Q: I recently saw an article in The New York Times about cats and birds. I was outraged by the descriptions of cats as cute serial killers. What can I do to speak out about this kind of research and the way the media reports on it?
A: Alley Cat Allies has seen these media reports, too, based on “research” published in the online journal “Nature Communications.”
We’ve heard from countless supporters on this issue, people just like you, who think the media is reporting on junk science and manufacturing a fake debate that outdoor cats are the No. 1 cause of bird species decline in this country.
You can do several things to help take a stand with cats.
First, learn why the research is so wrong.
To be clear, this “study” is not new. It is a literature review that looks at a variety of published papers and then speculates a conclusion that suits the researchers’ anti-cat and anti-TNR agenda. In the past, Alley Cat Allies has picked apart some of the flawed studies included in the review, and we will continue to do so on this research piece.
We have started to see some great responses from dedicated journalists who are questioning the veracity of the study and the methodology behind it. Like us, they don’t see how using small, localized study samples extrapolated across the entire country can be useful realistically. One CNN reporter called out the bad science in the Smithsonian study that blames cats for wildlife depletion, pointing out the margin of error is “give or take a few billion.” And an NPR blogger said “there’s an unsettling degree of uncertainty in the study’s key numbers.”
Second, understand the true threats to wildlife.
Habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are far and away the greatest threats to birds and wildlife. And bogus reports like these, sensationalized by the media, sidestep the serious and real threats to birds and end up scapegoating cats.
Third, help promote humane approaches for cats.
This study is being used to promote an antiquated, ineffective and inhumane system of trap and kill for outdoor cats. Catch and kill has been practiced for over a century. The evidence is in: catching and killing cats doesn’t work.
Trap-Neuter-Return is the only humane and effective approach that has been proven to stabilize and reduce outdoor cat populations over time.
And last, but most important, have your voice heard.
It’s time for the one of the funders of this study — the Smithsonian — to disavow this research, stop funding this junk science and turn their attention to the real threats to wildlife populations. Scapegoating cats might seem like the easy answer, but in reality, killing more cats will not save populations of birds or small mammals.