Once again a newspaper has misreported a study on cat predation that is misleading in itself. It is double trouble and unfair on the domestic cat. I have to at least report this, briefly.
This time it is the Times newspaper of June 29th 2013. The article was written by Toom Whipple and Oliver Moody. Two highly educated journalists got this wrong.
The article discusses the killing of a rare bird, the white-throated needletail – the world’s fastest bird as far as I am aware – by a wind turbine.
The newspapers writes that cats and windows kill far more birds than wind turbines. Apparently, 30 million birds in the UK fly into closed windows and are killed annually.
Anyway, they write that:
“According to research from the University of Reading, each cat in Britain kills 18.3 birds a year…….cat-based apocalyse of an estimated 150 million birds a year”
WRONG AGAIN. My immediate reaction was, “what!”. So, I found the research study that they referred to and checked. The whole study is written up on PLOS ONE.
In the summary to the study (the abstract) this is the relevant extract:
The estimated mean predation rate was 18.3 prey cat−1 year−1 but this varied markedly both spatially and temporally:
No mention of birds, just general prey. And notice that the figure of 18.3 items of prey is an “estimate”. And the estimate is based on what cats brought back to their owners in one part of England over a set time. Not the best of basis to assess cat predation.
Then the authors of the study write:
Overall, cat predation did appear to be of sufficient magnitude to affect some prey populations, although further investigation of some key aspects of cat predation is warranted…..
In other words more work is required and the figure is a pretty wild estimate.
We know that cats favour ground dwelling mammals as they are easier to catch. We also know that if a cat catches a bird it may well be dying anyway because once again it will be easier to catch. Together these facts totally alter the figures disseminated by the Times newspaper.
Conclusion: the smart Times journalists have been stupid or careless and in doing so they have unjustly maligned the cat and encouraged more cat abuse when the exact opposite should be happening. Please be more careful in future. Visit PoC and you’ll read the truth.
Here is a PoC Google search result for birds.