Cat lovers have a high profile cat advocate in Dr Bradshaw. It is good that we have a well known scientist and author who plays fair and who does not have a hidden agenda to promote.
Dr. John Bradshaw the well known anthrozoologist and author of Dog Sense1 and the recently published book Cat Sense2 has put some cat sense or common sense back into the debate about the predatory cat by countering the current habit of criticising the domestic cat for the mass killing of wildlife.
He basically disagrees with what a lot of so called experts have been stating recently that domestic cats are responsible for the loss of billions of native wild animals. These people, who often have an axe to grind, have indirectly attacked the domestic cat and encouraged cat abuse and discouraged the humane treatment of cats. Certainly, stating that cats kill native species in their billions does nothing to stop the mass slaughter of cats at shelters.
It is pleasant, very pleasant to see a genuinely knowledgeable animal behavior expert and well regarded author injecting some sensible argument into the debate.
Dr Bradshaw, in a recent article for the Independent newspaper, states that cats have to a certain extent lost their desire to hunt. I can vouch for that as my cats over 25 years have caught between them, one mouse, which was not eaten. If and when the domestic cat does hunt he goes for easy prey: dying birds or ground dwelling animals. The bird conservationists are miles off-target in their assessments and estimates.
Dr Bradshaw mentions the recent BBC2 documentary The Secret Life of the Cat in which the movements and activities of cats where studied. There was very little hunting going on.
Also, and sensibly, Dr Bradshaw writes that there are better explanations for the loss of wildlife. In some ways he is stating the obvious. We know that the biggest killer of wildlife is people through habitat destruction, climate change and persecution or exploitation. We, cat lovers, who are educated, don’t need telling that but it is nice to read the words of a respected scientist that supports what we know.
The current trend for blaming cats for wildlife declines started with bird conservationists in America and in Australia and New Zealand where the domestic cat is non-native species.
Dr Bradshaw states that other animals in Australia have played a role in declining native species populations. These are the fox, dingo and the rat.
The often cited cases of cats exterminating a species of animal have occurred on small islands when people introduced the cat to the island. Isn’t the cause therefore: people?
Also on mainland Australia cats have had a much lesser impact. Curfews – keeping cats inside the home at certain times – has had little impact on wildlife numbers it appears.
We know that domestic cats do hunt. They do kill small mammals and birds but (a) we know it is natural and we respect the cat and allow the cat to express his natural desired and drives and (b) we can do small things such as erecting cat-proof bird feeders to protect wildlife.
What I want to see is more scientists like Dr Bradshaw who accept and admit that people, through their actions, are in a different league to domestic cats when in comes to killing wildlife of all kinds.
- Full title: Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
- Full title: Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed
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