The Atavism

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cats aren't evil, but they are a problem

 

It seems Gareth Morgan has declared a war on cats. It will, I'm sure, come as a great surprise to you that Morgan's description of cats as ruthless and sadistic killers that we must eventually purge from the land  has met some opposition. Invoking outrage is pretty good way to get free advertising in New Zealand, and if you measure the campaign's success in tweets, comments and talkback calls I guess Morgan is on to a winner. But I'd like to think we can do better than simply setting up an argument between supporters of Morgan's Maoist purge and cat lovers who think their moggie can do no harm.

Cats are a problem

Most of the reaction to Morgan's campaign has been to basically treat it as a joke. We should be clear then, that introduced predators are the number one threat to New Zealand species. Stoats, weasels possums and rats all contribute the decline of birds and lizards (and invertebrates, though we don't monitor those species closely enough to track their progress). Cats are certainly part of that problem. They have contributed to the extinction of at least 6 bird species  in New Zealand, and many more populations and subspecies have been lost partly as a result of predation by cats (Merton, 1978). Cats continue to pose a threat to our wildlife. The impact of feral cats on shorebirds  (plovers, dotterels, oystercatchers) and kakapo is well documented (Karl and Best, 1981 doi: 10.1080/03014223.1982.10423857). In the space of a week one cat managed to kill 102 native short tailed bats.

The problem isn't restricted to wild cats. Pet cats will attack and kill native birds and lizards when they have the chance. In Dunedin the impact of tame cats is large enough that it's been estimated local bird populations (including natives) wouldn't survive if they weren't replenished by migrants from around the fringes of the city (van Heezik, et al. 2010. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.09.01)

Getting rid of cats isn't necessarily a solution

It's clear then, that cats are a problem for the conservation of native wildlife. But it's not nearly as clear that simply getting rid of cats will be much help. Every study of the diet of cats in New Zealand has found that cats kill a lot of mice and rats. These rodents are themselves predators of birds so removing one predator from our country may simply let another run amok. When feral cats were removed from Little Barrier island it led to an outbreak in kiore (Pacific rat), which threatened Cook's Petrel populations on that island (Rayner et al, 2007 avaliable via PMC ).

Should we phase out cats in New Zealand?

So, if Morgan's plan was actually do-able, should we do it? I have to honest here and tell you, I don't know. It's abundantly clear that cats, both feral and domestic, can kill native animals. It's clear that in at least some cases that killing can have a major impact on populations, but removing cats might not help all that much. If you want to know whether the impact of your typical urban moggy justifies Morgan's campaign, especially given the abundance of rats in New Zealand, you'd have to ask a conservation biologist. That's something no news organization has bothered with yet, as far as I can tell.

Is this the conversation we should have started?

It's fairly obvious that Morgan's website, with its strange anthropomorphism (cats are predators sure, sadists? no) was designed to draw headlines and "start conversations". But what hope is there for environmentalists in conversation where our side wants to take people's kittens away?

Introduced predators are the biggest threat to New Zealand's biodiversity, so the goal of eventually controlling these predators so tightly that they no longer pose a threat is a very worthy one. But the sort of change required to get us from today, where only 12% of the conservation estate is managed for predators, to that goal has to come from the ground up. Picking fights like this will get you headlines, but I don't think it will change anyone's mind.




Merton, Donald V. "Controlling introduced predators and competitors on islands" pp 121-128. In Temple, S.A. (ed.) Endangered birds: management techniques for preserving threatened species 1978

(image at the top via Pauline Dawson/ArtAndMyLife)


Labels: , , , , ,

Posted by David Winter 3:36 PM

35 Comments:

I am a activist to save trees, so I want to ban all houses.
I am an atavist for saving trees, so I want to ban houses.
How does this follow any evolutionary path? These birds need to learn some new skills to survive.
Anyone ever hear of INSIDE CATS?!
RIDICULOUS!! MY CATS ARE MY BABIES. MAY CATS LIVE ON FOREVER AND EVER AMEN! (birds too) I LOVE BIRDS. BUT I SEE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS.. GO GET YOUR HEAD CHECKS PLEASE. CATS ARE HERE TO STAY. PERIOD!!
Agree with Jeanette. Cats kept indoors are healthier and live longer on average than cats that roam outdoors. They can't kill birds but will keep mice from entering your house.
Well in that case, why doesn't he just ask for the deaths of all human beings....they kill everything. He is so stupid.
Cats are Gods creatures, you have no right to tell people to kill their cats, or even out side stray cats !

Cats are natural "hunters", ...all size cats. If it wasn't for stray cats we would have a big problem when it comes to mice. Birds reproduce just as fast as cats. But keep in mind this, cats live a more dangerous life because they have to walk the earth. Meaning cars , people and other things can cause the harm, sickness,or death to them ! They don't have the ability of flying away when a human or car comes close enough to cause harm.
Cars can't fly up in the air to hit birds.
Whats next ? people killing people because there are some people who do murder out there????
Most sportsmen ; kill feral cats when they encounter them ! It is the only reason , that we have the bird population , that presently exists.K.G.Kastros
I would like to say that peoples wants and desires have brought the cat population above where it is ecologically sound and balanced. Apparently it is now an unhealthy level and that is permanently altering the species of birds unfortunately. It is imperative and really our duty now to rectify this situation ourselves as we are the ultimate cause and the only ones who can alter this. Listen, we regulate wolves and deer, it just makes sense to take initiative and look at this cat problem with open eyes and make the necessary changes, like it or not. I am on board with cat regulations and support the effort. Thanks for listening ~
I believe the only "duty" a cat owner should have is to get your cat fixed. If every owner would do this , think people would start to see the cat population decrease. Stray cats usually don't have too long of a life because of the danger that faces them everyday in the outside world.
Cats do not kill healthy birds! God's plan was the survival of the fitist!!! The fit healty birds would get away. Only the sick and weak would be caught. But help me out here... does everyone in New Zealand have an outside cat? my 10 cats are house cats people. A little common sense!!!
In 1997, a member of Australia's parliament called for the eradication of all domestic cats as they had caused 39 extinctions on that island. Domestic cats are listed as one of two introduced, alien predators causing most recorded extinctions, occurring in the last 400 years. The domestic cat caused over twice as many of these extinctions as the second agent, the European rat.

