I have a soft spot for cats and people who care for feral cats, but it may be a misplaced love.
Using results from local surveys and pilot studies, they found that unnamed stray and feral cats kill a median of 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S., along with 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native animals like shrews, chipmunks and voles, rather than introduced pests such as Norway rats.
The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than previously believed, making cats one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife.
It’s shocking for someone like me, whose house is ruled by three cats (courtesy of a wife who can’t say no and would have another if I’d go along with it), but not all that surprising.
The senior member of our cat family, 16-year-old Ethel, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at a bird now, but there was a time when she was so deadly at stalking that we put a bell on her collar, which reduced her effectiveness only slightly.
She’d hop up on the kitchen window sill with a bird clenched in her teeth, eager to show us her prize.
When we first moved into out house, turtle doves inhabited the two big spruce trees in our yard, until Ethel got them.
Our youngest cat, Tuna, was adopted as a tiny stray at our cottage on the Crow River, where she, her mother and brother were living on handouts and whatever chipmunks they could catch.
They nearly wiped out our plentiful chipmunk community; even after the cats were well-fed, they’d hunt them for sport.
I’ve written many Fixer columns about feral cat colonies at Bluffers Park and behind a truck service centre on Evans Ave., which often prompted comments from readers who said they should be euthanized, citing the birds and wildlife they kill.
I thought they were mean, crotchety cat-haters - and there are plenty of them out there – but when I square the scientists’ findings with my own observations, it’s hard not to conclude that cats are a factor in the decline of the bird and small mammal population.
It makes me wonder what they'd do if they were 10 times bigger than people.