Let's Not Protect Cats At the Expense of Birds
Recent letters to The Pilot show conscientious citizens manifesting their humanity by feeding feral cats that have been abandoned or born in the wild and now live by their own wits.
There is, however, a downside to such practices. Feral cats normally live off birds, rodents and small mammals. National Audubon Society estimates that free-ranging feral cats constitute 40 million of the estimated 100 million cats nationwide, and that 20 to 30 percent of their prey are birds -- some of which are endangered species.
In some states and cities, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has sided with Audubon in efforts to eliminate or control their feral cat population.
Further, the American Ornithologists' Union, American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and Cooper Ornithological Society have concluded that feral or free-ranging domestic cats are proven to have serious negative impacts on bird populations, contributing to the decline of many bird species.
Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause except habitat destruction.
As a cat owner for 20 years, I've seen our well-fed "Bert" stalking birds. Even though he is getting on in years, his instinct to hunt remains strong.
Just-hatched birds trying their wings for the first time are especially vulnerable in the spring. Therefore. we keep Bert indoors during the day and allow him outside at night when most birds are roosting and thus much less vulnerable.
Feral cats have no such control, and regardless of how well they are fed, birds continue to be at risk. We need to be prudent in weighing the merits of supporting one animal population at the dire risk of another.
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