it to future occurences.

      • avatar JB says:

        “…pretty sure most, if not all of our species would object, loudly and often to being “kept indoors” round the clock…”

        Funny, 12 years and neither of my cats ever said a word? ;) In all seriousness, our cats were raised indoors and never allowed to go out except in a few rare instances where they were under direct supervision, or in a crate.

        • avatar Mark L says:

          –inside cats–
          I have a large coondog and my neighbor has 2 inside cats that (almost never) get out. One day my coondog , who sleeps on the front porch, sounded the ‘somebody is coming’ bark and I came out of the house expecting a UPS/FedEx truck to come down the street (or somebody unknown walking down the street). Instead, there’s the neighbor’s cat trying to get in MY house. It had escaped from the neighbor’s house somehow and wanted back in…into ANY house that would let it, I guess, cause it was getting dark.

  4. avatar Nancy says:

    “I dont have time for people who want to throw their anti-hunting rhetoric into every conversation we have”

    “We have?” Meaning exactly what Mikepost? I simply pointed out the fact that humans also kill for sport and it followed your comment with regard to critters “cats” who kill for sport.

  5. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Louise, I don’t believe in letting pet cats roam or hunt wildlife either. Mine don’t. I would never let my cat get her feet dirty! :)

    I just don’t like reading about humans putting the blame on the cats, when it should be on them for not being knowledegable or responsible pet owners.

  6. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    As much as I advocate for wildlife, my cat gets my undivided attention. ( no wife or kids to digress towards) . I was given a kitten when I was a year old, before my brother was even born , and I still had that same cat when I was 21 years old. He was a sibling of sorts. I’ve always kept one or more cats around, like the one sitting alongside the iMac right now. Him I took in off the streets when he started hanging with my big Maine Coon who never went further away than the sidewalk, but was gregarious to all. Wasn’t long before the street cat had full privileges. That was almost ten years ago. He became the finest animal I have ever owned. Loves dogs. Polices his old neighborhood and rules in quite a radius. Folks tell me he had been cat burglaring for meals inside their homes for years till I took him in , and they a re glad I did. He still visits them but respectably. Although he was half wild on the streets, he obviously had been humanized at some point, since his manners were good and he knew all the ways to please his people and be a real pal.

    Yet I let him—encourage him—to be a real cat . His nature is to hunt and he eats all his kills. Most folks don;t know that cats need to be taught to eat what they catch . They know how to catch inherently , but have to be coached by momma that it’s for food.

    He defends his home. He allows some cats to befriend him, but is fierce towards others. He is also an extraordinary judge of unknown dogs and new people. Above all he is smart and ” coachable” . We are almost symbiotic. Yet above all I let him have freedom and his own doorway. He could run off any time, but does not choose to do so. I also share him with my landlords upstairs , who adore him because he keeps company with their hyperactive Shelty collie. We share his vet bills ( not slight ) and had him microchipped since he couldn’t seem to keep a collar.

    Freedom includes being a carnivore. He really thins down the little brown birds and nuisance birds ( Starlings, grackels, even makes attempts at solitary crows ) around here. Jury still out on Robins, which are becoming too abundant, and have become yearround stays, but he hits them and their nests. All this is fine with most of us in the neighborhood. I could make a case for the cat as an agent in rebalancing the bird population mix favorably by paring down the opportunistic overpopulation of brown birds. Just a theory. I do know he’s got the immediate house a property rodent population down to nothing. So he’s a cat 24/7 that just happens to coexist well with humans on their terms. We all marvel at his affinity for and with urban Mule deer, especially the newborns.

    It’s important to me he keep his essential nature intact. The only rule I have is I keep him in at night this time of year when the Owls are hooting in the treetops all night. He’s a white cat so is easy to spot in the darkness. it would be a fair fight…Spook is a gladiator. Usually wins his fights, even two classes above his weight. Even at age 15.

    The bottom line is I do not get out in the hills and spend time with wildlife as much as I used to , or would like to. Yet I have this animal I live with that I care for, and he rewards me deeply with a strong connection to the animal world. He brings it to me.

    Cats, after all, were never really domesticated, as were dogs and some farm and ranch animals. Cats are still independent thinking creatures who can be conditioned or trained, but never fully domesticated per se. It’s only been 4,000 years. The whole Cat-Human thing is still a work in progress.

    p.s. not to condone the burgeoning feral cat situation elsewhere. No way. To which I say we humans failed the cats more than they became a problem for us on their own, honestly . They’re just being cats. The numbers are staggering. Just not in my neighborhood, where everything cat and human is pretty well balanced.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      What a nice comment.

