Tonawanda News

Features

June 25, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Dealing with colonies of feral cats

Tonawanda News — Feral versus domestic. Cats versus birds. Indoors versus outdoors. These strong adversaries have been fighting for a long time. 

Other strong opponents include those in favor of trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programs and those who believe in eliminating feral cat populations. Having friends on both sides, I knew I had to approach this subject delicately.

The problem is that there are cats outdoors.

One side of the equation says that outdoor cats kill millions of native wildlife a year and carry disease. They do not belong in the United States or many other parts of the world because they most likely originated in northern Africa. The cats you see outside in the United States did not appear here until around the late 1800s.

The other side sees outdoor cats as more of a free-ranging pet. They provide them with shelter, food and sometimes medical attention. These people believe that the cats can live a happy and healthy life outside, and they are beneficial for acting as vermin control.

The Invasive Species Specialist Group, a specialist group of the Species Survival Commission, published a booklet in three languages titled “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species.” Species were chosen by meeting two criteria. They must exemplify biological invasion and have had a serious impact on biological diversity. Cats made the list.

I have seen cats kill wildlife. Sometimes they bring the dead shrew or bird to the back door. Sometimes only feathers remain. Yes, the loss of habitat and human development are the leading causes of declining bird populations. Most scientists believe that invasive animals, including cats, are the second-largest threat.

Cats have been known to wipe out entire bird populations. The effects are easily shown on islands. According to the American Bird Conservancy domestic cats are considered the main reason for the extinction of eight island bird species, including Stephens Island Wren, Chatham Island Fernbird and Auckland Island Merganser. They are also responsible for the removal of 41 bird species from New Zealand islands.

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