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ABC is at it again..

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter

Be prepared to be outraged.

This was originally posted at:

post #2 of 23
Katie, just so you know - we won't have this in done to help with the AVA arguments, but we are going to try to contact the author of the Univ of Wisc study. I found the magazine in which some results from the study were "published." It's some obscure magazine called Wildlife Control Technology and dates back to 1995. We should have the back issue in our hands by Friday, Saturday or Monday. Then we can see what we're dealing with.

But Christy (okeefecl) already found quotes by several authors of several studies - all of them debunking (in some way) the use of extrapolations from their studies.

ABC has got to stop, and we're trying to figure out a way to do it. Having the authors of the articles themselves contact them with the news that they do not appreciate having their reputation as researches sullied by the misuse of their works sounds like a start.
post #3 of 23
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for everything you are doing!! After reading that article...I am very worn. How do we ever counteract such a movement?? I have to admit...I am really looking forward to attending the No More Homeless Pets conference so that I can hopefully meet Nathan Winograd. I need some perspective because right now it just seems all negative. I know that TNR works...but soo many people are going to buy into this article and I'm worried about the AVMA meeting on Nov. 7th.

post #5 of 23
OK, I don't normaly comment about this stuff, but this just really bugs me. I volenteer for a shelter & yes we try our best to inform people about spay & neuter, but the fact is there are still a lot of STUPID people out there that just don't do it for whatever reason & I would rather see some effort be made to reduce the number of cats born in a feral colony. Isn't it better to have maybe 2 females in a group reproducing, than 10? It's not a perfect solution, but I applaud all those trying. Yes ferals have short lives, but some cats can't be rehabed & I think it's better to let them live out a short life comfortably than have a long life miserably. I would love to know what this author would suggest. It sounds like this person would rather just trap them & put them down. I've never lived near a colony of ferals, but I know if I did I'd be the cat lady out there feeding whenever possibly. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR OK, I think i feel better now.
post #6 of 23
Every time I see an article like this, I just feel heartbroken. There are so many assumptions and incorrect assertions that it blows the mind. No matter how many studies or citations or quotes we can find, they are passed off as being somehow less than valid because they come from pro-cat groups. But, false and incorrectly interpreted statistics put out by wildlife and conservation groups are accepted as being absolutely correct and valid.

These people aren't going to change their minds. And that's a sad thing, considering cats are going to die because of these closed minds. The question that I have is why are cats somehow less deserving than wildlife? And why can't we admit as humans that we are responsible for a majority of wildlife loss? Perhaps this is a question that conservation groups don't want to face.
post #7 of 23
Originally posted by Rang_27
OK, Yes ferals have short lives, but some cats can't be rehabed & I think it's better to let them live out a short life comfortably than have a long life miserably.
That is not true - I've got 4 ferals that are close to 10 years old and showing no signs of slowing down. I've had indoor cats live less than that! I'm not intending to offend anyone, but even cat lovers don't fully understand what life can be in a managed feral colony. A lot of education is needed for everyone!

I found the feral coalition group in Kansas City area over the weekend (small but willing). If you don't mind, I will be sharing some of this information with them.
post #8 of 23
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Question from Cathy:
I know you have addressed the wildlife predation issue before, but I was wondering if you could give your top arguments of what you would say when people bring up this discussion. The reason I ask is that our group is working on developing a TNR program but we have one guy with a wildlife degree who always quotes these studies about the decimation on the wildlife population by these non-indigenous cats and how they must be removed. Some people give him credibility because of his degree and I'd like to have some short, well-thought out responses.

Nathan Winograd’s response:
One of the golden rules of advocacy is to tailor your response to your audience. You do not want to sound like an encyclopedia, nor do you have to get overly detailed, nor do you have to know the intimates about every study. Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees. You are, in the end, an advocate. Respond succinctly, in a straightforward and thoughtful manner.

My favorite strategy is to write a detailed, scientific position paper, which is sent out to people in the community--the media, commissions, city council, friends, allies, other groups, VIPS, caretakers, whoever your target audience is. But when I make speeches, when you actually go before the commission, or council, or are interviewed by a reporter, I make a different argument--one of compassion, and lifesaving. That two pronged approach (scientific analysis on paper to rebut the claims of Mr. Wildlife Degree in your community, and a broad message of showing kindness to cats in person) is effective.

