Invasion of the killer cats

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Attacks on felines cannot go unanswered.

There’s been a wave of articles the last couple of days attacking domestic cats (owned and feral) for the number of birds and small mammals and reptiles they kill.

Is it news that cats kill billions of animals each year? The Huffington Post seems to think so:

It just doesn’t resonate with me. It’s like finding out crocodiles kill a million wildebeests, or the birds themselves kill billions of earthworms. Shall we generate a list of every animal that kills another animal, and the number of victims they have? And then shall we call for the entrapment, even culling of any species guilty of killing more than their share (whatever that is)?

Predators eat their prey, period.

Then there’s this story from the National Post, reprinted from Salon:

I kept waiting for the author to reveal she was joking. But then it didn’t happen. Can we assume Laura Helmuth really does think ‘no animal’ is a good pet? Is she really worried that if she had a pet dog it would bite her to death and eat her corpse?

Does she agree cats are ‘neighbourhood serial killers’?

She’s right, sort of, that cats are an invasive species. But even that kind of language is loaded. What does invasive mean? Just that it was brought to places where it wasn’t before? Big cats are found on every continent but Australia, and the domestic cat is just a wildly successful version of its wild cousin (they’re so genetically close they can interbreed). Is any migration invasive, or just migration caused by humans? But wait a second, aren’t humans part of the natural environment, too?

The argument cats are a human construct, like dogs, doesn't work for me either. I'm not sure it has merit even if I accepted the terms, but I don't accept the terms. The domestic cat is all but unchanged from the wild cat. Cats are simply a very successful species - and like almost all successful predators, a vast number of prey are consumed to feed them. We didn't make the rules and neither did cats. It's biology.

Listen, if you love songbirds and want more of them and fewer cats, fine, say your piece. But veiling this personal preference in the language of science is a bit disingenuous. I suppose in isolated ecosystems, where cats have the potential to kill off entire species, it would be sensible to take steps to limit that danger. But the environment, the planet and nature don’t care if we have 10 birds for every cat or 10 cats for every bird. That concern is a human one.

I like birds but I like cats, too. Cats eat birds. Sometimes large birds eat cats. Sometimes other, larger predators eat cats, too. I don’t think we should cull coyotes, even though I suspect at least one of my cats was eaten by one.

Nature is fascinating and ferocious, glorious and gruesome. Even humans are potential prey. I think tigers are amazing, even though a tiger would eat me if it got the chance. There’s nothing immoral or ‘evil’ about a cat’s hunting instincts and nothing evil about their success.

There’s no moral high ground to be found championing birds and cursing cats.


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