Bird lovers and cat owners have habitually been at odds with each other over the impact feline’s have on wildlife. A new study that says outdoor cats are little hunting machines in fur coats isn’t going to help relations.
Conducted by the University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society, researchers revealed that house cats who were allowed to roam outdoors killed an average of 2.1 animals every week.
Biologist Kerrie Anne Loyd and her team recruited 60 cats and their volunteer owners to participate in the study which took place on the streets of Athens, GA. The cats were outfitted with a small video camera around their necks each morning when they were let outside for the day. After one week the “KittyCams” showed that cats are good hunters.
Researchers found that about 30 percent of the cats killed animals, on the average of 2.1 per week. The cats brought home nearly a quarter of the animals they killed, ate 30 percent and left 49 percent where they died. Nearly 41 percent of the prey were lizards, snakes and frogs and 25 percent were mammals such as chipmunks and voles. Birds were killed 12 percent of the time.
“The results were certainly surprising, if not startling,” said researcher Kerrie Anne Loyd. “In Athens-Clarke County, we found that about 30 percent of the sampled cats were successful in capturing and killing prey, and that those cats averaged about one kill for every 17 hours outdoors, or 2.1 kills per week. It was also surprising to learn that cats only brought 23 percent of their kills back to a residence.”
Hearing the results of the study, the American Bird Conservancy took the findings of the UGA study one step further. The group projected the outcome to include all outdoor cats around the country and feral felines. Their predictions are staggering and fueled the fire that already exists between people who prefer birds over cats.
“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds. Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, the only organization exclusively conserving birds throughout the Americas.
Angered by the enormous numbers, Alley Cat Allies released a rebuttal today. The national cat advocacy organization said the claims of the American Bird Conservancy “grossly misinterpreted the new research being done at the University of Georgia.”
Kerrie Anne Loyd told Alley Cat Allies her study was not intended to extrapolate and project figures. In her one week study, the cats caught five birds.
“We studied pet cats, not stray cats and feral cats…We did not attempt to extrapolate wildlife captures beyond our study community,” Loyd told the advocacy group.
Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies said, “The American Bird Conservancy is… spreading fictions about outdoor cats and making wild ‘extrapolations’ about their imagined impact on other species. They’ve used unpublished data to fuel their extremist agenda of killing cats. But there just isn’t evidence that shows cats have any negative impact on bird populations.”
Whether you think cats have a major impact on wildlife and should be kept indoors or believe they should be allowed to explore their environment as nature intended, the results of the UGA study certainly widened the gap between cat owners and bird lovers. See the KittyCams website of photos, videos and data from the study to come to your own conclusion of this issue.
Photo Credit: flickr