Cat overpopulation is a human-caused tragedy that affects the health and well-being of cats, our native songbirds and other wildlife, and the public. Outdoor cats, even well-fed ones, kill hundreds of millions of birds and three times as many other wild animals each year in the U.S., including many Endangered Species.
Birds that nest or feed on the ground and begging baby birds are especially vulnerable to cat attacks. Even those birds and wildlife just mildly injured by cats that “play” with them usually die because of infections received from the cat’s saliva. Warning bells attached to collars of pet cats are not effective as most birds and animals do not associate the sound of a bell with danger.
Efforts should be focused on reducing the numbers of stray, feral and pet “house” cats allowed to live in or visit the outdoors.
The Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program is not humane to cats, songbirds or other wildlife. Free-roaming cats are in constant danger of being hit by cars, contracting diseases, or being attacked or killed by predators, including people. Cats can transmit diseases such as rabies, toxoplasmosis, and cat scratch fever to humans. In the U.S., cats are the #1 carrier of rabies in domestic animals which can be then transmitted to humans, adults and children.
TNR is not effective. Colonies become dumping grounds for unwanted pets, thus continuing the inhumane cycle. Food left for the feral cats also attract rats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and additional cats–predators of birds and carriers of disease.
People concerned about the welfare of stray/feral cats should concentrate on finding homes for them. Abandoning cats is illegal in many areas, and is extremely cruel to cats and to our birds. Additionally, we should educate pet owners about spaying and neutering their pets and the ethical and wildlife issues associated with cat abandonment.
Responsible pet owners should keep pet cats inside and encourage legislation to license them and restrict their free roaming, as is now done with dogs.
Together, we can make a difference!
A Letter to the Editor of the Democrat & Chronicle
Lynn Bergmeyer, Conservation Committee, Rochester Birding Association
Bob Mauceli, President, Rochester Birding Association
June Summers, President, Genesee Valley Audubon