High Profile Scholar Talks Cat Sense

Dr Bradshaw

Dr Bradshaw

Cat lovers have a high profile cat advocate in Dr Bradshaw. It is good that we have a well known scientist and author who plays fair and who does not have a hidden agenda to promote.

Dr. John Bradshaw the well known anthrozoologist and author of Dog Sense1 and the recently published book Cat Sense2 has put some cat sense or common sense back into the debate about the predatory cat by countering the current habit of criticising the domestic cat for the mass killing of wildlife.

He basically disagrees with what a lot of so called experts have been stating recently that domestic cats are responsible for the loss of billions of native wild animals. These people, who often have an axe to grind, have indirectly attacked the domestic cat and encouraged cat abuse and discouraged the humane treatment of cats. Certainly, stating that cats kill native species in their billions does nothing to stop the mass slaughter of cats at shelters.

Cat playing with a small rat. Photo by Maxwell Hamilton

Cat playing with a small rat. Photo by Maxwell Hamilton

It is pleasant, very pleasant to see a genuinely knowledgeable animal behavior expert and well regarded author injecting some sensible argument into the debate.


Search results on PoC for “domestic cat hunting” and “cat killing wildlife” – open in new windows


Dr Bradshaw, in a recent article for the Independent newspaper, states that cats have to a certain extent lost their desire to hunt. I can vouch for that as my cats over 25 years have caught between them, one mouse, which was not eaten. If and when the domestic cat does hunt he goes for easy prey: dying birds or ground dwelling animals. The bird conservationists are miles off-target in their assessments and estimates.

Dr Bradshaw mentions the recent BBC2 documentary The Secret Life of the Cat in which the movements and activities of cats where studied. There was very little hunting going on.

Also, and sensibly, Dr Bradshaw writes that there are better explanations for the loss of wildlife. In some ways he is stating the obvious. We know that the biggest killer of wildlife is people through habitat destruction, climate change and persecution or exploitation. We, cat lovers, who are educated, don’t need telling that but it is nice to read the words of a respected scientist that supports what we know.

The current trend for blaming cats for wildlife declines started with bird conservationists in America and in Australia and New Zealand where the domestic cat is non-native species.

Dr Bradshaw states that other animals in Australia have played a role in declining native species populations. These are the fox, dingo and the rat.

The often cited cases of cats exterminating a species of animal have occurred on small islands when people introduced the cat to the island. Isn’t the cause therefore: people?

Also on mainland Australia cats have had a much lesser impact. Curfews – keeping cats inside the home at certain times – has had little impact on wildlife numbers it appears.

We know that domestic cats do hunt. They do kill small mammals and birds but (a) we know it is natural and we respect the cat and allow the cat to express his natural desired and drives and (b) we can do small things such as erecting cat-proof bird feeders to protect wildlife.

What I want to see is more scientists like Dr Bradshaw who accept and admit that people, through their actions, are in a different league to domestic cats when in comes to killing wildlife of all kinds.

Note:

  1. Full title: Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
  2. Full title: Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed

 

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High Profile Scholar Talks Cat Sense — 18 Comments

  1. Good to hear that Dr Bradshaw is not swayed by sensationalist press reports or junk science from the likes of the Smithsonian and has the courage to talk plain facts.

  2. Good for Dr Bradshaw, I like him!
    I hope some of the idiots who believe everything horrible they read about cats and biased statistics read his views, it’s time we had someone eminent sticking up for our cats.

  3. Re the Smithsonian I can only comment that they must be extremely thick. To throw such flawed and obviously concocted wildly inaccurate data to the public where it would be immediately torn to pieces was pretty darn stupid. It’s rather like the psychotic or criminal mind. Consequences are never considered.

    • Agreed. Either that or/and the Smithsonian are just very badly managed and/or dishonest. A sham of an organisation. As you say the “research” (a regurgitation and remodeling of existing “research) was transparently biased. It broke all the rules of a good study.

  4. I did an alternative predation survey ( http://www.messybeast.com/moggycat/affy_16.html ). I noted what “prey” my cats caught and scaled it up for the number of cats in Britain (which is how the usual surveys are scaled up). Okay, it’s humorous, but it was meant to highlight how flawed the Mammal Society’s survey was.

