Outdoor Cats

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Lophura, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. Lophura

    Lophura Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2008
    Holden, Missouri
    Outdoor Cats: Single Greatest Source of Human-Caused Mortality for Birds and Mammals, Says New Study



    Cat with American Coot by Debi Shearwater.
    Photo can be used with credit.

    Contact: Robert Johns, (Washington, D.C., January 29, 2013) A new peer-reviewed (http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/pdf/Loss_et_al_2013.pdf)study published today and authored by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations – the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – has found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than has been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 – 20.7 billion individuals.

    The study, which offers the most comprehensive analysis of information on the issue of outdoor cat predation, was published in the online research journal Nature Communications and is based on a review of 90 previous studies. The study was authored by Dr. Peter Marra and Scott Loss, research scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and by Tom Will from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Birds.

    According to Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, one of the leading bird conservation organizations in the U.S. and a group that has called for action on this issue for many years, "This study, which employed scientifically rigorous standards for data inclusion, demonstrates that the issue of cat predation on birds and mammals is an even bigger environmental and ecological threat than we thought. No estimates of any other anthropogenic [human-caused] mortality source approach the bird mortality this study calculated for cat predation.”

    “To maintain the integrity of our ecosystems, we have to conserve the animals that play integral roles in those ecosystems. Every time we lose another bird species or suppress their population numbers, we’re altering the very ecosystems that we depend on as humans. This issue clearly needs immediate conservation attention,” he said further.

    “The very high credibility of this study should finally put to rest the misguided notions that outdoor cats represent some harmless, new component to the natural environment. The carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed. This is a wake-up call for cat owners and communities to get serious about this problem before even more ecological damage occurs,” Fenwick said.

    The study’s estimate of bird mortality far exceeds any previously estimated U.S. figure for cats. In fact, this magnitude of mortality may exceed all other direct sources of anthropogenic bird and mammal mortality combined. Other bird mortality sources would include collisions with windows, buildings, communication towers, vehicles, and pesticide poisoning.

    The study estimated that the median number of birds killed by cats annually is 2.4 billion and the median number of mammals killed is 12.3 billion. About 69 percent of the bird mortality from cat predation and 89 percent of the mammal mortality was from un-owned cats. Un-owned cats are defined to include farm/barn cats, strays that are fed but not granted access to human habitations, cats in subsidized colonies, and cats that are completely feral.

    Free-ranging cats on islands have caused or contributed to 33 (14 percent) of the modern bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions recorded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened animals and plant species.

    Native species make up the majority of the birds preyed upon by cats. On average, only 33 percent of bird prey items identified to species were non-native species in 10 studies. Studies of mammals in suburban and rural areas found that 75–100 percent of mammalian prey were native mice, shrews, voles, squirrels, and rabbits, all of which serve as food sources for birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles.

    The study charges that, “Despite these harmful effects, policies for management of free-ranging cat populations and regulation of pet ownership behaviors are dictated by animal welfare issues rather than ecological impacts. Projects to manage free-ranging cats, such as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) colonies, are potentially harmful to wildlife populations, but are implemented across the United States without widespread public knowledge, consideration of scientific evidence, or the environmental review processes typically required for actions with harmful environmental consequences.”

  2. missnu01

    missnu01 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2012
    Very interesting. Aren't there a lot of places that would have cats anyway...so are they really an invasive species? Is it not the food chain in action. I guess it would be only if people had outdoor cats, and not indoor outdoor cats, since an indoor cat lives so much longer...It is interesting. We have cats to kill mice...but I know they kill birds as well and rabbits. It just seems like none of these animals are in danger of being wiped out. At least not in my area.
  3. Lophura

    Lophura Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2008
    Holden, Missouri

    The feral domestic cat is descended from Felis silvestris, the Old-World Wildcat and then spread all around the world by humans (see native map below).


    It isn't part of the natural balance when a species has been introduced. It's been going on for centuries, but scientists are now finally acknowledging how serious the problem is. Extinctions of bird species have occurred due to cats brought aboard ships to control rodents and jumping ship at several islands. I love cats, more so than dogs, but there is no doubt that this is a problem and although it may not seem noticeable in your location, it could be affecting a species that you are not even aware of. Once that species is gone, they'll go to the next, then the next, and the dominoes fall into place. Eventually, a species you do notice will be affected.

    I posted this here as I know the popularity of "barn cats" with poultry keepers and rodent control. Probably time to think of alternatives for the future.

