Cats: Evil, Stone-Cold Serial Killers?
You don’t even have to be a cat lover to know there’s something amiss when media outlets label cats as “evil” and “stone-cold serial killers.” Newspapers and radio stations nationwide jumped on a “study” by Smithsonian researchers claiming that cats are the leading cause of bird species decline in the United States. But if more reporters had taken a closer look at the study, they likely never would have covered it.
On May 1, I hand-delivered 55,000 petition signatures to the Smithsonian Institution — all from Americans who are just as shocked as you and I are that the Smithsonian — a taxpayer-funded organization—helped pay for this anti-cat propaganda and continues to stand behind it.
Cats Wrongly Take Blame
Anyone with common sense knows that cats are not to blame for disappearing bird species in the United States. The true threats include loss of habitat, pesticides, pollution, urban development, and climate change. These researchers pile all the blame on cats, while ignoring the real and complicated issues that are actually threatening birds.
Alley Cat Allies commissioned an independent statistician, Gregory J. Matthews, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to review the research. He found major flaws. The authors included a 1930s study as well as discredited research by Nico Dauphine, who was arrested for attempting to kill outdoor cats with rat poison in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood. The authors also used extrapolation to come up with highly exaggerated numbers of birds killed, and even counted one study twice.
It’s obvious that the researchers have an ulterior motive. They clearly oppose the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) approach to managing feral cat populations and are attempting to scrape together data to support the cruel, ineffective method of catching outdoor cats and killing them. But the truth is that catch-and-kill is cruel — and it is completely ineffective at permanently reducing cat populations.
Cats Suffer From Bad Studies
As it is, millions of cats are killed every single year in our nation’s pounds and shelters. In fact, being killed in a shelter is the No. 1 documented cause of death for cats in the United States. Nearly 100% of feral cats who end up in shelters are killed. But these researchers want communities to continue rounding up cats, which will result in even more being killed in shelters, despite the widespread failure of this cruel approach that some animal control officials have likened to bailing the ocean with a thimble. This is exactly why more and more municipalities are adopting TNR as their new policy and program for cats.
TNR is the only humane and effective approach for cats who are unsocialized to people and live in family groups outdoors. Because of the success of TNR, communities that once had large outdoor cat populations have seen those colonies slowly fade away over time. Compassionate community members ensure that cats are humanely trapped, neutered or spayed, vaccinated, and fed and cared for on a daily basis. The breeding cycle is halted, and when the cats reach the end of their natural lifespan, the colony shrinks.
The signatures I just dropped off at the Smithsonian show that Americans want humane policies that work. More than 80 percent of Americans believe that leaving a stray cat outside to live out his life is more humane than having the cat caught and killed, according to a national survey conducted for Alley Cat Allies by Harris Interactive. More than 330 local governments have adopted or endorsed TNR. Despite desperate efforts by TNR opponents, TNR will continue to make progress in effectively and humanely managing feral cat populations nationwide.
Alley Cat Allies just launched a new website, Common Sense for Cats, to educate Americans about TNR and debunk myths about outdoor cats and wildlife. Check it out at www.commonsenseforcats.org, and share it with your friends! And sign our pledge to encourage even more communities to adopt common-sense policies and programs for cats!