Research reveals cats sit around, think of murder all day
Cats kill billions of native species each year, causing conservationists worry.
Americans love their cats, as anyone who has spent time on a social network can attest. Saturdays have become "caturdays" and meme artwork sporting cats with amusing quotations have reared up on many social forums. Widely regarded as cuddly, lazy, and sometimes, silly, most Americans would be surprised to know the truth about what cats prefer to do with their time.
And researchers say, when let out of the house, they typically do it.
Cats are predatory animals by nature, but their evolutionary habitat is the Middle East and parts of Northern Africa. They were domesticated in the Middle East and Egypt as sacred animals. However, in the past 10,000 years, they have spread around the world, brought along by humans as pets.
Despite their domestication, their wild side still flourishes and cats love to hunt.
Unfortunately, many native species in places such as North America, have not evolved next to cats and are unable to avoid them. The result is that cats are hunting and killing many native species of birds and small mammals in quantities that alarm wildlife conservationists.
New estimates suggest that both feral and domestic cats murder no less than 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals per year. Unfortunately, other invasive vermin like Norway rats, for example, are not the creatures being hunted. So cats are killing off beneficial, native species, allowing the vermin to flourish in their absence.
Researchers who compiled the most recent data say there is some uncertainty with their study because it draws upon decades of research from many smaller, less comprehensive studies and stitches together estimates from across the country. However, even if the estimates provided by their scientific model are high, the conclusion is the same.
Cats are murderous animals and they're impacting the environment in a big way.
The report is likely to cause many agencies to reevaluate how cats, in particular feral populations, are treated. Currently, many communities tolerate feral populations of cats. Nearly every park and suburban community has some. However, if the cats are recognized as both an invasive species and harmful for the native fauna, then conservationists may call for their removal.
This will undoubtedly result in opposition from cat lovers who feed feral cats in their community.
Conservationists criticize these animals as "subsidized predators."
While such feedings may sustain the cats and prevent them from eating other animals, cats can't escape their instinct. Science says, when faced with potential prey, your loving feline friend is apt to pounce.
Ultimately, the best response is to take steps to ensure responsible adoption and ownership practices. Cats should be spayed and neutered, and they should never be abandoned. Cats that roam freely may have to be enclosed. The subsequent alternative for feral cat populations would be to euthanize them.
Regardless, for many native species, the status quo may not be sustainable. Clearly, both conservationists and cat lovers will need to come together to develop a practical solution.
Simple solutions might be to adorn cats with bells on their collars, to make sneaking up on prey more difficult. Meanwhile, feral populations should be trapped and fixed to prevent reproduction. Finally, animal control agencies should be endowed with the resources necessary to locate irresponsible owners who abandon their pets, and levy fines against them as well as ownership bans.
Such steps may reduce the need for more draconian measures against cat populations while helping to sustain native species in the process. Encouraging owners to do better by their pets would also be a significant benefit.
In the meantime, keep your eyes open around fluffy. It's hard to know what's behind that smile of his.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: cats, murder, conservation, spay, neuter, native species
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