New Study Investigates Outdoor Cats as Potential Environmental "Serial Killers"Published January 31, 2013
According to the results of a fascinating new study, your domestic, free-roaming outdoor cat may be a threat to the environment. A New York Times report that shared the results of the study shows that domestic cats that spend at least part of their day outdoors and unnamed feral and strays kill “a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year”. Still want to cuddle up next to kitty?
The study, conducted by scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service, portrays felines that roam the outdoors as a long-term threat to the environment. And with the “shockingly high” kill rates that their research found, it’s hard to blame them. While free roaming pets are part of the equation, they only account for 29 percent of the birds and 11 percent of the mammals killed by domestic cats each year, and the true issue lies with the “80 million or so stray or feral cats that commit the bulk of the wildlife slaughter.”
On one side of the aisle, environmentalists clamor for a solution to the feral cat problem to save the affected wildlife. On the other side stand animal welfare advocates, who align themselves with the wellbeing of ferals and strays. The debate has raged between these two factions, with some, like New Zealand economist Gareth Morgan, going so far as proposing a campaign to eliminate and eradicate domestic cats, which he likens to serial killers. Morgan drastically calls for all cat owners in his country to keep their cats indoors, and to not replace them when they pass away.
While Morgan’s stance is extreme to say the least, the numbers that this recent study produced don’t lie. Surely, there must be a happy medium that will appeal to cat lovers, animal activists and environmentalists. Perhaps it’s time for cat owners to listen up and keep their furry friends strictly indoors. Perhaps it’s time to invest more in Trap-Neuter-Return programs, and monitor feral cat colonies more closely and keep them out of the range of wildlife.
Cats aren’t bad animals; they just have a natural prey drive that needs to be satisfied. When a cat is kept indoors as a pet, satisfaction can be achieved by simulated play. When a cat is kept outdoors, they’ll satisfy their prey drive by actually hunting.
Where do you stand in this debate? Do you let your cat outdoors? Would the results of this study change that? Tell us where you stand and let us know how you feel about felines being framed as environmental “serial killers” in a comment.