It’s All the Fault of Those Pesky Humans

cartoon showing cats caused dinosaur extinction
“Cats Killed the Dinosaurs”, ink, 7″ x 10″ © B.E. Kazmarski; really, I just wanted to use this cartoon again, but it still applies!

I thought I’d set these people straight a few months ago, but here the same culprits have come out with yet another “study”, what’s known as a “derivative study” which uses the data and results of other studies to form its own conclusions. This is not uncommon, but it stands a good bit of a chance of being inaccurate because some of the pertinent data included in the studies used is old, some of it 30 or more years old, and much of the total figures cited were extrapolated from very small samples of cats and people and area covered. It works like taking a small and slightly blurry digital image and enlarging it over and over until it’s big enough to fill the space you want but it’s lost its definition and you really can’t tell what it is, so it’s lost its meaning.

What this latest study, “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States” states and hopes to prove is:

We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals.   

The abstract doesn’t mention that one of the early participants in the study, Nico Dauphine, was convicted of killing outdoor cats outside her apartment building during the study, and that she had also been charged with animal cruelty—against cats—in the past and had publicly stated her dislike of cats as well. A slight bias, perhaps?

I’ll leave it to Peter Wolf’s Vox Felina to pick apart the study in “Garbage In, Garbage Out” and “The Show Must Go On” for the technicalities of the data collection and use, and already—after reporting the sensational headlines—mainstream media have questioned the data in “Do We Really Know That Cats Kill By The Billions? Not So Fast” and “Cat-astrophic threat? Scientists declare war on kitties”.

I am more concerned with the impact on cats because of the data they are claiming to be true.

The study uses a figure of 30 to 80 million for the number of “unowned”, meaning stray and feral, cats and states they are the ones who do the most damage. Those of us who are in the front lines of caring for stray and feral cats would be the most likely to know this figure since we’re the ones out there trapping and feeding and caring for them, and we don’t even know how many there are—and taking the figures we have and extrapolating them out to the entire country doesn’t give us a figure anywhere near that even counting the fact that we are working in an urban area with higher populations, which counts for a limited amount of the United States.

What we do know is that the real culprit species is the human—both in bird predation and in unowned cat populations. Just as humans are degrading and fragmenting habitat with development and building more tall reflective buildings and communications towers that hundreds of millions of birds fly into and die each year, using more and more pesticides and insecticides and growing more GMO foods that poison birds and wildlife, deforesting rain forests and generally destroying the planet which you can read all about in the American Bird Conservancy’s own publication, humans are also the ones who toss the pregnant cat out in the street, drop the kittens in the woods, shove their deceased mothers’ cats out of her house so they can sell it, or just leave their cats behind, outdoors, when they move.

Most of those unowned cats were once owned by someone—and still might be if given the chance—so where do you draw the line?

Where do stray and feral cats come from? They come from careless, cruel and abusive human beings. If you want to reduce the populations of stray and feral cats, you need to go after the people who put them there. And until then, the best answer is TNR, or to trap the cats, spay or neuter them, find homes for the kittens and friendly ones and return the rest to a place where they can be fed and cared for, be that outdoors or in a protected area, stabilizing the populations—read about just such an instance. Just a few weeks ago the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh served 108 cats in a clinic that was totally free for stray and feral cats, hoping to catch as many as possible before the breeding season begins. The next answer is to make affordable spay and neuter services available to everyone so that they don’t toss cats out when they don’t know what to do with them. Locally and across the country many shelters and specialty clinics offer spay/neuter services on a sliding fee scale or a flat fee that just gets the job done.

In the meantime, don’t let this “study” get in the way of TNR and don’t let it endanger the lives of cats whether they be someone’s pets or a feral on the streets. TNR programs constantly battle with people who don’t want cats on the streets and who think the only solution is to round them up and kill them, even shooting them on site, or poisoning them like a bunch of rats. If TNR programs are inhibited or prevented from caring for cats, there will be even more cats on the streets and that certainly isn’t the answer.

