Two reviews of a book on killer cats

A new book has appeared whose thesis is, apparently, that outdoor cats are vicious predators who destroy over a billion animals a year, and are endangering wildlife—mostly birds. Stringent measures are required to extirpate the killer cats.

Here’s the new book; the screenshot goes to the Amazon site where you can buy it.


The Amazon reviews are pretty bad, but that’s what you’d expect when a bunch of incensed cat lovers encounter such a thesis as well as remedies for it, which include widespread killing of cats, sometimes by poison:


Now several readers have called this book to my attention by email, and I sometimes get rather nasty personal emails from people who think that I’m in favor of letting cats kill whatever they want—all because I like cats. By and large, though, I agree with the data and with the idea that pet cats should be kept indoors. If I got a cat now, I’d keep it indoors. My last cat, Teddy, was a rescue animal who had lived outdoors in Chicago for about three years, and wandered in through the cat door I had then. He never wandered out again: he’d had enough of outdoor living. (His coat was full of motor oil from huddling under cars, and it took many baths to reveal his lovely white coat.) My cat before that, another rescue, had been an outdoor cat in California and wanted badly to go outdoors, and so I let him. As far as I know, he never caught a bird or mouse—or at least never brought one to my attention.

Cats allowed to live outdoors, at least in urban areas, live short lives and often die violently: from cars or hawks or dogs. My philosophy is that, in urban areas, you should bring up your cats to be indoor cats. But if you adopt a cat that has lived in the outdoors and likes it, like Hili, it’s hard to then make them permanent indoor cats. If kept indoors, Hili would simply go insane, and it would be heartbreaking.

As for the problem of cats destroying other wildlife, I don’t like that happening, and am in favor of trap/neuter/release programs, though those seem to be most efficacious in urban areas where the impact is on other invasive wildlife, like sparrows and pigeons. But I have to say that I don’t like the idea of poisoning feral cats, and I’m not going to tolerate viciousness toward cats in the comments.

The problem, as discussed below, is how to weigh the “morality” of destroying feral cats versus allowing wildlife to be killed by them and keeping the cats indoors where they can be miserable. If you have the view that all birds and mice deserve to live, then it’s easy, but if you look at the issue from a “well being” point of view, then it becomes a bit harder (see below). In some cases, though, I think there’s a good case for rounding up or humanely killing cats as in the famous case of the Stephens Island wren, a flightless songbird that was driven to extinction by cats on a small island.

I haven’t read the new book, but have read two reviews of it, one by noted science writer Natalie Angier. Her piece, in the New York Review of Books, is called “The killer cats are winning!” By and large, Angier agrees with the authors’ thesis, though she sees some circumstances in which allowing pet cats to roam free isn’t so bad. The problem, as she notes accurately, is that we love our cats more than our birds or rodents, and it’s simply hard for cat people to come to grips with the problem of the slaughter produced by those cute moggies. First, some facts from Angier’s piece:

For island-bound species, cats of all colors are a sign of bad luck. In a 2011 review in the journal Global Change Biology examining wildlife crises on 120 islands, Felix Medina and his colleagues concluded that cats helped cause the decline or extinction of 123 species of songbirds, parrots, seabirds, and penguins; twenty-five species of iguanas, lizards, turtles, and snakes; and twenty-seven species of small mammals, including a lemur and a bat.

. . . In 2013, Marra and his colleagues decided to calculate a grand, nationwide estimate of just how much havoc free-ranging cats wreak on wildlife each year. They reviewed thousands of smaller reports: academic research, field counts, animal welfare data, pet owner surveys, kitty cam studies, cat regurgitation studies. They multiplied together variables like the number of owned and unowned cats in the US, the percentage of owned cats allowed to spend time outdoors, the percentage of those cats known to have hunted. They tried to be conservative, to lowball their numbers at every stage. Still, the final tallies were shocking: up to 4 billion birds, 22 billion small mammals, 822 million reptiles, and 299 million amphibians are killed by free-ranging cats each year—and that’s just in this country. Not surprisingly, the publication of their estimates in the journal Nature Communications went viral. (As Marra and Santella point out, the piece I wrote about the study for The New York Times in 2013 “was the most e-mailed and most commented-upon piece” of the week.)

Finally, Angier’s conclusion is a bit ambivalent, but only because people are ambivalent.

