This is really about cats so please don’t run away. You’ll discover a parallel between pigeons and cats.
Not everyone hates pigeons, but a lot of people do. They are referred to a “rats with wings”. Other names are “gutter birds”, “sky rats” and “flying ashtrays” – all heavily derogatory names, indicating a strong dislike of these birds. The pigeon is a domesticated rock dove first brought to the UK in the 1600s. Pigeon fanciers don’t like them because they give their purebred birds a bad name.
The public don’t like them because there are lots of them. They are excellent survivors. People who hate them say they spread disease and damage buildings. However, there is little or no evidence to support the disease spreading allegation. Also pigeons have been very useful to people. I am referring to the war years and carrier pigeons.
When I feed a couple of robins in the garden, the London pigeons come flying in. They push the robins out of the way. I try and scare them off. One neighbour has complained about the pigeons (normally a group of about 6) but no one complains about feeding robins. This is highly discriminatory.
Can you see a similarity between the public’s perception of the feral pigeon and the feral cat? There is a close similarity in image. The feral cat is also a good survivor in a very difficult and hostile human environment. They, too, are seen to spread disease and both pigeon and feral cat can breed fast. Both have short lifespans of 3-4 years. This is much shorter than their domestic lifespan of about 15 years. Both are considered non-native.
We have to agree that the feral cat and feral pigeon live parallel lives at a fundamental level. Importantly, both are reviled by a considerable segment of society. Why?
The reasons why some people hate feral cats and feral pigeons
The public’s dislike of pigeons is due to our hard wired instinct to survive. Humans have a fear of pigeons that is hard wired into their brains from caveman times when birds were much larger. Millions of years ago birds were a danger to people. Our brains are now programmed to play safe. We see pigeons as a threat to our survival. This is no longer rational and a lot of people are able to see through this fear. Indeed pigeon fanciers like and breed pigeons.
I would argue that the exact same hard wired survival instinct from millions of years ago is why a large number of people dislike, even hate the feral cat. They are frightened of them and consider them a threat to human survival. An irrational, but subconsciously active, mental process. Millions of years ago before domestication, wild cats would have posed a threat to the survival of people who were exposed to predation by large cats. This fear has been passed down in human DNA over millennia.
So, there you have it. People who shoot feral cats are actually scared of them! Poor things. Big, macho Woodsman, the archetypical cat hater with rifle and four-wheel drive pickup is scared of cats. Incidentally, in my opinion, this is also the underlying reason why people declaw cats.