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Angier reports: "For all the adorable images of cats ... scientists have identified a shocking new truth: cats are far deadlier than anyone realized."

Domestic and feral cats are significant predators of a wide range of prey species, including rabbits. (photo: James Morton/NYT)
Domestic and feral cats are significant predators of a wide range of prey species, including rabbits. (photo: James Morton/NYT)

Report: US Domestic Cats Kill 15 Billion Birds, Mammals Annually

By Natalie Angier, The New York Times

31 January 13


or all the adorable images of cats that play the piano, flush the toilet, mew melodiously and find their way back home over hundreds of miles, scientists have identified a shocking new truth: cats are far deadlier than anyone realized.

In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States - both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it - kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.

Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and an author of the report, said the mortality figures that emerge from the new model "are shockingly high."

"When we ran the model, we didn't know what to expect," said Dr. Marra, who performed the analysis with a colleague, Scott R. Loss, and Tom Will of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "We were absolutely stunned by the results." The study appeared Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

The findings are the first serious estimate of just how much wildlife America's vast population of free-roaming domestic cats manages to kill each year.

"We've been discussing this problem of cats and wildlife for years and years, and now we finally have some good science to start nailing down the numbers," said George H. Fenwick, the president and chief executive of the American Bird Conservancy. "This is a great leap forward over the quality of research we had before."

In devising their mathematical model, the researchers systematically sifted through the existing scientific literature on cat-wildlife interactions, eliminated studies in which the sample size was too small or the results too extreme, and then extracted and standardized the findings from the 21 most rigorous studies. The results admittedly come with wide ranges and uncertainties.

Nevertheless, the new report is likely to fuel the sometimes vitriolic debate between environmentalists who see free-roaming domestic cats as an invasive species - superpredators whose numbers are growing globally even as the songbirds and many other animals the cats prey on are in decline - and animal welfare advocates who are appalled by the millions of unwanted cats (and dogs) euthanized in animal shelters each year.

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.

"We've put a lot of effort into trying to educate people that they should not let their cats outside, that it's bad for the cats and can shorten the cats' lives," said Danielle Bays, the manager of the community cat programs at the Washington Humane Society.

Yet the new study estimates that free-roaming pets account for only about 29 percent of the birds and 11 percent of the mammals killed by domestic cats each year, and the real problem arises over how to manage the 80 million or so stray or feral cats that commit the bulk of the wildlife slaughter.

The Washington Humane Society and many other animal welfare organizations support the use of increasingly popular trap-neuter-return programs, in which unowned cats are caught, vaccinated, spayed and, if no home can be found for them, returned to the outdoor colony from which they came. Proponents see this approach as a humane alternative to large-scale euthanasia, and they insist that a colony of neutered cats can't reproduce and thus will eventually disappear.

Conservationists say that, far from diminishing the population of unowned cats, trap and release programs may be making it worse, by encouraging people to abandon their pets to outdoor colonies that volunteers often keep lovingly fed.

"The number of free roaming cats is definitively growing," Dr. Fenwick of the bird conservancy said. "It's estimated that there are now more than 500 T.N.R. colonies in Austin alone."

They are colonies of subsidized predators, he said, able to survive in far greater concentrations than do wild carnivores by dint of their people-pleasing appeal. "They're not like coyotes, having to make their way in the world," he said.

Yet even fed cats are profoundly tuned to the hunt, and when they see something flutter, they can't help but move in for the kill. Dr. Fenwick argues that far more effort should be put into animal adoption. "For the great majority of healthy cats," he said, "homes can be found." Any outdoor colonies that remain should be enclosed, he said. "Cats don't need to wander hundred of miles to be happy," he said. your social media marketing partner


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+3 # treadlightly 2013-01-31 17:37
I can haz birdie?

New Zealand is taking a serious look at the problem and are thinking about real legislation.

I love cats and it's hard to think of them as an invasive species but they really are I guess. I have a friend who has been trapping, neutering and releasing cats for years here in Fort Worth. I also know of several locations where well meaning people put feed out daily for cats.
Hopefully once people are aware of the numbers of wildlife lost to strays they will take the appropriate action.
This article seems a little out of place and I just realized that my commenting on it is an indication that I need to get a life. LOL
+4 # cwbystache 2013-02-01 07:37

In our parts lizards appear to be the first fauna decimated when town-type folks come out to take up their tele-commuter life in the "WUI" (Wildland Urban Interface)--and let their cats run out the door to play and be, well, cats. People who have been ranching for generations here are no less guilty, I can say from personal observation. Humans, domestic cats, dogs, horses, cows, burros--the collection of these "invasive" species ought to be seen as forming together a single ecology. Meanwhile I'm getting through the most frigid nights we've had in years, with three cats on the bed. I do wonder what that "appropriate action" is that must be taken about all this.
+1 # Glen 2013-02-01 14:09
Simply keep those cats inside the house, cwbystache. Not hard to do.
+1 # cwbystache 2013-02-01 20:02
Well ... I don't have any cats myself--though I like cats a lot. These belong to the woman whose adobe I'm in while she's meditating at a Buddhist monastery in Nepal for three months. It's the roof I have over my head at the moment, so I'm in service to her for it and following her wishes with the cats ... haven't had my own since 1976, mostly for the reasons presented in the original article here.
+2 # Glen 2013-02-02 06:31
That explains it. Perhaps allowing cats outside when they wish is due to folks not liking a litter box in the house, which is understandable.

