or Connect
TheCatSite.com › Forums › Feral Cats and Rescue › Caring for Strays and Ferals › Feral Cats and Native Birds-Article I found.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Feral Cats and Native Birds-Article I found.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Feral Cats and Native Birds
by gloria scholbe
What is Feral? :: Feral Cat Problem :: Proposed Solutions :: TNSVR :: Cats Indoors :: Compromise :: Resources

Trap-Neuter/Spay-Vaccinate-Release has become popular across the nation, especially in urban areas and on college campuses. According to Alley Cat Allies, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a full management plan in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, evaluated (for health and adoptability), vaccinated, and sterilized by veterinarians. Kittens and tame cats are adopted into good homes. Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers.

Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine developed a campus program in August 1998 to Trap, Test, Vaccinate, Alter and Release (TTVAR) based on the one being used by Stanford University. It provided a unique opportunity for veterinary students to study the dynamics of cat colony members and the effect of the management program. The results of this study suggest that programs like theirs, Aggie Feral Cat Alliance of Texas (AFCAT, a group of volunteer faculty, staff and students) could be integrated into veterinary curriculums to educate students on issues involving feral cats and the need and methods for management of these populations.

The Stanford University program was established In 1989 after University officials planned to trap and kill the 500 campus strays. Because of this, Stanford Cat Network was formed to develop a TTVAR progam. Stanford cats now have a declining population. Over 60 kittens were caught, socialized and adopted during the first season. By 1994, only four kittens were found on campus. The campus population is now estimated at approximately 300 cats. Stanford's current cat population is healthy and well-cared for, and its maintenance involves students, staff, and faculty.

Dr. Margaret Slater, a participant of TNR program on the Texas A&M campus, gave presentations on TNR program to the American Veterinary Medical Association July 15, 2002 in Nashville. She described their program and other successful programs. One is conducted by San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which sterilizes cats for free and pays people $5 to bring in cats to be neutered. They also provide adoption and education programs. Another is the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society in Newburyport, Mass., which, has reduced its feral cat population from about 200 to roughly 20 animals over a period of 10 years.

Some TNR programs are well-managed, successful, and the cats in the programs are healthy. Such successes, however, are not always the case. An article published in Shelter Sense Vol. 15, No. 5, pages 3-6. 1992, a publication of The Humane Society of the United States, cites several instances to the contrary:

The Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW), one of the first groups to develop a TNR program, reports long term results of different colonies in England.

Nine of the original 19 cats of one colony either disappeared or were killed or euthanized because of illness, while 17 new cats entered the territory. This colony grew by eight cats despite the deaths of almost half the original colony.
In another colony, the number of feral cats rose from 70-80 to 100 in one year, even though the number of feeders dropped to only one person. During the six and one-half years that this colony was watched, 40 kittens were "homed" and 200 cats neutered. Reports on other colonies tell the same story: large numbers of original members vanish or die and new cats come in on their own or are dumped there by people.
Dr. Carol Haspel, associate professor at LaGuardia Community College in New York, who studied urban feral cats for years reports that cats occupying a certain area do not keep others out, particularly if there is a feeder.

Ellen Kowalski, a cat rescuer in Baltimore, Maryland, says that free-roaming cats are used for target practice by kids with BB guns, firearms, and even bows and arrows. Although the cats in the area are well fed, they have eye infections, abscesses, sores, and deformed limbs.

Surprisingly, Ingrid Newkirk, national director for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), does not support TNR programs despite the fact that she has been reported saying she would like to see animals living free and separate from humans, "admired from afar." In the case of free-roaming cats, however, she asserts that TNR programs would only be acceptable if they were:

Isolated from roads, people, and other animals who could harm them
Constantly attended to by people who not only feed them but care for their medical needs
Lodged in an area where the weather is constantly temperate.
Newkirk believes that part of the reason why some are so strongly in favor of TNR is because they don't see what eventually happens to the cats but Animal Control Officers and Shelter Workers do. Cats are hit by cars, attacked by dogs and people, are poisoned and suffer a variety of health problems that can't be treated once cats become trap-wise.

Finally, TNR programs do not address the problem of declining wildlife due to cat kills. Feeding cats keeps them strong and better able to hunt than native predators, which become weakened during time of environmental stress.

An article The Rights (and Wrongs) of Cats by Gordy Slack numerates several instances where cat colonies maintained by humans are responsible for wiping out or changing the wildlife profile of the area they inhabit:

Luis Baptista of the California Academy of Sciences, is one of the world's foremost ornithologists. He points to one of the cat feeding stations of Strawberry Hill park. "When I first came here in the 1960s, the rabbits and the quail could be seen on any lawn. White-crowned sparrows were so thick on Strawberry Hill I had trouble isolating the voice of any one of them with my parabola reflector (microphone). Now the ground birds and rabbits are just about gone. I haven't seen a cottontail for years here, and there is only one pair of quail left, inside the arboretum."

