Cat Fight

The strange case of the wildlife biologist turned cat poisoner is the latest round in a bitter battle over tens of millions of free-roaming feline hunters.

By John Carey

Small and slight, dressed in a slim gray suit, accused cat poisoner and wildlife biologist Dr. Nico Dauphiné stood in a Washington, D.C., courtroom in mid-December 2011. Earlier that year, a neighbor in Dauphiné’s Washington apartment building, suspecting that the biologist was tampering with the food left out for outdoor cats, called the Washington Humane Society cops. The Society’s law-enforcement team found poison on the food and dug up a surveillance video that seemed to show Dauphiné taking something from her purse as she passed near the food dish. And they learned that the biologist not only had been a vocal advocate of controlling outdoor cat populations to protect birds and other wildlife but also had sparked controversy as a graduate student in Athens, Georgia, for trapping free-roaming cats and taking them to the local shelter. “The Humane Society received hundreds of letters about issues with Nico in Georgia,” says Society law-enforcement officer Daniel D’Eramo, who gathered enough evidence over a month for an arrest warrant.

She didn’t poison the food, Dauphiné had insisted during the trial. But in October, Judge Truman Morrison III had found her guilty of attempted animal cruelty. Now she awaited her punishment, which included the threat of jail time. In a quavering and quiet voice, the wildlife biologist told the judge that she “felt deeply ashamed” for disappointing her supporters. Her sentence: 120 days of community service.

Justice done? It didn’t look that way to Dauphiné’s colleagues. “I am 100 percent confident she was not poisoning cats,” says University of Hawaii wildlife ecologist Christopher Lepczyk, who fears that she was convicted in part because of her articles about the cat-predation problem. “I don’t think anyone in the scientific community agrees that she is guilty.” Cat advocates were also aghast—for the opposite reason. They believed that a heinous criminal with a history of demonizing cats had gotten off far too lightly. A “low-life scumbag” who “lied her ugly face off,” Dauphiné “quite obviously is so far gone in both the morality and decency departments that she is beyond salvage,” fumed the Cat Defender blog.

Strong words—especially when the evidence against Dauphiné was circumstantial and no harm to cats was proven. But the case has highlighted just how high passions run when it comes to an increasingly vitriolic and high-stakes battle over what to do about tens of millions of outdoor cats. In scores of communities across the U.S., conservationists and scientists like Dauphiné are calling for greater controls, pointing to study after study documenting bloody carnage—including hundreds of millions of birds and small mammals felled by feline claw and tooth. “The numbers are mind-numbing,” says theologian and former professional trapper Stephen Vantassel, project coordinator for the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. But cat fanciers dispute those studies and are pushing for a policy of trapping and neutering (or spaying) free-roaming cats, then returning them to the outdoors. “It’s clear that cats are not an issue—and that misinformation is being heavily promoted,” says Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, a group “dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of our nation’s cats.” Meanwhile, players on each side in this bitter struggle have pointedly suggested that the other is in urgent need of psychological counseling.

One thing, however, is not in dispute: the number of cats is growing rapidly. The feline population in the U.S. has roughly tripled since the 1970s—to more than 90 million pets, according to pet industry data, plus an estimated 90 million free-roaming feral or “community” cats. (The exact number is fiercely disputed.) Hundreds of thousands of outdoor cats are captured and taken to shelters each year, where many are euthanized. In 2010, for instance, 3,399 cats were brought into the shelter in Alachua County, Florida, and slightly more than half of them were killed.

If the feline toll is horrifying, so is the harm to wildlife. In a landmark study in Wisconsin, Stanley Temple, now professor emeritus of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin, and his colleagues radio-collared free-ranging rural cats, watched the animals’ hunting behavior, and examined their stomach contents. (An inflammatory and inaccurate press report that implied that the researchers had killed the cats for the stomach contents—in fact, they used an emetic—led to death threats against Temple.)1,2 The study showed that each cat killed an average of 5.6 birds a year. With an estimated 1.4 million free-ranging rural cats just in Wisconsin, that’s nearly 8 million birds. Moreover, these numbers are virtually certain to be underestimates because the researchers didn’t count kills not directly observed. Plus, many more birds were probably killed than were eaten and thus were not detectable in the stomach contents: cats are hard-wired predators that hunt even when well fed.

cat pullquote1 Cat FightIn another study, a team led by Smithsonian wildlife biologist Peter Marra radio-tagged 69 gray catbird chicks and fledglings in the Washington, D.C., area.3 Predators nabbed nearly half the birds, and cats were the number one predator. The researchers witnessed six kills directly and inferred three more from characteristic patterns of damage to the dead fledglings. “We were very conservative assigning mortality to cats,” says Marra.

The debate centers on what these results mean and how they can be extrapolated to the bigger picture. Marra’s data suggest that cat predation can tip the population balance of some bird species from thriving to declining. Biologists also have used the studies from Marra, Temple, and a number of others to estimate the total U.S. death toll for birds due to cat predation as more than a billion per year. That’s the number Dauphiné cited in a paper she co-authored in the Spring 2011 issue of The Wildlife Professional.

Critics such as Peter Wolf, a lecturer in graphic design at Arizona State University, aren’t convinced. Wolf writes a blog, Vox Felina, which regularly excoriates wildlife biologists for what Wolf calls their “sloppy pseudo-science.” He charges that “the science in Dauphiné’s paper about cats was so horrific that she should have never made it out of graduate school” and that “Peter Marra is taking six bird deaths and predicting the Apocalypse.”