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      Cody,
      I always love your posts too so no disrespect meant and your cat sounds amazing. But lets say a coyote or wolf killed your cat, then what. Would you want to rid the area of coyotes, or even if your cat was not killed and coyotes or wolves were nearby, then what? Would you expect or want carnivores restricted or removed to protect your pet?

      • avatar CodyCoyote says:

        No. Not at all.
        Natural Law.

        My cat Spook used to get 100 percent of his dietary intake in the wild, for at least 4 years. Now that’s maybe all of 5 percent…kills he makes because has the opportunity to, not because his life depends on it. So there’s an element of ” convervation” at work here in a different sense.

        Like I said, his circumstances and my opinion of them apply only to this micro-ecosystem…Beck and Alger Avenues between 13th and 16th street , mid-town Cody WY. Which by the way used to have a lot more feral cats than it does these days , for whatever reason.

        • avatar Nancy says:

          What also needs to be thrown into the mix here is the fact that most towns, communities and cities (big and small) do little (or can afford to) address feral cat problems because of the dark or bright side, depending on how you look at it and where you live, cats, feral or not….. catch rodents.

          I live in an area that still feels if your cow (don’t want to pay for the spay) dog gets pregnant with pups, by the neighbor’s (also not forking out the bucks to neuter) my male cow dog…. you kept the most promising looking pup, hope neighbors will take one or two and drowned the rest in a creek.

          The local shelter (a no kill shelter) is filled with kittens and cats, mostly unwanted or strays, from the same type of mindset.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Here is a question to ponder. Why have mammals that are herbivores failed to become pets to any significant degree?

      I suggest it is because carnivores are smarter, and in general more interesting. Then too perhaps it is because we are carnivores in part (omnivores) and feel some kinship, at least as long as the carnivore is small.

      Note: someone will say “horses” are pets for a fair number. Are there other examples?

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Believe it or not, rats are pretty cool. Had a male and female (big mistake) because after a while I had 14 rats. Curious, somewhat affectionate,

        Then again I had a couple of raccoons. Really cool when young, but when they got older… Then again, they are carnivores

      • avatar WM says:

        I’ve a friend who has goats. To the dismay of his wife, he thinks they are smarter, more affectionate and loyal than their family dog (which his wife adores). Only problem is when he packs with them, and they lay down next to him at night (He rarely uses a tent when the weather is good), he never knows when one will stand up, pee and then layback down without moving far. Real tough on a down bag, even in a bivysack, if you don’t sleep with one eye open, ready to give a quick shove to the offending herbivore before it gets interesting.

        I personally think the it is in the inquisitive, big round eyes.

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        I know of people that have had amazing pets like deer, rabbits and as Immer pointed out, rats. I think all animals have unique and distinct qualities that make them fascinating and lovable. Carnivores though are the most fascinating, to me. Maybe the particular camaraderie with dogs stems from their loyalty. Dogs are happiest when with their person. Its hard not to love something that just wants to make you happy. I know from seeing films like Living with Wolves and from reading about other carnivores like coyotes that have become human habituated or in some instances pets, that their ability to bond and loyalty also extends to humans as well as their pack members. They are playful, intelligent and beautiful. Whats not to love.
        anyone seen the daily coyote, Charlie? thats a smart animal.

      • avatar Snaildarter says:

        I think cats and dogs evolved along side of us rather than being domesticated by us, at least in the beginning. They both have developed offspring that are cute beyond the normal mammalian needs. Cats in particular make sounds that mimic a human baby. They are world class beggars. Their value as rodent hunters seems less important than just their comfort as easy companions. Dogs are far more eager to please and show us what they can do that is useful to us. Like bark against the night time darkness and alert us to danger. I can see Stone Age humans developing an attachment to both for very different reasons, but we might well have been the manipulated ones not the domesticators.

        • Snaildarter: I find your comments to be very interesting & astute. Michael Pollan, author of “Botany of Desire”, etc, often uses the technique of looking at a situations from the plant’s point of view. For instance,you can say that corn manipulates humans into planting more corn all over by evolving into a species that is so useful to us.

          The cuteness of domestic animal young manipulates us into taking care of them. This of course, works both ways. Our attention to them, “imprints” them with our image as if we were their parents. As far as I know, all mammals are “imprintable” in this manner as Konrad Lorantz showed long ago in his classic studies on grey lag geese.

          Jiang Rong describes this process well in his novel, “Wolf Totem.”, with regard to Mongolian domestication of wolf puppies. Apparently, you cannot domesticate a wolf unless the first thing the puppy sees when it opens its eyes, is a human being.

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            Ken,

            Humans manipulated the corn.
            Be interesting to see how many “cat” people are actually infected with toxoplasmosis.
            I really don’t believe the domestication of a wolf is possible. Meaning no
            Matter how young the wolf is when taken
            From its mother, it will never be “domestic”. It’s been tried. You may get a wolf tolerant of some people, but it surely will not be domesticated.

            • avatar Snaildarter says:

              I think it started as a symbiotic relationship that evolved into what we now call domestication. We could not take a wolf or a bobcat and domesticate them but if two species benefit from each other’s behavior over generation’s tolerance and trust can evolve that allows domestication to happen. Finally we domesticated the dog and later the cat domesticated us.

              • Snaildarter & Immer:

                Recent DNA studies show that the wolf was domesticated between 13,000 & 20,000 years ago in several locations in Eurasia. All dogs are descendants of these successful domestications by our ancestors, so it must have been possible,at least back then. Perhaps wolves are different in this respect now. Jiang Rong’s book is a novel, & although it is fascinating reading, it is impossible to tell which parts regarding wolf domestication may be fact or fiction.
                Does anyone have other info on this point?

                I recently saw several photos of a Botsawana Bushman right next to a full-grown cheeta, which he was described as having brought up since it was a kitten. If this description is accurate, perhaps it is still possible to “tame” or “domesticate” all kinds of canids and felines.

                By the way, by breeding dogs,we have so mixed up their genes, that geneticists have not been able to determine which dogs are more direct descendants of wolves, outward appearances to the contrary. For example, African village dogs are no closer to wolves genetically than are bulldogs. They are only more more genetically inbred due to their isolation over a long time.

                As for crops like corn, certainly,from a practical point of view, we changed their genetics, but from an evolutionary point of view, both species benefited; That is to say, if passing your genes on to the next generation is the highest accomplishment.(Dawkins – “The Selfish Gene.”). These analogies are merely stimulating ways of thinking about classical subjects.

                Certainly, you can also think of it as being a two-way street,of benefit to both species, but we must be careful not to be teleological about evolution. I believe that it does not know where it is going until it gets there.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                Yes Ken that part I understand – loss of apex predators. But I have not found much on how large carnivores are responding to the unnatural pressures humans place on them. For example, and I have raised the point here before, there are studies that show that some fish have responded in a number of ways that affect fecundity, size, and age of reproduction ect.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                Ken,

                I believe the pieces puzzle of dog domestication have been teased together.  No one is arguing that wolves are not the ancestral stock of our dogs. Their intelligence and natural curiosity are integral to this process.  Included are Dmitry Belyaev’s work with foxes and the theories of Ray Coppinger, that wolves all. It domesticated themselves…

                The key is lowering adrenaline levels, which in turn affect other biochemical pathways, including pigmentation, and retention of juvenile characteristics…

                http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2010/06/14/monday-pets-the-russian-fox-st/

                http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Konstantinovich_Belyaev

                Ray Coppinger
                http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/dogs-that-changed-the-world/introduction/1273/

                I’m fully aware of Dawkins The Selfish Gene, and that’s why I submit the the stereotypical cat woman with thirty cats is infected with toxoplasmosis, which “possesses her to get more cats…

                These topics have also been discussed in detail in the past on this blog.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              Ken I love this statement…”but we must be careful not to be teleological about evolution. I believe that it does not know where it is going until it gets there.” I wonder what effect the excessive hunting (IMO) of large carnivores is having on the evolutionary tract these animals might be on. Do you know of or have any information about this?

  7. avatar Leslie says:

    what I just don’t get about cats:

    Cats seem to get a free ride when it comes to roaming around. My dog I have to lease; cities and burbs only let him roam free in dog parks; he needs his tags and licenses most places now; I am restricted when it comes to National Parks and in many places National Forests, Monuments, BLM, etc and there are no beaches left where I can take him. If you ever see a dog roaming around, he will soon be picked up, taken to the pound, and if not claimed then euthanized.

    So, what’s the deal with cats? Are dogs just discriminated against? Do cats really rule?

    • avatar Nancy says:

      No Leslie, cats are euthanized by the millions too.

      • avatar TC says:

        Very few of those dogs and cats are euthanized. They’re killed. Big difference. Sometimes language is very important.

