It sure seems generous and altruistic to take care of a stray cat. It is, on the face of it, a noble activity. Confronting the consequences, however, isn’t easy.
Birds, small mammals, butterflies—all can end up in the jaws of a domestic cat. Even well-fed domestic cats keep killing smaller creatures for fun, as cat owners know. Hunting might be a natural cat behavior, but there is nothing natural about how our house cats hunt. We’re talking about an exotic species in the Americas that has not evolved alongside our wildlife. And of course we feed cats, boosting their population densities far higher than anything our native critters ever see from natural predators. The effect is disastrous, and a robust body of scientific research backs this up. The domestic cat is responsible for killing at least 1.3 billion birds and at least 6.3 billion mammals in the contiguous United States every year, according to a 2013 study published in the science journal Nature Communications. Outdoor cats’ habits vary, but on average each one kills about 24 birds and 160 mammals per year. And there are a lot of unowned cats in Philadelphia (not counting the pets allowed outside)—estimates range higher than 300,000. Even if we make the conservative assumption that our urban cats have less killing opportunity than their rural counterparts, that’s still a lot of dead birds and bunnies—a lot of wildlife that Philadelphians won’t experience.Read More