In a paper published and released yesterday and widely reported in the mainstream press, professional wildlife biologists associated with the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claim that domesticated cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and more than 15 billion small mammals each year in the United States through acts of predation (Loss, Will and Marra). In coming up with these numbers, the authors tried to assess the behavior of owned and un-owned cats – which we could categorize as feral (un-owned), free-roaming (owned or semi-owned), and indoor-outdoor owned cats (owned or semi-owned). If the real number for cat predation is even one tenth or one one-hundredth of the numbers invoked by the authors of this study, it warrants serious attention from the animal protection movement and from everyone else concerned about cats and about wildlife.
This subject is hardly a new one for The HSUS, and its conclusions are no revelation. The HSUS has been examining this question for decades, and in fact, our Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy hosted a major conference that featured scientists, environmentalists, government wildlife managers, humane and conservation organizations and government animal care entities on this very subject just last month. No group is better suited to fairly examine the multiple facets of this problem than The HSUS, given that we house one of the most expert and experienced companion animal programs in the world and we also employ more than 125 wildlife professionals, including wildlife-care personnel at our three wildlife rehabilitation centers.
In our examination of this issue, both as a matter of measuring impact and also prescribing solutions or mitigation strategies, here are some of our core conclusions, opinions, and recommendations.
The HSUS has composed an extensive white paper on this broad topic, which was posted on its website today, along with a review of the many facets of this issue. Our in-house authors take a serious, science-based look at the problem, but from the orientation that respects the interests of both cats and wildlife. While the problem of cat predation is real and very significant, there is nothing to be gained by demonizing cats or suggesting Draconian and far-out solutions. The best approach involves sterilizing cats, conducting robust TNR programs, support for innovative cat programs through shelters and rescues, and educating owners on how keeping cats indoors is valuable for both cats and wildlife.