        And no, cats do not rule. Anything. Ever. Dirty, skulking, sneaky, sinister, disease-ridden wildlife killing little hairballs. (OK, a few are alright and possibly even enjoyable – when kept indoors, which, frankly they can and do tolerate happily despite obtuse claims on this and other sites to the contrary).

      • avatar Leslie says:

        Nancy, I lived for 15 years next to a cat lady. At any one time she had 30-40 feral cats, none spayed or neutered. At first I was trapping cats that came into my yard. I’d catch 10/week till they figured it out. They were as wild as catching a raccoon and couldn’t be tamed as pets. I finally gave up and tried not to feed birds in my yard, which I resented.

        Many times I found dead and dying wild kittens from the pneumonia that feral cats get. I called the local ‘cat agency’, people who like to help cats. They said all they could do was talk to this lady.

        Finally when she was evicted!, a woman moved in with a pet cat that roamed free. Her cat continuously pooped in my raised vegie beds and killed birds. When my new puppy was being trained and if I missed picking up his poop inadvertently in her front yard, she had a fit. When I told her about her cat, her response was “Well, you know, you can’t control a cat.”

        • avatar Immer Treue says:

          Leslie

          ” I lived for 15 years next to a cat lady. At any one time she had 30-40 feral cats,”

          This has popped up in conversation here before. A dime will get you a dollar she was infected with toxoplasmosis.

          • avatar Leslie says:

            well if toxoplasmosis makes you kind of crazy, she was certainly infected

          • avatar Mike says:

            ++This has popped up in conversation here before. A dime will get you a dollar she was infected with toxoplasmosis.++

            Nice armchair diagnosis. Maybe you should figure out her name first before diagnosing her, lol.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      Leslie,

      Through which agency do you “lease” your dog? Does age, gender, breed, etc figure into the contract? :-)

  8. avatar TC says:

    Ugghhh.

    Alf says: “…he still manages to occasionally get a mouse or vole or chipmunk (Which is OK with me. The more of them he gets, the better, as far as I’m concerned.)”

    and

    Cody says: “Yet I let him—encourage him—to be a real cat . His nature is to hunt and he eats all his kills.” and “Freedom includes being a carnivore.” and “It’s important to me he keep his essential nature intact.”

    I have a Chesapeake Bay retriever that is a damned fine dog. Her nature is to be a goose and pheasant hunting fool and fine housedog. It’s also to kill cats. She would happily kill cats all day long. I do not let her do so – as I dislike the thought of cats killing wildlife, I dislike the thought of her killing cats to no good end and for no purpose.

    Perhaps I should just let her kill a few cats, now and then (any volunteers?). It would be just one little hypocritical moral shortcut in a world full of them – my dog can kill a few cats (because it’s in her NATURE, and it’s a NATURAL behavior that she ENJOYS), but dogs in general should not be encouraged to kill cats. See any problem with this?

    Why do I bother?

  9. avatar Craig says:

    My place of business got annexed into the city! So we bought humane traps and have trapped 45 cats in the last 6 months! We are out in a lot of farm land and ferrel cats are a major problem. They got under our office through a vent, raised litters and completly stunk up our building! We had to spend over a thousand dollars to clean out the crawl space because of them. They are a major problem, it would be nice if cat owners would spay/Neuter or leave there damn cats inside!

  10. avatar Annie says:

    I think one of the biggest problems with feral cats, and even bigger because many people do not realize it, is that they are not native to the United States. People think that it is natural for their cats to go out and hunt in the USA because it is their “nature” as a predator, when in fact, cats do not even belong here. They were brought over with the Europeans. 400 years is not anywhere near enough time to adapt morphologically to a new predator…typically in nature, species evolve by co-evolution–the antelope can run fast, so the lion evolves better camouflage, the antelope evolves an even faster pace, and so on. It’s a constant race and the losing species is wiped out. When a foreign predator is introduced, it messes the entire ecosystem up because the prey is not adapted to, has not “co-evolved”, with the new predator. Thus the predator is able to decimate populations. This is exactly what is happening with cats.

    The absence of the top natural predators that would take care of the cat population contributes to the problem by resulting in a phenomenon known as mesopredator release (look it up, it’s a big deal and makes sense), as does supplemental feeding. With cats getting as much food as they could want, being allowed to roam freely, with prey species not adapted to their presence, and cats not being preyed upon nearly as much as they should be, they are doing so much damage to wildlife species.