But does wildlife protection require mass feline extermination? In sensitive environments, yes, as the Fish and Wildlife Service decided when free-roaming cats were found to be a major threat to endangered piping plovers on Long Island beaches. It’s harder to defend a zero-tolerance policy toward stray cats in urban areas, where the local wildlife population is likely to include a profusion of house sparrows (another invasive species) and house mice (ditto).

The cat wars have all too often been portrayed as a cartoon, Tweety vs. Sylvester. Are you a cat person or a bird person? You don’t think pet cats should be allowed to ramble at will? Oh. You’re one of those bird-watching loons. You’re ambivalent about shuttering the neighborhood TNR colony and shipping its members straight to the sleepytime chamber? So you’re a crazy cat lady. Or maybe you’re a cat lover and a bird person, and you’re searching in all directions for that fugitive middle ground.

Colin Dickey also has a thoughtful review, “The case against cats“, this time in the Los Angeles Review of Books. While agreeing with Angier in the main, it also faults the book on several grounds:

Cat Wars is one of those strange books, reading which one can feel generally comfortable with the authors’ conclusions while growing increasingly frustrated with their bad faith arguments, rhetorical sleights-of-hand, and other abuses of the reader’s trust. A chapter that focuses on cats as disease vectors is the worst offender. They point out, correctly, that housecats can be carriers of bubonic plague (an Arizona man died in 1992 after catching plague from a cat) as well as rabies, and that Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat feces, has been linked to behavioral changes in humans. It’s true, of course, that cats can transmit plague and other diseases, but this trait is not unique to them, nor are toxoplasma cysts restricted to outdoor cats. The haphazardness of these arguments makes the book seem indiscriminate in its anti-cat bias. Repeatedly, Marra and Santella offer rhetorically strong arguments that fall apart under scrutiny. They claim, for example, that “[w]ild birds and mammals […] have rights that do not seem to receive as much attention as the claimed rights of cats to wander freely outdoors.” It’s true that threatened and endangered species are protected under law, as are pets (mostly in the form of animal cruelty laws). But what can it mean to say that other, non-protected birds and mammals have “rights”? What kind of rights? Moral rights? Rights under some unstated but presumed “natural law”? Is this a call to extend legal protection to all American animals? Are all animals created equal? Does the equally invasive black rat lack rights that more charismatic native songbirds have?

Cat Wars also bends over backward to paint cat-owners, particularly those who advocate for outdoor lifestyles, as unstable and poorly educated. As Marra and Santella become increasingly polemical, they resort to refuting a straw-man “leading outdoor-cat advocate’s website” bullet-point-style. . .

. . . The authors also tend to overstate the unique role cats play in species destruction. The Hawaiian crow, for example, is among those whose “extinctions are attributed to cats,” according to the authors, but the list of dangers to the Hawaiian crow are long: coffee and fruit farmers (who began shooting the crows in the 1890s), mongooses and rats, deforestation, and the Hawaiian hawk (itself a threatened species). It is one thing to say that free-range cats are part of a complicated, interconnected set of ecological problems; it’s another altogether to afford them an outsized, murderous agency. By repeatedly overstating the case against cats, Marra and Santella turn what should have been a thoughtful and necessary discussion into rabid anti-feline propaganda.

The ethical issues are ones I hadn’t thought about deeply, but Dickey does highlight a provocative ethical question:

Cat Wars raises an interesting ethical question: is it justifiable to kill one animal because that animal kills other animals in disproportionate numbers? The authors cite Bill Lynn, an ethicist who has supported the culling of one species as a means to protect another, calling such work a “sad good.” But Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, contends the opposite: that the life of each individual animal must be weighed separate from a concern for species and for diversity. This kind of dilemma — is it morally acceptable to sacrifice the one to save the many, or the many for the one? — has long vexed philosophers of human ethics, and it is fascinating to see it here played out with regards to interspecies warfare.

In other words, if we consider only “well being” here, how do we weigh the well being of cats who are not killed against the loss of birds who are killed by cats? And what about the well being of humans deprived of species like the Stephens Island wren? As a biologist I want all species to survive, for I’m fascinated with diversity, and every species lost is an evolutionary book burned before it could be read.  Many biologists prize diversity like I do, and will often couch their desire to retain diversity in economic terms, for the public understands dollars and cents—or the possible health benefits of preserving tropical plants that could have curative properties.