I always start with the efficacy of TNR for all the reasons I won't repeat here. How it works, how it reduces impounds and deaths in shelters, how it protects public health. I always end with the humane argument. How the cats are out there through not fault of their own. And how we can choose kindness over killing. In the middle is the nuts and bolts:

A. The starting point of any analysis in assessing wildlife predation is a two fold inquiry: 1. does the species exhibit predatory behavior? and, 2. how much? In other words, does the predatory behavior adversely affect the prey populations? "In biological systems it is insufficient merely to have found one animal will eat another, that is what predators do--[the more important question is whether that] is predation within normal limits." (Tabor, The Wild Life of the Domestic Cat, Arrow Books, 1983.) In short, is there evidence that cats actually negatively impact the prey populations?

Paul Errington identifies the problem: "Preying upon a species is not necessary synonymous with controlling it or even influencing its numbers to any perceptable degree. Predation which merely removed an exposed prey surplus that is naturally doomed is entirely different from predation the weight of which is instrumental in forcing down prey populations or in holding them at given approximate levels." (See Ellen Berkeley, Maverick Cats: Encounters with Feral Cats, New England Press, 1992.)

B. The studies cited by Mr. Wildlife Degree not only utterly fail to address the impact of cat predation, but they are severely flawed in their methodology. (I SAY THIS WITH A FAIR DEGREE OF CONFIDENCE, BECAUSE EVERYONE ON THE ANTI-CAT CITE USES CHURCHER'S STUDY IN ENGLAND AND THEN COLEMAN'S STUDY IN WISCONSIN FOR THE PROPOSITION THAT CATS ARE DECIMATING BIRDS).

Chucher looks at what kind of prey cats were bringing home in an English Village. He then extrapolated from that to come up with how many cats were killing birds across Great Britain. So, for example, if 10 cats bring in 100 birds, then 1,000 cats kill 10,000 birds, and so on. By guessing as to how many cats were in Great Britain, Churcher concluded with an astronomical number of killed birds. But is science really that simple? For one, how did the birds die? did the cats kill them? were they roadkill? were they fledglings who would have died anyway? was there any indication of disease in the prey? was the catch freshly killed or were the cats dead for days? Being scavengers more than predators, few cats would pass up injured or dead birds? In fact, Churcher has no qualitative information whatsoever. All of this missing information could have been supplied with little additional effort.

For example, two French researchers Moller & Eritzoe examined birds killed by cats vs. those that met accidental deaths by crashing into windows. They examined the birds for various factors, the most significant of which was the health of the bird. They found that while windows were non-discriminating and killed healthy and sickly birds equally, the birds cats killed were significantly sicklier than those who crashed into windows, with 70% of them slow movers and fledglings!

But more importantly, Churcher ignores that several hundred birds in his village must die each year to maintain a stable population, that the highest number of birds brought home were at the time of the first broods (lots of already doomed fledglings!), and that the village's bird density was 9 x higher than the rest of Britain?

So taken together, what does Churcher actually prove? "Taken together, these elements suggest another interpretation: cats are simply weeding out birds from an overcrowded population. Nor are they apparently catching healthy birds at their peak of winged life; wintertime is most stressful on birds that are old or sick, and fledglings tumbling down from nests could account for the high count in early summer. And with only 130 dead sparrows recorded by Churcher, the cats kill--or find--less than half the numbers that must be annually culled to sustain their populations." (J. Elliott, "Of Cats and Birds and Science: A Critique of the Churcher Study," 1994.)

Two years after that original "study," all pretensions of scientific objectivity disappear. In his second paper, he describes cats as "ruthless killers," predation as "the slaughter," while prey is a "luckless mouse," or a "very frightened baby rabbit." Is this science?