I noticed here that folks see this as whether or not a person likes cats. The issue is not that. It is recognizing what a cat is and what it can and will do, even if neutered.
+1 # Activista 2013-01-31 21:01
The problem is that we eliminated coyotes (after wolves) - more - people are putting out poison/shoot coyotes that control to some extent the cats. Outdoor cat is super destroyer .. like Norwegian Rat .. bring back the original predators.
Cat is an invasive species
+8 # Working Class 2013-01-31 23:37
Quoting Activista:
The problem is that we eliminated coyotes (after wolves) - more - people are putting out poison/shoot coyotes that control to some extent the cats. Outdoor cat is super destroyer .. like Norwegian Rat .. bring back the original predators.
Cat is an invasive species

I don't know where you live, but I see coyotes a couple times a week on my early morning jogs. I live in LA. Not exactly the wild, wild west. By the way, they love cats.
+22 # Phlippinout 2013-02-01 00:46
Coyotes are not eliminated, they are alive and well in most US states. They do not control the cat population in busy cities but I work in many neighborhoods where people have lost their cats and small dogs from coyotes and bobcats. I think the human being is far more destructive and invasive than anything. The reason there is an over abundance of cats is because of stupid, lazy humans who feed cats and refuse to fix them. Maybe that is a big part of the problem. But typically the blame goes to the innocent animal instead of the stupid human who cannot live responsibly and do their part. Face it, we have a society that stopped caring about personal responsibility and thinks that mass murdering animals is the answer. Where is the story about flocks of geese being poisoned so they would not interfere with the planes. Man thinks hes hot stuff but really he is a barbarian that has no clue how to coexist with nature. , What a shame the natives were not better armed and better prepared for the stupid invaders
+12 # Majikman 2013-02-01 10:20
What infuriates me are the parents who want their children to "experience the miracle of birth" then schlep the unwanted litters to local shelters. These stupid parents should also require their children to witness the "miracle of death" as the animals are euthanized.
+8 # cwbystache 2013-02-01 07:20
I thought coyote numbers were growing--

"Pets vanish as Seattle's coyote sightings increase"
+10 # Activista 2013-02-01 12:25
I live in Snohomish - edge of the town - and farmer with the help of state agencies eliminated coyotes by poison - that by the way killed the otter and mink.
Rabbits overpopulated. Owls and raptors were killed by rat poison - D-Con ...
Aug 7, 2012 – "We're often killing some of the animals that would be doing rodent control for us: raptors, coyotes, bobcats," ..
+6 # cwbystache 2013-02-01 20:05
well all that stinks--the ranch I'm with forbids the killing of coyotes ...
+2 # lorenbliss 2013-02-03 13:20
Anybody who has lived in real country -- where city people go to abandon their unwanted cats -- understands the magnitude of the problem.

The plague of feral cats can -- and often does -- exterminate the songbird population, the result an ominously oppressive real-world 24/7 silence akin to what Rachael Carson predicted in "Silent Spring." Typically the only way to bring back the birds is to kill the cats.

But you can't do that any more, at least not in Washington state. The cat-worshipping , arrogantly wealthy urban Democrats managed maybe a dozen years ago to add feral cats to the protected species list, never mind this effective dooms the songbird population.
0 # Glen 2013-02-03 15:16
Your reports on Washington state are continuing to reveal how unattractive the state is becoming. A true shame due to the state being so beautiful and in the past offering so much.
0 # lorenbliss 2013-02-03 16:34
True. Unbelievable as it is, to shoot a feral cat in Washington state -- even a feral cat in the act of preying on songbirds or small livestock (chickens, rabbits etc.) -- is to risk up to five years imprisonment for felony animal cruelty, this by an act of the legislature maybe 10 years ago.
+4 # Todd Williams 2013-02-01 11:32
I'm not sure where you live Activista, maybe Hawaii. But where I live in Northern Ohio, coyotes are all over the place. In fact, I just heard some last night. I see them frequently and have to watch my chickens carefully. Coyotes are thriving in my area and even in urban Cleveland neighborhoods. Not like wolves whatsoever. Different ballgame. FYI.
+3 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:15
Coyotes have returned to my area in droves. I see them all the time and I live 35 miles from Chicago in a very populated area.
+10 # whalegurl 2013-01-31 22:55
I would rather that cats did not kill birds. But even if cats are stopped from killing birds, will that stop all the birds that mankind is killing by overpopulation and overbuilding, etc?

Are we going to kill cats so that "man" can continue on it's merry homeo-centric view.
+10 # universlman 2013-02-01 09:42
Whalegurl is right. It will take a lot of feline hoodlums to compete with our catbox of nuclear waste, mountain top removal and fracking.
+3 # Nominae 2013-02-01 19:12
Quoting whalegurl:
I would rather that cats did not kill birds.......
Are we going to kill cats so that "man" can continue on it's merry homeo-centric view.

Fact is, Mother Nature obviously disagrees with your view on cats killing birds. Gotta wonder who has the "Big PIcture" most firmly in mind, and most sensibly out of the emotional realm.

The only thing that surprises ME is that the data indicated in the article above surprises *anybody* !

