Responses to Huffington Post Article (Feral Cats)

I am always so disappointed and greatly saddened when I hear of such negative propaganda and, quite frankly, inaccurate statistical references toward (feral) cats and their ”unbelievable” negative impact on wildlife.  The latest came in the form of a plethora of news coverage on re-posted “studies” on free roaming cats reported by The Huffington Post on February 1, 2013 “Domestic Cats Kill Billions of Mice-Birds Annually, Study ESTIMATES…”

For the record, I love cats and I love wild life and birds, but once again the cats are not getting a fair shake.  Cats are just one of the many contributors to the reduction in bird populations.  Humans are much more at fault…pollution, habitat destruction, chemical pesticides abound, wind turbines, window strikes, etc… where are the studies on all of these contributors?!   I’m so tired of biased media manipulation honestly.  Not to mention, ignorant people who don’t have their cats spayed/neutered in the first place!   URGH!!!   Why can’t just one of these news organizations do a story on the success stories of TNVR (trap/neuter/vaccinate/release), something I’m very proud to be a part of…the Humane Solution!     >^..^<

Here is a great response to this article from a respected member of the WNY community, Carol Tutzauer, Director of Assessment at SUNY Buffalo & Co-founder & President, Buffalo Humane, ( and a no kill advocate in WNY…

Carol Tutzauer’s Response…Every year at this time, these jokers (Peter Marra and others) send out this thing as some sort of new study.  It isn’t a study, just a “lit review” (and a bad one at that), not new data. Every year, same bat-time, same bat-channel, they just review the same set of studies OVER and OVER again every year — studies they choose (that tend to produce the results they want). Then they find some schlocky “research journal” that will publish it (usually a weekly, that also allows authors to pay for public access to their work — not exactly the model for upstanding academic journalism).

Feral/Community Cats…

Nature Communications actually publishes “reject” articles from the journal Nature, does so in a weekly format (not very selective), and makes money by having authors pay for the public to be able to access their article. All this shenanigans is accompanied by the authors generating a press release with links to their “new” study (with paid public access), and the popular media jump on it. The final indignity relates to some of the quotations, where the co-authors and anti-TNR friends quote themselves in the press release, such as this jewel from Peter Marra: “I was stunned at the results.” If Marra is “stunned” by the results of his own research, repeated over and over for the last several years, then he suffers from Alzheimer’s (and no intention of disparaging those brave souls with Alzheimer’s).

Think of this “study” and these jokers as Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day…

Even if you accept any of their figures, they focus on cat predation to the exclusion of deaths attributable to humans, primarily from destruction of habitat. More birds die flying into windows, getting hit by cars, pollution and fossil fuels and pesticide use in agriculture than could ever be killed by cats (and those cats might very likely have died or been killed anyway). I remember the “bird lovers” talking about the cats at Olcott Beach (on Lake Ontario, northern Niagara County). Most of those “bird lovers” were hunters who wanted to go out to shoot birds (and cats). Don’t you think the bird habitat was pretty much destroyed when they put in the marina there for all the fishermen (the ones complaining about the cats)? Sand dunes? Tufts of grasses? All gone, because of people, and no more nesting areas for birds.

Even granting all of this, there’s no way you’ll wipe cats of the face of the earth. And the goal of TNVR is to reduce cat populations, which theoretically would also be good for birds, assuming they kill that many anyway. [And I take a distinctly Darwinian view here -- predation leads to improvement of the species as a whole. But humans destroying habitats isn't quite the same thing.]

For LOTS of stuff and critiques of all these “studies” that the American Bird Conservancy likes to tout, check out the blog, VoxFelina. Here’s a listing of blog entries on the cats vs birds debate:

Thanks to Carol for providing a different point of view on the issue of Feral Cats and their impact on the wild bird populations.  Not to be discounted Carol has quite a background in research…so I think she may just know a little bit about methodology and data collection, particularly, regarding the ”studies” in question.   Always two sides to every issue!  :-)

Here are a few more intelligent opinions from very reputable organizations in response to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute study on cat predation…

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5 Responses to Responses to Huffington Post Article (Feral Cats)

  1. avatar Dirk Jeanis says:

    I have neighbors that believe in the “capture, neuter, return” philosophy, They practice it irregularly (meaning without a plan to capture the entirety of the feral population ( a minimium requirement even under your own ideology). There are MANY issues with this entire process. 1. Unless EVERY cat in the feral population is captured and processed, then it CAN NOT WORK at all. 2. It does NOT stop the eco-devastatiion brought on by the relatively huge population of invasive animal species involved.

