Breaking Down the Bogus Smithsonian Catbird Study

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    And interesting read regarding the recently released bird study:

    …published in the Journal of Ornithology1, is a limited study that cannot be extrapolated to represent the complex cat-bird dynamic nationwide. Much more disturbing, however, is how this data has been manipulated to malign cats and used widely to dredge up a false and counterproductive debate.

    ‘It is absurd to think that a minor study conducted on a single species of bird in a small area of suburban Maryland could accurately be used to characterize the relationship between cats and birds in landscapes all over America.’

    (Click on the above link to read the entire article).

    EXAMPLE OF SUCCESS: Cimeron Morrissey, Project Bay Cat

    Feral cat and bird lovers can find a solution by collaborating. Cimmeron’s program is setting an example around the world as an effective and compassionate way to manage homeless cats while protecting birds and the environment. The program protects wildlife living nearby. Ten wooden feeding stations were built for the cats by Homeless Cat Network and installed along the trail away from wildlife habitats. The program’s effectiveness is a result of keeping the cats well-fed and concentrated away from avian nesting sites.

    You can read more about her program here:



    Yes! I think Trap-Neuter-Release + feeding stations away from bird habitat is a good compromise. According to the article, this strategy has reduced the cat population significantly:

    Our spay/neuter efforts have successfully stabilized the population. […] Over 80 kittens and friendly adult cats have been adopted into loving homes, which combined with attrition, has reduced the population [of the studied area] by 49%.

    Surely this is a better approach than killing kittehs.



    Have you links to the original studies, other than the links disputing them? It is my understanding that the recent reports on songbird and small mammal fatalities were a compilation of many studies (not just one) in order to present a broader view.

    Claims such as “The program protects wildlife living nearby” are flawed at best. In fact, the Cimeron project (it doesn’t appear to be an actual study)does not involve ANY bird studies or counts, therefore NO clinical evidence that this program reduces bird attrition rates.

    Clearly, many birds fall prey to roaming cats in every setting, whether urban or “wildlife habitats” – including backyards. Avian nesting sites are everywhere, as are avian feeding sites. Citing a single example of success by a cat rescue group is no more acceptable as proof than a single study in the Journal of Ornithology. As someone who loves both cats AND birds, I think it’s important to look at the entire picture. I’m willing to go either way, but based on real, objective evidence. Saving feral cats is a good thing. Restrictions on roaming animals, laws to mandate neutering of all pets, and penalties for unlicensed breeding – better yet.



    All good points, anonyme.

    But let me ask you this: Do you support euthanizing ferals?



    Mr. P, I don’t “support” pet euthanasia in any form. Yet tens of millions of non-feral dogs and cats are euthanized in this country every year. I don’t think separating them into categories of feral, lost, abandoned, abused, etc. does anything to remedy that situation. Nor does it change the fact that any of these animals, when loose, will kill birds – lots of ’em. Why place ferals in a special category?

    My interest is in knowing the facts. I don’t think either side of this argument can proceed in an intelligent, respectful, or productive manner without the facts. In the last few days I’ve read a lot of press by pro-cat folks accusing pro-bird folks of “demonizing cats”, even as they themselves demonize the ‘other side’. As a card carrying member of the Audubon Society, as well as a former PETA activist, I find this characterization insulting. There can be no meaningful solution as long as the problem is being presented in such an “yer either fur me (pun-hehe) or agin’ me” manner.



    Please don’t misundertake me, anon. I agree with you that outdoor cats kill birds. No one should sweep that under the rug.

    The thing I wonder about, though, with the people who cite the bird studies, is . . . What is their solution to the problem of ferals?

    Cuz it seems like there are only two options here: Euthanize or TNR.

    If you’re for euthanizing, then ok, you’re for euthanizing. I think it’s possible to take that position and still be a nice person. However, frankly, I don’t think euthanizing would work, even if we all agreed to it in theory.