Whalegurl identifies the problem quite nicely: "homeo-centric view" intensified and bastardized by anthropomorphis m - the erroneous and inaccurate projection of human characteristics onto animals.

Cats are one of Nature's most successful land-based killing designs. If the human did not see the cat as "my fluffy baby", they would not be *surprised* to find that one of Natures best crafted killers IS a completely competent *killer*. DUH !

House cats are merely mutated Jungle Cats that are much smaller in size. How would they be OTHER than killing
machines ?

The fact that they can ALSO serve as "bed warmers" does not take the APEX PREDATOR out of them, and only people with anthropomorphic blinders on could possibly think otherwise.

*Spoiler Alert* - It's a CAT. Cats are Apex Predators. The fact that they are "cuddly" and "cute" does not change the fact that they are also *superlative* killers.

I know .... we are all "shocked - shocked, I say " !
+11 # Street Level 2013-01-31 23:47
So what now, are cat's going the same way as the mustang, labeled as the "new pariah" so that they can be rounded up and slaughtered for their meat?
Yes, the mammals that have both eyes on the front of their heads are predators, just like humans.
People don't take care of their children let alone pets. Neutering or spaying is the only way to control the population problem but people just can't seem to get it through their heads that unwanted offspring is not a right.
+2 # Todd Williams 2013-02-01 10:07
I never thought of eating a cat nor a horse, for that matter. Cat-ka-bob? Cat stew? Cat au gratin? Feline fritters? Baked kitty? The possibilities are endless!
0 # lorenbliss 2013-02-03 13:05
Can lo mein...a tasty treat, as most veterans of military service in Asia can attest.
+10 # R Steinberger 2013-02-01 00:42
Cats do not fall out of the sky, nor are they wildlife--they are the result of cat owners who have failed to get their 'pet' cats altered. As colonies are spayed and stabilized, if those same owners continue to allow their cats to reproduce, the density of local outdoor cats increases. Mandatory spay/neuter is the only way to stop the production of ever more outdoor cats. Feral cat advocates have historically opposed mandatory spay/neuter. Hopefully this will bring advocates for cats to the table.
+10 # Majikman 2013-02-01 00:48
Wow! 15 billion dead birds in the US due to cats? I didn't know there were 1/2 that many ferals and domestics combined. Most strays and ferals hang out by garbage dumps and back alleys in search of food and have short lives ended by injury or disease or starvation. Well fed house pets aren't driven by hunger to constantly hunt and kill for food. In short this 'study" is BS.
I'd give much more blame to insecticides, other chemicals and loss of habitat than to cats.
Wonder who funded this "study". Monsanto perhaps?
+1 # Glen 2013-02-01 14:28
Yes, cats can and do decimate birds, eggs, lizards, frogs, toads, mice, rats, flying squirrels, chipmunks, fish, and much more within their reach, regardless of how much they might get fed at home.

They are predators and enjoy the chase and the kill. I have many examples of this very thing, and due to the fact that I live in a rural area with forests everywhere I have seen the killing by cats, both domestic and wild. The fact that so many do go wild is testament to there being too many that are drop offs, or whatever.

There is a reason why along the Gulf Coast cats are now allowed, and why in many areas you will see few small critters. There would be no shore birds, crabs, sand mice, and many other delightful critters if cats were to run freely. Certainly there is too much habitat encroachment and poison, but the numbers of cats is astounding and is taking a toll.

Just because we love and enjoy an animal is no excuse to allow over-population . Bet you and many others would fight against gangs of wild dogs, that can and do attack human beings.
+6 # Majikman 2013-02-01 15:40
Glen, I am an advocate of responsible pet ownership. My cats (spayed) are 90% indoor and allowed out into my fenced yard during the day if I'm home where they do catch mice, shrews and voles in my gardens. My dog is spayed and keeps the deer & coyotes out of my gardens as well as human thieves. My horse is gelded. In my semi rural area cats, fawns, small dogs and other loose critters end up as coyote snacks.
Haven't yet figured out how to protect my cherry trees from being harvested in one night by raccoons. (dog stays in at night to protect me)
-1 # Glen 2013-02-02 06:46
There are a number of ways to keep animals out of a garden or fruit trees. Experimenting with various spices and noxious fluids, such as ammonia, or a mixture, works well - or there are concoctions at farm supply stores. It is a challenge.

Living in an area with a lot of wildlife and pet type animals can give a person the wrong idea about the abundance of, or the lack of various animals. Most folks where I live are very sensitive to the animals and fight to keep hunters out who will shoot dogs, cattle, even cats (I've lost both dogs and cats to hunters), but most of these people will not tolerate stray or feral cats or dogs due to the damage they can do.

The coyotes don't seem to stray too far, and have plenty to eat in their natural roaming territory without taking cats and dogs.
+9 # Douglas Jack 2013-02-01 01:07
Fascinating study will have an impact. However a larger part of our dilemma is unexamined emotional attachment & decision-making . Part of the problem is found in our 2-dimensional low grass or plant only lawns & gardens where cats prowl in barren landscape. Low plant roots penetrate only centimetres into hard-packed soil. Low plants only photosynthesize 2 - 8% of solar energy contributing to city heat islands.

