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Outdoor Cats or Wildlife Conservation? Pick One

Animals  (tags: animalwelfare, cats, spay, neutering, over population )

- 3000 days ago -
Several veterinarians and wildlife experts have been telling me for a long time about the dangers feral cats have on wildlife. As a cat lover, I honestly didn't want to hear it. As a journalist, I thought it was important to present the other side...


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Sarah Z (10)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 8:08 am
Thank you. I'm a cat lover too. This is something to think about.

Patrick Donovan (344)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 8:12 am
This "study" of theirs is contradicted by many other studies. Figures don't lie, liars figure. There are billions of birds in the US, millions die every day. For the Wildlife Conservation Society to assert their propaganda is just plain wrong! The basic issue is simple: "The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?" (Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and animal rights activist; 1748-1832.)

In any event, who gives them the right to play god and decide who lives and dies?

Sandra Watson (73)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 8:17 am
I agree with Patrick!

Peggy A (109)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:21 am
The problem is not with a cared for cat colony which is fed well,the problem lies more with irresponsible cat owners who leave their cats roam and breed constantly and aren't really cared for.A female cat with babies is a killing machine.I remember when I was young back in the 1960s we had a mother cat who caught full grown rabbits.But back then neutering cats was almost unheard of in the rural areas.There should be a law that cats must be neutered.Another thing,people must create wildlife habitats where the wildlife has protection.Everyboy wants their properties manicured which leaves nothing for protection for the wildloife.My neighbor has roaming cats but they do little harm to my wildlife because I have plenty of trees,bushes,grasses,all spaced rather closely.Also 2 well spaced brush piles in the outer part of the property.The biggest problem I have is hawks hiding in bushes and trees.I chase them when possible but I see them get the birds.Also they killed a pet chicken.

patricia lasek (317)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:22 am
Thanks Michele. Interesting viewpoint. I still believe in trap and neuter.

Jill Vickerman (416)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:27 am
Being a caretaker of nine feral cats over the passed ten years this is something that has come up repeatedly and its not an easy thing to get around, if you publish a article saying how many birds feral cats kill then the cat haters immediately pounce on it and use it as evidence against all cats in existence and even Trap,Neuter,Return.

Which in Turn, makes the cat lover and cat carers have to take the opposite side. Its very unfair of people to use this as a weapon against cats because I can give you a hundred excuses as to why my feral cats dont kill many birds and mice, apart from the fact that they are well fed and lazy.

So in my opinion, its a very dodgy subject and very unlikely to bring the opposite sides together any time soon! In fact, there was an article about this very thing in our Cape Town newspaper not so long ago, and my other half immediately pounced on it as a lever to use against the feral cats.

Thanks Michele…

chris b (2474)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:03 am
Neutering effectively controls the feral population! Sadly it is not practised for humans who are proven to be far more destructive of not only wildlife but their fellow humans and the environment as well!!

Little Star (56)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:14 am
I state my case here, as well as on site.. :D
Unsubstantiated numbers of Avian deaths are not the correct way to address this situation. There are no divisions in numbers for deaths caused by pesticides (used by humans), dog killings (uncontrolled by humans), raccoon killings ( I’ve watched them do it), Air traffic (unreported deaths in high numbers,human error), Street traffic (especially by Semi-trucks which kill large numbers of all wildlife) and unfortunate deaths caused by flight pattern mishaps on reflective surfaces (also a Human error).
We must also give credence to the historically recent occurrences of avian diseases, of which, the causal factors, and origination, are still undetermined.

Cats (Felis catus) have roamed free in this Country since the days of the first Colonist who brought them to this land. If the roaming cat populations were the true causal effect of reduction in the varied avian species, we would have huge numbers of extinct listings. This is, in fact, untrue, as we have far more variations, and numbers of birds, within this Country, than ever before.

In my, over 35 years, of animal rescue I have observed Cat Colonies in an unrestricted environment,as well as, those restricted to fenced restraint and in that time frame of research, I have not observed any increase in bird destruction caused by feral cats, as opposed to the causal factors already stated.

I speak from experience, within my own observance, and common sense, after all, I am not associated with a Multi-Million dollar Scientific, Hypothetical Study with no finite data to conclusively prove my point.

Laverne Wallace (59)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:47 am
noted. Cats are hunters and man are fools. Birds die every day from things that man sprays, dumps in the water and there is not least the ever spreading man. Where are there wild seeds like there use to be for them to eat? Man destories all animals and birds yet they blame it on cats. Cats are like anything else trying to eat. But if man stoped all the crap that he is doing like spreading like a virus then there would be more birds. There would be woods for the birds to nest in the trees and fresh air and more growing for them to eat. Put the blame where it needs to be. I say it is not the cat it is man again.

