National Geographic bird watcher agrees that killing cats to save birds is not the answer

Noah Stryker is a renowned bird watcher. He has written an article for National Geographic in which he asks if we should kill off cats to save birds. What I believe that he is asking is whether we should trap and euthanise feral cats to dramatically reduce their numbers to lessen the impact of cats preying on birds. This is unlike Australia where they are already killing feral cats anyway possible. The humaneness of the killing is irrelevant. Karma will befall Australia in taking that attitude.

Noah Strycker
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Noah Strycker. Photograph by Bob Keefer.

Without directly answering the question and reading between the lines he says that killing cats is not the way forward.

He writes that there ‘are humane solutions’ but does not specify them except to refer to TNR which he says that bird lovers don’t like and neither does PETA although PETA in India approve it. PETA are ambivalent about TNR in my view.

He refers to the controversial Smithsonian research on the impact of cat predation on birds and wildlife in America. The numbers are enormous but I have always argued that they are guesswork because (a) Americans don’t know how many feral cats there are in America and (b) the total numbers are extrapolations on small studies which is dangerous and inherently inaccurate.

The weakness in the Smithsonian study is made clear by Washington DC’s survey counting the number of feral cats in their jurisdiction. They admit that it is impossible to work out how many birds are killed by feral cats until you know how many cats there are.

Noah’s conclusion in answering his own question – To save birds, should we kill off cats? – is that he does not have the answer. In fact as there is no obvious answer he is correct. There is no solution to the so called ‘feral cat problem’ because there are too many administrations in the US at various levels of government which have sidestepped the issue for too long. If widespread government sponsored TNR had commenced 30 years ago the feral cat problem wouldn’t have developed into an intractable problem.

As I have mentioned and reading between the lines, Strycker agrees that killing cats is not the solution. He also hints that more responsible cat ownership would have helped. This could have been achieved years ago by mandatory microchipping. The horse has bolted on that. There is no appetite for it among the politicians. It’ll change in due course but the feral cat issue never will. There will always be quite a large number of feral cats because that is the price of having domestic cats.

Read Noah’s article.

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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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