The question gets even more complicated when you consider habitat loss—which everyone agrees is the biggest overall threat to birds—along with other sources of human-caused deaths, such as wind turbines and glass windows.

And of course, it really matters which species are falling prey to cats. Jim Stevenson, executive director of the Galveston Ornithological Society, doesn’t much care when urban cats hunt nonnative species such as the common domestic rat or collared dove. But he does care fiercely about endangered species—so much so that, when he saw a feral cat stalking piping plovers at San Luis Pass in 2006, he first tried to catch the cat. When that failed, he got his .22 rifle and shot it.

For his vigilante justice, Stevenson was arrested and put on trial in 2007. The jury deadlocked, and the case was dismissed. “This was a crippled, starving cat killing an endangered species,” Stevenson says. “If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing. The emails I got were nine to one in favor of me.”

Sometimes this fight seems like a war that will never end. Barre, Vermont, got a glimpse of the hardened positions on each side in 2010, when the town realized that its animal ordinances literally required all cats to be leashed outdoors—a position hardly anyone wanted to take. As the town went about revising the language, “the reaction was interesting,” recalls Mayor Thomas Lauzon. “We had 10 percent absolute cat-haters and 10 percent cat-lovers—and we heard from both of them.”

And yet, there are a few tantalizing signs of détente and progress. After all, each side cares about animals, even if the emphasis is different. In fact, all of the supposedly cat-hating scientists interviewed for this story have pet cats (save one, who used to have a cat). Stanley Temple even built an enclosure to allow his cats to safely enjoy the outdoors. And many cat advocates feed and enjoy birds. “I think we are really more on the same page than people want to believe,” offers Scott Giacoppo, chief programs officer at the Washington Humane Society.

A key first step on the path to common ground, conciliators say, is to stop fighting over irresolvable details. Cats aren’t always a serious threat to wildlife populations, as the most extreme rhetoric from scientists implies. But neither are they benign, as the cat extremists would argue—especially when the cats are in proximity to threatened species. “We should stop arguing about how many birds cats eat,” says Julie Levy, professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. “We should just decide they eat a lot and agree we want fewer cats roaming the community—and then look at what our options are to make that happen.”

Which leads to the crucial question—how? Cat advocates have been forcefully pushing trap, neuter, and return (TNR). They claim that the returned cats will live in carefully tended colonies and their populations will gradually decline, since all the individuals are sterilized.

legal status Cat FightTo wildlife advocates, though, this flies in the face of reason. Cats are prolific breeders. Drop off one pregnant cat at a strip mall, and in two years there can be a group of 20 dining in the dumpsters. Simple demographic modeling suggests that 70 to 90 percent of the free-roaming cats in a population must be trapped for TNR to actually reduce populations. “The proportion of a cat population that would have to be sterilized to produce a decline is typically higher than most trapping efforts could ever realistically hope to achieve,” says Wisconsin’s Temple.

For instance, in an intensive effort, Operation Catnip of Gainesville spays and neuters 3,000 cats a year county-wide. That sounds like a lot until you consider that the county is estimated to have 36,000 community cats. What’s more, one study widely cited by scientists showed that a TNR colony near Miami became a magnet for people to abandon more cats, under the assumption the animals would be cared for. “TNR sounds very compelling and seductive, but it has a real negative impact,” says Darin Schroeder, vice president for conservation advocacy at the American Bird Conservancy. Even PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is rabidly anti-TNR—because of what it means for cats. “Gruesome, horrible, unforgivable things happen to cats outdoors,” says Teresa Chagrin, animal care and control specialist at PETA.

What frustrates cat advocates, though, is that scientists rarely admit that TNR can indeed work—albeit on small scales. For TNR to be effective, all the cats in a colony must be captured and sterilized, volunteers must intensively monitor the group to spot and capture any new arrivals, and feeding must be done at a consistent time and leftover food quickly removed. Since 1991, for instance, a colony at the University of Central Florida dropped from 150 cats to 10 (with about half of them being adopted). In Newburyport, Massachusetts, Zorro—the last of a group of 300 wharf cats—died in 2010 after 18 years of intensive TNR.

But you don’t have to wait that long if you try an even more radical approach—collaboration. In Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s, after a group of veterinarians formed the Feral Cat Coalition to push TNR, “I got calls from the media asking me to say why they were evil incarnate,” recalls Portland Audubon’s conservation director, Bob Sallinger. Sallinger has never backed down from a fight on behalf of birds and wildlife. As he says, “I’ve been referred to as the most extreme environmentalist in Portland.” But in this case, he decided to sheathe his sword and extend an olive branch to the group and its director, Karen Kraus.