Coleman in Wisconsin is even worse. In his paper, "Cats and Wildlife: A Conservation Dilemma," Coleman states that "Recent research suggests that rural free-ranging domestic cats in Wisconsin may be killing between 8 and 217 million birds each year," citing footnote 10. And what is footnote 10? An article in Wisconsin Natural Resources written by HIMSELF. Coleman cites himself. So let's look at the article. What does it say? "Here are our best GUESSES at low, intermediate and high ESTIMATES of the number of birds killed by rural cats in Wisconsin" BASED ON THE SAME OVERSIMPLIFIED, HGH SCHOOL LEVEL FORMULA THOROUGHLY DISCREDITED IN THE CHURCHER STUDY. For one, it is not RESEARCH. It is a GUESS. Second, there is no basis for the number of cats he GUESSES live in Wisconsin. Third, is a range from 8 to 217 million a statistically valid range? Absolutely not. It shows a shockingly low level of scientific rigor and confidence. Finally to get at his low and high estimates, he ASSUMES cats kill rate is 20% on the LOW end and 30% on the HIGH end. Is this fair? Studies in nine states had the range as "Few" on the Low end to 3% and 20% on the high end. If you eliminated the Few and the 20% which are off the curve, it would be a 3% range to 14% on the high end for percentage of total prey being birds. A New Zealand study had it pegged at 5% by scat analysis, in Australia it was 5.2%, and another study in New Zealand had it at 4.5% in only 12% of the cats! Coleman’s numbers are off the charts and over inflate his "findings." But even then, he is making assumptions that aren't valid: he assumes millions of cats, he assumes they are all allowed outdoors, he assumes they are all young and agile and able to hunt equally, and he assumes each one is regularly killing birds despite the fact that as many as 50% of people do not let their cats outdoors, that American cats are getting fatter and less agile, that American cats are living longer and cannot hunt as well as they get older, and that some cats are just lazy or lousy hunters.

Coleman is a guess, not a study. It is, worse, a bad overly inflated guess. In an interview with a reporter in 1994, even Coleman admitted as much: "The media has had a field day with this since we started. Those figures were from our proposal. THEY AREN'T ACTUAL DATA; that was just our projection to show had bad it might be." But that hasn't stopped anti-cat groups from using the stuff as if it was handed down from Mt. Sinai.

C. There is a large body of scientific literature that is ignored by Mr. Wildlife Degree, precisely because it contradicts his conclusions.

Roger Tabor found that cats have low success as bird hunters and that the bulk of their diet is garbage, plants, insects, and other scavenger material. In short, cats are not impacting bird populations on continents. Fitzgerald & Karl found that "cats suppress populations of more dangerous predators such as rats and thus allow denser populations of birds than would exist without them." Robert Berg found that cats were not impacting quail population in San Francisco even though quail nest on the ground. Mead found no evidence that cats are impacting overall bird populations. Colemand & Brunner concluded that "The common belief that feral cats are serious predators of birds is apparently without basis." A Worldwatch Institute 1994 Study found that birds are in decline due to drought, habitat loss, overtrapping, and water pollution. Cats are noticeably absent as factors. A 1988 study by the University of Georgia blamed forest fragmentation across Southern U.S. for decimating songbirds. A Colorado Wildlife Dept. study in 1994 blamed drought. National Geographic lined declines to poisons in environment, particularly lawn care products.

C. TNR actually helps meet the goals of Mr. Wildlife Degree because... (Here I would note all the reasons I mentioned in past posts, which I won't repeat here, about the alternative being do nothing, meaning cats are breeding, roaming and foraging for food, I would note that neutering significantly reduces roaming which means less contact with wildlife, and I would note that even if the cats were killed, other cats would move in to fill their territorial void left by cats). Less cats, controlled feeding, means less hunting. Here, you might also note that many studies have found that upwards of 75% of birds killed by cats are non-native starlings which compete with native birds for habitat, so that the net effect of cat predation may actually be complementing the goals of native species advocates.

D. Where does it end? If we must kill cats because they kill birds, where do we draw the line? (some think this argument is silly, but I have found it very useful as the media tend to like it a lot.) A lot has been written about the supposed controversy surrounding feral cats, much of it of dubious value. Common sense, not statistics or hard-line arguments, could have pointed the way, as it did as early as 1949 when then-Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, vetoed a bill to restrain cats: "We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency." So why, 50 years later, is Mr. Wildlife Degree still belaboring the point?