    I found:-

    In any one year (give or take a bit of rounding up or down for ease of arithmetic), eleven cats caught: 600 human ankles, 24 daisy heads, 10 slugs, 10 pieces of bread, 2 sparrows, 1.5 dogs, 0.5 frogs, 0.2 starlings, 0.1 mouse, 0.1 neighbours’ cats. Meaning that one cat caught 54 ankles, 2.2 daisy heads, 1 slug, 1 piece of bread, 0.2 sparrows, 0.15 dogs, 0.05 frogs, 0.02 starlings, 0.01 mice, 0.01 neighbours’ cats.

    There are approximately 7 million domestic cats in Britain and another 1 million or so ferals. 10% of pet cats are indoor-only pets, at least 10% are too young, old, ill or idle to hunt and a similar number are in cat shelters at any point in time so I’ll call it a round 7 million. My figures indicate that only 3 out of 11 cats (about a quarter of the cat population) actually catch anything. What do those 7 million cats catch in the course of a single year? The “Alternative Cat Predation Survey” is proud to announce that in 12 months, Britain’s approximately 7 million pet cats catch:

    378,000,000 human ankles – no surprise to most owners.
    15,400,000 daisy heads.
    7,000,000 slugs
    7,000,000 pieces of bread
    1,400,000 sparrows
    1,050,000 dogs
    350,000 frogs
    140,000 starlings
    70,000 mice
    70,000 neighbour’s cats (although they might have been invited in for supper)

    Hardly decimating wildlife.

    • Great comment, Thanks Sarah. A realistic survey and one that fits in with my personal experiences. The worrying thing about the high profile scientific cat predation surveys is that they are guesswork dressed up as precise or authoritative “science” by people who seem to me to have a hidden agenda. They are not objective and can be plain biased. There is quite a lot of politics in charitable organisations and in the scientific community. It seems as if they are often run by a certain type of person – business, conservative, reactionary. My highly personal view.

    • lol I love that Sarah lol
      Add to our cats list, spiders and daddy long legs and moths.
      What angers me is that no one complains about cats catching rodents and the number of mice our cats have caught over 39 years must be a hundred times more than the birds they’ve caught.

  5. In Indian city’s i feel that the stray market cats are absolutely harmless and live on the waste fish and butchered animal products, natures natural scavengers akin to vultures and crows.I once personally saw a pack of cats in the Worli fish market just ignoring a huge injured bandicoot that could have been a delicious meal.Akin to zoo animals, the stray market and street cats of Mumbai are never a threat to birds or mammals,surviving solely on waste food akin to stray dogs.In the villages its a different scenario and every village farm-house in India does have a house cat which keeps away mice, snakes and occasionally hunts small birds and mammals in the surrounding fields.I have witnessed the same during holidays to my parents ancestral house in the villages of Mangalore in South India.These village cats definitely help in preventing rodents like rats from damaging the food grains stored in house barns.I have attached a photo of a genuine village cat clicked during a visit to my uncle’s farmhouse in Barkur village near Mangalore. During the 1970’s i used a air-gun to hunt birds and today in 2013 most of the villages forests have disappeared giving way to houses.At least in India, the cat is definitely not responsible for the extinction of bird and animal species due to its predatory instincts. The “Big Cat”, the tiger is facing extinction due to forest and habitat destruction and hope it recovers. To understand the amount of habitat destruction in Indian villages due to modernization and farming just imagine that instead of this cat in the photo a tiger did visit this ancestral house stable when my dad was young(Presumably 1930’s/early 40’s”).One of my Dad’s village contemporaries fell into a well in his youth and was mauled by a tiger.These were the true life story’s told to me in my youth by my father and i have personally seen the difference in “Forest Topography” whenever i have visited these villages.Please don’t blame the cat and thanks to Dr John.Bradshaw at least the cat is getting a bit of good press in the West.In the East there is a lot of superstition associated with cats akin to the West.

    • Thank you for the “Indian perspective”, Rudolph. India has a slightly different relationship with the domestic cat. It is more the way it was – keeping down rat numbers etc. India has some of the best examples of habitat destruction causing loss of wildlife probably because is has such outstanding wildlife and landscapes. Very sad that it is being destroyed by people.

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