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Sunday, March 24, 2013
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States, resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 birds. By comparison, America's cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds in a year, according to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. For wild mammals, the annual toll lies between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion.
Gretchen Tipps quotes Alley Cat Allies as stating that keeping cats indoors "ignores the true habitat and natural history of the species." That might have been true when cats were first domesticated, but things have changed. In those once-rural areas, they are being hit by cars, poisoned and shot for fun. Gretchen says if she didn't feed her feral cats, they would kill birds. My veterinarian friend says she is sure they are killing birds along with the mammals. Cats hunt because they are hardwired to hunt.
Wildlife will adapt to living on the urban fringe but only if a balance in the food chain exists. The destruction of small mammals and birds by outdoor cats threatens that balance.
The city code of Roanoke addresses the free-roaming cat problem by defining as a public nuisance cats that unreasonably annoy humans, endanger the life or health of other animals or persons, or substantially interfere with the rights of citizens to enjoy life or property. I suggest we add this language from the city code of Aurora, Colo.: "It shall be unlawful for the owner of any cat to fail to keep the cat from running at large within the city."
The irony of this debate is that there are people who love animals on both sides. The disappointing thing is that the responsible owners are the ones debating and not the irresponsible ones who have created this "cat-a-strophic" problem.
Weather JournalMany very icy despite 'bust' claims