The authorities and scientists in some countries (USA and Australia, for example) are concerned that feral, stray and domestic cats prey on native wildlife to the point where species are endangered. Other countries, such as Israel and the UK, have no such concerns. In other countries such as Switzerland they don’t give it a thought.
I believe it is time for people in those countries where there is concern, to stop arguing about how to deal effectively and humanely with stray and feral cats and start producing concrete strategies and taking courageous steps instead.
There are two recent events on either side of the Pacific Ocean that indicates this. But the “feral cat problem” has been brewing for ages. One of the most pronounced symptoms of the feral and stray cat problem is the antagonistic pronouncements routinely disseminated by the bird conservation lobby. Every now and then the bird conservation people use distorted scientific “facts” to denounce the feral cat as some sort of wildlife chomping monster that is intent of wiping out whole species. Their bias against the cat could not be more transparent. And this bias can be found in distinguished organisations such as the Smithsonian Institute.
The bird lobbyists should keep quiet. They have conclusively failed to establish that the feral cat has a significant impact on bird populations and the RSPB, in the UK, comes out in favour of the cat.
In New Zealand we have a new player on the cat hating side of the war between those who want to deal with feral and unwanted cats humanely and those who want to kill them; Dr. Gareth Morgan. Having made some fairly bizarre pronouncement about cats being sadists he has now locked horns with the SPCA in New Zealand. Morgan wants the SPCA to kill feral and unowned cats rather than trap-neuter-return them. He’ll even donate money in that cause. Whereas the president of the New Zealand SPCA, Bob Kerridge, has a far better idea, which tackles the root cause of feral and stray cats: people and irresponsible cat ownership. Bob Kerridge wants to microchip and desex cats.
Dr Morgan seems to be overly focusing on cats while ignoring people. I am pleased to say that there are lot of people who dislike what Dr Morgan has to say. He has even said that the New Zealand SPCA is destroying native species when it releases neutered feral cats.
In the US we have yet another study/survey on the shocking impact the domestic and feral cat has on wildlife. Once again the biased Smithsonian¹ is involved and once again it is pitched very negatively against the cat but the whole study is built around what appear to be pretty wild estimates as to feral cat numbers. If you don’t know how many feral cats there are in the USA how can you work out their impact on wildlife? And even if you did have an accurate figure for feral and stray cats it would still be difficult to assess how much wildlife the cats killed because studies that have observed cats preying on wildlife have not be conclusive. In addition, no thought is given to the potential benefits that feral cats may have in keeping down pest animals such as rats.
It’s About People
Despite being uncomfortable with the relationship that the Australian authorities have with the feral cat in that country (somewhat brutal), I do believe that they are doing the right thing in some states to tackle the feral cat problem. In Victoria, they are focusing on encouraging people to take a more responsible attitude to cat ownership. Most people are responsible it seems to me. However, a significant proportion are not and these people need to forced to smarten up. This is being done through legislation to make microchipping and neutering obligatory.
If all cats, as Mr Kerridge indicates, are desexed and microchipped, in due course (a long time, admittedly) there would be no stray or feral cats, provided the process was supported with legislation. I know that is unpopular in some quarters but it seems to be the only way.
Note 1: The survey was conducted by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.