Alley Cat Allies has a petition you can sign, Tell the Smithsonian: Stop spreading junk science that will kill cats. Please take a moment to read and sign it.

Also read a number of other opinions on the subject. I wrote an article in September entitled Scientists Prove That Feral Cats Killed the Dinosaurs that cites the studies above and a number of other studies.

“Cats and Wildlife: an HSUS Perspective

CATalyst Concerned about Consequences of Media Commentary

Fuzzy math on cats, birds clouds highly questionable ‘study’

Feral Cats, TNR & Cat Fancy Magazine

Faulty science spreads lies about cats and their impact on wildlife

Smithsonian/Wildlife cat study generates outrage

Dear Editor(s)- My Response to the Cats Killing Birds Study

Humans Are Willfully Destroying Our Bird TV!

Response to New York Times Article “That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think”


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

And yes, many of these were trapped as stray/feral cats, spay/neutered and vetted and socialized from the clinics I mentioned above!


All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

14 thoughts on “It’s All the Fault of Those Pesky Humans

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  • February 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm
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    Cats are so commonly object of human agression… We have seen it more than enough! and this kind of article encourages those who think there have a right to do so… A pity!

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    • February 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm
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      Maru, they always have been and I’ve never understood it except that people don’t like what they perceive as “independence”.

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      • February 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm
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        I remember a person who said cats were bad because they catched little birds, I said they were doing what they were meant to do, it was a natural thing to do. -I was polite and didn’t mention people and chicken in little cages- And that person insisted that dogs didn’t do so. I replied that dogs chased and catched plenty of little animals inlcuding cats. But it was prejudice at the most, so I left it that way. I can imagine the support an article like this cand give to a person like that.

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        • February 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm
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          Maru, you are right, it is a prejudice, but one other thing we need to do is try to be sure all pets are spayed and neutered and don’t reproduce so there just aren’t as many out on the streets.

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  • February 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm
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    So very well said, Bernadette. It is, as was commented, junk science and the problem as nearly always is humans!!

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    • February 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm
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      Carolyn, even if there are a lot of cats out there, I don’t see why they would refuse any efforts at TNR. It all seems suspicious to me.

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  • February 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm
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    Thank you! The problem is not cats. The problem is humans. If these bird folks truly want to help birds, they should not make enemies of the one group they could mobilize and take action to create solutions amenable to both groups.

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    • February 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm
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      Exactly, RumpyDog! That’s what I don’t understand.

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  • February 9, 2013 at 9:31 am
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    I couldn’t say it any better than you did Bernadette. Last night, I got a call from a gentleman who owns some apartment buildings in Albany. He has recently served 4 families with eviction notices and they pretty much packed up and left in the middle of the night- guess what they left behind? 12 now homeless cats. The man wanted me to take them and got highly irrate when I told him I couldn’t. I don’t have the room right now. It is a people problem and cats are still looked on as being disposable. Lay the blame for the death of birds on the cats who can’t defend themselves, that way you pass the responsibility on and cause the death and suffering of more cats. An endless cycle that I am afraid isn’t going to end soon. I’ve had cats outside for years and can count on one hand how many birds these cats kill. Not as many as the logging industry destroys when they cut down trees up on the mountains, or how many lie at the side of road after flying into speeding vehicles. I don’t know when the voice of reason is going to step in and tell people that all these “unowned” cats, the ones no one feeds? They can’t hunt- they do not have the stamina. That’s why so many of them become dumpster divers just trying to survive.

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    • February 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm
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      Mary Anne, I said the same thing in my first article–and a lot of the “evidence” of finding dead birds, nestlings knocked out of the nest, beheaded, were actually birds killed by other birds, I see it all the time with the blue jays, crows and hawks. I really think there’s something between the environmental organizations supposed to protect us and the birds and the industries that destroy the environment for profit.

      Too bad about the 12 cats…but what can you do? We are all full.

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  • February 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm
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    Thanks for more good coverage on this subject. We need to continue emphasizing that this is junk science. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

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    • February 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm
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      Janet, cats have it hard enough already, I can’t imagine what their agenda is.

      Reply

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