Marilyn Davis, a cat rescuer who we met earlier in this article. is co-founder of the Bodega Bay-based Native Species Network, which tracks the feral cat protection movement nationwide. Cities, counties, and park districts all over the country are shifting their land management priorities to accommodate cat feeding. Davis and others believe this is misguided affection, and a catastrophe for native wildlife.

Davis agrees with the view of the Humane Society of the United States, which states: "neuter and release programs amount to nothing more than subsidized abandonment." She adds: "Protecting the wildlife under our stewardship is a public responsibility. Protecting abandoned house cats in the wild is not,"

Douglas Bell, a California Academy of Sciences ornithologist participating in a long-term study of white-crowned sparrow dialects in Golden Gate Park, says cats have had a devastating impact on the park's songbird population. Particularly vulnerable are those that nest near the ground like white-crowns, song sparrows, juncos, and quail. Cats can easily grab a female on her nest.

Cole Hawkins, a Texas A&M researcher studied the difference in rodent and bird populations between areas occupied by and free of cats in the East Bay Regional Parks. He noted that there were significantly more birds in the no-cat areas. He said "I never saw any California quail in the cat area. There were lots in the no-cat area. Same with thrashers. Same with juncos."

Daniel Evans, at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, states: "the main problem is that we are losing wildlife, and cats are a major cause. People have to decide if they want to go to the park to see wildlife or to see cats."

Something else to consider is this: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects native birds from being killed or kept by people. In some states, people are held liable for the cats they feed, in effect becoming their owners. Allowing these cats to hunt freely may place such people in violation of this Act.

During a series of sessions titled "Feral and free-roaming cats: the flip side of the coin," July 14 at the AVMA Annual Convention, Dr. David Jessup, a senior wildlife veterinarian for the state of California, made the point that there may be legal and ethical problems for veterinarians who participate in TNR programs. Dr. Jessup said many of the programs do not follow the AVMA guidelines. For example, some TNR groups keep colonies in public areas or areas designated as wildlife sanctuaries, which may be illegal. Also, by treating a cat and re-releasing it, a veterinarian may be violating anti-abandonment laws.

Cats Indoors
Linda Winter is the director and primary contact of the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors campaign. ABC is providing a fact-filled brochure explaining why it is safer for both cats and birds if cats are prevented from roaming outdoors. http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/brochure/brochure.htm

What organizations such as Alley Cat Allies and other sponsors of TNR programs find alarming about the Cats Indoors program is that it provides no life-saving solution for feral cats. The program also seeks to pass laws against feeding and maintaining ferals.

Essentially, Cats Indoors and TNR groups hold opposing views.

One and all we need to be realistic and honest about the problems to wildlife posed by feral and free-roaming cats. Arguing that humans are also responsible for the decline of wildlife does not diminish the fact that free-roaming cats create a problem that requires resolution

We also need to be sensitive to the feelings and opinions of those whose priorities are different from our own. How can we expect cat lovers to care about our concern for birds if we don't respect their desire to protect cats? How can we expect bird lovers to care about our love of cats if we don't respect their desire to protect birds?

The solution doesn't have to be 'either/or'. Cats Indoors is an excellent program that protects birds, pet cats and people. Following its guidelines will help to prevent cat overpopulation and the unwelcome euthanization of so many cats in shelters.

TNR for ferals can be a valid option depending on where it is conducted. It is not appropriate everywhere, but it is more appropriate in urban areas away from parks where birds do not nest. However, the health and welfare of these cats is still an issue.

Another exception to free-roaming cats might possibly be those used specifically around farm buildings for rodent control. These cats should, of course, be 'fixed' so they will not reproduce and will also be less likely to roam. In addition they should be fed and have their health needs met.

Without a doubt, free-roaming cats do not belong anywhere near parks, wildlife sanctuaries, or places where birds nest. Laurella Desborough suggested an option that is barely mentioned in passing on a few websites. The concept involves a cat containment facility for
feral cats. Desborough says: "I have seen one cat containment facility for ferals and it was excellent. The trapped feral cats are quarantined, vetted and then released into a large and well planned indoor/outdoor facility from which they cannot escape. This makes better sense than allowing cats to destroy wildlife which belongs to ALL of us!"

With such a program not only would birds be protected, but the cats themselves would be assured of better management. They would not be run over, shot, poisoned, or attacked by dogs. If they became ill, they could be more easily caught for treatment.

The logistics of space and finances would be an issue but surely those who are passionate about cats would be willing to donate money and volunteer their time to support such a project. To protect wildlife, why couldn't city managers be convinced to set aside an area in each park, sanctuary, and college campus for an enclosure to contain feral cats? Volunteers could erect the facility and more volunteers would be responsible for feeding, much as they do now. It would be a win / win situation for all involved: birds, cats and the people who love both.

Think about it.

