Both CDC and ornithologists misrepresent rabies risk from cats in USA

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the USA massages the statistics regarding rabid cats by describing feral cats as domestic cats. This is misleading the public and creating unnecessary alarm.

Bird Lovers (ornithologists) such as Grant Sizemore and trolls like Woodsman001 (Jim Stevenson) like to subtly misrepresent the risk to people of contracting rabies from cats both domestic and feral (and all cats in-between).

I’d like to try and put the record straight.

CDC, when reporting cases of rabies in cats, state that:

“The total number of reported cases involving cats in 2015 was 244, representing 58.1 percent of all reported cases involving domestic animals in 2015.”

Note the phrase “domestic animals”. This means that the sentence is referring to domestic cats. The CDC are saying that 244 domestic cats were reported as having rabies in 2015. But I don’t think they are saying that because there is no mention of feral cats in the CDC figures. And as most cases of rabies come from feral cats the CDC are painting a misleading picture. The CDC seem to be referring to all cats, both feral and domestic as ‘domestic cats’. I have heard this before from Stevenson. He denies that there is any such animal as a feral cat. It’s weird.

Feral cats are often born without any contact with humans. They are truly undomesticated and unsocialised. In effect they are wild. The feral cats of Australia, for instance, are regarded by Australians as wild cats.

In blurring the boundaries between feral and domestic cats the CDC are increasing the fear in people of the risk of getting rabies from cats because people are more likely to approach a domestic cat than a feral cat. In fact it is very hard to approach a true feral cat. They steer clear of people because they are unsocialised.

The figure that cats represent 58.1% of all reported cases of domestic animals being rabid is highly misleading because it includes feral cats which care positively not domestic animals.

In doing this CDC are indicating to me that the management and statisticians are biased against the cat. They give ammunition to trolls and misrepresenters such as Stevenenson and Sizemore. So for example Sizemore in a recent article states:

“Cats are the top source of rabies among domestic animals and, according to a study led by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are disproportionately more likely to expose people to the disease than wildlife.”

He has got this from CDC but CDC are misrepresenting the data. Sizemore uses the phrase “disproportionately more likely to expose people to the disease than wildlife” because he says that people will interact with domestic cats. But, as mentioned, in truth, the CDC is mainly referring to feral cats.

If we look at the CDC figures in the round in terms of which animals are most likely be rabid the cat comes out quite low down on the scale. There were 244 reported cases of rabid feral cats in 2015 in the USA. Of foxes there were 325, skunks 1,365, bats 1,704, racoons 1,611. Ninety percent of rabid animals are wild animals. CDC does not regard feral cats as wild animals. As there are an estimated up to 150 million domestic and feral cats in the USA, 244 cats represents 0.000162% of all cats!

To sum up, let’s be clear. It is plainly weird and misleading to describe feral cats as domesticated which is exactly what CDC, Sizemore and Stevenson state. They state it to assist them in denigrating the cat because the cat preys on birds and both Sizemore and Stevenson are ornithologists. As for CDC, they’re simply massaging the figures.

P.S. I have deliberately removed comments except for Facebook discussion. Sorry.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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