    Kitties evolved to be cute and furry, precisely so humans would love them and NOT want to kill them. And by golly, it worked!

    So if you’re not for euthanizing, that just leaves TNR. And if you’re for TNR, then you might as well just resign yourself to it and start looking for the best way to go about it.

    So that’s where I’m coming from.



    Euthanasia and TNR are not the only solutions, nor are they the most effective ones. (See post #3.) As I said before, we’ve got to restrict breeding. That may seem impossible, but I think it’s a lot more likely than just a few years ago. A smart campaign in this direction would aim at the costs associated with euthanasia, shelter costs, and animal control. You and I may be more concerned with the animal welfare aspect rather than with the financial side of the equation, but the powers-that-be who could push such legislation would want some numbers…and the numbers are there.

    I also think that TNR could be tweaked somehow to be more TNC (control). I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m thinkin’ on it – keeping in mind that ferals may well be the smallest part of the problem. If only there were some modern high tech version of a bell on the collar, maybe one that transmitted a warning signal to birds? Just brainstorming here.



    OK a trapper here. TRN IS TNC. one in the same, you fix the cats you control the population. If a new cat comes along then I am called and that cat is trapped.

    Restrict breeding are you kidding me? ( is a s/n bill that is “Supposed” to help.

    I was the one who pissed everyone off at NV for telling people to get their animals fixed. Yes passionate is an understatement. I deal with this all the time.

    Example: Person calls me with 15 feral cats. Well she does not seem to think the feral cats will go in the traps. SO she would rather just NOT do anything. SO what am I do? Would you like to talk to her???? I can NOT make people get their own cats/dogs fixed how the hell am I going to make them fix a bunch of damn ferals You will never make people s/n pets that has been mentioned in other blogs, not to mention why we have the problem in the first place.

    Putting collars on friendly cats in my opinion is dangerous much less a feral cat.

    Another thing feral cats are in survival mode, birds are a hard catch, really they are. So for inner city feral cats, who huncker down during the day when the birds are out, do not waste their time on trying to catch a birds. Mice yes.

    I have no issues with euthanizing the feral cats either, because we can not save them all. I do what I can.

    I will state that I will keep this in the Washington State area. As this is where I trap, I do not trap in other parts of USA. So I can say with out a doubt that the studies are just wrong..




    Actually, Hammerhead, you do not know what you are talking about, and I suspect you are aware of that. The most recent study was in SCIENCE, which is one of the most prestigious journals in the world. You, I am certain, do not have the credentials to attempt to judge these studies. Which I am certain you have not read (or if you did, you do not understand them).


    I am usually not so straightforward, but these uninformed and uneducated opinions that deny science are very detrimental to wildlife in our state (and everywhere). I do hope that readers are astute enough to read the results of experts and not believe completely unsubstantiated blatherings that appear on the internet.


    Before anyone accuses me of being uninformed, well… I’m not going to present my CV here so believe whatever you want, but I am qualified to make these statements.



    You’re obviously not uninformed, amalia.

    So tell me (I’m taking a poll here) what’s your preferred solution to the problem?



    I know I sound like kind of a jerk, but you might understand my frustration if you were up against this all the time (think: global warming deniers).

    Solution: euthanasia. Would save a lot of poor kitties (two of whom, stray rescues, are my “kids”) from coyotes, cars, cold, hunger, and disease. We put them out there and make excuses to ourselves so that we can believe we are doing the right thing, but the truth is, we are doing it for ourselves, not them. They don’t care if they are euthanized.


    Harsh, and I apologize if it offends. Like I said, it’s frustrating (and some of these trap-and-neuter proponents here are really pretty nasty themselves, so I can live with a little harshness).



    I respect you for being honest, amalia. No need to apologize to me, certainly.

    As hammerhead said, she is ok with euthanasia under some circumstances, too. Many shelters practice it as well (even some so-called no-kill shelters). Euthanasia exists. It’s a sad fact of life.