In discussions over a couple of years, they agreed that the problem of cat predation on wildlife could be reduced by taking the simple step of moving feral cat colonies away from key wildlife areas. They also agreed to back an ordinance banning the feeding of outdoor creatures—with the exception of carefully monitored feeding of cat colonies once or twice a day. And they agreed on a shared larger message: since pet cats allowed outside are just as likely to slaughter wildlife as their feral cousins, all felines should be spayed or neutered, kept indoors or in outdoor enclosures, and cared for. And of course, no animal should be dumped or abandoned. “We can round up all the feral cats and kill them, or spay and neuter until the end of time,” says Sallinger. “But until we have more responsible pet ownership, we’re just putting Band-Aids on the problem—and engaging in this acrimonious debate that is turning people off.” Now, Sallinger is mapping the 75 to 100 natural areas in and around Portland that need to be protected from outdoor cats.

cat pullquote2 Cat FightPortland’s collaborative efforts, and similar ones in New Jersey and Hawaii, haven’t always gone smoothly. They’ve been criticized by bird groups, who fear that working with cat activists will only accelerate the spread of TNR and increase the number of outdoor cats. Cat advocates, in turn, charge that the “keep cats indoors” message is a Trojan horse for a policy of rounding up feral felines. And while moving cat colonies away from areas that harbor threatened species is a no-brainer, it doesn’t always work. In Fortescue, New Jersey, a colony of feral cats was moved away from the shore of Delaware Bay in 2011 to help protect red knots, which stop there in huge numbers to gorge on horseshoe-crab eggs to fuel their long migration from the tip of South America to the Arctic. But after only a few months, cats were back.

Unfortunately, the strange case of the accused cat poisoner didn’t end well, either. The trial took a surreal twist when Dauphiné denied on the witness stand that the words published under her name describing the slaughter of birds by cats (in research papers and in a letter to The New York Times) were hers. Those words, she testified, were written by editors instead. To observers on both sides of the issue, Dauphiné’s stance was a mistake by her legal team, which at one point included Billy Martin, Michael Vick’s high-powered lawyer. (Dauphiné and her lawyers declined to be interviewed for this story.) Both sides argue she would have been better off saying: “Yes, as I stated in my articles, I believe strongly that cats are a huge problem for birds and other wildlife; but as an animal lover, I would never poison a cat.” Indeed, Judge Morrison found her guilty in part, he told the courtroom, because “her unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings . . . undermined her credibility.”

If, instead, Dauphiné and her lawyers had seized the moment to make the scientific case for the problems caused by outdoor cats, they might have gotten a better outcome in the trial—and also helped educate people about the issue. Indeed, scientists lament that the problem looms so large because they have failed to make the facts known to the larger public. As one of Dauphiné’s own articles says: “If we’re going to win the battle to save wildlife from cats, then we’ll need to be smarter about how we communicate the science.”

Sound familiar? Whether the issue is global warming, evolution, or cat predation, researchers tend to believe they’d win the debate if only they could better educate the masses. “There is this mythology about education,” says theologian Vantassel. “We keep thinking that if we can just pile the evidence up higher, we can convince people. But it doesn’t work.” Instead, the hard lesson from these great societal debates is that they are contested on a battleground of conflicting emotions, moral values, and ideologies. Facts alone rarely break up the fight. ❧

Veteran science and environment writer John Carey has served as a senior correspondent in Business Week’s Washington Bureau, as an editor for The Scientist, and as a writer for Newsweek, where he covered science, technology, and health.

1.    Coleman, J.S. and S.A. Temple.1993. Rural residents’ free-ranging domestic cats: A survey. Wildlife Society Bulletin 21:381-390.
2.    Coleman, J.S. and S.A.Temple.1995. How many birds do cats kill. Wildlife Control Technology:44.
3.    Balogh, A.L., T.B. Ryder, and P.P. Marra. 2011. Population demography of gray catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats. Journal of Ornithology doi:10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7.

N.B.: This story has been changed to correct the title of Becky Robinson of Alley Cat Allies and the fact that a press report following the Wisconsin study by Dr. Temple did not explicitly say that the researchers had killed the cats to examine their stomach contents.

Photo ©Vasiliy Vishnevskiy/123RF

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37 Comments

  • Michelle Lerner, Esq. March 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

    The details about the Fortescue cats, with which I was involved, are incorrect. The colony was not “moved,” it was removed completely. 40 cats were moved to a fence enclosure on a farm several counties away, 7 went to a sanctuary in another state, others went to barns or were friendly enough to be adopted. Removal was used, which is what the anti-TNR people always want. The only difference is the cats were not killed– something that was possible because of limited numbers. It is true that, due to the vacuum effect, different cats then showed up. The nonprofit doing the removal keeps trapping there is coordination with animal control to try to get them all. A few per month show up. But this is why TNR advocates warn removal never really works without intensive management and repeat trapping, and why statistical studies have shown it takes 10 times the effort to control a colony through removal as through TNR. Because there is a reason the cats were there in the first place and more will just move in– more who are unneutered– if the cats are removed.

    Reply

    • Annie March 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      Michelle, good of you to help re-home all of those cats! Both the cats and birds are safer!
      But, your comments on the “Vacuum Effect” are misleading. It is really a myth as portrayed by TNR advocates. Those extra cats tend to show up in existing TNR colonies too – because there is plenty of food and altered, well-fed cats are not particularly territorial. The big difference is that there tends to be even more available food with TNR than with Removal- meaning the new cats in TNR colonies are likely to have a higher fecundity and actually cause the colony to grow! Studies show TNR actually achieves its greatest population reductions through removal.
      If you know something is attracting the cats, like a dumpster, then perhaps the solution is to ensure it and its vicinity is kept cleaner. Or perhaps finding out where these new cats are coming from would be even better – are they being abandoned? Is there another colony nearby?

      Reply

      • Michelle Lerner, Esq. March 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

        Having worked on TNR for years, this is simply untrue. Most feral colonies are fed. Most are not TNR’d. Colonies manage through TNR do not ten to attract many cats because feeding is controlled an the caregivers trap any new cats before they can give birth. Acaemic mathematical analyses have etermine it takes far less effort to control through TNR than removal an I have seen the ifference firsthan.