  4. EmAbTo48

    EmAbTo48 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2011
    Northern Wisconsin
    Here in NW they almost actually opened a season for feral cats.... Not sure what happened to it but it ended up not happening.

    I started out with my one outdoor/inside cat who is snipped and always taken care off. Over the 3 years I have lived here we have killed 8 ferals who were nasty nasty animals and were killing our poultry...

    We have accumlated 2 more that I assume at one point were barn cats or something maybe got dropped off here that are now outside barn cats. Super nice cats friendly love attention.

    I have found at least 10 kittens that we have taken to the humane society. Its TERRIBLE here! I am sick of finding these poor creatures. My hubby is beyound sick of it as hes not a cat person in general. He said by the time were retired we will be the crazy cat people, I told him that will not happen and it won't.

    People need to neuter/spay their outside cats period it would stop all this craziness. All our outside cats are clipped no babies here!
  5. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 10, 2010
    Even "fixed", cared for cats kill. ONly they do it for fun and don't even eat what they kill.
    The problem is people who let their indoor cats outside. A barn cat or two is a neccessity if you have livestock - sorry but true. However, if your baby is a housecat - keep it in the house! If you feel it needs to go outside - build a safe, FENCED area for it to play in. I have seem some pretty knifty cat cages - one of my old neighbors built one for his wife's cats after they lost their 5th cat to traffic on the road.
    My cats will not leave the house without being forceably carried out the door - and watch out if you try it, my little girl will scratch the heck out of you if you take her to the door! I can leave the door open, but their little feet will not cross that threshold. It took me about a month to train the two kittens to stay inside. No beatings were necessary - only a garden hose with a spray nozzle.
  6. Stacykins

    Stacykins Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 19, 2011
    Escanaba, MI
    Yea, cats have caused incredible destruction when added to habitats they are not native to. There are countless species that have been wiped out for good because of cats. The Stephens Island wren is an example. The bird was only described by the few victims brought home by a lighthouse keeper's cat. By then, the damage has been done by feral cats.

    Rats have also caused extinctions. But they are introduced by accident. Cats are introduced on purpose by settlers.

    Why is this a necessity? Since I got chickens and goats, I have not had a rodent problem. I keep all of my grain and feed in metal bins that are kept closed at all times. I keep a few snaptraps out, armed with peanut butter. I've yet to catch anything. All the square hay bales I've busted open to feed to animals have no had any mice in them, either. I know mice can sometimes nest down in them.

    I think if grain is kept in containers that cannot be accessed by rodents, there won't be an issue. No food, means no mice, pretty easy solution to the problem. Plus, a barn cat may not even hunt mice. The cat may prefer birds, frogs, or voles to mice.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  7. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2011
    While I will look into studies on cats before deciding on how cats will be handled on any future farm, and will consider the cat bib alternative linked in the article, and while cats can certainly devastate island populations...I have a hard time believing that cats, particularly fixed house cats, are the major threat to US mainland bird populations. I would believe that they put pressure on already decimated populations, but they have always seemed like a convenient avoidance topic to me in an industrialized nation.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  8. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 10, 2010
    Cats put unnessesary pressure on a species already under pressure by humans.

    If you have a livestock barn, and store quantities of feed that is fed out to a number of animals - you are going to have rodents. I have rodents in my garage - no food source available to them from the garage unless you count the car wiring that they are eating. But they do harvest seed heads from my property and store them in odd places like the air filter of the ATV. A barn or other structure provides shelter and will attract rodents - even if you are perfect and have perfect animals and there is no food source readily available.
    Rodents can carry disease and cause illness. I'd rather have a barn cat than put up with mouse droppings. If my barn cat didn't hunt mice - then it would be gone.
  9. res

    res Chillin' With My Peeps

    That may work for you, or any other "small" operation. But there are livestock operations out there that need to store several tons of feed at a time. And then there is also the storage of seed grains for planting.... There is no way to store that amount of feed and seed and be 100% rodent proof. You do all you can to deter the little buggers, but they find a way in. They also love to invade combines, grain trucks, grain hoppers, seed drills and all sorts of other farm equipment.

    I have a concrete floored rodent-proof tack room, and I keep all my feed in rodent proof containers. Yet I STILL have mice that live in the barn walls. The little buggers come out at feeding time and snatch every bit of grain my horses drop the moment it touches the stall floor.

    Cats are a pretty easy and economical way to help put a dent in the rodent population around a farm. I know that true barn cats probably do kill songbirds occasionally, but I imagine most of their attention is on mice. I envision urban backyard cats being much more detrimental to songbirds than barn cats, as their environment is going to support birds more than mice.

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