Solutions are found with trees, bushes, vines etc in vertical 3-D polyculture. Food nut, fruit & edible-greens trees provide 3-D vertical habitat for birds, animals above the ground. Root-centric life colonies penetrate deep into the earth's substrate, pumping water & minerals to the surface as well as providing habitat for a range of animals & plants. Trees moderate water flow providing air & earth humidity so that all species thrive. Tree canopies photosynthetica lly absorb 92 - 98% of solar energy converted into food, materials, energy & water-cycle.

3-D mostly tree environments provide cat-disadvantag ing life-space high-rises where birds & other species can find their livelihood niches with food, water & shelter. If cat-owners & everyone else plant trees & other taller plants we'll multiply habitat & species diversity & quantities.
+7 # Activista 2013-02-01 12:34
Exactly - I have first MS in Forestry and fight local arrogant/ignora nt council to protect the trees. Home insurance (great ripoff) requires to cut healthy trees near house. The town that was even 20 years ago covered in green is now another concrete jungle. Condominiums were built and money sick yuppies moved in and are cutting trees to have a view (increasing value of their property?).
+7 # Douglas Jack 2013-02-01 15:56
Some communities with ecological management goals are requiring property owners to have the 3-D greenery to absorb rain & snow runoff on their properties. Enhancing wildlife plants & animal habitats can enormously benefit human habitation. Present conflicts are a problem of elemental design ignorance.

When buildings are elementally designed to properly receive fallen leaves such as with living roofs, then the building can benefit enormously. Benefits include photosynthesis absorption of solar rays which give longevity to roofs & all building materials prolonging the service life of bricks, wood, paint, windows etc. worth 10s & 100s of 1000s of $ per household over years & decades The tree's moderation of surface & ground water is worth 10s & 100s of 1000s of dollars in foundation-life , dry non-mould buildings.

Our worldwide indigenous ancestors used bird & bat boxes in order to control insect populations day & night. Living animals all have incredible gifts for human communities when we learn how to design our essential services to include their gifts. Trees are equivalent to heat pumps moderating summer & winter temperatures.
+1 # Activista 2013-02-01 21:55
Completely agree - well planted tree provides shade in summer, cleans air, provides oxygen.
Cat is an easy target .. but it is the environment destruction (pesticides, herbicides, cars ... ) that is responsible for the death - chain of life is broken.
+9 # 8myveggies 2013-02-01 03:23
treadlightly, don't you realize that as the wildlife on Earth diminishes drastically, that your own life is in peril? Everything IS connected, my friend.

I have dedicated my adult life to animals. I've been a veterinary technician for 25 years and until recently, spent eight years raising a couple of thousand wild baby animals for wildlife rehabilitators. I love and live with cats.

If I had the power to make it so, every science class would drill home this very basic scientific knowledge: When a non-native species is introduced into an environment it WILL have detrimental effects on that environment. No exceptions!

TNR (trap, neuter, release) is extremely popular because, God knows, a-n-y fate is preferable to death...especia lly if "we" are aware of that death! "We" would rather imagine that feral cat colonies gradually "disappear." If I took my cat to a field and left him there it would be considered animal cruelty. TNRers do the same, repeatedly. Cats are not wild animals. They are domesticated animals who cause immeasurable harm to wildlife when allowed outdoors without supervision.

Let me assure you that the statement in the article that cats who are allowed outdoors may have shortened lives is a gross understatement. Cat owners who let their cats outdoors are irresponsible and uneducated regarding the risks to their cat.

Please, keep your cats indoors and adopt your pets from shelters.
+1 # Rascalndear 2013-02-01 09:14
I think such a sweeping statement as 'keep your cats indoors" is ridiculous. When I lived in the city, I let my cat out whenever I lived on the first or second floor so that it could get in and out easily. Now that I live in the country, I let all three cats out whenever they want, even in -25C temperatures. They find haystacks if they don't feel like coming in for the night. They do kill moles and voles and mice and other critters that I consider pests because they make a mess of our fields here... some fields have been completely overtaken by the anthills that grow on top of mole detritus. I smear the black soil around on the grass (not lawn) all the time to prevent anthill incursiions. All three cats are fixed. I let a female have a single litter, then spay her and have done that for the last 40 years.
+6 # Activista 2013-02-01 12:38
What wrong with the moles and ants? They are essential part of the ecosystem ...
+2 # Glen 2013-02-01 14:34
One key word here, Rascalndear, is FIXED. Neverthless, your cats are killing much more than the pests you abhor. I live in the woods and NEVER allow the cats out because of the numbers of birds they have and would kill, not to mention all other small critters. They have plenty to eat when the mice, rats, and flying squirrels attempt to make nests in the house, in addition to the healthy meal provided on our part.

There are means of dealing with outside critters and insects, without introducing a stealthy killing machine such as a cat.
+4 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:28
Please tell me why you "let a female have a single litter."
+6 # stannadel 2013-02-01 04:46
What about jut belling the cats to reduce their hunting success?
+10 # Patriot 2013-02-01 04:51
As usual, humans are to blame, but are not blamed and do not accept reponsibility.

People adopt a cat -- or a dog, ferret, rabbit, bird, horse, duck, or snake -- without considering that the animal is due a lifetime -- its lifetime -- commitment to provide regular food, appropriate shelter, clean, fresh water, and medical care.

Unless pepe are willing and able to keep and care for any babies from a litter that do not find homes at about 8 weeks of age, they should have their pets spayed/neutered at no later than about 6 months of age, depending on the species of animal. Check with a shelter or veterinarian.