But does this give species “rights” to exist? I don’t know. Nor do I know how to weigh “well being” in a fraught situation like this. All I know is that if you can keep your cat inside without driving it insane, you should do so.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    let’s not even get into the carbon footprint of pets – whoops.

  2. Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    “trap/neutral/release programs”

    You meant neuter, I would guess?

  3. Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    An excellent analysis sir, thank you!

  4. Kevin
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I am weary of people so passionate against killer cats. It would be ideal if they [cats] all wanted to stay inside. That being said, ours like the outdoors and will catch a ton of mice (>50/year). Not sure if that is bad for the coyotes and snakes. I applaud their efforts when they catch a gopher. But I recently saw a black footed ferret and my heart would truly sink if they brought that home….though I suspect a ferret might draw blood first.

    • Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      “I am weary of people so passionate against killer cats.”

      Such people seem impassioned about preserving threatened wildlife — a laudable goal.

      I’m not personally very concerned about mice, snakes, etc.; but I am about birds, who often need all the help they can get.

      Our local Prairie Skinks (Plestiodon septentrionalis) are making progress and I’m pleased to see them. They seem like prime cat-attracters; though I’ve never a cat with one. However, uncontrolled outdoor animals are prohibited in the city I live in — including cats. They must be leashed or fenced or indoors (fenced might help the birds some; but lots of luck preventing a cat from climbing a fence!)

      • Kevin
        Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        Our cats, amazingly, do not touch prairie skinks, though they have caught a couple of snakes.

        In some places like Tucson I would never let a cat out. The tables are turned. I’ve heard of many taken away by coyotes, owls, or bobcats. I am pretty sure that’s not the most pleasant way to go.

  5. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I hope this isn’t too off-topic, but I listened to part of an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Sarah Ellis, a feline behavior specialist with a new book, The Trainable Cat. It was fascinating — about how to train cats. She answered tough questions from Terry Gross with precision and intelligence. I’d like to ask her how to train an outdoor cat to be an indoor cat.

    • eric
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      It might be too late by then. After 30-40 years of cat ownership, my experience is that the ones that grow up indoors tend to not do much outside (they sit in your garden, then come back inside), while the ones that grow up outdoors tend to never change their desire to be outside. Jerry’s first cat being an exception to the rule, but in general, that’s what I’ve observed.

      We humans are really responsible for this predicament. We domesticated (or at least, altered the evolutionary course of…) cats to be excellent mousers. Then we eliminated all larger carnivorous predators from our areas. And we now have an explosion of small carnivores that like to kill mice and things. That result was entirely predictable: a population explosion in what we humans made the top predator in our ecosystems. But if you eliminate the cats entirely, and the exact same result will play out on the next scale down; there will be a population explosion of rats and bugs etc. Birds too, which is no bad thing, but still, its not a good idea to fix one ecological imbalance that we caused by creating another one.

      So I don’t think a full-scale purge is really something we should be doing. I do fully agree with Jerry about capturing and neutering. Where possible, we should also be trying to find homes for the younger feral cats rather than releasing them, as I think they’d take to it better than the older ones.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      If you have a house with a yard it’s not difficult to build an attached outdoor enclosure. I think some are available commercially. That’s what my daughter did with her four previously feral cats. Amazingly, they still managed to catch mice, voles, and even rabbits through the mesh. We could never figure out how they got rabbits through the much-too-small mesh.

  6. Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Speaking of birds in an urban environment and them getting hurt: We were (very!) surprised over the past weekend when a Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus crashed into our sliding glass door (lower level, first time we’ve ever observed any bird do this on that door.)

    Thankfully, it was only stunned and after reeling around drunkenly for a minute or so, it straightened up and flew off, appearing none the worse. For which we were very grateful.

    I had just enough time to observe its field marks before it flew off.

  7. Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    The first cat my sister had would whine and complain if it was not let out. Her current cat has never been let out (FIV) and has gone through several homes and “visits” a lot too. (E.g., to my place years ago)

    So before the second I would have said it seems cruel to not let a cat out and then there’s an ugly tradeoff. But it seems to me that if the cat is young enough it will never miss it. (Which doesn’t stop the current cat from *looking* outside, no doubt in confused wonder.)

    This is all anecdotal, of course.

    • Taz
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I adopted two brothers from the same litter with the intention that they’d be indoor cats. That might have worked with one, but after about a year the other was bound and determined to get outside. He was stubborn, smart, and fast enough to succeed. There was no way I was going to keep that cat inside.
      (Now at 16 he’s just as stubborn and smart, but not quite as fast.)

      • Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Hm, I wonder if the confound of the (possible) brain damage to the second cat (before he was rescued) plays a roll. The cat in question is missing an eye, as well. Maybe that makes him more timid, or something along those lines.

  8. davidintoronto
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The cats in my neighborhood (who have homes, are well fed) are occasionally interested in mice. But they’re pretty blasé about birds and squirrels. Indeed, I’ve seen more sparrows die by red-tailed hawk than by cat.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      The hawks are just less discrete.

  9. Petrushka
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I first saw this argument about 60 years ago.

  10. Billy Bl.
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always disliked the notion of keeping cats indoors. If I were a cat, I would want to go outside, but some are probably happier indoors (e.g. my sister’s cat, a rescued feral, that has no desire to go outside). My cat was an outdoor cat and caught only vermin, no birds, until she spent two nights 20 m up a huge pine tree and then the next week four nights 20 m up at huge power pole carrying high-voltage lines. Only a concerted social-media campaign convinced the power company to rescue her. They would very likely not do it again, so she is now an indoor cat. I’ve built a small enclosure outside that she can access through a window, but she still whines to go outside. I feel bad about this, especially because it’s the neighbour’s cat, who chased mine up the tree and pole, who should be serving the time. But I now have two indoor cats. I got the second to help the first cope with her confinement.

  11. Frank Bath
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m in favour of belling the cat.
    I know cat lovers say it can lead to accidental strangulation – never seen the statistics on this, if possible – but loving predated small creatures as I do I think the compromise is well worth it.

    • nicky
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that is an option some of my friends follow. It is considered less inhumane than to clip the claws. The effectiveness of either needs to be established yet.
      I suspect both methods are effective in protecting birds, less so for rodents and even less for amphibians and zero for my beloved chameleons.

    • Lars
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Bells were mandatory for my parents’ outdoor cats, but it was difficult to say if they were effective; we had no idea of how many birds they would have caught if they had not been belled. At least my parents were able to tell themselves that they’d done what they could – my mother in particular was greatly distressed when one of the moggies brought in a bird and wanted to do whatever she could to discourage this, but their cats were hardened outdoor types.
      I’ve also heard that belled cats learn to move so that the bell doesn’t sound, which sounds very cat-like.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      I don’t know if this is true, but I read on the Internet once that bells actually make cats more effective hunters since the extra care they need to take to stop the bell from ringing also makes them more stealthy generally.

    • Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      My sister’s first cat (mentioned above) was always belled. From what I remember this was only *partially* successful.

  12. barn owl
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    My city has a TNR program and supports the maintenance of community cat colonies by informed cat caregivers:

    You can also adopt a barn cat, promoted as an “environmentally-safe alternative to poisonous pest controls.” The city seems primarily concerned with rodent control, and achieving some sort of balance between the feral cat population and the numbers of rodent pests. The battles over endangered bird species here are much more likely to involve real estate developers and builders of golf courses, such as that over destruction of Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat.

  13. Andrew
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that a missing factor in this discussion is the lack of a level playing field when it comes to competition between wildlife and domestic cats. The cat that spends the night prowling (and killing) can return to a sheltered home where there is food, water and heat while their prey remains out in a more competitive space.

    A few years ago I listened with great interest to a discussion/argument between a cat owner and a neighbor discussing the issues raised by the local foxes and coyotes killing several domestic cats while the cats were on the prowl. In a rural setting, a cat or dog left to wander is both prey and predator and their owners must be prepared to accept whichever outcome nature doles out.

    If we tip the scales in favor of our preferred animals by providing food and shelter, we must accept responsibility that our actions lead to increased death among species that do nto receive the benefit of our protection and support.

    • Taz
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know where you live, but in my town bird feeders are ubiquitous.

  14. David Duncan
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Does Hili have access to a cat door? I see that she likes to be carried inside, so won’t she go in or out via a door?

  15. mikeyc
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    My little buddy is an indoor/outdoor Tom who regularly brings home rodent heads. Usually mice but occasionally rats. He doesn’t like to eat them and leaves them for me to snack on. I think mostly he’s just showing off his prowess though and isn’t actually sharing.