Alet Coetzee (59)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 12:07 pm
I agree with Hattie!! Noted .

Carol H (229)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 12:24 pm
I also love cats(I have 7 rescues) and I believe the TNR program is the best way to handle the feral cat problem. thanks Michele

Constance F (418)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 1:11 pm
Thank you for the excellent post. I have been involved TNR programs, and taken in Feral cats. And yes, some cats do kill birds (along with mice and rats but no one seems to be in an uproar about them). The USDA also kills birds, some on a massive scale (check out their spreadsheet) But I guesss it's easier to target the Feral cats rather than the USDA. Thank you Little Star, and others who have provided well thought out comments.

Patrizia S (315)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 1:35 pm
Thank you Michell agree with carol

Cindy C (125)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 2:24 pm
awww I agree too aww

Anne K (139)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 5:04 pm
Thanks Michele. I agree with you. Thanks to Constance and Chris B. as well for their well-stated comments. I am a cat lover who has cared for ferals and TNR'd. I worked at Best Friends (where I met my husband). I am also a birder and have feeders and birdbaths.

Mary T (178)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 7:00 pm
Thanks Michele, I understand that cats are hunters and kill birds and mice but I think that humans are killing a lot more then any cat can, I agree with Hattie.

John C (75)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 7:43 pm
Spay/Neuter is the way to go here. Cats are indeed hunters, and large colonies can be an eyesore in a wealthy sub-division. Having said that the problem rests more with people who shirk their responsibility of owership and release them to breed. I don't see punishing the cat as an honorable solution here given that they were not at the root of the problem in the first place.
When you consider that the only life they can have in our society is what we give them the feral cat has already been short changed and now we want them to pay the ultimate price for the problems our society created themselves.
Do the right thing.
Not the expediant thing.

Taryn T (0)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 7:53 pm
I haven't read all of the comments, but I think the argument that some other causes kill more birds than cats do is pretty weak. The fact is most stray cats will kill other animals. Just because someone might not have noticed any less birds or rabbits doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Just because people kill more wildlife than cats doesn't mean it's ok to let the cats keep killing.

This is a very emotional subject for me. I love cats. All of my cats have been rescued strays. I used to think the TNR programs were a good idea. I no longer feel the same way. I've seen many cats dead on the side of the road (most in rural areas), but a few months ago I actually saw one right when it was hit. It was still alive, but clearly dying, and trying to drag itself away with its head half crushed. It was quite possibly the most disturbing thing I've ever seen. Wildlife issues completely aside, that cat died a horrible death. How many thousands of cats die like that every year? If you love your cat, please stop letting it outside.

Star S. (54)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 8:47 pm
Michele noted- I don't know what to think- I am really confused== with the pros and cons

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:07 pm
I agree with Hattie, too. It's unfortunate because the entire food chain has been displaced & disrupted by ...guess who? MAN

Toni C (508)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:41 pm
Wow! So many great comments on this issue! I love my kitties, and I've never seen feral cats do that much damage to the bird populations where I've lived [both on the farm and in the city]. Of course, some people have to blame something so it's the cats causing the problems. They must be dog lovers...LOL! Which, by the way, I don't hear that much of a ruckus being raised about feral dogs!
I'm a firm believer in TNR and I wish it was done all across the country. It would not only keep down the explosion of unwanted kittens, but also reduce the numbers of feral cats as they age.
I'm n the process now of adopting a stray through ... they make wonderful companions and pets.

Toni C (508)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 9:43 pm
They didn't allow me to say where I was getting my cat, but it's petfinders... so there!

Kimberley R (11)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 10:26 pm
I understand both views points but cannot morally agree with euthanizing large numbers of feral cats. We had this discussion in our Conservation biology lecture and I was appalled by the number of my classmates who felt it was okay to euthanize all feral cats as you would any other pest. They are domesticated animals and it is our fault they are outside in the first place. I think cat owners should spay/neuter their pets and keep their cats indoors (its not only safer for wildlife but safer for them too). Feral colonies should have TNR programs instigated and whenever possible the cats should be adopted out to loving homes or released into a farm environment. I simply refuse to believe that euthanasia is the only option. I love wildlife and I love birds, small mammals and reptiles but there has to be some compromise, it isn't the cat's fault it's outside in the first place nor is it it's fault for using its hunting instincts. I agree with Peggy Acosta about providing more wildlife spaces so birds and small animals can escape cats. I also agree with Taryn T. that just because we aren't noticing birds being killed and/or because humans kill a lot of wildlife doesn't mean it's okay for cats to be killing millions of birds. I do think though that pollution, cars, buildings and people in general are a major contributing factor in bird deaths. I also think that TNR if given the same kind of funding as other wildlife programs and euthanasia programs could be extremely effective, as well as passing legislation making it illegal to let your cat wander around outside unsupervised. This kind of law has been passed in my community and cats found off their property without tags are sent to the human society. (Thankfully my human society is a no-kill one so I think this okay. The cats are probably a lot safer in a shelter than outside where they could be run over, poisoned or attacked by a dog/wild animal. Intensive advertisement campaigns should start encouraging people to keep cats indoors and way to give them an enriching life and active play will they are indoors.
Looking forward to the follow up article, thank you for the discussion this has generated and I truly hope a solution to this can be found soon!

