REMAIN AN ENVIRONMENTAL DILEMMA
a recent listing of animal species that I consider beneficial to humans,
I gave domestic cats a high ranking. Of course, people who dislike cats
don't agree with that position. But even some cat-fanciers think domestic
cats are beneficial only if they remain indoors. They assert that free-roaming
house cats are a scourge to small wildlife.
facts. Numerous scientific articles have documented that domestic cats
have a measurable impact on native wildlife. Outdoor cats kill staggering
numbers of songbirds, lizards, and small mammals every year. Therefore,
anti-outdoor-cat activists take a firm position: domestic cats turned
out for even part of the day cause great environmental harm by relentlessly
killing small wild animals.
issue is not black-and-white like a jellicle cat. It consists of many
shades of gray. Justifications for letting typical house cats have free
rein out-of-doors also abound. Outdoor cat advocates avow that outside
cats are not an environmental problem. Following are some comments I
have received in support of letting cats have their way outside (as
they are accustomed to doing inside).
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 ever 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 still seem to be around
my house, along with chipmunks and small birds. I ask again, what is
the problem people have with outdoor cats?"
person wrote, "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 assure you more population
damage is done by cars (thus, by people) than by Kat. Also, does the
fact that cats are not native exclude them from being a part of the
legitimate food chain?
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. I did turn on the deck light recently 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. 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 go outside?"
environmental perspective is that "house cats that go outdoors
and kill small animals need to be viewed from the position of whether
the environmental impact they are having is any greater than native
predators would extract if they were around. Would not all these small
animals have to deal with bobcats and coyotes and foxes in the real
world of native animals? Maybe house cats are simply filling a role
that we eliminated by our removal of natural predators. Maybe house
cats are actually returning the outdoors closer to a natural system
than what we have now without native predators."
enjoy backyard bird-watching should probably keep their cats inside,
as some cats would take their toll. But, as noted above, cars kill far
more animals than do outdoor cats. In fact, cat owners in some neighborhoods
should be less worried about their backyard wildlife than about finding
their cat dead in the street that runs in front of their house.
people should be required or at least encouraged to keep their cats
indoors will never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Thus it will
remain a divisive issue that can lead to, shall we say, spirited discussions
when people with differing views meet. If you want to test the truth
of that assertion, at the next cocktail party you attend, just state
your position on outdoor cats - then step back.
you have an environmental question or comment, email