    He was a semi-feral farm cat who I convinced to live with me when he was only year old. He moved to the city with me and in the intervening years is responsible for the deaths of thousands of mice and rats around my apartment building. There has been no noticeable impact on the outdoor rodent population (they are everywhere), but there is no sign of them indoors anywhere in the building. On rare occasions he brought home a bird. That saddened me and I am glad that he is now getting on in years and can’t catch them much anymore.

    Am I being unethical in letting him out? I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t care. He is a member of my family and having access to the outdoors makes him happy. It does put him at risk from cars, coyotes (I have *seen* coyotes on the streets here in Seattle), humans, disease, etc. I do what I can to manage risk to him but he, like me, only gets one chance at this life and having access to the outdoors makes him happy.

    In no way do I regret whatever his impact is on the rodents – I don’t believe their outdoor population is impacted significantly by cat predation; they are simply far to fecund and the city is far to rich in food resources. I do regret that he used to, very occasionally, catch a bird, but I would argue that birds face far bigger pressures on their population than cat predation. Habitat destruction and loss, at the very least, dwarfs any impact by cats. Still, I wish he didn’t hunt them and I hope his airborne hunting days are over. But he will have access to the outdoors for as long as he wants it.

  16. darrelle
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that this issue is really about Homo sapiens.

  17. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    One day when I lived in Menlo Park, CA I opened the french doors to the patio at the exact moment that a large snow-white neighbor’s cat ambushed a grey squirrel. I don’t remember if I yelled, but the cat dropped the squirrel, pumping blood from a carotid artery, and stared and hissed at me with pure malevolence before bolting. I had to dispatch the still-living but mortally wounded squirrel with a shovel. I prefer inside cats.

  18. Linda Calhoun
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    “If you have the view that all birds and mice deserve to live, then it’s easy…”

    If you have the view that all mice deserve to live, then you are an idiot.

    Mice reproduce at a ferocious rate. Before I got my barn cats, they were EVERYWHERE. I was finding dead mice in my water buckets every morning. I would turn the lights on in the morning, and they would scatter. They are vermin; they carry disease. It was unbelievably gross.

    Within two weeks of the time I first let my new kittens into the goat barn, the mice were under control. I don’t think the cats killed that many, but the mice definitely left after they knew there were predators in their environment.

    There are still mice in my barn, but the cats keep them under control. There is no way the cats could ever eliminate them completely.


    • Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps your cats have discovered sustainable use of mice 🙂 .

  19. nicky
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jerry for such a balanced post. We cat-lovers tend to turn a blind eye to the havoc our pets can create. You did not, kudos.
    I think that feral cats on islands where they were introduced by humans should be eradicated (if posible). Petcats should be strictly regulated there (eg. strictly indoors, or bells and/or declawing as mentioned above). And with ‘Islands’ I would include Madagascar and Australia.
    It is also important to realise -as you mentioned- that cats are not sole perpetrators, rats, some snakes, mongooses, dogs, pigs and several more can be equally nefarious.
    IIRC the Tasmanian wolf/tiger (Thylacyne) and Tasmanian Devil are Tasmanian because dingos (feral dogs for thousands of years) never reached Tasmania….

  20. david
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Feral kitties can have a huge effect on local wildlife. I live on five acres in rural Florida near a woman who free feeds every stray that finds her yard, more than 30 at last count. Four of those cats have taken up residence near my house and we try to look out for them by feeding (trying to minimize predatory behavior) and some veterinary care. Since they arrived we no longer have nesting chuck-wills-widows or bobwhite in the yard, the three species of native rodent who shared our property have disappeared, six-lined racerunner, ground skink, and broadhead skink numbers are way down and we regularly find blue jay, cardinal, mourning dove, and ground dove remains that are clearly not hawk kills. Multiply that by other yards in other areas and the tolls are considerable. As mentioned above, ferals are also subject to predation (at least in my area) by hawks, owls, humans, and especially coyotes. We have watched ferals we couldn’t get our hands on die of everything from FIV to feline leukemia, from heartworms and hookworms to malnutrition and anemia caused by tick and flea infestations. It isn’t pretty. Feral life is a hard life for the cats and the local wildlife.
    Over the past 25 years my wife and I have trapped, socialized, neutered, and found indoor homes for more than 40 feral strays and a few abandoned house pets. All adapted, eventually, to life indoors. One is sitting on my lap as I type this. Purring.

  21. KD33
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Great presentation, glad to see this issue brought to light in such a balanced way.

