Dear Editor(s)- My Response to the Cats Killing Birds Study
Dear USA Today, Huffington Post, The New York Times, NPR, the Nightly News with Brian Williams and anyone else who has endlessly been reporting on a study released in the journal, Nature Communications, that free roaming and feral cats are responsible for killing up to 3.7 billion birds annually in the continental United States, I want to state, that yes, cats do kill birds. Humans also kill birds. And I’m not speaking just in terms of the effects of mankind – pollution, construction, pest control, toxins, and the “sport” of hunting. I am talking about our everyday life.
Yes, we humans are responsible for an astounding number of deaths that not only includes birds, i.e., chickens and turkeys, but other warm and cold blooded creatures. It is estimated that over 10 billion cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, and other animals are raised and then slaughtered for our consumption. 17 billion fish face the same death for our eating consumption and 45 million turkeys are slaughtered so that we can serve them on our tables for Thanksgiving. Are we to conclude that just because these creatures are not considered wildlife that their lives are any less valuable?
The study also concludes that cats kill over 12 billion small mammals per year — mostly mice, moles, squirrels and shrews. Again, who are we to play God, but hasn’t man been trying to eradicate the rodent population since the beginning of time? We have pest control companies, mice and rat traps, and other means to exterminate these creatures. Gloss over it any way you want, but killing is killing. And ironically, the very reason that we have such staggering numbers of feral cats living on the streets, is because of man. Domestic cats were initially brought to our country by traders, explorers and colonists during the 1600’s to kill rodent populations. Back then, we did not know of the benefits of spay/neuter, so as a consequence, we now find ourselves as a nation with over 70 million cats living on the streets and in shelters.
I’m not here to judge as I know we’ve evolved as a nation that no longer hunts for survival and it is far-fetched to think, much as I wish it could happen, that we become a full society of vegetarians. I also realize that rodents can be a menace and carry diseases, but let’s just put this article into perspective and use it for positive measures rather than overblown and manipulated statistics to be used as an excuse to trap and euthanize cats.
Cats may be killers, but they are also loving, intelligent, warm, compassionate, and fascinating creatures that have been revered since the beginning of time. Studies prove that they can lower stress levels in humans and are devoted companions. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States and thirty-three percent of U.S. households own at least one cat. Clearly we are a nation of cat loving people, people that I am sure don’t want to see birds killed. But can’t we find a way for the bird and cat people compromise? We are a civilized society, so surely there has to be a better way of saving birds than by trapping cats and bringing them to shelters where they will likely be euthanized as the solution to reducing free roaming and feral cat populations.
February is National Spay/Neuter Month and here in lies the solution. There is a better way that is safe, humane, and effective. Educate communities on the benefits of a program called TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) to reduce and manage outdoor cat populations. Less cats outside, less birds killed. Simple math. Simple logic. For pet owners that have cats, keeping them indoors would be the best solution – not only is it safer for the cat, but it is the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, not everyone will do that, but the more people we educate with the consequences of letting our cats outdoors, the more who will be inclined to try to keep them inside. Lets use the study to encourage nationwide responsibility so that people understand that there are consequences for every cat that roams the street, whether it be a pet, stray, or feral.
It’s time to stop using life as a disposable commodity in our society. Cats will kill birds, it is in their nature. But that does not mean we can’t manage that fact in a humane way to reduce the numbers. In the meantime, maybe we could take more responsibility for the equal fact that humans are also responsible for the death of birds and stop all of this over-sensationalized mudslinging with headlines that perpetuate misleading and misguided information. People kill people too… it unfortunately seems to be in our nature as well. Maybe that is the real headline to concentrate on.