Humans cause most of the strays/feral cats and dogs by abandoning them when they move -- thousands were abandoned during the massive foreclosures of the past few years -- or by coldly ejecting from their homes a cat or dog they discover is pregnant. Every day live, healthy kittens and puppies, and many other species of babies, some only hours old, are tossed from moving vehicles or dropped into dumpsters. It would be kinder to kill such unwanted animals by drowning than to leave them without shelter or food, especially if they have always lived indoors.

We need stronger animal protection laws, that severely punish people who abandon, neglect, or abuse animals they have accepted as pets or are raising as livestock.

Humans who abandon, abuse, or neglect animals do the same things to humans!
+1 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:39
"Unless pepe are willing and able to keep and care for any babies from a litter that do not find homes at about 8 weeks of age, they should have their pets spayed/neutered at no later than about 6 months of age, depending on the species of age."

Patriot, you can allow more cats and dogs to be created OR you can prevent that and adopt your pets from shelters, thereby saving some lives.
+4 # LML 2013-02-01 07:04
Would the environment actually be able to support the additional 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals that these cats are said to kill?
Or would that imbalance cause other problems?
+2 # Amir Mashay 2013-02-01 08:50
Not that many birds and mammals would survive, since not ALL of the cats would be exterminated but controlled.
+4 # Activista 2013-02-01 12:41
It is NOT a number BUT diversity ... cats are overpopulated ...
+4 # Glen 2013-02-01 14:48
Yes, the environment could sustain billions of birds, as it always has. Never forget that those birds assist in the spreading of seeds, pollen, and even predator birds assist in ridding the environment of rodents that spread disease. We do not need out of control populations of cats that take a toll way beyond the natural order of animals.
0 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:40
Cats are NOT a native species!
+8 # Smokey 2013-02-01 07:28
Shame on cats! Who do they think they are? There's only one species that's supposed to be the major predator and planet destroyer. It's not the cats.
-1 # Amir Mashay 2013-02-01 08:49
I like the sound of song birds more than the plaintive meow of a house cat!
+3 # Phlippinout 2013-02-01 13:16
I like the sound of cats rather than the mega base that litters my neighborhood. Cats that are fixed are not very noisy and tend not to fight like unfixed felines.
+3 # Todd Williams 2013-02-01 07:32
I'm sure I'll garner plenty of red votes with this comment: I HATE CATS! There, I said it. I feel better getting that off my chest. I've seen the vicious little assholes kill wild birds at my feeder. I've the little shitheads kills chipmunks and moles. Believe me, they'd kill us if they were larger (ie. lions and tigers). They used to go after my hens until I got Mr. Rooster Cogburn, a big, bad ass, red rooster. Now the feline killers give my flock a huge berth. Cogburn will chase the cats halfway across the field in defense of his ladies.
+9 # Majikman 2013-02-01 09:44
Todd, you're perfectly entitled to hate cats, but I applaud your solution of deterrence rather than extermination. One could argue that feeding wild birds is not "natural", just as maintaining feral cat colonies isn't "natural".
+3 # Activista 2013-02-01 12:44
Our town has now LAW that you can NOT have rooster - $100 fine ... to protect yuppies quiet while watching Sunday football ..
+5 # Todd Williams 2013-02-01 15:00
Thank goodness I live in a semi-rural area. I didn't plan on Rooster Cogburn. One of my hens went broody and I ended up with 2 hens and RC. Believe me, even the neighbor's dogs give RC a wide berth. He's kick ass! Screw those yuppies! I happen to love that crowing sound. In fact, I've gotten pretty good at imitating RC, much to my wife's embarrassment. As far as feeding wild birds, I really only feed during the dead of winter. I love the contrast of the red cardinals against the snowy backdrop. However, I do not feed the deer as I don't want them invading my organic gardens.
+2 # Activista 2013-02-01 22:03
Makes sense - I need to tape the rooster sound and play at when "animal control" drives by ... with local mentality it will be SWAT team to restore law and order ... protect law abiding citizens from Cogburns ..
0 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:44
It appears that nature should be ordered according to your personal likes and dislikes.
-2 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:42
Are you a vegetarian?
+4 # hoffhort 2013-02-01 08:05
Boo hoo--cats kill rodents. These are the mammals the author cited? Give me a break! Ever had mice in your house?
+6 # Amir Mashay 2013-02-01 08:47
This is a case of scientists "uncovering" a known truth. I used to live in the northern mountains of California and it was a known fact that once city folks brought their cats, we saw less chipmunks, and other small mammals. Dogs? We had one sheep herder for the goats, but other dogs ran the deer off, going after the big game. Since that experience, I've had a different feeling for predatory "house" pets!
+5 # truthrat 2013-02-01 08:50
Interesting study. Now let's see one estimating the thousands of tons of sea creatures that are slaughtered for food in order to feed all of America's pets.
+6 # Majikman 2013-02-01 13:49
Gimme a break. Those tuna steaks, salmon fillets, tenderloin tips etc. the petfood mfg.'s tout are by-products (skin, scales, fins, heads, entrails, etc)not fit for human consumption. Have yet to see one USS Kitty Trawler.
Same applies to meat for dogs.
Actually, we should be concerned as cat & dog food may become staples for lots of people soon.
+3 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 02:53
That used to be true but times have changed. Now, a good quality pet food would never contain by-products, grain or chemical preservatives. 95% of the pet food on store shelves is crap and that is ultimately due to the fact that most pet owners can't be bothered to educate themselves on the subject and simply buy what they see on TV.
+1 # Majikman 2013-02-02 14:14
Agree, and good quality pet food is expensive and not available is supermarkets. In the long run, top quality food results in fewer vet bills because of healthier animals. Mine get raw organic food.
+10 # EPGAH3 2013-02-01 10:07
Why are these anti-cat people complaining about the disruption of the natural order, but animals killing lesser animals IS the natural order!

