I am involved in animal rescue and I wish everyone of them could be saved, but I do not believe cats should be treated as wild animals and allowed to roam. It is devastating to wildlife and they usually live short misserable lives having to try to survive cars, kids, poisoning, dogs, coyotes, disease and parasites.
Taking Aim at Outdoor Cats
Assemble a group of bird lovers and cat lovers in a room, and it's a sure bet feathers will likely fly (pun intended).
There are few nature-related subjects that elicit more response and prompt more passionate emotion than the debate about free-roaming and feral cats and their impact on U.S. songbird-and game bird-populations.
These days, when a writer accurately reports that millions of birds are killed annually by outdoor cats, more often than not cat supporters by the hundreds immediately rally to the defense of pet cats allowed to run freely, in addition to those abandoned or homeless (feral) cats that live outdoors year 'round.
Until recently, few organizations or individuals dared to condemn the well-meaning but misdirected Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) programs implemented by some cities and municipalities that capture feral cats, then turn them loose again after inoculation and sterilization.
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is one of the few conservation groups that fully grasps the irrationality of TNR programs and hasn't been afraid to say it. The organization produces videos, fact sheets and launched a Keep Your Cat Indoors campaign back in 1997.
In December 2009, a superior court judge ruled in favor of a coalition of conservation groups, including ABC, to halt the practice of TNR of feral cats in the City of Los Angeles, pending environmental review.
A 2010 peer-reviewed University of Nebraska-Lincoln report, Feral Cats and Their Management, put the annual economic loss from feral cat predation on birds in the U.S. at $17 billion.
In a column last spring, Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette outdoors columnist Mark Blazis didn't pull any punches. While noting cats are not native to America, Blazis called for a national educational effort to significantly change long-ingrained habits of pet owners who assume their right of ownership to let their cats roam free.
"They need to know they are killing with their permissive kindness," Blazis wrote.
According to Blazis, the ABC and others, an estimated 80 million feral cats currently roam the U.S. outdoors. Studies show that Wisconsin alone annually loses somewhere between 17 million to 30 million songbirds to outdoors felines. Nationally, feral and domestic cats annually kill between 100 million to 300 million songbirds in America, with some estimates placing that number closer to 1 billion.
In 2005, 57 percent of the 12,000-member Wisconsin Conservation Congress voted to support a proposal to allow hunters to kill feral cats in an effort to protect game birds and songbirds from predatory stray felines. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle's office was inundated with letters and e-mails from angry cat lovers, and he subsequently caved to pressure, announcing he'd never sign a bill allowing open season on free-roaming cats.
The proposal was subsequently dropped.
You see, there's no such thing as middle ground in the debate about cats in the outdoors.
- J.R. Absher Editor, The Birding Wire
Published in The Birding Wire, Swarovski Optik, January 16, 2013.