E. Indigenous vs. non-native wildlife. Mr. Wildlife Degree's proposal to round up and kill cats because they are "non-native" is based on a troubling belief: value comes from lineage, and worth as a species stems from being here first. The belief that some species of animals are worth more than others because they were here first is backward-thinking and shortsighted. But it is hardly surprising. The call for extermination of animals in the name of protecting others deemed more worthy by some arbitrary standard is not new. "Cats kill birds, so we must kill cats." This is the banner under which Mr. Wildlife Degree and other native species advocates have long rallied to label cats as "pests" of our cities and "invasive non-native" intruders in our parks and countryside.

But cats aren't the only ones to be targeted for slaughter in the name of protecting other species or preserving "native" habitats. They have been joined at different times and in different places by red foxes, gulls, cowbirds, elk, sea lions, coyote, mountain lions, ravens, skunks, raccoons, wild horses... the list goes on. Referred to as "garbage animals," "alien" species, "weeds," and "vermin," these creatures have become scapegoats for the massive habitat destruction, environmental degradation, and species extinction causes by one species and one species alone: humans.

For nativists, the point is clear: the lives of these animals don't count, and therefore they can and should be eliminated to protect more important species and to preserve "natural" environments. Had we honored and preserved life, had we treated all animals--cats, birds, and every other creature who shares our planet--with the respect they each deserve, we might have spared many of the species now lost forever.

To us, there are no "garbage" animals and slaughter and death aren't the tools we need to preserve life. To do that--to preserve the life of all animals--we believe we must honor and preserve the life of each.

I hope that is a helpful starting point
post #10 of 23
Katie, this is FABULOUS!!!!!!! Thank you so much for posting this here. It provides not only valuable information, but important information we need re: journals, etc.

The thing that scares me the most, however, is that the original link you provide is to a Washington State site. But several counties in that State have fabulous low-cost spay/neuter programs and support TNR. This whole thing from the wildlife "protectionists" is making me sick.
post #11 of 23
One thing I wonder, how did they decide it was feral cats killing birds?
post #12 of 23
Kellye, it's determined in many ways-actual observation, counting the number of prey brought home (usually owner-reported), looking at killed animals and determining they were killed by cats by some arbitrary criteria, killing cats and looking at their stomach content (only good to determine one meal and ethically unsettling) and examining cat feces (also good to determine one or a few meals).
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
I agree...and if you is the Wildlife Coalition that wrote that original article. I do believe that in every state TNR is practiced whether it has state or even county level approval.

I have some other discussion responses from Nathan that I am willing to share with you if you would like. I really admire him for keeping this from becoming a cat lover versus bird lover debate. We are all working towards the No Kill goal and TNR is only part of the movement.

One thing that we need to move away from is quoting our own misinformed statistics. One unfixed female Cat=420,000 cats...who in the world extrapolated that number? It is false and we shouldn't use it. While working in the clinic this past weekend we had 2 pregnant had 3 fetuses the other had 5...that is not the 7 kittens used in the projected number and seriously hurts our legitimate arguments. The other problem is the total number of feral cats...some places quote 60 million..some quote 120 million..there really is no way to know so we shouldn't even bother trying to quote a number. Our goal is not to know how many there are..but simply to know that we can no longer ignore the feral/stray cats in the USA.

Anyways...send me an email if you want the other messages.

post #14 of 23
we have just a few birds at my house as we did before we brough the cats in. HOWEVER we do have ALOT more mice and chipmunks then we used to running around outside. I don't think ferals normally go for birds when it is easier to catch mice and chipmunks.
post #15 of 23
So is there a central effort to collect the data on feral colonies for things such as reproductive statistics, longevity and eating habits? There are folks like me out there that have been living with ferals for years that see trends in their colonies. I have no clue on whether what I see in my colony is "normal" or unigue to my geographic area.

For example, if left unchecked, a breeding queen who produces 3 litters a year typically has only 1 or 2 surviving kittens. Litters in my area have never exceeded 4 kittens and are typically 3 - is this unique to ferals or within the genetics of this colony?

Due to the nature of ferals, collecting data on them is difficult at best, but there has to be more statistics available other than colony size and # speutered in a colony.
post #16 of 23
snowwhite had two litters a year (one in april and one in october) of three kittens each, and only 1 normally stayed around. I'm not sure what happened to the others. Her last litter before we got her spayed with nimby, stormy and blizzy and they are all doing fine leaving inside and fixed. But left outside I think with ferals it really is only the best that make it. Ashton was the best hunter and he is the only on that is still with us. I have no idea what happened with lilly and sherbert but I haven't seen them in monthes.
post #17 of 23
Katie, I will e-mail you. I'm late on a report from work and really need to get back to it.

