This was to be a post touting the glorious weekend I had exploring the DC area with fellow garden bloggers. But, while I was away, I received news that a nest of birds we’d been hosting has possibly fallen prey to one of the many free-roaming/feral cats that plague our neighborhood. There are several of them—some obviously pets and some from the feral population—that regularly treat our courtyard garden as part of their territory. They’d like to get at the pond fish, but don’t want to risk immersion, and they are definitely after any and all birds. And, of course, they love to treat our garden as a great big litter box.
I have friends/neighbors who insist on letting their cats out, asserting that they deserve this freedom and that bird casualties are part of the cycle of life. Many scientists disagree with this stance, including ornithologist Peter Marra, who states in a National Geographic interview, “Domestic cats are as much a part of the natural order as a cow, pig, or golden retriever. They are not a natural part of any ecosystem on the planet.” He recommends, “Owned cats need to be treated like pet dogs. They should be kept indoors, on a leash or in a catio. Unowned cats, which have no owner to take responsibility, pose a risk to biodiversity and human health, and live dangerous, unhealthy lives. They need to be removed from the environment and put up for adoption, placed in a sanctuary, or euthanized.” Read the whole interview here.
Those are fighting words to the large and vocal community of free-roaming-cat advocates, who have disputed every scientific study that’s come out so far, including this one, by Loss, Will, and Mara. A similar study in Canada finds that cats are the #1 killer of birds there (followed by window collisions). And there are even studies examining why cat owners who allow their cats to roam deny any evidence that this causes harm.
It might be different in rural areas, where cats supply mouse control on farms, or fall prey themselves to animals like coyotes. That’s not the case in cities like Buffalo. There are plenty of other ways to control rodents and there are no superior predators. Dogs, are, quite rightly, subject to leash laws. I see no reason for people to let their cats roam freely in cities, none. As a cat owner whose cat has been happily indoors for 15 years, I’m sick of being told it’s OK to do otherwise.