    3. The feral population of cats are disease carriers, from rabies to feline aids and feline leuko virus, they carry and transmit the disease readily to the pet population, even where pets roam ONLY in thier own yard.

    I have captured over 60 feral cats and sent them to the county animal shelter over the last several years. Those that are tame(able) and non-diseased are placed to adoption, those that are truly feral or diseased are destroyed (thank GOD). Even though this large sounding number of cats has been removed and even though several local people practice capture, neuter, release, the popluation locally of feral cats is INCREASING at enormous rates.

    Several large feral cats have been invading my yard and have attacked my cats on thier own turf, even in mid day. The best cat I have ever known, our male Ziggy, a truly wonderful and sociable boy who loves other animals, loves dogs and people has been given feline leukemia virus by one of these wild feral gross and invasive wild animals. He is now terminally ill with only a few days left.

    As far as I am concerned all of you people should be ashamed of yourselves for even thinking that capture, neuter, release is viable and reasonable. In fact, upon capture if you want the animal then make it your pet and pay licensing like I have to for my cats. Keep the captured animal ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY as I have to keep my pets. That is ONLY right and just.

    There are laws that REQUIRE you to keep animals on your own property. Under the laws of almost every state, when you capture a feral domestic animal YOU OWN IT, it is your responsiblitly. When you release those animals back into the “wild” (meaning other people’s property), you are saying that you should have rights above the law for a “feral” animal that you became responsible for when you made that capture. Every action and cause of harm by that animal is OWNED BY YOU after that time.

    Your attitude has caused a fatal disease to be transmitted to my cat on his own turf. I pray that you never have this happen to you, it is ONLY because of your attitude and insane philosophy that this is a problem. Capture, tame and make pets of them or remove and destroy them. I should never have had to lose the most lovable and wonderful cat I have ever known due to the insanity of a “non-destroy” policy. IT is time that sane people begin to reverse the law and take back rational thought and process. Feral animals on my property should be able to be dealt with by destruction on sight, instead of given rights above those of my own animals on thier own property.

    • avatar KellyB says:

      Dear Dirk… I am very sorry that your beloved cat contracted Feline Leukemia and is not well.

      I must respectfully disagree with most of your comments. No point in trying to argue with you as it is quite obvious that we disagree on this issue. Thankfully, there is research data available to contradict much of what you say. I am sorry that you feel so negatively about the humane solution to ending feral cat overpopulation. Just remember that it is not the fault of the innocent cats, rather irresponsible pet owners who allow their un-neutered cats to roam freely outside in the first place.

      Further, you allow your pet cats to romp outside and that is your prerogative. All of my pet cats are indoor only as that is the ONLY way to keep them safe from disease, hit by car fatalities, attacks by predators, etc. Unless you have your cats leashed, I find it hard to believe that they remain on your property 100% of the time or that they do not partake in natural instinctive cat behaviors on occasion… I certainly hope that they never wander onto someone else’s property that maintains the same attitudes and actions as you. And, your unfortunate situation just confirms the importance of vaccinating indoor/outdoor cats against Feline Leukemia.

      We are very fortunate here in WNY in that our SPCA of Erie County adopted a no kill policy with regard to feral/community cats. Basically, they will not accept any truly feral/unsocialized cats unless they are unhealthy and humane euthanasia is warranted. Any feral cat calls are referred to the local NFP Feral Cat Focus organization that will assist with TNVR. Our SPCA understands that TNVR is the only humane way to deal with cat overpopulation and there is plenty of credible research to support their position.

      I must admit…it is very hard for me to comprehend that someone who clearly loves his own pets cats can have such ill will toward much less fortunate cats… where is your empathy for the cats that do not have loving homes? :-(

      • avatar Dirk Jeanis says:

        Thank you for caring that we lost Ziggy, I am unsure of exactly what disease, whether Leuk or aids or….the vet did no specific test, it was obvious the state he was in and blood work in general showed that he had no chance at all.

        I just read your response. I guess that you have not read about the roughly 15 diseases that feral cats regularly distribute to the pet and native anoimal populations and in fact half of which can be given to humans. Many of the 15 are not inocculable or treatable.