If anything, we need to have "Catch, Neuter, Release" for irresponsibly breeding humans!
+2 # Glen 2013-02-01 14:36
Not anti-cat, EPGAH3. Anti-decimation of local fauna beyond the natural order.
+5 # EPGAH3 2013-02-01 21:52
I can't really respond here without sounding like I'm brutally plagiarizing one of the other posters.
Cats are predators, Nature's Ninja, they hunt not for hunger, but the sport. (Insert joke about human hunters here)
If these numbers were anything like correct, though, birds would've already gone extinct!
I agree with neutering the cats, but come on, these stats endow them with Kryptonian Might!
0 # Glen 2013-02-02 07:00
EPGAH3, I have seen acres of woods without one small mammal or birds freely harvesting seeds, due to cats. Cats are smart, stealthy, quiet, and are capable of snagging even a hummingbird. We are talking about just any bird, the discussion is smaller song birds which are easy prey. Many of them do learn, though, where to go to escape cats, and do continue to reproduce.
0 # EPGAH3 2013-02-03 08:09
All predators only catch the stupid, aged, and infirm, right? The smart ones escape and breed.
That sounds like a near-direct quote of the DEFINITION of Natural Selection!
0 # Glen 2013-02-03 15:25
No, EPGAH3, that is not what I said. Cats go after everything that moves. The health of the animal/bird is not the issue.

Are you suggesting that we allow cats to proliferate to the point that after they wipe out everything their turn will come?

How about we allow dogs to go feral and wipe out your neighborhood of cats, critters and children. Make you feel better? Natural order of selection?
+3 # Thinking 2013-02-01 14:22
A holistic look at this issue also includes that keeping cats indoors results in them eating livestock (cattle, lamb...) raised at great expense and environmental cost and in enormous litter box waste which adds to landfills.
+1 # Nominae 2013-02-01 19:48
Quoting Thinking:
A holistic look at this issue also includes that keeping cats indoors results in them eating livestock (cattle, lamb...) raised at great expense and environmental cost and in enormous litter box waste which adds to landfills.

Eating LIVESTOCK like cattle and lamb ? Have you ever LIVED in the country ? We are talking about HOUSE cats here, not Jaguars, Cheetahs, Mountain Lions, Panthers and Bengal Tigers !

Simply looking at the size of a house cat's MOUTH would *have* to tell you how silly is the idea of house cats eating LIVESTOCK !

In addition, how do you propose that a house cat bring down LIVESTOCK ? Are they equipped with rifles and shotguns now ?

They don't have the *power* to bring down "livestock" larger than a rabbit, and THEY know that, even if YOU don't seem to.

Even new-born calves and lambs are too big for house cats
to attack, and believe an old rancher here, cats don't even TRY !

Can you imagine a house cat trying to bite through COWHIDE ?
Let alone tear through enough COWHIDE to produce a KILL ?

How about a course in basic Physics ? Let alone Biology ?

If you HAVE any kind of case to present here, this kind of inane rambling can in no way help promote your cause !

Thinking ...... yeah ! What a concept. Engage at will.
0 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 03:01
Classic. What Thinking is saying is that cats who are kept indoors are generally fed pet food. Pet food is partially made from the dead flesh of animals who are commonly referred to as "livestock" such as cows, chickens, lambs, etc.
0 # Nominae 2013-02-03 03:53
Quoting 8myveggies:
Classic. What Thinking is saying is that cats who are kept indoors are generally fed pet food. Pet food is partially made from the dead flesh of animals who are commonly referred to as "livestock" such as cows, chickens, lambs, etc.

Thank you for that potential clarification. If that is what "Thinking" meant, it would be beyond beneficial for Thinking to have had actually said that. Communication improves exponentially from coherence and clarity.

However, if that WAS what Thinking had in mind, the point is still eviscerated by the fact that what goes into cat food is most likely scraps from the slaughter house floors. Scraps that can NOT be sold for human consumption.

Therefore, keeping cats indoors has NO net effect on the number of livestock slaughtered each year, because the livestock are being primarily slaughtered for OTHER markets anyway.

I would be fully incredulous of a suggestion that any slaughterhouse is killing and processing livestock raised, as Thinking says "at great expense and environmental cost" simply to turn it into cat food.

Check your grocery stores for the prices of beef, chicken, lamb, et al. Kind of "cost prohibitive" for use as cat food.