        In Fortescue the sources of foo are discards fih from fishermen, garbage cans, an locals leaving food. The lan trust has tried to control all of this to no avail.

        I am not saying the cats should stay there. But it must be recognised that the cats were removed, not just moved nearby as suggests in the article, and that this kind of sustained removal effort can only be kept up in limited situations.

      • Annie March 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm

        Actually, academic mathematical analyses (population dynamics models) show that it takes less trapping effort to use removal alone rather than TNR to control feral cats. This is in part cited in the above article.
        I’m sure it is frustrating to try and get people to clean up after themselves better. But if you added even regulated cat feeding to such an area you have just INCREASED the food supply.
        A problem with TNR is that it treats the symptom [feral cats] and not the cause [irresponsible pet ownership]. Unfortunately it can even encourage the cause because people know their abandoned pet will be cared for.

        Alley Cat Allies cites a few “key studies” in support of TNR on their website. These studies actually acknowledge that Removal and intensive management are key components in a TNR program and that ongoing immigration is a serious problem. They cite no studies that demonstrate it is necessary to return a cat to a site for population management once it has been trapped.
        Dr. Julie Levy herself has acknowledged that TNR takes too much effort to be truly effective on any scale larger than an individual colony. That is part of why she has been researching other sterilization methods for years.

  • otterlver14 March 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I wonder if those biologists that are so upset over domestic cats are vegan. I’m not suggesting cat predation is not an issue worthy of addressing it is, I’m just curious how committed they are to bird protection. As the article pointed out habitat loss is by far the greatest threat – and animal-based diets are are leading cause of habitat loss. Indeed he collective impacts of human meat production on global bird populations far outranks the impacts of any other human driven impact including domestic cats. More info here: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php?p=3089&more=1

    Reply

    • mom March 13, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Excuse me? what do you think fields of wheat, soy, corn do to natural habitat. We could, of course just not eat at all — but farms whether devoted to animals (cattle/pigs/chickens) or plants both reduce available natural grasses and woods for all animals.

      Reply

      • CB March 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm

        I think you are missing the point, these fields of wheat, corn and soy – 80% of that is fed to livestock. Why does this matter? Because it’s highly ineffecient; for example you need to feed ~16 lbs of grain to get 1lb of beef. But what if you eat the 16 lbs of grain yourself? Yes, of course, it goes much further. This is a very simplified example, there are many other details being overlooked but this is the classic argument gone wrong, every time someone brings up soy consumption they seem to think somehow the 1% vegan population is going through insane amounts of tofu – the reality is very much the opposite. Most of the land use for soy and the deforestation is for animal feed (and some for biofuels). An even much smaller percentage is consumed directly by consumers. Of course you are right, we could not eat at all, and we could not exist at all and nature and all it’s creatures and habitats would do well without us but reducing our impact will at least have some positive effect.

      • Nuance March 20, 2012 at 6:39 am

        I am sorry. Get your facts straight. The straws you are grasping for are to be found near the slaughterhouse you don’t want to go near for fear of seeing the face that ends up on your plate.

        The amount of land and energy for raising animals for slaughter contribute (UN standards) to at a minimum 42% of greenhouse gasses.

  • Laurella Desborough March 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I have been watching this issue of cat predation on wildlife for some 30 years. I like cats and have re-homed several from animal control. However, the impact of feral and free roaming cats on wildlife is monumental and really should be addressed far more aggressively than it is at present. The domestic cat is an invasive species in the US. As such, there should be NO legal reason that all feral cats cannot be removed from any environment where they are a threat to native species. In Florida feral cats catch and kill endangered sea turtle hatchlings as they emerge from their eggs and make their way to the ocean. Feral cats catch and kill many native birds because many passerines do not leave their nests fully flighted, but leave their nests many days before they are able to fly. During this period they are climbing around in low bushes if they fall from the trees. While habitat loss, wind turbines, windows and lights on cell towers kill millions of birds, that is NO reason for concerned persons to avoid taking action to remove the threat posed by feral and free roaming cats. In fact it should be an encouragement to remove cats, thus reducing these unnecessary losses.

    Reply

  • Paul Pendlebury March 13, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Anyone who does the maths should be able to work out that if you introduce a predator tp a community ie wildlife community the wildlife will lose.
    Brisbane Australia has the right idea whereby there is a curfew cats are in between 8 am to 6 pm and have bells on with collars and name tags of their owners. if caught outside then like dogs they are taken to the pound if not claimed then like dogs it’s one way street.
    Get your heads round this and you will see that as well as habitat loss birds and other animals will lose out to this type of invasion.
    Simple bio science year one teaches that an animal makes a niche that impacts on the local wildlife.
    SEE SENSE, NEUTA ALL CATS WITH EXCEPTIONOF LICENSED BREEDERS.

    Reply

  • Woodsman March 14, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Some further information to help you do the RIGHT thing. ALL the required laws that you need to deal with this problem are already in place and have been for decades most everywhere.

    Cats listed in THE TOP 40 WORST INVASIVE-SPECIES OF THE WORLD in the “Global Invasive-Species Database”: http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=24&fr=1&sts=sss

    Cats are _NOT_ exempt from invasive-species laws.

