Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More Ramblings on the Cat vs Bird Debate


So people label us cat people as “crazy”, well after reading an article on the Audubonmagazine.org site, I think us crazy cat people could say the same thing about the bird people.
(Source: Animal Liberation Front)

In this article entitled, “Felines Fatales”, written by Ted Williams, he starts out with the usual statistic that “150 million free-ranging cats kill 500 million birds a year in the United States” as according to the American Bird Conservancy. Again, us cat people would like wildlife societies and bird conservationists to stop using exaggerated figures like “millions” and “billions” as the number of birds killed each year by cats. Because we know that you bird people also admit that it is difficult to come up with “solid” numbers to support your claims, so you use estimates. ACR understands that it is difficult to know exactly how many cats (pets and ferals) are roaming free, but again, the fact is that few scientific studies have been conducted to support either side of the debate. So, until more studies are conducted and more accurate numbers are gathered, let us take responsibility for our (human) contributions (habitat destruction, development, and pollution) to the decline of bird populations instead of blaming cats. Gary J. Patronek, VMD, Ph.D. Tufts University says this about bird predation statistics, “Whittling down guesses or extrapolations from limited observations by a factor of 10 or even 100 does not make these estimates any more credible, and the fact that they are the best available data is not sufficient to justify their use when the consequences may be extermination for cats…What I find inconsistent in an otherwise scientific debate about biodiversity is how indictment of cats has been pursued almost in spite of the evidence.”

I also enjoyed one of Ted’s examples of cats being crazed killers. He says, “On Maui, where, at last count, the public maintains 110 feral cat colonies, two cats killed 143 wedge-tailed shearwaters in one night.” One night, really, 2 cats killed 143 birds?? I would like to have seen this for myself. So, where is the evidence, was this caught on tape, because I don’t think most people would believe such a statement. Even though these birds nest on the ground, it is hard to believe that even after killing say 2 or perhaps three birds, that a cat would continue on some serial killing spree? Most of us cat people have seen a cat with a mouse or a bird, and he could spend hours entertaining himself with just that one kill; I don’t think he would run out and continue such a pattern, especially in one evening. But that’s just me.

He also mentions a study done by a wildlife ecologist: “And from observing cats he’d radio-collared and examining scats and stomach contents (the latter obtained with a mild emetic), he got an accurate estimate of between five and six birds killed per cat per year. That means that cats were annually knocking off somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 million birds just in rural Wisconsin.” First, I would like to know the number of cats he surveyed? Because if he only surveyed a couple of cats out of the guesstimated 1.4 million free-roaming cats in rural Wisonsin, how accurate is that? To get an accurate sample, one would have to survey A LOT of cats’ stomachs. Secondly, cats are more scavengers than hunters. Bird people even give the number of birds that die from flying into windows and those killed by pesticides…how would one determine if the cat killed the bird and ate or if the bird remnants in a cat’s stomach was already dead before the cat consumed it? Roger Tabor, a British biologist, says, “Although cats are superb hunters, it is their scavenging ability that allows them to survive as feral-living animals…”

Again, us cat people do not deny that cats are predators, but to use exaggerated figures to say their predation is “wreaking havoc on our wildlife” is irresponsible and to place blame on cats, when so far, there is no evidence to support such a claim, is far from scientific.

3 comments:

modernfigurative said...

"A bird colony is used to refer to large aggregations of individuals of one or more species of bird that roost or nest in close proximity at a particular location." Wikipedia
The Shearwaters live in colonies, it is easy to imagine the movement of the other birds on the ground continuing to entice the cat to the next bird. This bird stays on its nest and tries to protect it.
You have a failure of the imagination. how many birds has your cat eaten? we had many outdoor cats when I was young and six a year is a very low estimate. My cats easily ate one a month.

The last thing I would like to say is that I live in the country and people drop their cats off here thinking we would like them (we have barns). I have seen these cats become so emaciated that they look like ferrets. We trap them and take them to our local humane society if we can, but if we can not catch them they do not fare well. I have heard more than four times a cats scream as the coyotes capture and kill them, it is very painful and often lasts a full 15 minutes. And no I do not want to shoot the coyotes, they are natural wildlife who belong here..the cats are not native species, they dont belong here.

Heather said...

"let us take responsibility for our (human) contributions (habitat destruction, development, and pollution) to the decline of bird populations instead of blaming cats"

Cats are not to blame. Cats ARE a human contribution to the problem of wildlife destruction. HUMANS domesticated cats and brought them into areas where nature did not put them.

I recommend National Geographic's documentary "The Secret Life of Cats." (http://www.amazon.com/National-Geographics-Secret-Life-Cats/dp/0792296184)

Keep the cats (for whom we are responsible) inside where they will be safe and healthy and will not further degrade the native wildlife.

Petaluma Feral Cats said...

I plan to picket for our homeless and feral cats Monday, October 19, 2009
Where: Petaluma City Hall
11 English Street, Petaluma, California / phone: 707.778.4360
Time: 6:00pm for one hour - Join me and if you cannot, call or e-mail ( info at petalumaferalcats.com ) Pass this on!

Sadly, Petaluma City Council voted and Petaluma remains unfriendly to animals.

The story:
www.petalumaferalcats.com