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Some time ago I wrote a short article on the subject of false or unsubstantiated statements made by individuals who claimed that the domestic cat and feral cat were decimating the birds of Great Britain (or any other countries for that matter). There is a large group of people who, in disliking cats, like to find fault and one of the classic arguments is that the domestic cat ruthlessly kills native birds by the millions and to such an extent that whole populations are in jeopardy of being eradicated. The Australians are very good at this because they are very proud of their native wildlife but unfortunately they created a “feral cat problem”. In certain parts of the country they like to shoot feral cats(and its legal!). They fail to remind themselves that the biggest killer of wildlife is us through simple persecution - deliberate killing, deforestation, road kill, pollution and climate change to name a few examples.
In my earlier article entitled “How Feral Cats Affect Wildlife” I concluded that there were far too many wild assertions and not enough accurate science from which a considered, objective and accurate assessment could be made. In respect of birds I had always understood that cats prefer ground prey such a mice and that they relatively rarely preyed on birds as they were harder to catch – a simple practical reason. This mirrors wild cat behaviour. Animals will find the easiest route to survival, of course.
As it happens my thoughts have been supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK.
The first problem is that estimates of the number of wild animals killed by the domestic and feral cat, “vary significantly”. This has always been the case. That in itself makes accusations about the domestic cat very shallow. In short we don’t really know. And this is admitted by the RSPB (“estimates…vary significantly”)
However, what we do know is that there are no scientific assessments that tell us that predation by the cat is having an impact on bird populations in the UK. So says the premier authority on this matter in the UK.
The Mammal Society estimates that the cat kills about 275 million animals a year of which 55 million are birds. But there is evidence that cats prey on weak, sick and dying birds. It is natural selection in action and no one has ever criticised that as it is the model that created us. In short birds killed by cats would probably have died anyway so the cat’s intervention makes little or no difference.
Also, the RSPB says, the bird species that have undergone population declines such as the skylarks, tree sparrows and corn buntings are not hunted by feral and domestic cats. Blue tits are one of the most frequently caught birds yet their population has increased by 25% since 1966. Conversely, the house sparrow and starling, two birds preyed on by cats, have suffered a population decline of breeding birds but the reason is inconclusive.
The decline in population is caused by something else and it is most likely linked to human activity of one kind or another.
So lets be less hypocritical. Lets stop blaming the cat for something that we are probably doing.
Domestic cats do not decimate bird populations -- Sources: