Louise Holton and Maggie Funkhouser of Alley Cat Rescue sent me the following response, both to the New York Times Magazine article that discussed feral cat predation and to my own talk/blog, "Is This Kitty a Killer?" I think they make some excellent points.
Humans have double standards when it comes to judging and treating animals and how they judge and treat their own species. Environmentalists focus on the cat as predator, making exaggerated claims about cat predation and often overlooking or minimizing the tremendous damage done by humans. At this time in history, when the human population is so destructive to the earth and wildlife, we need to remind ourselves of our species’ responsibility and consider our “double standards.”
Urban sprawl, parking lots, road building, and golf courses play a large part in reducing habitat and food sources, negatively affecting wildlife. We poison our air with exhaust fumes from over 120 million automobiles and spray 4 billion pounds of pesticides into the atmosphere annually. The WorldWatch Institute cites deforestation, due to razing forests for croplands, pastures, and real estate, as one of the major factors contributing to the loss of all birds, including songbirds. In addition, power lines electrocute tens of thousands of birds, and estimates of birds killed in collisions with automobiles and glass windows every year run to the hundreds of millions.
So, to place blame on cats as a major cause for the decline of bird populations and to advocate their eradication does not make sense or solve the problem. Yes, there is no denying cats kill birds. They are predators, they hunt, and they do so out of instinct just as other mammals do. But that doesn’t mean we should round up all predators and decide who we should kill and who should live. Plus, many zoologists have observed that feral cats are more scavengers than predators. Their begging and opportunistic behavior “has enabled many feral cats almost to give up hunting altogether,” says Peter Neville, a UK biologist; this behavior has contributed to their being domesticated in the first place over 5,000 years ago.
Studies have also shown that cases where cats were eradicated mice and rat populations exploded, and they began to prey on ground-nesting birds. On Amsterdam Island, biologists eradicated the feral cats to protect seabirds; however, this caused an increase in black rat and house mice populations, and they preyed on the seabirds. Same occurred in New Zealand, when feral cats were exterminated to preserve native bird populations; only, there was an increase in the rat population, which posed deadly to the birds.
In the end, ACR believes all animals, whether exotic, alien, introduced, non-native, or so-called pests, are sentient beings and should be given humane care and treatment. If a species needs controlled in order to preserve another, then all humane, non-lethal methods should be utilized. In this day and age, everyone should be trying to instill more compassionate ethics towards the earth and all of her inhabitants.