Are cats destroying the environment?

One economist is pushing for a cat ban, saying the animal is killing wildlife in his native New Zealand. Should more countries consider the idea?

By Aimee Picchi Jan 25, 2013 5:19PM

Cat on a couch (mother image/The Image Bank/Getty Images)Economist Gareth Morgan is on a mission against one of America's favorite pets: the domesticated cat. 


Morgan wants ban cats from his native New Zealand, arguing that Fluffy and her feline cohorts are killing the country's native wildlife. His proposal is to neuter all the country's cats, then convince Kiwis to give up on buying or breeding replacement pets. That would mean no more kittens for New Zealand. 


To be sure, cats are a big threat to the native wildlife of New Zealand, Australia and other island countries. According to Morgan's campaign -- Cats to Go -- cats have contributed to the extinction of nine New Zealand bird species. 


"Like the parent of a bully saying that their little Johnny would not behave like that, if you’re a cat owner reading this, you are probably thinking that the above statistics don’t apply to your cat," Morgan wrote on his site. "The fact is that your furry friend is actually a friendly neighborhood serial killer."


While that might seem like overkill to Americans, the fact is that domestic cats have caused fur to fly in the states as well.


A 2011 study in the Journal of Ornithology found that cats were the leading killer of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs, according to the New York Times


The killings were so bad that the catbirds, in some areas, couldn't reproduce enough to replace themselves with a new generation of birds.


"Cats are way up there in terms of threats to birds -- they are a formidable force in driving out native species,” an author of the study told the Times. 


The American Bird Conservancy has its own campaign to keep cats from preying on our native animals. Rather than focusing on eliminating felines, the group urges cat owners to keep their pets indoors. 


"[I]n the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks" every year, the group states. 


Some bird lovers have taken matters into their own hands, such as one National Zoo employee who was convicted of attempted cruelty to animals in 2011. The employee, who was accused of poisoning stray cats, was working at the zoo's Migratory Bird Center. 


A few U.S. communities have laws that ban cats from roaming free. Aurora, Colo., for one, requires cats to be "restrained" when outside of their homes. (Whether that means on a leash or in a kitty carrier, the law doesn't specify.)


Regardless of what happens in Morgan's battle in New Zealand, one thing's for sure: Americans aren't likely to give up their cats anytime soon. With about a third of all U.S. homes owning at least one cat, kitties are our favorite domestic animal.


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302Comments
Jan 25, 2013 6:47PM
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Man's encroachment is a far greater threat. Millions of birds a year die flying into buildings, get hit by cars, are poisoned, lose their habitat, but cats are the villains. One study claimed cats killed millions and millions of birds and were decimating bird populations. Another said millions and millions die flying into buildings, but it had no effect on bird populations. You can't have it both ways! Frankly I think the numbers are grossly exaggerated. We'd have NO birds left if the numbers were true.

 

Personally, I believe cats SHOULD be kept indoors, for THEIR safety, as much as for the birds and other small animals. I have several cats and would never let them roam outside. Too many dangers from cars, other animals, people and diseases.

Jan 25, 2013 6:28PM
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This man is an idiot.  When you get rid of cats, you get an explosion of rodents, which carry all sorts of nasty bacteria. Hasn't history taught us anything, what about the Black plague. 
Jan 25, 2013 7:09PM
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Curious ... all my cats stay inside.  Why doesn't New Zealand consider mandating that cats be kept indoors.  My cats are happy.  They get sun and fresh air on my enclosed patio and even get to chase small insects that venture onto the patio.  Keeping my cats inside eliminates any potential harm to the animal and saves my on vet bills.  Responsible pet ownership is a must - regarding any pet.
Jan 25, 2013 6:31PM
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Curious, nobody blames housing and vehicles a major threat to birds= loss of habitat, food source and airborne toxins
Jan 25, 2013 7:16PM
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wait a moment? we have monsanto desorying millions of acres of land and the enviroment daily around the world and we talking about cats destrorying the enviroment? really????
Jan 25, 2013 6:54PM
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Just keep the furbabies indoors - they have no business outdoors in the 21s century. Far more dangers for the cats in our modern environment so let's take care of the cats and let him find something else to blame for the decrease in the number of birds. Seriously.
Jan 25, 2013 6:41PM
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This sounds like something out of the medeval dark ages..This guy just doesn't like cats
Jan 25, 2013 7:13PM
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ban people..how would that work out?? 
Jan 25, 2013 7:29PM
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I have 2 cats both fixed, inside cats...it's not the cats who should be banned. I believe irresponsible pet ownership is more the problem...I have had cats for over 50 yrs. all strays or from shelters, only 2 were owner couldn't care for them... Baby kittens are adorable! They grow up!  There does need to be balance & in nature & we sure mess it up when we dump off a litter if kittens or puppies etc. 
Jan 25, 2013 6:19PM
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So, I'm wondering how they know that cats killed all these birds.
Jan 25, 2013 7:47PM
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I am one of those notorious “deranged Vietnam Infantry Combat Vets” from back in the day,

So believe it when I say,

Anybody that messes with my cats is gonna pay!

Jan 25, 2013 7:18PM
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My cat kills anything that crawls out of my refrigerator!
Jan 25, 2013 7:42PM
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My cats are indoor animals, the only thing their doing is keep field mice out of my home. I love how people go after one factor of an equation and they are blinded to the rest of it. I bet man might have something to do with birds dying off. 
Jan 25, 2013 6:37PM
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New Zealand has an absolutely remarkable fauna, with many species found nowhere else on Earth. Since the arrival of man on the island the giant moas have become extinct. The disappearance of the Kiwi, kakapo and tuatara would likewise be a tragedy. So this sounds like a good idea in principle.

 

I'm not anti-cat. I have two cats that are both neutered and strictly indoor kitties. Works for the benefit of critters both inside and outside the house.

Jan 25, 2013 8:23PM
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My Cats go outside in my back yard..They are each on their own leash..They have never killed any birds..The birds know exactly how long the leashes are..And keep their distance..

 

People who hate cats..Will come back in their next live as MICE!

Jan 25, 2013 8:37PM
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I am not a Fan of Cats... But they do serve a propose. However I would like to see the Cat Owners be responsible and keep them from Pooping in my flowers. I can’t let my dog run around the neighbor hood so why can cats.

Jan 25, 2013 9:50PM
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Requiring cats to be spayed or neutered and not to be allowed to free roam would be a good policy anywhere.  Cat breeders should be licensed as should dog breeders. Although it is not the law yet, in my city most folks keep their cats inside, and a local cat adoption center will only let you have a cat if you sign a promise to make it an inside cat.  

  

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One way to curb this problem is to KEEP YOUR CATS INDOORS! Spay and neuter the feral cats, and the problem (or supposed problem with the cats) will take care of itself. None of my cats goes outside, so they can't kill anything.
Jan 25, 2013 6:21PM
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Ignored notice to Gizmo;  You can have all the crows and magpies you want, but LEAVE THE SONGBIRDS ALONE!
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