    Humans brought them here in the first place and it is our responsibility to get the problem under the control. There is nothing natural about pet cats or feral cats hunting in this country.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Thanks Annie,

      I have written a fair amount here about mesopredator release, though I didn’t know the name. The idea that this was happening came to me a couple years ago.

      I’ll do a search now and learn more.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        So now I have done a search on “mesopredator release.” I have read parts of the articles available. Google Scholar brings up a lot of articles, but they tend be behind the expensive JSTOR walls where scientific research is made very expensive for the public to read.

        It is an important topic.

        • Ralph: Michael Soule wrote the classical paper on mesopredator release, with which you may be familiar.It is of interest because it involves cats. He found that there are cats in some San Diego canyons, but no song birds while there were songbirds in other canyons but no cats.

          The key to this unusual situation turned out to be coyotes. They were present only in those canyons where there were plenty of songbirds & few cats. The coyotes were predators that killed the mesopredator cats.I examined this paper on my website.

          One of the commenters pointed out that cats are an invasive species in America, and that it might take a long time before the native animals in our ecosystems adjust to their presence.

          I read the other day that there are are now over 2,000 coyotes in Chicago. They are spreading throughout the US & the “best” efforts of the Wildlife Services in trying to eradicate them, have paradoxically only succeeded in increasing their population. (see Hebblewhite’s paper on coyotes). Coyotes are one of those species, like, rats & crows, that seem to flourish next to human societies. This is a long shot, but perhaps coyotes are the long-term solution to the feral cat problem.

    • avatar mikepost says:

      Annie, a refreshing voice of reason. Thanks for your reasoned posts on this topic…

    • avatar Mike says:

      Annie,

      The first thing we should do is ban all hunting on coyotes and red foxes. They’ll start to make a nice dent in the rural feral cat population.

      • avatar aves says:

        No, the first thing we need to do is stop mistreating cats by abandoning them to the wild, supporting feral cat colonies, and letting pet cats outside.

        • avatar JB says:

          “…the first thing we need to do is stop mistreating cats by abandoning them…”

          +1

        • avatar Mike says:

          So you admit it’s a people problem?

          By combining these steps and banning sport hunting of predators, we could well be on our way to a balanced population of feral cats.

          But do you have the courage to seek to ban the hunting/trapping of the feral cats top predators?

          It’s very easy, and quite chimpanzee-like to continue to meddle, to insist that all things must be killed without looking at what’s actually happening when we kill things.

          • avatar JB says:

            “So you admit it’s a people problem?”

            Of course it’s a people problem. Feral cats are here because people put them here; they continue to be here because people continue to abandon them.

            “By combining these steps and banning sport hunting of predators, we could well be on our way to a balanced population of feral cats. But do you have the courage to seek to ban the hunting/trapping of the feral cats top predators?”

            In many places where there are cat problems, there are de facto bans on hunting and trapping (i.e., urbanized settings where weapons cannot be discharged). It hasn’t stopped cat populations. Why? Because the problem is not that cats lack a predator (I certainly see them squashed on the side of the rode regularly), the problem is they are being abandoned faster than they are dying (i.e., recruitment exceeds mortality).

            And good luck selling bans on coyote hunting to cat lovers. Please, please remember invite me to the meeting when you pitch that idea to PETA.

            • avatar JB says:

              uhg. rode = road.

            • avatar Harley says:

              “the problem is they are being abandoned faster than they are dying”

              I think the problem is people do not spay and nueter like they should and they are breeding more, not that they are being abandoned more.

              • avatar JB says:

                Harley:

                That some people don’t chose to spay/neuter their cats is only problematic if those cats are abandoned or let outside to roam.

                In my opinion, states should require ALL cats to be micro-chipped and owners should be fined if their cat is caught out-of-doors. Cats without chips would get them (when captured) and put up for adoption, or if they could not be adopted, humanely euthanized.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                It seems to me that there is a misconception about the where the population of feral cats come from. The majority are self-sustaining wild populations, not abandoned pets.

              • avatar JB says:

                Jeff:

                I’m not aware of any study that estimates what percentage of feral cats are abandoned?

              • avatar JB says:

                In any case, they cannot breed and/or add to the population if they are kept indoors, nor can they if they are spayed/neutered. I’m certainly supportive of both approaches, though spaying and neutering feral/abandoned/free-roaming cats costs tax-payers money. But if they were kept indoors in the first place…

              • avatar Harley says:

                JB, I really really like the idea of getting micro-chipped. Serves a lot of purposes. It not only holds owners accountable, it aids in finding lost pets as well. Making it mandatory? Hmm… I suppose it is mandatory to have a license for your pet and to keep up with the rabies shots and such… How much does it cost to micro-chip your pet? It’s been over a decade since I had a dog and my cat never went outside so it never crossed my mind to have it done.