    IT IS YOUR CIVIC AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DESTROY ANY INVASIVE-SPECIES WHEN FOUND AWAY FROM SUPERVISED CONFINEMENT AND OUT IN A NON-NATIVE HABITAT. In fact, it is against the law to NOT destroy an invasive-species on-site. Since cats are genetically engineered through selective-breeding and no longer have ANY native habitat ANYWHERE on earth, these laws include cats. This is precisely how they are dealt with on my own land, destroyed by using any and all humane methods** (see note). You also CANNOT make any distinction between stray and feral cats. STRAY CATS ARE THE VERY SOURCE OF FERAL CATS. If you don’t destroy the source as well you’ll never be rid of feral cats. They are BOTH the very same destructive, wildlife-destroying, deadly-disease spreading, INVASIVE SPECIES. NEITHER HAS ANY RIGHT TO BE AWAY FROM SUPERVISED CONFINEMENT.

    For an example of how invasive-species laws are properly followed and enforced: It is highly illegal for a person to transport an African Cichlid fish species to just the other side the road if you catch one in the canals of the Everglades when fishing. THEY MUST BE DESTROYED ON-SITE. Yet Cichlids are often kept as pets, that’s how they wrongly got into the canals to begin with. There are hefty fines in place for anyone found transporting these invasive-species alive if caught in the wild. (Interestingly, these Cichlids are FAR FAR LESS damaging to the environment and all other native wildlife than ANY cat.)

    All of this much to the dismay of criminally irresponsible and psychotic cat-lovers who are desperately trying to raise these invasive-species cats to some absurd level of “Community Cats”. If they do that then just raise “Community Pet Piranha” and release them in all your lakes and pools, or “Community Pet Black-Mambas” and release them in all your backyards and parks, then claim the exact same protections for them as cat-advocates want for their invasive-species cats. It’d only be fair! Are you starting to see just how absurd and ludicrous these cat-advocates are yet?

    ** (Though, to be perfectly honest, considering how cats cruelly torture and destroy all other animals by ripping the skins off of live animals or disemboweling them for slowly dying and twitching cats’ play-toys (not even using them for food), I’m not really sure why cats should be given the privilege of a humane death. I’ve been drawn to many animal screams in my woods to find their cats shredding another animal to death; which I had to then quickly put that animal out of its misery, torment, and suffering caused by that cat by having to stomp that poor suffering animal to death with my own boot. Lucky for those I found so fast from their screams. Other wildlife that I’d find days later had died a slow and agonizing death from wounds after being shredded by their cats. I guess I’m just more humane than all cat-lovers and their cats, that’s why their cats get shot and die instantly on my land instead of equitably and justifiably tortured to death to put an end to the suffering of both cat and the wildlife that cats cruelly torture to near-death. If cat-advocates want REAL justice for their cats then any cat found outdoors would have to be cruelly tortured to death the same way their cats cruelly torture all other animals — something that I couldn’t do. Maybe that’s why TNR-advocates (trap, neuter, release programs) don’t mind that their cats slowly suffer to death by means of “attrition” — by disease, attacks, exposure, starvation, road-kill, etc., on ad-infinauseum. They have absolutely no problems in torturing animals, not even their own cats. They’re just like their cats.)

    Reply

  • Woodsman March 14, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I found out another interesting aspect to this invasive-species-cat-predator and native-wildlife relationship that no others seem to be aware of. When some local wildlife LITERALLY came to my door in the middle of the day, dragging her two starving cubs to my door because she couldn’t even make enough milk to feed her offspring (all her food supplies DESTROYED BY CATS), This is what alerted me to just how bad the situation had become. I then started out on a venture to try to assist all the local native wildlife. In the hopes that if I increased the populations of the few remaining predators that they would one day put “cat” on their natural menu. (FYI: That mother and her two cubs rebounded just fine with my assistance and went on to produce many healthy offspring.)

    During this venture I found some surprising things.

    1. Any time that a cat would enter the wildlife feeding area, all the wildlife would scatter. After 5 years of witnessing this I was truly disappointed. These were, after all, the native-wildlife army I was trying to raise to deal with the invasive-cat problem ecologically.

    2. When I was advised by local law-enforcement to deal with the problem by shooting cats, then I thought maybe I could at least put that cat-meat from these useless and destructive waste-of-flesh cats to use and feed the wildlife their bodies. These cats had denied all the native-wildlife a food source all these years, perhaps in death they might be able to put back what they had taken. But no. Even when offered DEAD CATS the local wildlife would run from the wildlife feeding area.

    Longer story short:

    Due to the bold patterns bred into these INVASIVE-SPECIES cats, the NATIVE wildlife perceives them as having a hidden toxic or olfactory defense mechanism. A universal symbol throughout nature. That if an unknown animal is sporting bold patterns, then that animal must be dangerous or deadly — to avoid it at all costs.

    This is why you will read reports online of how someone’s docile “Mr. Fluffy” scared that “nasty” coyote out of their yard. The cat’s non-existent bravado had NOTHING to do with it. It was the cat’s coloring pattern alone that scared that larger predator.

    Conclusion: Native wildlife will only pick off the bland or no-pattern cats. And even then, only if starving to death as a last resort, taking the risk of overriding millennia of natural instinct to try to survive. So even if coyotes or other larger predator will take a cat or two, they’ll leave all the bold-patterned ones alone. And the land will eventually be inundated with bold-patterned cats only. Back to square one.

    NATURE IS NOT GOING TO SOLVE THIS HUMAN-MADE DISASTER FOR YOU.

