Smithsonian/Wildlife cat study generates outrage
February 1, 2013 15 Comments
The rage is palpable among my cat colleagues in response to the recent Smithsonian/US Fish & Wildlife’s condemnation of community cats and their affect on the bird population.
It seems like an all-out war on cats.
My first thought was to look for statistics to refute their claims. How skewed are their numbers? What about the other factors that contribute to declining number of birds? Pollution. Eroding habitat. Glass buildings. Changing weather patterns.
But then no one really knows the extent of the community cat population. It’s been estimated at equal to the owned cat population. According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 64 percent of owned cats are indoor/outdoor.
I shot off an email to Alley Cat Allies. What can one person do? Despite the flood of criticism, Smithsonian and friends are not going to say, “So sorry. Nice kitties.”
Here’s Alley Cat Allies’ response to me in part:
Clearly, cats are not the real culprits, and irresponsible articles like those published this week only confuse the issue, cause backlash against cats, and distract attention from the real dangers to birds and other wildlife.
The article isn’t news; rather, it’s just a desperate response to all the great progress we’re making as more and more communities turn to effective, compassionate, and sound programs including Trap-Neuter-Return. TNR works, and the fact is, entire colonies of feral cats have stabilized, and many have died out from natural attrition and no longer exist.
Here’s the organization’s press release in full.
The attack against cats comes on the heels of Gareth Morgan’s call to ban cats in New Zealand. (You would figure that Fox News would jump on that.)
There are no harder working animal advocates than those involved in TNR and caring for community cats.
There’s a battle brewing in my own town. (Here’s my story in the Branford Eagle.) A colony of ferals in a trailer park has been cared for by the Branford Compassion Club for 15 years and now one or two residents have decided that the cats are responsible for damage to the underpinnings of the trailers. Over the years, offspring have been trapped and adopted out, as is the custom with most TNR programs. Bottom line is that they’re looking for barn homes for the 20 or so cats and BCC, animal control, trailer park management, and the health district are attempting to create a plan to keep track of cats and their owners within the park.
The Branford Compassion Club meticulously maintains around a dozen colonies in town. The cats are trapped, neutered, vaccinated, socialized (when possible) or released, and fed daily; they have snug huts. They’re cared for rain or shine.
There is agreement all around on one point: Feral cats are the result of human neglect. Despite the love of cat videos and LOL Cats, on so many fronts they’re still considered second class citizens in the pet world. They’re considered disposable. How often do we hear about cats in shelters that are surrendered because their owners moved? Or had a baby? Or were allergic? Or simply abandoned?
Until that mentality changes, feral cats will populate our towns and cities. Those of us involved in writing and cat care, rescue and education must keep preaching about the need for responsible cat ownership, the importance of keeping cats indoors, the opportunities for environmental enrichment (including safe access to the outdoors), the availability of help for behavior problems.
The Internet is a powerful resource. Look how quickly and intensely we all responded! Alley Cat Allies will be creating a petition on its website; signing it, when it becomes available, is a start
As the saying goes: Don’t mess with the Cat Ladies and Guys!