              • avatar JB says:

                Harley:

                It costs around $40-50 to have your vet microchip a pet–and that includes registration into database. My dog is microchipped, but I never bothered with the cats as they are not allowed outdoors. In any case, while license tags can be lost or removed, the chips stay in place.

              • avatar Harley says:

                JB,

                Do you declaw your cats?

              • avatar JB says:

                Harley:

                It depends upon the cat. We had a cat (who since passed on) who insisted on sharpening her claws on anything wooden (including trim and furniture) and would not use scratch posts. Needless to say, she lost her front claws. Our current cat uses the scratch posts and has never scratched us or our kids, so he’s kept his claws going on 12 years.

              • avatar Harley says:

                JB,

                See, I was told it was cruel to do that but I had one cat that would climb anything and get into so much trouble! So I declawed both. It made it easier to place the troublesome cat when she became downright vindictive when I was pregnant with me second child. Really, this cat needed to go to a home where she was the center of attention. She thrived with the elderly woman she was placed with. The other cat was just a sweetheart, had her til she was almost 19. Tolerated everything thrown at her. My current living situation does not allow pets but as soon as that changes… man I miss having a companion.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_cat

                some ancillary information. probably some studies done somewhere.
                What I base my considered opinion on is that, as with any other animal, the % that survives in the wild is considerably smaller than the total amount abandoned. It is also seem to me that with what appears to be more than adequate food supply the wild populations would have no problem propagating and far out stripping any sort of abandoned population.

                Are there any studies that would show that premise to be false?

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                “% abandoned that survives in the wild is considerably smaller that the total of abandoned”

                is what I meant to say

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                sigh

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              JB your point about selling bans on coyote hunts to cat lovers is one of the things that gets me so riled up about people letting cats outdoors, its one other way they impact wildlife negatively. Cat owners worrying their cats will be consumed by coyotes translates into anti coyote sentiment, most of the time perhaps excepting Cody Coyote.

              • avatar JB says:

                Exactly! It’s infuriating that some people think they should not only have the “right” to let their pet wander around unsupervised killing wildlife, but also that said pet should be protected from wild animals.

              • It is not clear to me what you are saying , Jeff. Are you referring to wild and abandoned populations of the same species, like feral and domestic cats? If so, I am not familiar with any studies that cover this subject, but I will bet that some exist.

                On the other hand, if you are talking about native and introduced populations of different species, the amount of research on this subject is abundant and fascinating. I urge you to read David Quammen’s book, “The Song of the Dodo.” It is a terrific read, and documents the ways in which introduced species, like, rats, mongooses, and brown snakes(see the island of Guam) have wiped out native populations, especially on islands, and totally changed the ecosystems.

                Just for an example, the introduced animals have just about wiped out the native birds, some of them unique, in the Hawaiian Islands.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                Ken,
                to be succinct, there are ongoing, long term, self-sustaining, wild(feral) populations of cats, through out the world, as opposed to abandoned/stray cats. A very many of the cites in the wikipedia link I posted make reference to that distinction and is the position I agree with.

                Just an aside, there is still a great many opposing views on how and when dogs were domesticated.
                just sayin

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                Ken,
                I am also much aware of the situation on the Hawaiian Islands in regards to invasive species.
                My middle daughter spent a total of three years on different islands documenting the impacts of different non-native species as part of her coursework.

                As I was paying the freight and had an equal interest, I was learning right along with my daughter. I would guess that it would be a surprise to those not familiar with the history that invasive species do not just include animals such as cats and rats, but also such things as bird species, and of course plants. Unfortunately for the Hawaiian islands, the climate is such that just about any flora and fauna on the planet can find a niche and thrive.

          • avatar Harley says:

            And Mike, still waiting for you response on just who on this blog supports blowing away foxes and coyotes.

  11. avatar Rich says:

    Cody,

    With all due respect, I couldn’t disagree more with your support for your cat that “really thins little brown birds”. What specifically are little brown birds – wrens, sparrows, nuthatches, finches, larks?? Are any of these threatened or endangered? Your comments that there are too many robins and that you “could make a case for the cat as an agent in rebalancing the bird population mix favorably” is simply outrageous. If your cat only caught starlings that would be great but that is unlikely and your comments seem to confirm that is not the case. Perhaps (and hopefully) your comments were meant to be satirical but I didn’t get that impression. To suggest that we turn the management of our native neo-tropical birds over to your cat’s appetite is ludicrous.