More likely what the industry calls "meat byproducts" are used for cat food, as they are for dog food, and as they are for sausages and hot dogs. Pig lips, brains, entrails, organ meats, etc. These byproducts would be wasted if they did not feed pets.
+7 # elmont 2013-02-01 21:23
Cats kill birds, yes, but I'am simply not buying these numbers. There are almost exactly 80 million cats in this country, so for them to kill 2.4 billion birds a year, every cat would have to kill 30 birds per year, on average. That includes all indoor cats. Cat owners: do your cats kill that many birds? I just don't believe it. For some perspective: it is estimated that there were about 20 billion birds in what is now the U.S. when Columbus arrived. There cannot be many more than that now--25% to 40% of them in 1492 were now-extinct passenger pigeons. So cats kill more than 10% of the bird population every year? Really? I think not. And no, I'm not a cat owner. But I'm skeptical of this model's estimate. Very skeptical.
-3 # EPGAH3 2013-02-01 21:47
This sounds like another grab by the Global Warming Cult, "Your actions, your very existence, and now your PETS' existence are a sin against nature, but you can buy absolution!"
0 # Activista 2013-02-01 22:09
I agree ... these are some "estimates" - sampling. D-Con kills raptors ... diversity goes down to drain ... only flock of birds I see around are starlings ... save coyote ..
+3 # Glen 2013-02-02 07:12
Activista, you brought up the flip side of the cat/bird issue: starlings. Thousands and thousands of starlings. Breathtaking flocks in flight. Starlings taking over parts of towns when not stopped, their droppings everywhere. Where I live, children used to die with histoplasmosis after playing in or near the tons of droppings from these birds. Then folks wised up and began an eradication project - but not using poison. In Jonesboro AR, and other towns around the country, concussion air cannon are used to disrupt their roosting area. They are smart, though, and simply keep on the move.

Amazing animals, but a bit of a nasty plague - yet another animal introduced to the U.S.
+4 # 8myveggies 2013-02-02 03:09
I'm wondering where the 80 million cats statistic come from.
0 # Glen 2013-02-02 07:06
elmont, cats will kill even when they are not hungry, just as they will play with a cat toy when not particularly "in the mood". If it flutters, bounces, scurries a cat will kill it. Cats would kill many more than 30 birds a year if those birds are around. In the worst years where I live, when mice and rats increased and were always trying to get in the house, my cat killed at least one a day for a long time. If that cat were outside, there would be no small mammals or birds anywhere near this house and the cat would then extend her territory.

Cats, when allowed to be what cats are, LOVE to kill. That's just what they do.
+3 # RMDC 2013-02-02 06:44
This is just nature. Cats may be out of balance becuase they have been promoted by humans as pets, but I would not worry about this.
0 # Nominae 2013-02-03 04:02
Quoting RMDC:
This is just nature. Cats may be out of balance becuase they have been promoted by humans as pets, but I would not worry about this.

Great point. Were I live in the remote prairies, ranch cats are kept in permanent balance by coyotes.

In remote areas, coyotes still avoid human contact. Therefore, my ranch cats respect an invisible "circle" around the the house beyond which they will not venture for long. Inside the invisible circle it is coyote safe due to the human smells. Outside the invisible circle is where we have had innumerable cats "recycled" back into the circle of life itself !

As you might predict, the cats more "savvy" about that invisible circle remain ranch pets MUCH longer than those cats that just don't quite "get it", especially the wandering males !
0 # Glen 2013-02-03 08:04
Each environment is different, of course, NOMINAE. What else lives within that invisible circle? Birds? Rabbits? Chipmunks? Lizards? Non-poisonous snakes?

The balance you speak of is between coyotes and cats. What about the rest of the animal world living on that prairie? That's the question here. Cats in other parts of the country have few predators that they cannot escape from. In other areas there are many predators.

The big picture, however, is the entire country, and what cats are doing. It matters not whether one loves cats or not, or what the coyotes are doing.
0 # Nominae 2013-02-03 21:55
Quoting Glen:
Each environment is different, of course, NOMINAE. What else lives within that invisible circle? Birds? Rabbits? Chipmunks? Lizards? Non-poisonous snakes?

The balance you speak of is between coyotes and cats. What about the rest of the animal world living on that prairie? That's the question here. Cats in other parts of the country have few predators that they cannot escape from. In other areas there are many predators.

The big picture, however, is the entire country, and what cats are doing. It matters not whether one loves cats or not, or what the coyotes are doing.

Part I

To your first question re: what else lives within that invisible circle the answer is: everything that you mention except chipmunks and lizards, but adding rattlesnakes, porcupines, skunks, raccoons, pronghorn antelope, the occasional young deer, horses and cattle.

Inside the circle, the cats know enough to strictly avoid skunks, porcupines and raccoons (as do any "older and wiser " dogs).

The cats will actually corner rattlesnakes by dancing just out of reach, and while the snake is coiled, hissing and ready to strike, one of the cats will run to the ranch house "asking for backup" from the .12 gauge.

0 # Nominae 2013-02-03 21:56
@ Glen

Part II

You really don't want a nest of rattlesnakes under your porches, or under your house. Again, the cats will not "take on" the rattlesnake, but they will "trap" him. In the absence of humans, the cats will eventually harass the snake out of the yard, and out of the "circle".
However, the actual point is, that ALL of these species keep one ANOTHER in check in what is closest to a natural environment.

Your observation of that fact that my post restricts its commentary to one specific environment is both accurate, and *fully* intentional on my part.

There IS no "one-size-fits- all" solution to this question, precisely *because* the situation is different IN every imaginable environment.

The very questions themselves change from one environment to another. For one thing, as other posters have mentioned, coyotes in areas of large human populations no longer stay strictly away from human scent, or even from human sight.

