by Fiona Reid, President
On my way home from our last meeting, with coyotes in mind, I was on the lookout for mammals and eyeshine in my car headlights. In the ten-minute drive, I spotted six domestic cats in fields and along the roadsides. These were the only mammals I saw that night.
So, what impact do our cats have on wildlife if they are allowed to roam free? A recent study in the USA (based on a systematic review and quantitative mortality estimates) found that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually (Loss et al., 2013). This means that free-ranging cats are the single greatest source of human-caused mortality for wild birds and mammals. The authors found that feral (including barn) cats caused more damage than owned pets, but many dearly-loved felines spend time in the great outdoors happily hunting. Native species make up the majority of birds and mammals killed by cats, only a few non- native birds are impacted. Free-ranging cats on islands have caused or contributed to 33 recent extinctions, as recorded by the IUCN.
Of course, the cats that do not impact wild populations of songbirds and small mammals are the ones that are kept indoors! Indoor cats are safe from predators such as coyotes and owls. They are less likely to get fleas or other parasites, and they can live a long and happy life without decimating our fragile fauna. Or, take them out on a leash! The photo below by club member Jeff Normandeau shows how content cats can be on a leash.
Cats are funny, smart, loveable, affectionate, and they are cold-blooded killers. They are not native to North America. Unlike most carnivores, they hunt by day or by night. If roving gangs of children were killing thousands of songbirds, would we not hold their parents accountable? Why then do we not hold pet owners accountable for the actions of their pets?
Please, keep your cats indoors and get them spayed. They will live longer and so will your neighborhood birds and small mammals.