I agree on the reproduction number. That's a scare tactic number promoted by SpayUSA. It should be presented as a "one female and her offspring CAN produce..." type of thing.

I found a far more accurate number based on real average litter size and survival rates, but it was crunch time for getting SPA up and I didn't remember where I'd seen it in order to cite it. I will get to correcting that - and thanks for reminding me to correct that, BTW!

Also, just as an aside. We put up a birdfeeder (actually three of them and a suet holder) as "Cat TV" for our indoor cats, while at the same time caring for a Maine Coon stray (outside) and, for a time in the fall/Winter, 12+ ferals. That was only about three months. There have been 6 ferals for over a year now.

If they killed a bird with no fluttering of feathers anywhere and took it away with them somewhere to eat, I'd have no idea. And if they killed a bird not at the feeder, I'd have no idea. But when killed at or near the feeder, feathers were at least fairly abundant and it was quite obvious what had happened. There were two bird deaths near the feeder and one bird death in the front yard. This is over the course of 15 months, with a minimum of 6 ferals + one homeless stray in the area and as many as at least 12 ferals and one homeless stray (for three months in the fall/winter time period).

Interestingly, since adopting out the stray to a new home in January of this year, there have been no bird deaths around here, period. I believe Booger was the bird hunter (she also delivered mice to us as treats on a fairly regular basis), and that none of the ferals here bothers with the birds.
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
That is a really good question...I haven't found a centralized site yet. Most TRN efforts quote per area...but it would be beneficial to have more data on a national level to compare. Alley Cat Allies and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just teamed up to form Wild About Cats. I would contact them and see if they have any plans at all to bring together information on ferals from the caretakers.

post #19 of 23
I like birds, and participate in the annual wild bird count each winter. There is a group that takes the time to gather national statistics each year for bird migratory counts, so why not the same with feral cats? A national "submit your feral cat count" day?!?

I've had bird feeders with my ferals for 10 years. I have never seen a "regular" (neutered one that lives here year round) kill a bird. I have seen the transient unneutered ones get the birds, and that on rare occasion (perhaps 2-3 a year).

I guess what irks me about all of this is that they are not going after the root of the problem, that is, the irresponsible people who have thrown their cats outside to fend for themselves. They attack the effect of the problem, not the cause. Cats are the innocent victims in all of this.

I think I will contact wild about cats. Thanks for the tip!!
post #20 of 23
I e-mailed Wild About Cats and got on their mailing list. They liked the idea of a national count your ferals day, and admitted that they are trying to get to the point of having national statistics but nothing completed yet.

Thanks for the lead Katie!
post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 
I think it would be wonderful to have a national database. Also, on a random search of the internet I came across this group that has stats for their ferals...I thought it was pretty cool:

Also..I found the link to the forum questions that Nathan Winograd answered so there is no need to email me to get them..they are right on this page:

Tomorrow I head to Philadelphia to go to the No More Homeless Pets Conference. I can't believe I'm actually giddy about meeting people like Nathan Winograd and Robin Starr...sooo much I want to ask about and I even printed a map of Virginia so I could highlight some of the bigger issues. I will not have access to email until I return on Sunday and I'll probably be exhausted and checking work emails..but I will come back and post when I return.

post #22 of 23
I'm now the officialy feral statistics keeper for our rescue group (as of last week). I've also joined the KC area feral group so am anxious to see what they have collectively pulled together and where they are feeding that information to.

The NMHP president from my area is Dorothy Ring and will be there also. I haven't met her yet, but suspect I will eventually. Have fun in Philly!!
post #23 of 23
Katie - how was the conference?

Also - just wanted to let you (and anyone) know that we posted an article on professionally and scientifically tearing apart all the published articles and estimates of Coleman and Temple (the number ABC Birds uses so often).

Here's the link:

Also, there's a review of Cat Predation Studies in general up on the site - it clearly states the overall problem:

Both articles are available in PDF format from the main cat predation page of the site.
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