CATS STAY INSIDE?
by Whit Gibbons
December 11, 2005
cats are amazing killers. Feral and domestic cats that are allowed to
roam outside kill more than 20 million birds each year in Britain. In
one published account, an ecologist estimated that in a single state,
Virginia, cats kill at least 3 million songbirds and 27 million native
mammals annually. A study documented that the greatest nonhuman cause
of mortality to some Australian wildlife was feral cats.
above are facts. The essence of their truth is inarguable. But whether
cats should always stay inside or be permitted outdoors on a regular basis
is a slightly more volatile subject than politics, religion, or the use
of cell phones in restaurants. People tend to take inflexible positions
about the proper place for cat whereabouts (or, indeed, whether domestic
cats have any merit at all). Conversations among casual acquaintances,
or even close friends, tend to go more smoothly without
individual positions about cats being identified. But if you ever do want
to challenge your best friend about why she lets her cats out to pillage
wildlife in their heartless way or why he keeps his cats imprisoned in
a stuffy apartment to serve a life sentence of boredom, you should first
at both sides of the story.
position is that outdoor cats take more than their share of native wildlife.
Some ecologists consider cats to be the most dangerous carnivore in many
regions because of their large numbers, stealth, and agility. Plus, unlike
native predators, they get all they need for sustenance when they go inside.
But an inclination to kill, whether hungry or not, makes cats a potential
menace to all small wildlife around the yard. Scientific documentation
of the impact of domestic cats on native wildlife is convincing.
a person be a proponent of native wildlife and also have cats that live
outside? Someone who once wrote me about the inside-outside cat issue
said, "Cars kill far more native wildlife than my cats. One, named
Kat, kills a few mice, bunnies, and lizards a year??how many of the same
are killed by automobiles? I can assure you more population damage is
done by people in cars than by Kat. My other cat, Spencer, is not even
part of the equation. The only `kill' he has ever brought home was a dried?up
lizard that had been run over by a car days earlier. Of course, I did
turn on the deck light once to find Spencer and a possum eating out of
the same food bowl. Spencer looked a little confused but kept eating.
So did the possum. But I bet that possum will kill a lot more wildlife
over the year than Spencer and Kat put together. So why shouldn't my cats
individual said, "I am puzzled by the concern some people have for
native wildlife that suffers because house cats go outside. What exactly
is the problem? No animal has gone extinct because of cats. In fact, I
have never heard of any species of wild animal even being eliminated from
a region because of `killer' cats. Lizards, chipmunks, and small birds
still seem to be around my house, along with my outdoor cat. What is the
problem people have with outdoor cats?"
lovers often ask whether house cats that kill small animals have a greater
environmental impact than native predators would have if they were still
around in abundance. Didn’t native prey species have to deal with
bobcats, foxes, and coyotes before cats were on the scene? As someone
noted, “Maybe house cats are simply filling a role that we have
eliminated by our removal of natural predators. Maybe they are actually
returning the outdoors closer to a natural system than what we have now
with the loss of our native predators."
or outside cats. Which should it be? If you want to stay on speaking terms
with your friends and acquaintances, you can loudly profess your die-hard
political convictions, proselytize for your religion, and interrupt lunch
for a conversation on your cell phone. But you should probably keep your
opinions about their cats to yourself.
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