    A subtopic that may deserve more attention is the killing of birds by domesticated outdoor and feral cats. See:

    Notable is that cats kill *billions* of birds in the U.S. alone, and have in some cases extensively affected populations of certain species and their related ecologies.

    Also notable is that most cat owners aren’t aware of this.

    Finally, the article points to a possible solution: the BirdBeSafe collar, which when worn by an outdoor cat supposedly gives birds enough warning to prevent capture. Has anyone here tried this?

  22. Posted September 13, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    A really interesting debate, and I think the larger “ethical” issues Jerry points to are where one really has to go. How do we weigh the well-being of one species against another? Critically, I would specialize to the case of how do we weigh human well-being against non-human? Should these weights be proportional to the species’ cognitive abilities (I would argue “yes”)? How much habitat needs to be destroyed for it to be considered a “moral” outrage, not from the standpoint of preserving nature for the enjoyment or edification of humans, but from the perspective of destroying cognitive life?

    As for cats in particular, I generally agree with Jerry’s take, but also think there is more that people can do who own cats that want to go outside. Bells or other noise-makers can reduce the damage they inflict on local wildlife. And how about those people who take their cats out for walks like a dog, either leashed or generally supervised? Not a bad idea if you have an outdoor-loving cat. And of course if you get a cat as a kitten, they may not have any interest in going outside. I grew up with 4 cats, all rescued from the street as kittens, and NONE of them ever had any interest in going back outside.

    Also, I don’t buy the claim that feral cats were a major factor in the extinction (in the wild) of the Hawaiian Crow. The rats and mongoose that were introduced to the islands wreaked far more havoc.

  23. Bill the Cat
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    We have 2 rescue females and a Tuxedo male (See ‘Groucho’ in the who your cat is voting for post) stray who adopted me. (Was loose in the neighborhood for 4 months – none of the cat friendly neighbors could approach him nor knew where he came from. One day while walking the neighborhood he poked his nose out from behind a shrub. I said ‘Hey, dude” and I passed the worlds shortest job interview. He immediately wrapped himself around my ankles. I picked him up (after much consideration & determining that my shots were up to date) he settled into my arms & indicated we should head home. The boy has been my best-est buddy of all time. (just ask him.)) If a door is opened – he will sit at the threshold and look & sniff. He will follow me into the back yard – and back in. Otherwise he has no interest in being outside. He did his turn – and he has had enough. And I have a new job as mattress. His job is official house guide.

    FYI – The vet found no ‘nads. After smelling his urine – decided the vet was wrong. A return visit found one that had not descended. We surmise a previous owner tossed him out for displaying the habits (and fluids) of a loaded male. Their loss – my gain.

  24. Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Our present cat yowls if he doesn’t go out. However the wild area in our urban garden provides some protection for his prey. The latest incident was brought to my attention by a squawking pair of starlings. After investigating, I noted a fledgling hiding in a pile of branches with Dirac the Cat nearby, patiently waiting for the kill. I carried him inside and eventually the fledging flew to safety as dusk deepened. The intense squawking stopped.

    Dirac usually goes out overnight when most birds have roosted. He sleeps during the day or sits on padded windowsills surveying his domain. 🙂

  25. Carl Morano
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I love cats and I love reptiles. feral cats have really decimated reptile populationso in some suburbs. I rarely found snakes anymore but amen I do they are scarred by cat claws. I never let my formerly feral Cat outdoors.

  26. Anthony Paul
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    There seems little doubt that certain species like flightless birds on an island can be wiped out by introduced feral cats, and I can certainly imagine ground-nesting birds in a particular locality being destroyed by a colony of feral cats. At the same time I have read magazine articles by those who promote TNR programs for ferals arguing that the research that purportedly shows billions of bird fatalities due to feral cats and cats allowed outdoors is highly suspect at best. As I recall, a research article that went with the billions figure and that received a fair amount of publicity a year or three ago was a summary or compilation of several prior reported research projects. If I recall correctly, the American Bird Conservancy publicized the article as proving (yet again) what a danger cats were to birds. I think ABC opposes TNR programs on the grounds that they simply serve to maintain feral cat colonies and never succeed in eliminating them. The counter argument was that the individual research projects were all badly done and unreliable or else proved little to nothing about the big picture as their results could not be scaled up and the review article was thus just a matter of garbage-in-garbage-out since it simply accepted the results of each prior research report at face value. Added to that was the destruction of habitat issue, the dangers of increased urban development, etc, that suggested that feline overkill was not the major problem, but that it was easier to blame house cats than to try to control industry and residential sprawl and road-building. One of the TNR proponent’s claims was that if the calculated billions figure were accurate we would have already lost several populations of songbirds with an additional argument being that we really do not have good numbers for North American bird populations to start with. Regardless of which end you started from, it was a numbers from nowhere issue. So does anyone have an informed understanding of how good any of the numbers are, given that each side in the controversy seems less than neutral?