    Personally, I don’t support euthanizing ferals, and I don’t believe the majority of people can be persuaded to support it, either. That’s why I think it’s a lost cause.

    I think bird advocates should join forces with TNR supporters and spay-neuter groups to lower cat populations AND increase public awareness of cat impacts on wildlife at the same time.

    Per anonyme, it would also help if we could convince all cat owners to keep their cats indoors, but that’s another hard-sell.




    First let me explain why euthanizing won’t work, this may get a little long hope you can hang in there.

    Animal control gets a call about feral/stray cats in their yard, lets just say about 10. Officer says call a trapper. Citizens says I don’t want the cats back. So officer brings ONE TRAP to citizen. Well citizen is not going to work that hard on catch 10 cats with ONE TRAP. Hell by then more kittens will be born. HMMMM so had a trapper just come in and trapped them in one week problem solved. Then threw attrition the cats will disappear. The “disease thing” at least in the state of Washington is minimal.

    Just because I don’t have a fancy damn degree and have a bunch of money or minions doing the work does NOT mean I don’t know what I am talking about.

    I see it and live it EVERYDAY AND BREATH OF MY LIFE.

    SO I damn well do know what I am talking about.

    Yes it is a lost cause, but you know what I am actually trying to do something, because NOT doing anything sure the hell won’t solve anything.




    amalia, boy that was a rude response to hammerhead. How dare you question someone’s intellect. You can just sit home and read SCIENCE and think about how intelligent you are while hammerhead is out there actually trying to make a difference.

    So, who will do all of this trap and kill? Where will the money come from? We aren’t even fully funding public education so I doubt money will be found to kill feral cats.



    Here is an excellent article explaining the FACTs of the research and the people behind it …

    “Very few scientific papers receive the kind of press coverage that’s been given “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States,” published in the online journal Nature Communications. Then again, very few studies make the kinds of claims made by the paper’s authors—claims the media has accepted without the slightest bit of scrutiny. Which is, unfortunately, to be expected….”

    Please read the full article and get the FACTS



    my kitty is a guy with 3 females in the house, unfortunately for my kitty snip snip.

    cats are born hunters. my kitty used to go outside and was a very good hunter that cheated, he knew where the neighbor bird feeders were. he is no longer an outdoor kitty.

    i question the numbers but whatever they are they are significant. not sure what the best answer is. what is the appropriate response to fer rel cats is not easy.



    This is a great article.

    Oh a little FYI.

    There is another BIG ISSUE, is that “rescues” who do not believe in aborting at all. Well to me they are JUST AS MUCH TO BLAME as the person not wanting to s/n their pet. So more kittens and puppies are being born. So Amalia what do you say to those “rescues”(a few are local too and no it is NOT FCAT or FAF)?

    I deal with the citizen who does NOT want to abort that feral at all, much less being trapped and killed, so more kittens are born and if not caught in time, grow up to be feral. SO again your science does not prove anything, other than it is the humans fault.




    There is absolutely no question that it is the human’s fault, just as there’s no doubt that cats are natural predators. Well-fed tabbies kill just as many birds as ferals. You can’t simply unleash millions of predators into any environment and not expect havoc, and humans are too stupid to voluntarily take responsibility. The question is, what’s to be done about it?

    In all the outcry against these studies, I really haven’t seen any evidence at all that the conclusion – cats kill millions of birds – is incorrect. The anger seems to be directed at the issue of euthanasia, and would best be focused there.

    I have immense respect for those are passionate about rescue. They see the horrible reality of human indifference to non-human suffering on a daily basis. Like Amalia, I also have a background in natural sciences. The studies being attacked are highly controlled, peer-reviewed analyses of a very real problem. It does no good whatsoever to shoot the messenger(s) merely because they have exposed an unpleasant truth.

    Another unpleasant (but objective) truth is that birds represent an essential link in local and global ecosystems. Cats do not.