Page one :: two

Online Resources
Stating the Problems


Proposing Solutions

report that tnsvr is effective at reducing populations
Audubon Society position on feral cats
Humane Society of the United States position on free-roaming cats
Community Approaches to Feral Cats
post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 
What I wrote her:

Hey Gloria,

I happened upon your article as I was looking for a TNR group for my friend to join. I have to say that after reading all the TNR bashing stories on many birdlovers sites...your article was rather refreshing. As someone who grew up with cats...but often visited my grandmother (an AVID birdwatcher), I do understand that we all would like to find a middle ground. I think the suggestion of sectioning off pieces of land for a feral colony is a sweet idea...but the reality is that there are currently X number (because all anyone can do is estimate the number) of ferals that are out there and when states cannot even provide funding to keep 4.2 million homeless pets from finding homes (that is the number that was euthanized in 2002) how do you expect our government to sponsor a project as large as what you are recommending.

Well..what about all those "cat lovers" of the USA?? We are simply trying to spread the word regarding keeping domesticated cats indoors while trying to catch, treat, spay (and yes) release as many feral cats as we can. The current emphasis is reducing the number ferals...which should actually be something that birdlovers and cat lovers can rejoice in. Many of these efforts are funded by the caretakers themselves and not by large organizations which begs the question...would you expect a cat lover who can barely afford to get the cats caught and fixed to have to pay for putting up fencing??

Best Friends has an excellent feral cat sanctuary..and maybe someday, as more cats are fixed and we get fewer kittens, we can work towards more sanctuaries. Right now...it is just unrealistic.

I think where birdlovers and catlovers can bridge the gap is by getting the word out that all pet cats should be fixed, by encouraging proper cat ownership, by encouraging pet cats to be kept indoors and by continuing the work of TNR.


Ok...after having written that..her email didn't work.
post #3 of 5
Katie - you are just too good! I will clip excerpts of this to post at Wild Birds Unlimited. The reference to abcbirds was the pamplet that they hung at their store. THANK YOU for posting all these references!!!!!

fyi....I was at a Wild Birds Unlimited the other day and saw the article in Katie's story. When I asked the owners about the other side of the story (feral cats and birds), they challenged me to write up something that they would post in their store. If they accept it, I will challenge them to put it on their website.
post #4 of 5
You know, the thing that pisses me off about some of these stories is the completely unscientific approach to assessing whether or not cats actually do damage.

It's not brain surgery to think that a colony of 300 cats would have an effect on easily-predated wildlife, since it's their instinct to go after small moving objects.

That said, my family has always had outdoor cats - and even with the feral colony we're maintaining, how many birds have I found killed?

In 32 years, with maybe 25 cats, I've seen plenty of moles killed, plenty of mice, some chipmunks and baby squirrels (though the latter were killed by owls, I'm sure.)

How many birds have I found dead or their regurgitated remains? Maybe one? Maybe?

We have some ground-nesting baby doves and our family cat, Tom, a hunter of hunters, never touched them. I suspect one owl, a fox or a group of raccoons will consume far more wildlife than a cat ever would if they're being cared for.

I guess if the cats aren't being fed, they'll use all available means to survive, but the disinformation campaign needs to stop.

As stated - we're all on the same page. Less cats, but humanely treated.
post #5 of 5
Hey, cat predation! My favorite topic!

I found this section particularly egregious:

"Douglas Bell, a California Academy of Sciences ornithologist participating in a long-term study of white-crowned sparrow dialects in Golden Gate Park, says cats have had a devastating impact on the park's songbird population. Particularly vulnerable are those that nest near the ground like white-crowns, song sparrows, juncos, and quail. Cats can easily grab a female on her nest."

Actually, the TRUE cause of bird loss, especially the quail, in the Golden Gate Park has been DEFINATIVELY proven to be due to relandscaping of the park to make it more attractive to humans. Ground cover was removed, removing nesting sites for the ground-dwelling birds. Cats had NO impact on bird loss.

It just makes me when groups like American Bird Conservancy (who brought us Cats Indoors! not to keep our cats safe but to protect birds) continue to cite studies that are outdated, incorrect and unscientific to support their efforts to end TNR programs and kill off cats.

Sorry for the rant. I wrote an article for Stray Pet Advocacy on this very issue (http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/html..._reviewed.html). In a rather limited amount of time investigating the impact of cats on wildlife, I came to realize that the proof just isn't there. Also, LDG (Laurie) wrote a rather devastating critique of the study most often quoted by anti-cat groups, the "Wisconsin Study" (http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/html...sin_study.html).

I can understand bias (I'm definately biased on the side of feral cats), but I just don't get people who refuse to face the truth, that there is no real support for their argument and a lot more is needed before we start sentencing ANY living animal to death.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Caring for Strays and Ferals
TheCatSite.com › Forums › Feral Cats and Rescue › Caring for Strays and Ferals › Feral Cats and Native Birds-Article I found.