    There’s very good reason that the phrase “hunted to extinction” is so well known across all cultures, across all lands. It is THE ONLY METHOD THAT IS FASTER THAN A SPECIES CAN OUT-BREED AND OUT-ADAPT TO. Especially a species as prolific as these man-made cats which can breed 3X’s faster than any naturally-occurring cat species. A painful fact of past human-behavior that we must now rely on to fix this worldwide ecological disaster. I too was surprised to come to this realization, that these human-caused disasters in the past are now providing a valid method upon which we need to rely to solve this 100% man-made problem. This is ONLY going to be solved by a human-eye aiming a gun to pick off the correct species as rapidly as is humanly possible.

    Reply

  • neko scribe March 16, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Woodsman, YOU are an invasive species!

    Reply

    • Woodsman March 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Homo sapiens is NOT an invasive species ANYWHERE, you freakishly stupid MORON. Since humans have the genetic code to give them the capability to travel/migrate to ANY part of the globe, this means they are native to any area they can travel to on their own. Just like birds that have this capability and can travel to different continents and islands. Those that have the flight-range required to do so are NATIVE to those areas that they are capable of traveling to ON THEIR OWN.

      (And for the love of all that’s good in the world, PLEASE don’t display your further ignorance and stupidity by trying to claim that Europeans, Native Americans, and Asians are different “species”. That’s usually your next huge omelet-on-the-face move that you astoundingly ignorant fools make.)

      Whereas, an animal genetically engineered through selective breeding, such as CATS, are NOT AN INDIGENOUS SPECIES ANYWHERE. They are no more natural to any native environment than some genetically engineered insect that was invented in some lab, that once released out into nature will destroy all native wildlife, JUST AS CATS DO.

      If you phenomenally stupid cretins are going to use ecology, biology, speciation, and genetics in your arguments, the very LEAST that you could do is have a base comprehension of what you are talking about. Don’t you think?

      No. And that’s the problem with terminally ignorant MORONS like you, you CAN’T think.

      There’s just no legal cure for “stupid”.

      Reply

  • Catherine Yasuda March 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I am a wildlife biologist and am very much against TNR (mainly the “R” part) and free-roaming outdoor cats.

    However, I do not hate cats I just think that cat lovers think it has to be either indoor only or outdoor free roaming.

    There’s been a trend lately to build “Catios” basically outdoor cat runs that can be as simple or fancy as the owner wants… I wholeheartedly believe that if these would become commonplace it would solve a lot of wildlife/cat problems.

    They protect your cat from the perils of free-roaming outdoor life (cars, dogs, people who do truly hate cats, other cats, etc)while providing the benefits of outdoor time (fresh air, birds to watch, etc). Of course there’s the added benefit to the wildlife. And they can be CHEAP and EASY to build!

    This could be extrapolated to feral populations, using the general concept used by The Cat House on the Kings. Sure, there’d be some wildlife loss… but it would make the TNR concept actually feasible and the losses would be greatly reduced as the cats would be contained to one area.

    We as two groups need to just work together, as clearly what both sides have been doing so far just isn’t working.

    Reply

  • Nuance March 20, 2012 at 6:33 am

    This might be a newsflash for some, but to me, the fact that your magazine is called “Conservation” denotes a particular ideology. Perhaps the writers of this magazine do not know that they, like the “crazy cat defenders spewing death threats”, are one of the same – in that you all subscribe to an ideology regarding the value of animals. In a sense you are two types of people having very different conversations regarding the same subject.

    Let me explain.

    I will let you (the writer) in on a secret. You Conservationists/Welfarists – do not care about animals. You care about species. I will let you take that in. You conceptualize issues of animals not at the individual level, but on the population level. When you think of animals you want to protect for example (or those you conclude in via your know-how – as being problems) they are in all senses, abstractions – things, to which are to maintained or managed not because they have a value as individuals, but because they somehow are a part of your individualistic mental articulations of a ecological heritage that you want to maintain. Sort of like a nice painting of a pristine landscape you hang on your wall, and look at it when you want to feel connected to nature – or perhaps its just a ego thing (i dunno).

    At this point you might say “well that could be but there is an imperative to do something because our human species depends on managing the ecosystem”. I would simply reply that: I wouldn’t think we need to get into an argument of whether that is possible or not. But I would say that by taking that stance.. you would be contradicting the spirit of your article – which is, if you read it -spewing an ethical (not humancentirc) imperative.

    But anyway, what is important here is that you are aware of the fact that even if you take, in this case, the object of “protection” – birds – from the object of the “threat” – even though an ethical imperative underlines the whole reason you write the piece – you articulate the bird and the threat to it, on a wholly abstract level, that is counterproductive when engaging with “those crazies cat lovers”. For example – while you would, if your could see it – the source of worry is that he cats endanger not the lives of the birds, but that of your painting. You do not actually conceptualize the issue to which we must remedy – as being the death of the bird. The last movements of ONE bird’s life being (due to a supposed over cat population) being that (presumingly before it is gutted), full of pain and fear. No this is not the problem, even though if you asked the birds (and if they could talk), I think they would say that would be the problem.

    The reason you do not conceptualize the problem on the individual level, but at the abstract species level is simply for two reason:

    1) it allows one to maintain the assumption humans have the ability to understand the vast amount of variables in nature (to which we are a part) and the inapt the correct amount of power to enact the desired change in order to create a wholly objective understanding of “balance” (via control – that funny).

    2) If you did bring it on the individual – well and started thinking about individual birds that need to be protected, would would then stop you from looking a little further and being accountable for your own interactions with animals – on a daily basis – yes – I am talking about your steak.