    Agreed with anonyme. It’s not helpful to anyone to derail the conversation with outcry against euthanasia, or challenges of “We can’t do anything about it.” No one has claimed to have a perfect solution, but it’s disingenuous to deny the existence of a problem because of the lack of a neat and tidy answer to that problem.



    Does it ever occur to folks that both sides in this so-called debate are already in agreement?

    No? Well, try an experiment. Run these two claims through your think-box:

    1) Outdoor cats kill birds. How many? No one knows. Maybe a few, maybe lots.

    2) Regardless of how many birds, TNR + s/n + education = fewer outdoor cats roaming around, killing birds.

    Let’s say you reject Step 1 out of hand. Why get hung up on it? Step 2 is where the magic happens anyway . . .


    >>Just because I don’t have a fancy damn degree and have a bunch of money or minions doing the work does NOT mean I don’t know what I am talking about.

    –Can I be your minion, Pamela? I have a degree.



    DBP agreed.



    DBP – uh, not really. Is there any real data available on the number of ferals before and after TNR, either locally or nationally? What about bird mortality rates related to TNR? It seems as if most of the evidence is emotion/opinion and not based on actual studeis – although I’d love to see some if they exist. It’s reasonably safe to assume that feral colonies shrink after TNR, but until we know the facts, it really is just magical thinking (Claim #2).

    Claim #1 is just silly. We already know for certain that the number is not “a few” through substantiated evidence. And I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time that this is not all about ferals – it’s about any free-roaming feline. The focus on ferals is a red herring, just like mental health & gun control.



    Ooooh, I wanna umpteenth you right back!

    (Which is weird, because we hardly know each other.)

    For the umpteenth time, I HAVE been saying ‘outdoor cats’ –not just ferals. Reread my penultimate post. Not a ‘feral’ in sight.

    Now look at #2 on that post again . . . In addition to TNR, I’m specifically recommending S/N + EDUCATION to combat bird predation by ALL outdoor cats.

    But perhaps you just saw “TNR” and skipped over the rest . . . hm?


    Re: data

    I like it raw, babe. And there is tons and tons of it on cat breeding in the wild.

    But do you really need a study to be assured that cats that have been spay-neutered don’t produce more bird-killing cats? What matters it whether feral cats that are fixed live in colonies or not? The fixed cats will still be incapable of producing any bird-killing offspring.

    It’s weird, because when you think about it, the whole feeding station idea was an olive branch by the pro-feral people. Granted that Teri didn’t present this well, because she lumped it in with that other piece that could be perceived as minimizing bird predation. That was an unfortunate choice, but try to keep your eyes on the main idea here: Right now, feeding stations are one of the best tools we have for allowing us to monitor cats in the wild for bird predation and population control. Regardless of what the science on brid predation ultimately says, feeding stations are still a step in the right direction.

    Wouldn’t you say?



    i don’t have the patience today to read this entire thread…

    but i have to ask what all those cats are doing outdoors anyway.

    at the vets a little over a week ago a woman brought her cat in with injuries sustained while out m.. he tangled with a raccoon.

    this week the same woman was in the waiting room with her cat when i picked the pups up from grooming

    when asked how her cat was doing she replied..

    he’s fine but he really wants to go back outside.. How long do i have to keep him in?

    Sooner or later this woman will lose her cat to the neighborhood raccoons or a coyote or ???

    and she will think it is the city’s fault for letting all of those wild animals live in the city

    the neighbors let their cats run free and those cats love to sit on the other side of the fence tormenting my dogs.. or to prance in the yard when the dogs are inside.

    one of these days one of those dogs are going to catch one of those cats and kill it.

    they are incredibly fast and they are powerful hunters.

    it would already have happened if i hadn’t intervened

    when that happens, in my yard,

    the neighbors will blame my dogs

    none of the cats that roam my neighborhood are feral

    and i doubt any of them are fixed



    indoor cats live longer

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