        It is obvious that you have not studied how much damage even thier fecal material and urine does to the environment and how much damage it does to other animals and to waterways by disease contamination, spread of fleas in yards, spread of ticks and other pests onto private property..

        The numbers of birds killed annually are in the billions in the US alone…YES THE BILLIONS. This does NOT include amphibians, snakes and lizards, nor dies it include insects and other species that are “played to death” by cats. See National Geographic, at the time of article it was 70 million wild cats and that was a lean estimate according to some counties in the US. At one bird per week, that is over 350 million birds, the issue is that a single cat will eat 4 or 6 hatchlings at a time or kill the parents and therefore all the young as well, and they do! My cats are well fed and looked after, they have the run of the yard and do not climb the trees, yet I am delivered at least 10-15 presents a year from just ONE of my well fed loved ones (usually rodents).

        The truth is that if we truly love OUR pets, then WE must be the ones to buck up and end the cycle.

        Yes, people are the problem and always have been. Anyoe found abandoning an animal should never be allowed to own an animal in any state at any time..PERIOD. These are probably the same kinds of people that beat thier children anyway- irresponsbible and self centered.

        I guess what I am saying is that environmentally we are irresponsible to allow feral cats to exist. However if a given person wants to adopt a scary feral-wild animal and take it into his home and feed and care for it….not allowing it to escape to wild, and assuring no disease, cleaning the fecal and urine from teh environment….more power to that person.

        My littlest IS a TRUE Feral that adopted me when pregnant and she knew she would not survive! She lives in my house. She loves us all (except the new dog for now). She sleeps on my bed and the back of my couch where I sit. She tamed herself. She is mine now and I take full responsibility and care of her!

        This idea of spay neuter and release is NOT care. Those poor animals still have to forage, attack other animals, die in traffic accidents, be eaten my coyotes in my neighborhood (remember I still have sent over 80 to animal services even though coyotes do hunt them!). THose feral animals lead aweful terrorized lives ..and invade the space of household animals territory…

        The last point is….if you have a colony of feral cats, how the %$^^ are you going to KEEP THEM OFF MY PROPERTY? It is YOUR colony or some sponsor’s colony…I should NOT have to allow any such animals on MY property EVER. Under the self serving rules of colony “owners’ any captured animal that is part of a colony MUST BE RELEASED if turned into the county or authorities as a captured animal.

        This means that FERAL CATS have more rights than my dog or my cat or my chickens for that matter. NOT IN MY YARD THEY WONT.

        I have checked with state, county and city authorities. Should colony law be passed here, it has already been determined that anyone capturing an animal on thier own property will be allowed to dispose of it as that person sees fit in any humane manner.

        So, instead of me giving any capture a chance by sending them to the county for testing and humanization, they will never be seen by the county. This means they have NO chance, because the county will have to release them under the plan and I will NOT allow that on my property. I will PROTECT MY FAMILY before a wild animal.

  2. avatar Steven W. Brennan says:

    It is obvious that the idiots who quote studies like this have no idea what is really going on. As an Engineer familiar with statistics I can assure you that if cats did indeed kill 10 percent of all birds every year a whole bunch of species would have already gone extinct. I run a cat rescue and the 80 or so cats in my yard rarely ever kill a bird. The few they have killed are all from the most common species and the number of birds feeding at my feeders has been about the same for twenty years. You can see the huge human impact on birds and all wildlife when you see that every construction project in Charles County Maryland clears every last living plant from the entire property. Lets see a cat do that! Cats have been here for 400 years. If they were capable of driving a bird species to extinction they would have already done so. In fact all of the mainland species that have gone extinct were either hunted to extinction, destroyed as pests or their habitat was destroyed. These species include the Labrador Duck, passenger pigeon, heath hen, carolina parakeet and most agregiously the Ivory Billed woodpecker. We almost lost most birds of prey due to pesticides. As a bird watcher for the last 50 years I refuse to join the Audubon Society or the American Bird Conservancy because they refuse to call for a ban on hunting for recreation, yet to blame cats for the depredations of the human species.

    • avatar KellyB says:

      Nicely written! It’s a shame the cats keep taking the blame for reduced bird numbers when we all know that it’s the human impact that is taking the biggest toll on bird populations… How about all these media outlets reporting on that!!

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