I take very strong exception to the Oct. 15 pet article, entitled "National Feral Cat Day is Saturday," in which the author, Michelle Andria, is asking for everyone to celebrate this day. My question is why in the world would any factually informed person want to celebrate a non-native, invasive predatory species that is slaughtering our native wildlife, destroying habitat and spreading disease? Cats do not add to biodiversity - they deplete it. This hoarding by proxy is horrendously destructive on many fronts and is simply not acceptable.

The feral cat disaster is human caused and must have a human and humane resolution. The Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) policy is not working. Period. Repeating myths like "the cats are happy and healthy and the colonies will disappear through normal attrition" are not true and do not make the current TNR programs acceptable. According to www.TNRrealitycheck.com, "feral cats succumb to disease or tragedy, not old age." In the meantime, a cat's hunting instinct cannot be dampened, no matter how well fed these animals may be. As for being healthy, remember that these feral cats share the same space with RVS (rabies vector species) and are not vaccinated for anything. The Wildlife Disease Association (http://www.wildlifedisease.org/Documents/WDA_RESOLUTION_ON_FERAL_CATS.pdf) also "supports actions by wildlife management and land management agencies, public health agencies and private organizations to ban or eliminate feral cat colonies." They state that "feral and free-ranging cats may serve as reservoirs of disease for native wildlife and the public."

One wonders why TNR folks consider it "killing" if a cat is humanely euthanized, yet it doesn't seem to bother them that every year millions of our native species, including hummingbirds, songbirds, baby squirrels, bunnies and lizards, are killed and/or euthanized because of a cat, either feral or house. The only options I see for saving our priceless wildlife and our environment from another, yet unnecessary, man-caused disaster are either 1) trap and euthanize all stray roaming cats or 2) pass legislation to forbid the maintenance of any feral cat colonies on any public land, but allow the TNR organizations to continue to trap and neuter, but only if they retain and contain the animals in secure housing on privately owned land, maintain all vaccinations, dispose of waste properly and obtain a license to do this work.

I suggest to anyone interested in these situations to do a lot of research, starting with the above www.TNRrealitycheck.com website along, with the American Bird Conservancy site, www.abcbirds.org. Both sites are excellent and offer many more informative links. Everyone needs to be realistic, use common sense and start thinking long term with the environmental "Big Picture" in mind rather than making decisions based solely on passion and emotion.

Gloria Halesworth, along with her husband, Paul, own WildWing Rehabilitation, Inc., in Ahwatukee Foothills. They have state and federal licensure to rehabilitate migratory birds and specialize in hummingbirds and insectivorous songbirds.

(5) comments


I agree that this is a problem in need of a solution, and that interested parties need to familiarize themselves with the relevant research. However, the bulk of information provided by TNRrealitycheck and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is plagued with errors, exaggerations, glaring omissions, and inexcusable bias—as is most of what passes for “research” on this issue. (It doesn’t help that several “sources” can actually be traced back to a handful of deeply flawed studies.)

This is especially true when it comes to the alleged impact of cats on wildlife. Inflated estimates are typically generated by overestimating both predation levels and the population of free-roaming cats (the error is exacerbated when the first figure is multiplied by the second). Something else often left out of the debate: predation—even at high levels—does not automatically lead to population declines. In fact, some studies (none of which are mentioned by the sources Halesworth recommends) have shown that birds killed by cats are significantly less healthy than those killed through non-predatory events (e.g., collisions with buildings). In other words, these birds probably weren’t going to live long enough to contribute to the overall population numbers.

Halesworth suggests that TNR is not working, but offers no evidence to support her claim. The two alternatives she presents, on the other hand, are known to fail.

Trap-and-kill has been tried for generations. Merritt Clifton of Animal People, an independent newspaper dedicated to animal protection issues, argues that such strategies have, in fact, had another—unintended and profoundly counterproductive—consequence as well: “Responding to the intensified mortality, felis catus now bears an average litter of four. Nearly seven centuries of killing cats doubled the fecundity of the species.” (http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/03/6/wherecatsBelong6.03.html)

Macquarie Island, located roughly halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica, offers another valuable lesson. In 2000, cats were eradicated from this World Heritage Site in order to protect seabird populations. The resulting rebound in rabbit and rodent numbers, however, has had its own disastrous impact—requiring the Australian government to commit AU$24 million for an integrated rabbit, rat and mouse eradication program. Given the extent to which conservation efforts backfired on Macquarie Island—less than 50 square miles in size—one can only imagine the consequences and cost of a similar attempt in the continental U.S.

Her second suggestion—sanctuaries for feral cats—is at best disingenuous. As Halesworth surely knows, the sheer number of feral cats makes this “solution” impossible. (It’s interesting to note that ABC has proposed such a “solution” in the past as well.)

Simply put, Halesworth’s alternatives are not alternatives at all.

Frustrated by the pseudoscience and uninformed chatter surrounding this important issue, I launched my blog Vox Felina (http://www.voxfelina.com) earlier this year. Unlike the people behind TNRrealitycheck (and, apparently, the people at ABC), I review and analyze numerous scientific studies in detail, and present my findings in a rigorous, open manner—including lengthy quotes from a range of sources, and a list of all literature cited (in other words, I’m in favor of a level of transparency others seems to oppose).

As I’ve noted repeatedly on my blog, there are legitimate issues to be debated concerning free-roaming cats (e.g., regarding the efficacy, environmental impact, and morality of TNR). But attempts at an honest, productive debate are hampered—if not derailed entirely—by the bogus claims so often put forward by opponents of free-roaming cats/TNR.

I invite readers to review—and critique—my analysis and commentary. And, most important, to become part of this important debate, armed with a fuller understanding of the issues.

Peter J. Wolf


The ONLY proven method of getting a cat over population under control is TNR: Trap them, get them neutered and return them to where trapped and care for them. The misinformation on birds killing all the birds everywhere is laughable. Yes they hunt but the one responsible for ALL declines in populations are HUMANS and all of our toxic impact on the environment. Some day the bird people will work with the cat people and we'll solve this. Until then we will fight for the lives of our species and solve nothing. Thanks.


Consider what these these scientific experts had to say about cat predation:
Fitzgerald, B. M., and B. J. Karl, 1979:Foods of feral house cats (felis catus L.) in forest of the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 6:107-126
"Cats suppress populations of more dangerous predators such as rats and thus allow denser populations of birds than would exist without them."
Tabor, Roger, 1993
Tabor found that “cats have low success as bird hunters”, and “the bulk of a feral cat’s diet is garbage, plants, insects, and other scavenger material” and therefore cats are “not impacting bird populations on the continents”
Julie Levy, DVM
“Not surprisingly, decades of hand-wringing over this issue have failed to resolve it. Eradication of feral cats has only been accomplished on small uninhabited islands in which a combination of poisoning, shooting, trapping, and deliberate release of infectious diseases was used over several decades at a cost of millions of dollars. These techniques are obviously inappropriate and ineffective on inhabited mainland locations.”
Many groups such as Alley Cat Rescue advocate for a humane, nonlethal approach which helps to decrease feral cat populations. And thousands, no millions of kind, caring people have joined in to do exactly that.


Thank you Gloria for telling it like it is. It is time to do away with this feel-good 'solution'. The root of the problem is irresponsible pet ownership and as long as we condone cats outdoors in these 'managed' colonies, we'll never successfully address this issue.


Let a few coyotes find out about the population and watch it dwindle. The problem with TNR is no one wants to pay for it. If the local governments would pitch in and pay for the TNR the porblem goes away.

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