FERAL CATS:Fact, Myth, and Management
Tom Poulson, Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolution
I have read all 740 comments in the National Geographic Forum and researched the pros and cons of most of the arguments. In balance I favor trapping and euthanizing feral cats and outlawing cat mills. And cats should be kept inside or walked on leash; dogs aren’t allowed to roam free.
1.Cats are not a native species! Australians are trying to exterminate all feral alien species that devastate thieir native species and ecosystems.
2.Except for neutered restaurant cats and farm cats, most neutered feral cats lead a short and precarious life and are mostly diseased and parasite-ridden.
3.Trap, neuter, and release does not solve the huge problem of feral cats killing native animals. In the United States feral cats annually kill 1.4 – 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 – 20.7 billion small mammals not to mention lizards, frogs, and insects. For perspective, other bird killers include tall buildings and windows (20 B), wind turbines (40 -50 M), cell towers (40 – 50 M), cars (60 – 80 M), power-lines (130 – 170 M), and pesticides (70 M). These deaths are declining with better design and siting but not so for deaths by feral cats.
4. The solution is to adopt feral cats and keep your cat pets inside. In our experience bells on our cats did not seem to decrease the number of bird and mice our cats proudly brought home to show us when we used to let them go outside. Unfortunately they rarely killed resident non-native pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings but wreaked havoc on migrants such as warblers and thrushes.
5.Our outside cats continued to kill even though they were well-fed. Data show that well-fed feral cats also continue to kill. Our indoor cats continue to kill insects, lizards, and frogs that find their ways on to our screened porch.
6.Native predators do a good job, along with natural disease and competition, of keeping native mammals in check. If we keep some natural habitat then we will have plenty of hawks, owls, shrikes, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, shrews, and snakes to maintain the balance of nature. Perhaps feral cats in cities help control non-native rats and mice but cities still spend huge amounts of money controlling these vermin, mostly using poison baits.
A. Any solution that is dependent on trapping methods is a failure from the
start, because no trapping program anywhere on earth has been able to catch-up
to cats' breeding rates and the rates at which cat-lickers let more cats
be born and dumped outdoors. What then is your proposal since trapping cannot be the main solution? (Trapping can help, but the help is truly insignificant. I already did analysis of trapping and population growth rates on over 100 of the most "successful" TNR programs worldwide and using population-growth calculus. No trapping program on earth can get past a magical 0.4% of feral cats in any one region for any length of time. 99.6+% breeding out of control at any one time at exponential rates.)
2. So do farm cats live short and precarious lives. What kinds of cats do you think they were where I had to shoot and bury hundreds of them? Roaming farm cats.
3. It's not even a matter of how many animals they kill. If even ONE native animal or ONE native species is harmed or threatened by an invasive species, that act has sealed the fate of all individuals of that invasive species. If an invasive species has proved harmful to native species in any way, then that invasive species must all be destroyed whenever found away from supervised containment. The only numbers that matter after an invasive species has proved itself a threat to native wildlife; is how far have they spread, how fast do they spread, and are there resources enough to destroy them fast enough in whatever manner is decided upon. Those are the only numbers that matter once an invasive species has proved a detriment or threat to native species. Any other numbers are just red-herring nonsense. Did they count how many trees were destroyed by the Emerald Ash Borer and then wait to see how many more it will destroy before they decided to halt that insect in its tracks? (Don't be so silly.)
4. Please go back to school and realize that without at least 6-month quarantine, NO feral or even stray cat can be adopted without violating well-understood health laws and risking spreading rabies to the adoptees. (As has already happened many times when people adopt rabid cats from shelters that harvest the tamer cats and kittens from their own TNR programs, or those who adopt rabid cats direct from vaccinated outdoor colonies.) This makes this a financial impossibility. Most shelters can't even afford to keep them 1 to 3 days, let alone feed, house, and supervise them for 6 months or more. Are you going to pay to feed, house, and quarantine (under supervision) over 90 million stray and feral cats for 6+ months each? The majority of which can never be adopted for being wild animals that can't be kept indoors. And then attempt to do so by trying to trap them, a method which can NEVER catch up to their breeding rates?
("Professor"? Of ecology yet. Really? wow. This just gets sadder and sadder ...)