Who doesn’t love a soft, round, purring ball of fur curled up in their lap? Maybe dog aficionados, yet nowadays even some “dog people” like cats. Cats have a lot going for them as house pets; they are small, independent, playful, very graceful, and apparently like cheeseburgers and the internet.
Despite the cats’ independent nature and allegedly aloof mannerism, the original species Felis sylvestris has become so domesticated over the past 10,000 years that a new species has evolved: Felis catus. This is a cat without a country, this species has no ecological niche that it fits into, and is an animal that is considered non-native everywhere it has been introduced. There are an estimated 600 million domestic cats world wide, and kitties have been specifically implicated in the extinction of 33 species of birds.1 (Here is a .pdf copy of a paper about a bird mortality study conducted by the American Bird Conservation Society: American Bird Conservation Society – Bird Mortality Study.
Cats are extremely capable hunters and may be responsible for as many as 60 million bird deaths per year in the US alone.2 That doesn’t include the other small wildlife that they impact such as lizards, toads, salamanders, frogs, chipmunks, voles or moles. Dogs can be effective hunters as well, but I am afraid that cats are the neighborhood kingpin. Don’t get me wrong, my husband Mike and I have three of our own cats and love them dearly – but we love birds and small wildlife as well. We keep our cats inside. (Can you say Kittycam? Here is a link to an impressive study done at UGA with the help of the National Geographic Society: UGA kittycam study
If you own a cat, please keep it inside to protect your wildlife. Urban coyotes have been making late night snacks of yard cats in my Decatur neighborhood lately; you may be keeping your beloved kitty off of Coyote’s hors d’oeuvre menu as well.
1. Dauphine, Nico, Cooper, Robert J. Impacts of Free Ranging Domestic Cats (Felis Catus) on Birds in the United States: A Review of Recent Research with Conservation and Management Recommendations. Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference :Tundra to Tropics. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. 2009. pp 205-219.
2. Hildreth, Aaron M. Vantassel, Stephen M. Hygnstrom, Scott E. Feral Cats and Their Management. Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska. 2010.