Natalie Away J (125)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:08 pm
Noted thanks Michele. I never knew that feral cats had such an impact on wildlife, a real eye opener. We always neuter our pets so why not the feral cats too. In Malta some people really care for feral cats, yet many feral cats seem to be killed as well.

Genoveva M (328)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:23 pm
Spay and neuter is the only solution. Feral cats should be a subject of the past in a moder world such as now, as always all comes down to human irresponsibility. Who can blame a cat for acting his nature? They are hunters, but the number of cats is our responsibility.

Maureen C (4)
Tuesday March 29, 2011, 11:45 pm
Good discussion, good points all!

I agree that feral/stray cats are not the major contributor to bird deaths; and if we were so concerned about bird populations, we would seriously address the human- caused factors of bird mortality. Cats hunt mice, voles and insects, too!

Wednesday March 30, 2011, 12:05 am
This is the age old question to which there is no perfect answer. Of COURSE cats are killing machines when they are chucked out into the bush to either kill or starve. Because of their natural instinct to kill and to kill slowly, there could even be an almost justifiable thought that cats must be kept indoors with an outside run. I, personally would HATE to do this, but, having saved numerous starving feral cats over the years who I have rescued from a life of being half starved and terribly ill, I really think there Is a case for this! Feral cats have a truly terrible life,unless there is some human intervention. Anyone who allows a cat to wander away, because it is not being cared for properly, needs to be penalized severely.( No, I didn't say " drawn and quartered!!")
The fact remains that we can't afford to be overly idealisti . there are such a volume of feral cats and not enough good homes, that there MIGHT, in some cases, almost be justification to euthanise some cats, if they are endangering a species and they are living a horrible half-sarved life. I, personally would like to see it made a crime punishable by DEATH not to steralize your cats, but, until that time, unless people are willing to buy food for theses little creatures and to pay for them to be steralized, what alternative are we going to have? I know how hard it has been for me to find loving homes for so many of the cats that I have rescued and there is only so far that one person's money can stretch..(. even if you find out that you CAN survive for quite a long time on bread and water. ) Hmmm! No simple anwer, is there? Thanks Michelle dear. God willing we WILL find the perfect solution. Cats are just about the most adorable animals alive!!!

Lisa Zarafonetis (168)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 12:13 am
Shared on Facebook.
My opinion is, we humans could no more stop a cat from hunting any more than we can physically change our eye color (without help from colored contact lenses). Hunting is in the cats nature. It is what they do. Even my indoor cats will do the prowl & pounce on their prey in a can when I open the pop top of the tincan. It's hilarious to watch. :)

Wednesday March 30, 2011, 12:14 am
One more thing, Michele... This is really awful and I am only joking, even 'though it is not funny. if we could breed ONE-EYED cats, we would sovle the problem long-term.!! had a cat that only had one eye ( thanks to some...' cukoo !cukoo! expletive deleted!' person poking it out with a stick.The upside of this was, that because she only had one eye, she could never catch ANYTHNG as when she went to pounce on anything the object would go out of her field of vision! She once caught a dead mouse that one of her step brothers dropped between her paws for her!.. Problem solved! ( Okay.. Perhaps not!)

Elsie Au (259)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 1:37 am
I am a cat lover and also animal lover so I don't want to see any birds killed as much as any cats killed. I do believe in TNR. There is no real TNR program where I live but I've been feeding, spay/neutering, vaccinating all the cats in my neighborhood for 7 years now. Just only a few times that they killed any birds (they are well fed and getting lazy). What I notice is that once the old cat died, there will always be new cat coming in the area. So just only kill them will not solve the problem. There used to be more than 10-20cats around my house but after I spay/neutered all of them, now the number is down to only 7 cats. So I can see that it is a better way to control the number of feral cats. And of course, I don't think cat is the main reason for all wildlife disappearance, considering how much damage human've caused to our nature so far. Yes, human are the main reason that all wildlife is disappearing.

judith h (1)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 1:41 am

KS Goh (0)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 5:37 am
Thanks for the article.

