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In fact, millions of healthy cats are rounded up and killed in shelters every year, because of outdated and cruel animal control “catch and kill” practices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.


Related Stories:

Did a Lost Cat Walk 200 Miles to Get Back Home?

Should New Zealand Wage War on Cats?

How to Keep Your Local Feral Cats Safe This Winter



Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobets3 years ago


Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 4 years ago

thank you for sharing 21/7

.4 years ago

thank you for sharing

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

I am a dog owner, never had a cat. But as a dog owner I am responsible. Cat owners usually are not, like my neighbours. One of them has 5 cats which shit and piss on my property, out 24 hours a day (supposed to be indoors at night according to our laws). But cat owners do seem to have special rights and can defy the local laws by not registering their cats (they are never home). They kill anything, birds, possums, but no rats and mice. At least once a week I have dead birds on my property, birds without feathers, but not eaten, some naked bird toys still alive. Possums pulled apart, but I have to clean up the mess. I have no time for neglected cats, they can be dumped so easily by owners.
I stick to man's best friend, they have a heart if treated well. It was not always like that, as a kid I did want a cat, but realised very quickly the faithfull behaviour of dogs, I never regretted it, our dogs get treated well, they are family. Sorry cat owners, you will never really own your cat. Our dog, a Rottweiler loves his adopted family and the family loves him, mutual respect, all good.

paul m.
paul m5 years ago

I have stray cats ...if I took them to a shealter they would be put-down,,

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Kimberly J.
Kimberly J5 years ago

I am a birder & wildlife enthusiast. I am also owned by more than 1 cat. Yes, cats kill birds & other wildlife. So do humans. All of my cats have been altered, so they can't reproduce. I keep my cats in the house as much as possible. As anyone who has cats will tell you, they are escape artists. When my cats do escape, I do my best to get them back in the house as quickly as possible. I was almost late for work yesterday morning because one of them got out & it took me 15 minutes before he would let me catch & put him back in the house.

There are many reasons why cats should be kept indoors & killing wildlife is just one of them. There are many species of lizards & frogs that are toxic to cats & could make them very sick or kill them. They could be poisoned by cat hating people. They can be shot by cat hating people. They can be hit & killed by motor vehicles.

TNR doesn't necessarily cause more people to just dump their cats outdoors. The economy is still in bad shape & people can't always afford to keep their pets. Unfortunately, instead of taking the cat to a shelter where it has a chance of finding a new home, they just turn it loose to fend for itself. Cats should be kept inside & only allowed outside on a leash. Dogs have to be leashed & there's no reason for cats to be allowed to run wild. People should have their cats altered so they can't reproduce. When someone wants to adopt a cat, they should get one from a shelte

Rebecca A.
Rebecca A.5 years ago

This debate about cats as predators is ridiculous. God and /or nature (whatever you believe) set up this whole system. Man is the supreme predator on the earth today. He kills every species for fun and sport, including his fellow homo sapiens. He has driven and will continue to drive many more species to extinction.What are you going to do about that?

Amanda M.
Amanda M5 years ago

I personally have nothing against cats hunting and killing vermin, especially if they manage to bag a starling or a squirrel (both of which are MENACES), but I absolutely HATE the way that the neighbors' cats insist on using my flower beds and vegetable garden as latrines (especially the way the intact toms mark their turf!). There are few things worse than planting flower bulbs (or replanting the ones that the damn squirrels keep digging up) and putting your hands square in a cat pile. I wish my neighbors would keep their cats indoors for that reason.

Besides, if anybody's responsible for the declining bird populations, it's US HUMANS! Between raping the land in the name of development and climate change caused by our over-pollution, it's a wonder that anything's still alive!

Susan Brower
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you Alley Cat Allies!
Humans are the problem, not cats.
Trap-Neuter/Spay-Return is the best answer for reducing feral and stray cat populations. Killing cats is destructive, unethical, and doesn't work to manage feral/stray populations. It would be great if all cats lived inside, pampered and loved as they should be. Unfortunately this is not the case and so the issue of feral cats must be addressed ... the answer is TNR.

All pets, cats and dogs, should be spayed/neutered and should not be allowed to roam outside at will.
Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die!!