  27. Susan Davies
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Here in Australia there is an enormous problem with feral cats. Our premier scientific organisation, the CSIRO, estmates that there are 15 million of them, with each one killing an average of 5 animals a night. That’s 75 million birds/mammals/amphibians/reptiles every day.
    Predators and prey evolve together, each developing offensive/defensive skills in concert. Cats did not evolve on the Australian continent, therefore the wildlife has no defence against them. They should NEVER be allowed to wander around in the environment.
    There is a similar problem with horses in national parks. Their hooves destroy the delicate vegetation and they eat native plants that did not evolve beside them and therefore don’t offer any defence. Australia does not have any indigenous hard-hoofed animals, but now we have billions of horses, goats, buffalo and pigs destroying the ancient nutrient-poor soils that make up the Australian landscape.
    We have no right to allow these animals to damage a place we hold in trust for future generations.
    It is not cruel to keep cats indoors providing they have interesting things to do and play with. But you can allow them outside if you have a cat enclosure. This keeps the environment safe from them, and keeps them safe from all the dangers in the environment, like traffic, dogs, diseased cats, nasty neighbours, etc, which in turn means no huge veterinary bills.
    I’ve had lots of cats, love them, but always had cat enclosures. They can be unobtrusive if constructed with the right materials and last forever. It is the perfect answer to this very distressing problem.

    • catmentality
      Posted September 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I live in Australia as well. For 12 years I’ve had a large cat enclosure in the backyard. My two cats and I love it!

  28. Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    When, then, shall we begin to cull that most invasive and destructive species of all? Are we, ourselves, immune to such judgement?

    • Achrachno
      Posted September 14, 2016 at 1:02 am | Permalink

      We cull ourselves daily, and sometimes in great numbers. It’s a miserable situation in my opinion. Many apparently disagree.

  29. Lurker111
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    “As for the problem of cats destroying other wildlife …”

    We took in a “block” kitty some years ago and tried to make it 100% indoor. Didn’t work. He’s mostly indoor now, but demands to go out each morning for a couple of hours. To keep the side-carnage to a minimum, I’ve found that adding _two_ extra bells to his collar seems to do the trick. You can buy extra collar bells at most pet supply stores.

    Of course, there’s this one really stupid chipmunk in the area that he’s caught at least twice and brought in with him for a playmate. I rescued the thing and put it back outdoors. Kitty was not happy with me.

  30. barn owl
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    One summer when I lived in London, our cat kept bringing small (usually moribund) frogs inside. We couldn’t figure out where she was finding them, because the entire block was terraced housing, and there was no way she could get to a nearby park or commons with a pond (she also had a hind leg that had healed badly after she was hit by a car, before flatmate found her at a building site and brought her home – so her jumping ability was somewhat limited). Then we heard from next-door neighbor that his cat was also bringing small frogs inside.

    Days later, flatmate was talking to an elderly neighbor several doors down, who lamented that he’d won a prize of 50 frogs for his backyard pond, in a local gardening contest, but “only had three left!” He couldn’t understand what had happened to the other 47 tiny frogs. My flatmate said he just made an excuse to leave at that point. :-S

  31. p. puk
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve found that many people argue that (feral) cats are somehow part of the ecosystem and that their murderous ways are to be condoned.

    Domesticated/invasive species are to be extricated and not allowed to rampage.

  32. Mike
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I find it hard to support killing a Cat for doing what Cats have evolved to do. We should be thankful that Cats are as small as they are, a study a few years ago rated them the most efficient Predators on the Planet, they would eat us if they were large enough, He’s not looking at you with affection, he’s just wondering what you would taste like. lol As for keeping them indoors, our boss “Neeps” just wondered in through an open kitchen door one day looking the worse for wear, and never left, and as for going outside, we are pretty rural ,so he goes outside ,but reluctantly.

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