Dear Nature Lover, My Cat Isn’t Your Problem


Thousands of years ago, cats and humans struck a deal. We’d give kitties a home as long as they took care of our vermin. The cats don’t always hold up their end of the bargain — my own, for example, has done nothing about my current mouse situation — but humans haven’t done much better. And now we have a huge problem.

A paper published today in Nature Communications documented a kitty kill tally that’s pretty scary. In the U.S., cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion mammals every year. Culturing Science calls them “ruthless killers.”

They’re right, of course. That’s why we inviting cats into our homes.

But a closer look at the study shows that it’s not cats like mine that are the problem. My kitty never goes outside. But even owned cats that go outside aren’t the worst killers. Unowned, feral cats accounted for 89 percent of the mortality.

And the fault with the feral population lies with us humans. People don’t get their pets fixed. They let them roam free or, worse, abandon them. And well-meaning people feed feral cat populations, letting the animals survive and kill more wildlife.

So what’s to be done? It has to start with a serious conversation about how we care for cats. We need to get more people to spay and neuter their animals, and encourage them to not let their animals outside. (Really, house kitties are happy.) And we have to figure out what to do with feral cats. Trap-neuter-release programs appear humane, but it’s having devastating affects on the natural world.

Ideally, I would gather up all the feral kitties in the world, get them fixed, and let them live out their days in huge barns. That’s probably not practical, but at least it’s an idea.

Image credit: Flickr user Janesdead