The Feral Cat Debate Goes On

Cape May, New Jersey is arguably one of the top 12 places to bird in the U.S. (According to Roger Tory Peterson). But the birding there might not stay that way with a new amendment from the Cape May city council to continue to allow feral cats to roam freely. The Birdchaser poses the question should birders Boycott Cape May? A DC Birding Blog brings up some wonderful questions about Cape May’s decision. Plus, here’s more about Cape May’s Feral Problem from Windstar Wildlife Institute.

Our stand is firm on feral cats: they don’t belong in the natural environment and they should not be allowed to run freely adding damage to the environment. Sadly, the people that support programs promoting feral cats claim to be “cat lovers” yet this very action is contradictory to their self proclamation. A true cat lover wouldn’t want cats living the lifestyle of a feral. The New York State Humane Society has more information on the dismal lives of ferals.

Every time an article comes up about feral cats, it is a big debate against us crazy “bird lovers” who “hate cats”. (See Feral Cats and Jim Stevenson). Why are there so many people defending these cats and their “right to be outdoors”?

Since all cats returned to the outdoors are neutered, he said cat colonies were decreasing in size and would continue to do so as cats died off due to old age. –Cape May County Herald

Is this a humane lifestyle for cats? To dodge cars and predators, battle disease and cat-fights in their struggle to live day-to-day on the streets? The majority of feral cats don’t even make it to old age.

So as birders, we ALL need to unite on this issue and all conservation matters. If this type of activity is allowed in Cape May, a place known worldwide to birders, what about all the other thousands of towns across the U.S. Do birds really need more obstacles in their lives?

Notice: We are not anti-cat as we are cat owners ourselves. This isn’t a debate on whether or not feral cats are part of the natural ecosystem; they are not.

4 thoughts on “The Feral Cat Debate Goes On

  1. Our backyard garden attracts a large number of birds including a raptor(Shikra)who feeds on small birds and lizards, a kingfisher who eats lizards and also a feral cat. Their universe seems self sustainable as we do not feed the cat or birds.

  2. Dr. Sharma may be unaware of the ecological and biogeographical issues that make a feral domestic animal that is relatively harmless in India a disaster in North America. In most of the United States, the smallest native cat species is the Bobcat, which much larger than the domestic cat and a very different predator. Our native wildlife species evolved alongside the Bobcat and have learned to coexist with it. They did not evolve with the domestic cat and so are ill prepared to deal with its depredations.

    Another difference between Cape May and Dr. Sharma’s Indian garden is that these cats are subsidized predators. Being fed and cared for by humans relieves them of dependence on natural resources for survival, enabling them to exist at far higher population densities than the local prey base can support. No matter how well fed they are, they will still hunt, and and they will kill whatever they can catch. Ground-nesting birds such as shorebirds and quail are particularly vulnerable.

  3. Well put. I’ve added my voice to the blogging community that has called for a boycott of Cape May until the ill thought through decision to retain the TNR programs there is changed.

    This debate runs on quite high emotions, (as the comments on my post show) and often the facts are overlooked. The bottom line is that outdoor cats, be they strays, ferals, or free roaming pets, kill wildlife. Wildlife ill equipped to deal with this predation. TNR programs keep cats in the outdoors where they continue to kill wildlife, neutered or not. In fact, because they are fed they probably are more efficient hunters because they are healthier. The instinct to hunt in cats is independent of hunger, and studies have shown that well fed cats will even interrupt a meal of their preferred food to kill live mice that they are presented with and then go back to their meal.

    The bottom line in the TNR debate is cats do not belong in the outdoors, and as birders we need to add our voice to the debate. Few things will make a tourist town sit up and take notice like people staying away and NOT spending dollars there.

    People often ask “What can I do to help birds?” Well this is an excellent opportunity to positively help birds in one of the most popular birding destinations there is, a chance to make a difference. Tell the Cape May city council that you will stay away until the TNR decision is reversed, tell your friends to do the same, tell the world through your blog if you have one.

    Kudos Birdfreak.

  4. What I would like to know is, What makes one animal takes precedence over another animal? Why is it that your animal gets to stay, be you a bird enthusiast or a cat enthusiast and the other has to go? They live and die together everyday in nature; why can’t the cats be allowed to roam free and live their lives as nature intended, especially when they are sprayed, neutered and vaccinated? Birds spread disease just as much as cats do, just as much as any animal does. Why not trap the birds and force them to live caged lives? If the people who actually live in this town don’t want to change their town shouldn’t we, as visitors, respect their wishes and just stop going.

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