Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Here We Go Again: Cats and Birds

Call me paranoid, but I detect a subtle media bias against cats. First they make you crazy (see The Truth about Cats and Toxoplasmosis) and now they are cold-blooded serial killers responsible for the “ongoing slaughter of wildlife”.

“KittyCam Reveals High Levels of Wildlife Being Killed by Outdoor Cats,” declares a media release that was issued earlier this week by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and The Wildlife Society (TWS). It has been picked up by numerous media outlets including USA Today, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, and Discovery News.

Yet according to Vox Felina, the release is “heavy on errors, misrepresentations and glaring omissions, and light on defensible claims.”

Here are some key points from the Vox Felina post:
  • The KittyCams project was conducted by Kerrie Anne Loyd, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. It has not been published either as a dissertation or in a peer-reviewed journal, but we do know a bit about it from information made available online and through interviews. 
  • In the media release, Loyd is quoted as saying: “The results were certainly surprising, if not startling.” Yet in an interview with CBS Atlanta in April, she stated “Cats aren’t as bad as biologists thought.”
  • “Of particular interest,” notes the media release, “bird kills constituted about 13 percent of the total wildlife kills.” And how many is that? The Athens Banner-Herald reported in April, “Just five of the cats’ 39 successful hunts involved birds.” 
  • The ABC/TWS media release states “If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than 4 billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds.” However, nobody with the slightest regard for science would extrapolate from five birds killed in Athens, GA, for the purposes of developing a nationwide estimate. 

I urge you to read the full post at the Vox Felina website. It is a well-written, well-documented rebuttal of the ABC/TWS media release.

Update: Alley Cat Allies also criticized the American Bird Conservancy for grossly misinterpreting this research and using it to support misleading claims that cats are one of the main reasons for bird species decline.

“The American Bird Conservancy’s propaganda is just more of the same—spreading fictions about outdoor cats and making wild ‘extrapolations’ about their imagined impact on other species,” said Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies. “They’ve used unpublished data to fuel their extremist agenda of killing cats. But there just isn’t evidence that shows cats have any negative impact on bird populations.

“What the evidence does point to is people—habitat loss, pollution, and urban sprawl are the top reasons that bird populations are declining.”

Please read the full press release here.


  1. I don't think it is subtle at all. Which is really surprising considering how much of the internet is devoted to cats.

  2. Why is it that cats always get the bad rap! Thanks Bunny for investigating this and writing about it.

  3. Did they point out that the birds were common species in no danger of becoming extinct?