by Chas Danner
A new study has been bouncing around the web in which cameras were attached to pet cats so that their behavior (and kill-totals) away from home could be better understood. Deanna Pan goes over the numbers:
About 30 percent of the sampled cats were successful hunters and killed, on average, two animals a week. Almost half of their spoils were abandoned at the scene of the crime. Extrapolating from the data to include the millions of feral cats brutalizing native wildlife across the country, the American Bird Conservancy estimates that kitties are killing more than 4 billion animals annually. And that number's based on a conservative weekly kill rate, said Robert Johns, a spokesman for the conservancy. "We could be looking at 10, 15, 20 billion wildlife killed (per year)," Johns said.
Amanda Marcotte points out who's really at fault for the death toll:
Apologists for outdoor cats often shrug these numbers off by saying that since it's a cat's instinct to kill small animals, then this can all be chalked up to "nature" and not really a matter of human concern. But the only reason there are so many cats out there is because of people; we introduce them to new environments and sadly, we often let the reproduce rapidly without any check until they've completely overrun the place. Spay and neuter programs help, as do catch-and-release programs to sterilize feral cats who have no hope of living with people. Still, the bird death toll could be even more seriously reduced if people stopped letting their cats roam about unsupervised.
Indeed the study's authors also recommend just leaving your cat indoors. Marcotte summarizes her attitude:
I approach cat ownership in the spirit of the TV show Dexter: Accept that your cats have troublesome urges and learn to channel those urges productively.