Cat advocates call the study "a continuing propaganda campaign to vilify cats."
Domestic cats are vicious, terrifying, natural born killers, according to a report by a team of Smithsonian biologists, confirming something any cat owner has known for years. Ecologists have long believed that domestic cats, both free roaming pets and feral cats, were one of the top causes for the decline in songbirds and small mammals in North America. The Smithsonian study alleges that cats are killing two to four times as many as previously believed, giving some bite to the ecologists' assertions. The study estimates that a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals are killed each year by free-roaming pets and feral cats. Additionally, it appears that the majority of predation was on native species like shrews, chipmunks, and voles - not introduced pests like brown rats (Rattus norvegicus).
The study operated by taking local and regional cat studies and scaling them up, then incorporating them into a predictive model for national scale results. "When we ran the model, we didn't know what to expect," said Dr. Peter Marra, who worked on the study, "we were absolutely stunned by the results." The results, in context, would make domesticated cats as an invasive species the largest anthropogenic (person-influenced) killer of birds and mammals. That's more dead animals than automobiles, pesticides, poisons, and collisions with buildings.
Some pro-cat groups quickly called out the study, calling it "part of a continuing propaganda campaign to vilify cats." Cat advocacy groups like Alley Cat Allies advocate a Trap-Neuter-Return policy towards reducing the feral cat's impact on the environment. They believe that capturing feral cats and sending them to shelters to be adopted, and if they are not adopted, euthanized, is inhumane. Wildlife biologists allege that TNR programs create populations of "subsidized super-predators" which survive in great densities due to human goodwill. The study appears in the January edition of the journal Nature Communications.
Source: New York Times