First of all, it’s not my cats. Let’s just clear that up. My cats are indoor cats. The one time my fat, lazy cat Luke got outside, he saw a squirrel, freaked out, and ran back inside. So it’s not my cats that are killing all the birds.
But apparently cats are killing a crapton of birds. Like, wayyyyy more than anyone thought. A new study found that “free-ranging” cats are killing between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds. Please note that that number is a world-wide number, not, like, in my backyard or anything.
These free-ranging outdoor killing machines include barn cats, cats living outside that are fed by people, and feral cats that fend for themselves.
These numbers are important, considering that of the approximately 800 species of birds that exist in the U.S., nearly a third are endangered, threatened or in significant decline, reports USAToday.
The study also found that cats kill between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion mammals — mainly mice, shrews, and voles — annually. And while my initial reactions to that are wow, isn’t “between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion” kind of a large range? and also yay, fewer mice = good, it turns out that not everyone is happy about cats killing mice. Specifically, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) reminds us that those mice, shrews, and other skeevy little mammals are also sources of food for birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and eagles.
Side note: apparently no one, not even a wildlife conservation group, cares how many mice die. Sorry, mice.
“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,” said ABC’s president Dr. George Fenwick, possibly while hyperventilating, in a press release. His statement is accompanied by a photo of a sinister-looking cat with a bird in its mouth:
ABC notes that the study’s estimate of bird mortality far exceeds any previously estimated U.S. figure for cats, and calls outdoor cats “the single greatest source of human-caused mortality to birds and mammals.” Other human-caused bird mortality sources would include collisions with windows, buildings, communication towers, vehicles, and pesticide poisoning.
I still don’t really understand how a bird can collide with a building, but apparently they do. So basically the take-home messages here are that everything is our fault, birds are possibly incredibly stupid and therefore in need of protection, and you should keep your killer cat inside.
(Photo Credits: iStockphoto, Debi Shearwater)
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