Facts should guide our community action
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I've been following an impassioned thread in the Post-Gazette regarding cats and their impact on (sorry, tradition compels me) our feathered friends. The argument seems to have taken on a Manichean dimension -- wrong vs. right, good vs. bad. Let's step back from our emotions and preconceptions and look at studies by the University of Nebraska and University of Georgia, along with National Geographic:
• Thirty-three bird species have been driven to extinction by cats (domesticated and feral cats combined);
• Roughly 500 billion birds die yearly as a direct result of feline predation in this country alone;
• Feral cats are vectors for rabies, hookworm, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis and other diseases;
• The economic loss from predation by feral cats in the United States has been put at $17 billion yearly.
But, OK, enough of this catalogue of horrors. What then are we to do? Well, as a necessary, if not sufficient, first step in any mixed-solution approach we have to employ a trap-neuter-return policy. As ferals tend to live only three to five years, the benefits should appear in the near-short term.
Pet owners also must be held accountable for released animals, which become de facto invasives in any biotic community; nor should those animals be fed by the well-intentioned among us.
However we proceed it should be understood that feral cat populations are not part of the natural order of things, but instead are an artifact of modern civilization. As the problem is anthropogenic in origin, so must be its solution .
First Published March 2, 2013 12:00 am