    If we continue to let our cats “thin” robins and other little brown birds because we thought there were too many, even more of our LBBs will be T&E species as many native birds are today. In New Zealand, a unique wren occupied an island between the North and South Islands. When a new lighthouse keeper arrived on the island with his pet cat, the cat quickly discovered the Stephen Island wren and rendered it extinct in a matter of months. Perhaps the lighthouse keeper also thought there were too many birds on the island. The cat took care of that in short order.

    Clearly, outdoor non-native cats are a huge problem in our country, spreading disease and killing native birds, mammals, and amphibians. How does that improve the environment? Most people enjoy listening to and watching the native birds including robins and would prefer having the native birds around instead of a neighbor’s cat. I live on a farm and regularly trap and “thin” any cat that shows up and starts killing the native birds and other small animals. The once abundant native quail have largely disappeared along with many other ground nesting birds due to an abundance of feral and neighbor cats. You can blame the disappearance of the birds on other factors but the birds did quite well until neighbors moved in and turned their cats loose. While you may not agree with the researchers, cats are prolific breeders and unless controlled will continue to have an adverse impact on native wildlife. To me the message was loud and clear – keep the non-native domestic cats inside.

    • avatar rork says:

      Me too.
      My neighbors cats kill all kinds of small mammals near me (many species, 4 species of squirrel just for starters), which I just as soon would have gone to feeding other wildlife (we have barred owl, cooper’s and red-tail hawks, fox). For dead birds I get phoebes (nests destroyed almost every year, when chicks get too noisy), brown creeper, wren, fledglings of every species, and lots of hummingbirds (I have plants that attract them, and cats wait there). We have no non-native birds (yet). Some cats can apparently allude coyotes, perhaps thanks to large plants we call trees, that can be climbed.
      My neighbors have licensed their cats to kill wherever their legs can carry them. My little Yorkie is designed to be a rodent-killing machine (it’s in his nature) but I don’t let him do that outside.

      • avatar Leslie says:

        When I lived in CA (next to the cat lady), we had an incredible Norway rat problem. I rallied the homeowner’s assoc. to put up owl boxes. We lived next to a lot of open space and there is a formula for these boxes as to where they should be placed, how far apart, etc. When the owls have chicks, they bring in an incredible volume of rodents per night. The trick is you have to get your neighborhood not to use rodenticides.

        I saw a lot of comments on that NYT story where people were saying ‘but if we don’t let our cats outside then what will take care of the rodents?” There are other ways to go about the mice/rat explosions in urban areas beside cats and poisons!

  12. avatar Nancy says:

    Found it interesting that when I clicked on the link for “the impact of free ranging domestic cats on wildlife fo the US” I got flagged by my virus protection program – BIG X with regard to the site and to continue further, I would run the risk of this site transmitting malicious software or has been involved in online scams and fraud.

    Anybody else experienced that problem?

  13. avatar Harley says:

    Years ago, let me see, almost 30? I used to work at a summer camp that had a riding program. I was with the staff that taught riding. We had a HUGE mouse problem in the barn, it was really bad. So we contacted a local shelter, they had a few feral cats that were spayed and neutered but because they were feral they were having a very difficult time adopting them out and were going to euthanize them. They ‘donated’ them to the summer camp and the mouse problem went down dramatically. I never gave much thought to the birds because there were plenty of mice to keep them happy and we were more concerned with the diseases that the mice could bring.
    Not sure today if I would have handled it any differently, if my conscience would bother me after reading this. It really was a huge benefit to get rid of the mice without worrying about traps or poison (which we couldn’t use anyway really with kids around)

  14. avatar Snaildarter says:

    I am very suspicious of these anti-cat studies.
    Quail and cats have co-existed for the 400 years since the Europeans have been on this continent why is it just recently that cats are killing all of them? More likely it’s the change from fields to forest or the return of raccoons and hawks. Most song birds are impacted by deforestation in South America so vague references to declining numbers of song birds cannot scientifically be blamed on cats without a lot more data than I’ve seen.
    Also cats kill wrens more often than other birds but wrens are egg stealers so that might actually help other species of song birds. I have two cats who are allowed outside in the day time, I doubt they kill any birds that I don’t see because they would always bring such a prize home. They are very proud of bird kills. So last year they caught 4 and killed three. (2 wrens and 2 titmouse, One was released by me) Not exactly endangered species. They used to kill 8 to 10 birds a year but I moved the bird feeders into the dog lot. This kept both the cats and squirrels away.
    My neighbor had a severe roof rat infestation he had to hire an exterminator, his cat is inside only. My cats don’t kill more than a couple of roof rats a year but I think they are an effective deterrent. They do kill a lot of rodents like chipmunks and voles but there always seems to be a lot of chipmunks and voles that looks sustainable to me. Coyotes are in all 50 states now so house cats now have an effective predator to keep their number in check. Finally how many of those 85,000,000 cats Audubon keeps talking about are kittens or old cats who don’t hunt. This sounds a lot like a witch hunt to me.