    There are obvious drawbacks, if not already hinted at before, in pursuing your type of idealogical arguments – which are:

    1) you are unaware that – you assume that others in the discussions regarding managing animals, wild or domestic – are on subscribing to the same ideological view point as yourself – thus leading to discussions going know where (which is the crux of the article)

    2) You also leave yourself open for contradiction, simply because when espousing ethical arguments via a thinly disguised scientificism – your motivation for writing an article sometimes contradicts witht he means to which your arguments are presented (i.e. – ecological reasoning) – and thus don’t get your facts right. Take for example all the counter arguments that could be made against your suggestions that cats, are indeed the problem – within the context of human building not designed to alleviate bird strikes. This is just one point of contention, and one that one can find even within your own magazine – article “body count”.

    So in closing – i am not saying one way of human-aniaml relations is right, but that ate last when you are espousing one of several standpoints – do not pretend to be anything but an anthropocentric welfarist, conservationist – as the broader discussions cannot progress, unless we know we each other are.

    Reply

    • Taylor August 8, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      good effort trying to objectively reply to innately subjective material… but I’m afraid that was one of the most highly counter-productive and biased comments I have read in over two years.

      not worth the effort to write any further, all i can say is pay more attention to what you are saying before you say.

      cheers.

      ps – don’t make rash comments on other contributors’ names (ie Woodsman). not only does this make you look like a child, it forces me to completely disregard any further comments from you (clearly you have a temper and aim to strike people where it might hurt). furthermore after reading your posting as carefully as i could (most of it heinously misspelled with a plethora of misused vocabulary) i have decided that you don’t fully grasp the concept of a Nuance, leaving you no room to complain or judge others based on name. so if you are going to try and psychoanalyze me (and anyone else who enjoys a nice “painting”) with your posting then i am going to try and make you at least slightly better at it.
      think first (hard as you can, it might hurt at first). write. proofread. edit. simple as that.
      :)

      Reply

  • Woodsman March 21, 2012 at 7:45 am

    The above post brought to you by the makers of “Demented, self-deluding, toxo-infected-brained, religiously-psychotic, crazy cat-defenders without even ONE clue”.

    The only interesting thing in that post is the vast lengths they go to to try to wrap and twist their minds away from reality in order to retain their psychotic delusions about their cats.

    Reply

    • Nuance March 21, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Woodsman – stop posting comments on here if you aren’t going to bother reading others.

      Or perhaps you just missed the point of my comment – let me give you a hint: I like cats just as much I like self-proclaimed, hipster, wannabe outdoor types that actually calls himself “woodsman”.

      Reply

  • Woodsman March 21, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Catherine Yasuda, good words, but I don’t believe in any kind of compromise when it comes to feral cats. Letting them be in an enclosure next to wildlife does NOTHING to prevent them from spreading Toxoplasma gondii (and their many other diseases) throughout the whole food-chain, decimating countless numbers of wildlife populations as well as attracting more rodents and even more cats to that area.

    Would you, for example, support the use of an enclosure for TNR’ed cats in the middle of the stomping grounds for the Endangered Florida Panther? Where they can not only spread all the other diseases that cats spread, but even those that are deadly to cat-species only. Allowing TNR fools to finally make that endangered species truly extinct.

    Sorry, you can’t put cats outside next to wildlife. NOT ALLOWED.

    ZERO TOLERANCE is required for any outdoor cats. Or the problem will never be solved.

    I shot and buried every last cat on my land. Stray, feral, collared, no collar, didn’t matter. They ALL got shot.

    Guess how many I’ve had to deal with for the last TWO YEARS. …. NONE.

    Yes. it IS a solution. The ONLY solution that actually works. Deal with it.

    Nature does not survive by being “nice”.

    Trying to compromise and be “nice” about this situation is what caused it and is perpetuating it. The time for being nice to phenomenally stupid and irresponsible cat-lovers is OVER. DONE. FINISHED.

    THAT’S YOUR SOLUTION.

    Stop listening to cat-lovers & shoot ALL their cats.

    Problem solved!

    It worked on my land! Now do it on yours.

    I wasted 15 YEARS of my life trying everything else, placating cat-lovers. Implementing the above plan of action COMPLETELY solved the problem in less than ONE year.

    How difficult is this for you people to comprehend?

    Reply

    • Catherine Yasuda March 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      While it is true that they can continue to spread disease I think that its a good starting point in most situations, as something is better than nothing when removal is not an option.

      TNR groups would never allow anyone to kill their cats, and free roaming cats create countless other problems than just disease transfer. Enclosing them is the best solution as it allows TNR to occur as it theoretically should (cats die of old age and there is no recruitment).

      Also- although shooting all outdoor cats may seem feasible, feral cats can be incredibly sly and hard to remove by gunshot alone. Plus its illegal in most places, introduces lead to the environment which poisons other wildlife, and is frowned upon by just about everyone. Encouraging the use of catios/cat enclosures works the same way as it effectively removes the cat from the environment. It solves the problem in a way that both sides are happy, there is no perceived animal abuse and no risk of jail time.

      No matter what, there will have to be a compromise as neither side is going to accept an all or nothing standpoint. A compromise where all parties win is entirely possible if people will set aside egos and previous opinions and be willing to work together to find an effective solution.