Since neither I, nor anyone else on this string, including YOU, seems to HAVE the "Big Answer" to the "Big Picture" I am simply offering for consideration that which I DO know from personal experience, rather than hearsay, hoping others may be able to extrapolate something from that.

I make NO PRETENSE to answering the "BIg Picture Question", but thank you for your insight in pointing out the fact that, indeed I have NOT answered the "Big Picture Question".

Good "catch" !
0 # Nominae 2013-02-03 22:17
@ Glen

P.S. to my previous post, and also out of the "Big Picture",
Rattlesnakes feed upon small, warm furry creatures such as mice, baby rabbits, and .... oh, yeah .... young kittens ! So, even inside the circle the "balance of life" goes on. Cats have one major predator in the form of the Canine, but like most of nature, that is not all they have about which to be concerned.

Trying to bring cats into a "normal balance" within nature is like the USFS trying to bring Forest Fires into "natural balance". Man has been screwing with the "natural order" for so long, that we no longer have a CLUE as to what the "natural balance" could possibly be. And, as is pointed out above, house cats were never part of the "natural" balance in this country anyway !

"Couriouser, and curiouser, Said Alice......"
0 # Glen 2013-02-04 10:30
A nice essay, Nominae, on your home environment. Thank you.

My intent was not to insult, but to comment. The big picture is huge, and there is also a huge problem with cats. One is fortunate if one lives where there is a true balance.

I happen to live in an area of timber rattlers, copperheads, pygmy rattlers, the occasional eastern diamondback, and water moccasins. When I mentioned snakes, I said non-poisonous. In spite of owls, eagles, hawks, coyotes, and said snakes, feral cats in these woods survive with no problem. There being plenty eat, helps a lot. They ARE though, killing birds to the point that people living out here shoot those cats. Those cats also eat chicken and bird eggs.

You and I, apparently, live far from big urban areas, so you can imagine what is going on with cats in those areas, where there are many fewer predators to take out the cats. The issue is worldwide, also.

And yes, humans have messed with pretty much everything. Cats are being discussed because they are so immediate to us all. Wish folks were as much interested and active with major issues.
0 # Nominae 2013-02-06 00:17
@ Glen

Part I

I must apologize for the sharp tone of my previous post.

And, to your point, you asked what animals I had in the "circle" *other than* those on your list. Since your list already included non-poisonous snakes, it seemed repetitive to mention them again.

But yes, House Cats love the garter snakes, and stay away from the Bull Snakes, (who, incidentally, are even better "mousers" than a cat, and Bull Snakes will also "shoo away" the rattlesnakes because they compete for the same prey (mice). Bull snakes are very welcome in my barn, but most likely only because I am single ! :)

My area is a very remote part of Wyoming, and the family ranch covers ten square miles. It is too cold for copperheads and water moccasins, and too few trees for timber rattlers.

Diamond backs are more common to the North, up in Eastern Montana, so there's only the smaller, but very agressive Prairie Rattlers with which to contend.

I grew up in Montana were the five and six foot long Western Diamondbacks were a no-kidding concern, especially as a child.

No, I take your point in re: cities or heavily populated areas. I don't know WHAT would affect that, simply because humans refuse to spay their pets.

We are euthanizing kittens and puppies by the literal THOUSANDS in almost all locations large and small all over the country as I write, and we STILL can't keep up.

0 # Nominae 2013-02-06 00:19
@ Glen

Part II

I can't see solving the problem with "natural enemies" in the populated areas, because people are not going to welcome the predator species, and there are far MORE cats than the predators could *possibly* keep under control anyway.
The cat actually takes advantage of one of the same survival strategies employed by the rabbit - that of reproducing faster than they can be killed off by predators, and now *humans* are helping cats reproduce on an INDUSTRIAL SCALE.

Cats are INCREDIBLY tough survivors, it isn't difficult to imagine how that old saw originated about them having Nine Lives.

Because people will not take responsibility for their OWN pets, I have people driving 40 miles out from the nearest little burg, and dropping off cats by the gunny-bag full. These are FERTILE cats. If I did nothing, the ranch would be overrun by fifty cats in less than six months, because when these cats stick to the outbuildings, the coyotes won't come in to get them.

These people don't seem have the "heart" (or guts) to euthanize their OWN cats, so they drive all the way out and dump *their* responsibilitie s onto ME.

SO, like the facts on the ground in your area, I am then forced to shoot all the cats that have been dumped around my area, because they all seem to be smart enough to quickly find their way to the ranch. I then haul the carcasses "outside the circle".
Good thing coyotes are also carrion eaters.

0 # Nominae 2013-02-06 00:20
@ Glen

Part III

As is almost *always* the case, except perhaps in the problem with feral hogs running wild in Texas, I view this cat conundrum primarily as a HUMAN, rather than an animal, problem.

But solving THAT would be a mind blower ! The people who dump cats on me are most likely already aware that I am going to be stuck with their problem. Most of them "rationalize" the fantasy that they are dumping a dozen Tabbys off "into the wilderness". Ranch country is NOT "wilderness", I don't care HOW remote it seems.

But, indeed, when I am not receiving "gifts" from town, or from the neighboring ranches, I am truly fortunate in having a location where the balance of nature *can* still (with occasional assistance), remain in effect.

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