How Important is the Cat vs. Bird Debate When Millions of Cats Are Dying in Shelters?
Written by Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies
Newspaper articles and television programs labeling cats as mass killers and the reason for bird declines, have been all over the news this week, from The New York Times to ABC News, reporting on research published in the online journal Nature Communications. Without questioning the integrity of the research report, these and dozens of other news outlets have helped manufacture a fake debate that outdoor cats are the number one killer of birds in this country.
Of course, habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are far and away the greatest threats to birds and wildlife. And bogus reports like these, sensationalized by the media, sidestep serious debate on the real threats to birds and end up scapegoating cats.
Because the basic premise of this research is that cats shouldn’t be outdoors, a very real outcome to all of this could be more cats killed.
In fact, millions of healthy cats are rounded up and killed in shelters every year, because of outdated and cruel animal control “catch and kill” practices
Where is the media in reporting on these deaths? And do they want to be responsible for more?
When outrageous extrapolations based on small study samples use the word “billions” to describe bird and small mammal deaths, it makes people sit up and take notice. And pitting species against species sells papers. But we don’t need small local studies to point to the millions of animals’ lives lost in shelters each year—we already know that nationally, 70% of all cats who enter shelters are killed there.
Catch and kill has been practiced for over a century. The evidence is in: it just doesn’t work. From animal protection experts to individual caregivers, from mayors of small towns to city councils of large cities, people have had enough of the wasted dollars, the wasted lives. They’re turning to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Trap-Neuter-Return works to end reproduction and to stabilize populations of feral cats. It’s the innovative, compassionate, and effective approach for cats—and that is why every year, more and more communities are adopting it.
Alley Cat Allies celebrate and protect cats, but we’re also lovers of all animals, including birds and wildlife. And we agree that wildlife protection needs serious consideration, but let’s not think killing millions of cats is going to somehow abate the real threats to birds and wildlife: habitat destruction, environmental pollution, and climate change.
It’s time for the one of the funders of this study—the Smithsonian—to disavow this research, stop funding this junk science, and turn their attention to remediating the real threats to wildlife populations. Scapegoating cats may seem like the easy answer, but in reality, killing more cats will not save populations of birds or small mammals.
It’s time for the national media to start reporting on the thinly-veiled agenda of these researchers: their proposed “solution” really endorses the mass killing of cats.
A policy of more killing is never the right answer.