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The New York TImes “Evil of the Outdoor Cat”

March 26, 2014

ImageIt’s certainly not a new subject, but when The New York Times gives nearly half a page to an opinion piece about the topic in their Sunday Review section, it’s bound to renew the conversation.  Do cats belong outside?

I’ll admit that I was once the owner of a cat that resisted all efforts to become an indoor-only cat.  He was neutered and vaccinated and should have been happy living in a comfortable safe environment with all you could eat and lots of sunny places to hang out.  But Simba had been a stray outdoor cat that we adopted, and he couldn’t resist the call of the wild.  He was an accomplished climber and hunted all types of wild life – primarily birds and small rodents.  Which he’d then bring home to consume in their entirety, after making sure we’d be available to “admire” his accomplishment.  Simba was lucky – although he had one unfortunate encounter with a car that only resulted in road rash and injured pride, he ultimately died at an older age of kidney disease.

As a veterinarian, I’d never encourage cat owners to let their cats be free-roaming.  It’s an unsafe world for outdoor cats: cars, disease, predators.    But the Times’ opinion piece is equally concerned about the dangers outdoor cats face as the dangers that they cause; specifically the harm to wildlife.  The writer, wildlife author Richard Conniff, quotes statistics about declines in wildlife population which he does not blame entirely on the population of outdoor cats.  To be fair, he also points out that increased urbanization and intensified agriculture both contribute to a decline in millions of acres of wildlife habitat which has also led to a decline in wildlife.  He writes, “Using deliberately conservative assumptions, federal researchers recently estimated that free-ranging cats killed about 2.4 billion birds annually in the Lower 48 states … Outdoor cats also kill about 12.3 billion small mammals a year.”

If you’re interested in this subject then you should read the entire article:  The column elicited 246 comments, all very passionate and representing all spectrums of opinions.

What are your thoughts?




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