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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303Comments
Jan 28, 2013 3:24PM
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The only thing killing the environment is the virulent human species.  We are living on a suffocating, dying orb in space due to overpopulation and technological garbage masquerading as progress.  The single hope for the planet, and it's an unrealistic one, is if somehow the human population could be instantly reduced by 95%. 
Jan 28, 2013 3:00PM
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how many rats and mice do thay prevent,huh?
Jan 28, 2013 2:59PM
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This is for all you cat lovers out there, my daughter has permanent sight damage in one eye because of a cat scratch on her skin. She was young when it happened &  our docter tried to say the sight problem was from to much caffeine,amongst other things but my gut feelings were telling me they were wrong.  So We loaded her up & took her to the university of Iowa & got to see doctor     Lee. He took samples & tests which were sent to the C.D.C.and found out she had contracted cat scratch fever.   The doctor also said she probably would have ended up blind in that eye if we wouldn't have went with our gut feelings and brought her in. DR Lee asked if we would allow them to use her case in their books & teaching curriculum because they had never caught a case at this stage & of coarse we said yes. He also told us that totally normal healthy  cats, inside or outside are carriers of the disease at about  75 percent. How much do you love your cats now, is it more than your child's eyesight ?  I didn't think so !!!!!
Jan 28, 2013 2:44PM
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first of all, IF all cat owners would keep their cats INSIDE and neutered/spayed....as I do...this would NOT be a problem.  Yea, if somebody thows the cat outside so they don't have to deal with the litter box or feeding the poor thing..it's going to kill birds to survive!~!~!   NOT the cats' fault...it's a human thing.  As usual, humans do NOT take the correct care with their animals so society at large suffers.  What is so damned hard about this?????
Jan 28, 2013 2:41PM
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People need to spay and neuter thier animals!! I personally believe most cats should be indoors unless you live where there is very little traffic....too many animals hit by cars and they should not be outdoors!

 

Jan 28, 2013 2:40PM
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Does anyone remember the bubonic plague, and that it was directly preceded by the killing of thousands of cats because they might be witches? This guy is an idiot. Let's have one more stupid reason for people to be cruel to or get rid of cats, like the **** who poisoned stray cats. This stupid news story give dumb people legitimacy in their own minds to be cruel to cats!

 

Jan 28, 2013 2:28PM
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Cats in Montana don't kill as many baby birds as the illegally introduced Grey and Fox squirrels do.
Jan 28, 2013 2:18PM
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No. Cats are not hurting anything.  They are pretty little things.  What is killing the environment and the country is Congress and the FDA (Future Destruction of America, here today). Legal drug lords are relentlessly advertising "ask your doctor" ads that addict by the millions.  That is my belief.  They do this for money, the root of all evil.  Congress allows that destruction, again, in my mind, for money, the root of all evil.  I would much rather be around cats than either FDA junk medicines or Congress.  I won't watch the super bowl because I am on strike against "ask your doctor "ads.  I told a lady fron Neilson surveys last week I would not be watching the super bowl.
Jan 28, 2013 2:16PM
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stay out of new zealand it will be overrun with rats , rats, and more rats
Jan 28, 2013 1:39PM
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What a ****. Really. Stay in New Zealand, dipstick...

Jan 28, 2013 1:35PM
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Cats, like dogs, need to be indoors,fenced, leashed, tethered or caged.

Enforce through fines, confiscation and re-adoption if needed

promote local sterilization programs for ferals

Jan 28, 2013 1:21PM
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i do believe there are more things to worry about than what nature as intended. maybe you should read the bible it might help you understand about life and what makes the world go around. you are very ignorant
Jan 28, 2013 1:10PM
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Look up the research on the impact of cats on the enviroment.   It's true they hurt the bird population.  Just keep them in the house.   Unfortunately for cats many people trap and shot them.    There are better way to get rid or mice and rats too.
Jan 28, 2013 12:50PM
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I love cats. They are great target practice!!!!
Jan 28, 2013 12:47PM
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I know my cat will never go hungry.  He's brought onto our back porch more dismembered birds, rats, rabbits, moles, frogs, lizards, insects, and squirrels than I can count. Inside the house, where he also eats regular cat food and sleeps, he's a gentle and amusing pussycat.  You never know the killer which lies beneath.
Jan 28, 2013 12:32PM
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It's very difficult for cats who are kept indoors to kill flora and fauna.  Maybe we should ban all irresponsible cat owners.
Jan 28, 2013 12:27PM
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My HOA is complaining about a rodent problem in my development. They said it has become "extensive" because we live near a large wooded area. Now they are complaining about some feral cats as well. I think they mentioned about five. 
So I asked them which would they prefer, cats or field mice. They said "neither". And I said you can't have your cake and eat it too. There are a handful of cats in my area and thousands of birds everywhere. The cats are killing the mice, and yes, some birds , toads, hares and snakes as well.
Who cares? My cat and a few others are cleaning up their rodent problem for free.
They must have agreed with me because my cat is now officially allowed to run the area free as long as he is neutered and licensed. Guess they prefer my cat and others over the rodents. Gee, ya think?
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I don't believe in hunting them unless you eat them....pussy is good eats!
Jan 28, 2013 12:25PM
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Why are people pinning this on cats? There are other factors that no one is investigating. What is this person a cat hater?  
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