      Reply

  • Fight or Flight? » Vox Felina – Feral/free-roaming cats and trap-neuter-return/TNR: critiquing the opposition March 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    […] writes a blog, Vox Felina,” explains writer John Carey, in “Cat Fight,” “which regularly excoriates wildlife biologists for what Wolf calls their ‘sloppy […]

    Reply

    • Woodsman April 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      I suggest you dig a little further into this demented PedroLoco’s facebook pages. Therein you’ll find that this “Vox Felina” is in FULL SUPPORT of ALL INVASIVE-SPECIES ON EVERY CONTINENT BE ALLOWED TO DESTROY ALL NATIVE WILDLIFE EVERYWHERE ON THE PLANET.

      Don’t believe me? Just ask her!

      It’s her main defense when asked why their man-made invasive-species cats should be allowed to roam free.

      Their own (and every last TNR-advocates’) hypocrisy revealed in just one simple question:

      If they believe that these cats should be allowed to be out in nature, then why are they such strong proponents for sterilizing them first?

      You can’t be in favor of these invasive-species becoming a part of nature and then also claim to want to stop their breeding. Doesn’t work that way. Blatant bald-faced hypocrites. PROVED 100%. With just ONE simple question.

      They are lying deceptive hypocrites, right down to the very core of their existence and heart of every last one of their beliefs.

      Reply

  • Tammy March 28, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Why don’t we try using some of that grey matter and address the problem of both bird population decline and free roaming cats – You know that HUGE elephant in the living room no one wants to talk about.

    What is is the number one cause of bird species endangerment – HUMANS

    What caused the feral cat problem – HUMANS

    Until you address the real issues – human behavior your not addressing a problem your promoting an agenda.

    Enough said.

    Reply

    • Woodsman April 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      So … your answer is to let a MAN-MADE INVASIVE-SPECIES continue to annihilate every ecosystem where they are found UNTIL we first sterilize you? Is that your answer?

      I suggest we tackle both problems at the same time — get rid of this man-made cat disaster while also sterilizing all the humans that are causing it. People just like you.

      This will not only solve the problem completely, but make you happy as well!

      Reply

  • JockoPfw March 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Of interest to Conservation moderators is that they let woodsmans posts stay on this site with foul language and name calling other posters, threatening them, admiting to felony actions, but removed my one post that had with NO foul language or threats.

    So Nuance you are right on the money- this rag is slanted beyond balanced discourse to continue to allow someone as psychotic as woodsman stay on.

    Won’t waste my time subscribing.

    Reply

    • Woodsman April 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      A felony? Then I suggest you contact every rural law-enforcement department in the nation and every rural veterinarian to let them know that they are advising people commit felonies. For they are PRECISELY the people who advised me of MY LEGAL RIGHT TO SHOOT ALL STRAY CATS ON MY LAND. Rural veterinarians regularly tell ranchers and farmers to shoot or drown all the cats on their property if they want to save their gestating livestock from stillbirths and miscarriages in their livestock due to cats spreading their Toxoplasma gondii parasite everywhere they step foot.

      When are you lousy cat-lovers going to stop lying and spreading so much bull and misinformation? After ever last one of your cats are dead and gone I bet.

      Maybe the reason that the moderators don’t mind someone calling you people psychotic liars is because it’s actually a hard cold fact. The TRUTH. It’s not name calling. IT’S WHAT YOU REALLY ARE. And I keep proving it!

      Reply

      • Cedar February 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm

        Time to call your psychiatrist and tell them that the pills aren’t working. As you said above, “There’s just no legal cure for “stupid”.”

  • The Annotated Apocalypse Meow » Vox Felina – Feral/free-roaming cats and trap-neuter-return/TNR: critiquing the opposition April 16, 2012 at 12:12 am

    […] spotlight. All that changed in the past few weeks, though—first with Conservation magazine’s “Cat Fight,” and now with a 6,100-word feature in the April issue of The […]

    Reply

  • Terrible Twos » Vox Felina – Feral/free-roaming cats and trap-neuter-return/TNR: critiquing the opposition April 20, 2012 at 12:27 am

    […] the past 12 months, Vox Felina has been mentioned in Animal People, Conservation magazine and The Washingtonian. In addition, I’ve been profiled in Best Friends magazine, interviewed on […]

    Reply

  • tom July 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

    I have been reading about this issue all of my very 80 year long life and am weary of it. My family and I have always had multiple cats and have dearly loved them all, BUT we never let them roam, because we realized what a lethal threat they were to all wildlife. My friends and family have shot every free roaming cat we ever saw and will continue to do so. Aiding and abetting feral cats is irresponsible and absurd and should be discouraged by every sensible person.

    Reply

  • Frank F. Kling August 8, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I have five adopted cats living in my home. They are well fed and cared for, but when I allowed the gang to roam outdoors they would, much to my dismay, come home with wild birds. It’s not their fault. Cats have been programed by mankind over the centuries to eradicate all wildlife smaller than themselves within a certain radius of home. It does not matter if they are fed. Nor does a bell around the cats neck make a difference. The only solution is to prevent kitty from going outside. I have a sun porch where the cats are able to experience all the benefits of being outside without the danger. If you love your cat, than you will responsibly care for your loved one in a manner that respects all life.

    Reply

  • Beth Williams-Breault March 19, 2013 at 9:18 am

    This article is extremely relevant to the recent Audubon/Ally Cat Allies controversy. Nice to know my dad, Ted Williams, has some support out there…

    Reply

    • KJ March 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      Advocating vigilante poisoning of cats, feral and owned alike is extremely misguided, not to menton cruel and illegal. Were I in your place would be glad he only got flack for advocating poisoning cats with Tylenol, instead of getting caught red handed and convicted like Nico Dauphine was.

      Reply

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