    • avatar Harley says:

      Snaildarter. Yeah, I gotta say I really like that name!

    • avatar Kathleen says:

      I, also, am suspicious, Snaildarter. From Alley Cat Allies:

      “It seems as if the authors landed on a conclusion first and then cherry-picked through studies to support it. Some of the research they cite is more than a half-century old. They even cite discredited researcher Nico Dauphine, who was convicted by a D.C. jury for trying to poison cats and then fired from her job at the Smithsonian. The researcher convicted of trying to poison cats worked for Marra, one of the authors of this study.”

      Full text here: http://www.alleycat.org/alley-cat-allies-responds-to-nature-studys-claims-on-cats-and-birds

      My two companion cats have never set a tender pink pad on Mother Earth.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Oh boy. Propaganda. It’s just not safe between automobiles, predators, disease and parasites – they are better off inside. A closed in porch or windowseat is just fine for my cat, she doesn’t cry to go out, she seems to like to watch the birds from the window, but doesn’t appear to get overly excited about it. :)

        I did wonder in the beginning whether it was unfair not to let her out, but then over time I think I’ve learned. I’ve had her since she was a kitten and they get used to being inside. Before I knew better, I had a cat who proudly brought home a mouse.

    • avatar DLB says:

      ++ I have two cats who are allowed outside in the day time, I doubt they kill any birds that I don’t see because they would always bring such a prize home.++

      Cats should be indoor animals, period. With my wife running a cat rescue, I’ve heard thousands of excuses for why people let their cats outdoors. The fact of the matter is, outdoor cats have an average lifespan of about 6 years, and it’s inhumane to have them outdoors without even getting into the discussion of how many small mammals they kill.

      Spare me your rationalizations; they are a dime a dozen with cat people.

  15. avatar Mike says:

    Amazing that many here support blowing away coyotes and red fox, which are the main predators of feral cats.

    • avatar Harley says:

      Mike,

      “Amazing that many here support blowing away coyotes and red fox, which are the main predators of feral cats.”

      Who supports this??

    • avatar Mark L says:

      Red fox predate cats? You meant red wolves, right?

      • avatar Mark L says:

        Correction…I guess they DO eat small ones (never seen this and I see a lot of foxes, both red and gray).

      • avatar Mike says:

        Nope. Foxes eat feral cats all the time (and your pet cat, too).

        People who complain about feral cats should be working to end the hunting and trapping of coyotes and foxes. That’s how that problem improves.

        • avatar Harley says:

          So Mike,

          I’m still wondering. Who on this blog support blowing away foxes and coyotes?

        • avatar Mark L says:

          Every cat I’ve ever had could take a fox….just sayin’ (barn cats). I do agree with not trapping coyotes and foxes though. Let them ‘settle it on the field’.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Totally agree. But we humans think we know the best way to do everything – poison and trapping! Nature taking it’s course is much too cruel!

        • avatar aves says:

          More critical thinking is needed here. Our illogical war on coyotes has not caused their populations to decline. Research has shown they respond to hunting pressure by raising more pups to the age of dispersal. Coyotes also kill red, gray, kit, and swift foxes and can negatively impact their populations. Coyotes and red foxes are also non-native to some parts of the country.

  16. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    My first cat came to me from her previous owners declawed. I don’t believe in declawing cats. To me it is like trying to make them conform to what we want – don’t get a cat if you can’t deal with their natural behavior. My feeling is that tearing up carpeting and furniture comes with the territory if you own a pet.

    My previous Siamese was more of a gnawer than clawer. My present Siamese is a dream – she came to us knowing how to use a scratchpost. I have a clipper that I use for her nails; she doesn’t love it but tolerates it. When she’s at the vet I ask them to do it.

    • avatar Snaildarter says:

      A declawing a cat definitely handicaps them and lowers their self confidence. I prefer a cat to be a cat.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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