Nature.com sure got a lot of media coverage out of their recent report titled “The Impact of Free-Ranging Domestic Cats on Wildlife of the United States.” Plenty of media outlets jumped on some of the more amazing facts in the report. The New York Times was among the newspapers that jumped on the report’s estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds each year, along with 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually. (“Un-owned cats,” the Nature report noted, “as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality.”) And we certainly can’t argue with this conclusion that’s reported by the Times:
All concur that pet cats should not be allowed to prowl around the neighborhood at will, any more than should a pet dog, horse or potbellied pig, and that cat owners who insist their felines “deserve” a bit of freedom are being irresponsible and ultimately not very cat friendly. Through recent projects like Kitty Cams at the University of Georgia, in which cameras are attached to the collars of indoor-outdoor pet cats to track their activities, not only have cats been filmed preying on cardinals, frogs and field mice, they have also been shown lapping up antifreeze and sewer sludge, dodging under moving cars and sparring violently with much bigger dogs.
But now those wandering cats are getting a show of support. Alley Cat Allies (“the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection and humane treatment of cats”) has released a pretty harsh response to the Nature.com report. In fact, the ACA accuses Nature of engaging in “a veiled promotion by bird advocates to ramp up the mass killing of outdoor cats.” They mean that literally, too. ACA claims that the Nature.com report cites Nico Dauphine, who was found guilty of attempted animal cruelty for attempting to poison feral cats back in 2011. It’s kind of hard to dismiss Alley Cat Allies as being extremist when they’re up against that kind of competition–and we know that Dauphine really has claimed that a billion birds a year are killed by cats.
We’ll also give Alley Cat Allies some credit for being big advocates of Trap-Neuter-Return Programs. There’s still some legitimate debate over TNR, but we tend to side with the studies that show the programs actually reduce the amounts of feral cats in an area. And, you know, animals are part of nature. We’re guilty of being charmed when our kitties bring us the occasional gift of some freshly-slaughtered prey. We respect debate, too–and there’s a pretty good one going on in the comments section of that New York Times article.