Kay M (347)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 6:44 am

Michele Hollow (185)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 7:31 am
Thank you all for commenting and noting! The response to this piece can be found at It has evidence on why Trap Neuter Return works. I hope you will visit the site, and thank you!

Lindsey Williams (234)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 7:42 am
thanks for sharing

Nancy Roussy (79)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 8:23 am
I will never understand why somebody would want a cat and then just let him/her/them leave to go wherever he/she/they want! Why get a cat if you don't care about what happens to that cat?

Jeanne L. (0)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 8:59 am
There are millions of feral cats roaming this country and all over the world. Yes, they do hunt to survive as do all predators that live outside. Trap and kill is so shortsighted. How can you possibly trap and kill so many animals, no money, no workers and no incentive except by birders. I love birds, all wildlife but as many have commented it is a human irresponsibilty problem. Why not promote tnr. It is not a perfect solution but it does make a huge difference on so many levels. Why not set up free and low cost spay/neuter clinics so that people have an incentive to spay/neuter their cats. Why not set up educational programs, why not have laws that are more strictly enforced to make people keep their cats indoors. All of this makes much more sense than trap and kill or hunters shooting feral cats. We have become a lawless nation, so sad. The way we treat animals directly relates to the way we treat each other. One more point, why have animals if you do not want to interact with them and take care of them. It makes no sense. Thanks for listening.

Lydia S (155)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 9:49 am
Personally , I would like live long enough to see waiting lists for cat adoption & dogs too' The cats are disposable to some i suppose , they breed ect, don't want to be redundant , TNR is the only somewhat humane way to deal w/them , I wish they all had true homes but with an excess of disposable pets thats likely to happen .
For those of us able to cat proof your yard or buy make a catio, For about 200 $ We were able to cat proof an
already fenced [wood] 1/2 acre yard . We only keep bird feeders in the front yard and the kitties are never allowed out there, They are allowed out in the afternoon when I am home to loosely supervise.
Thanks Michele.

Lin Penrose (92)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 11:10 am
Thanks Michele. I'm a TNR advocat with many years and experiences. There are situations where cats and dogs or other animals introduced by humans, DO become a terrible hazard for native animals and plants. Primarily on islands and other eco-systems that are closed. In those situations, I'm all for reducing the numbers of predators, regardless if they are cats, dogs, goats, pigs, fox, or humans. Trap/Nueter/spay/release would always be my first choice. I presently have 6 indoor/outdoor felines. The number of rodents killed is much higher than birds or any other prey. I have bird feeders and as others wrote before me, I have taken care there are plenty of trees, bushes, etc. where they can hide from predators whether they are cats or other predatory birds. Jays are very bad for nestling populations for example.

Shannon Hudgens (18)
Wednesday March 30, 2011, 2:52 pm
I keep all my cats indoors. I have some sunflowers that attract birds every year and want to keep it that way:-)

colleen p (38)
Friday April 1, 2011, 7:18 pm
oh yegh. I know. we have more birds than anyone else. and if we loose 3 species, then we can just import some birds from Africa or something.

just because we have more spieces than when the colonies came, dosen't mean they are native. we could import 200 species to Madagascar, but would that enrich the island? to give it new birds, reptiles, mammals, flowering plants, trees, fish.

and please, all the "HYMOOmanz kill everythings they wurse" think of this. if there are 500 yellow pears, and 5000 purple pears. but there used to be 70000 yellow pears. as humans we can say "yellow pears are rare, we must help them and try to get it so there are 70000 yellow pears again"

no humans can't. the will eat both pears, and if they eat them all, then they will go on to something else, orange apples or pink fish.

and animals do cause extinctions. they could. but they don't know it.
animals could destroy habitats. but they don't do it. and when they do "it is survival" "it is nature" it's unnatural for us to dam a river. but a beaver does it and it helps everyone.
if a human cuts down trees it is horrible.
but if an elephant wrecks some trees and eats saplings "how majestic, what a hungry beastie!"

a lot of species have parasite and spred sickness. but it is "small beans" to what we do, even when H.Sapians were "Paleo Indians" hopping across iceage oceans and land-bridges.
(there is speculation, climate change, and hunting did the megafauna in)

Roberto Vivas (48)
Sunday April 3, 2011, 3:40 pm
The comparizon between the amount of birds and mice that are killed by feral cats is nothing compared to what human hunters and exterminators do, so i say protect all animal species from barbarian humans.

Ann L (15)
Sunday April 3, 2011, 4:57 pm
commented and will forward. Thanks Michele.

june bullied (553)
Monday April 4, 2011, 3:11 pm
animals kill for food while man kills for something to do.
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