If a bird is a native specie to a particular ecosystem, he is a strand in the web of all life. Domestic cats, unlike birds and other native species, are not members of Earth's work force in the business of all life and life itself on Earth. Therefore, this is a very serious issue.

Solution: Make your cat an indoor cat, and he'll live into his twenties. Life expectancy for the outdoor cat is but five years.

Indoor cats is a winner; cats win; mankind wins and Earth especially wins.

"The dodo and Solitaire of the Mascarenes, Lord Howe's white gallinule and rails everywhere were wiped out in the next wave of extinction -- caused by predatory mammals introduced by people. Cats and rats were the worst of these." International Council for the Preservation of Birds
In 1997, a member of Australia's parliament called for the eradication of all domestic cats as they had caused 39 extinctions on that island. Domestic cats are listed as one of two introduced, alien predators causing most recorded extinctions, occurring in the last 400 years. The domestic cat caused over twice as many of these extinctions as the second agent, the European rat.

If a bird is a native specie to a particular ecosystem, he is a strand in the web of all life. Domestic cats, unlike birds and other native species, are not members of Earth's work force in the business of all life and life itself on Earth. Therefore, this is a very serious issue.

Solution: Make your cat an indoor cat, and he'll live into his twenties. Life expectancy for the outdoor cat is but five years.

Indoor cats is a winner; cats win; mankind wins and Earth especially wins.

"The dodo and Solitaire of the Mascarenes, Lord Howe's white gallinule and rails everywhere were wiped out in the next wave of extinction -- caused by predatory mammals introduced by people. Cats and rats were the worst of these." International Council for the Preservation of Birds
Cats are killers period. we had stray cats on a farmstead and witnessed them killing songbirds weekly. I have since eradicated the cats and the birds are making a comeback to the area. Anyone who owns a pet cat should keep it inside. Outside cats are a problem for wildlife in locations that they are not native too.millions of protected songbirds are killed annually in the United States by cats roaming at large. That is fact.
This guy needs to get a life. Leave cats alone. they too are gods creatures. Hell get rid of dogs they kill cats all the time.
I too say get rid of the dogs ! They do more damage to people & yards than cats do. along with that barking.
If that guy had cats on his farmstead then he got rid of the cats, I would like to know how his field mice problem is doing now ???
They need to put Gareth Morgan on an Island in the middle of no where. He can be with what ever birds is there. If he angers enough people, someone might do that day or night. So he might want to keep his oppinions to himself.
THIS GUY IS AN IDIOT..... to eradicate one species is to eradicate them all... I dislike spiders and insects but I know there is a balance in every thing.... yes there should be a spay and neuter law put in place especially in the USA... over 5 million a year are murdered because of irresponsible owners....the way I look at this is if you can not afford to take care of an animal you should not own one period
The one who is eradicated is Morgan. Is there not enough animal cuelty with out this idiot giving like minded idiots a reason to kill cats.
I am really impressed together with your
writing abilities as neatly as with the layout for your blog.
Is that this a paid subject or did you customize it your self?

Either way keep up the excellent quality writing,
it is uncommon to look a nice blog like this one these days.
.
my webpage > best contractors in winter garden florida
Blessed they published his websites. I think this guy needs a piece of our mind, because he's lost his altogether.

It was the eradication of cats in the Middle Ages that led to the Black Plague. Now which is better, cats or the Black Plague???
Instead of eradicating cats how about NZ eradicates bozos like this Gareth Morgan.?
He is dangerous to the balance of nature. Cats co-exist for a reason. They provide stimulation in our lives, protect us from rodent-borne diseases, and demonstrate loyalty to the few humans they will accept in their pride.

If Morgan wants to have native birds in a safe environment, create an aviary for goodness sakes.

There are plenty of nutcases around. I guess too many idiots thinking they deserve to earn a doctorate think they can post a radical blog to upset the balance of nature.

Be forwarned, Morgan. Mess with nature and you will have many Native American Tribes on your butt!
Mr. Morgan your reasoning is 'off'! You have the audacity to try and make an 'official' poll and petition over this? God created all creatures. Let them be! You can't control nature anyway! That's animal CRUELTY if you want my opinion, and why are you making your OPINION a movement? Did you have an unpleasant experience with a cat? Are you pro-birds for some ereathal reason that we can't guess? You start to see how your appeal is slightly unreasonable. If everyone carried out their opinions drastically, we'd all be fighting little wars like this over everything. If you are a bird enthusiast (which I SUSPECT is just an invented excuse to get rid of cats for the reason that maybe you simply don't like them), then why don't you simply PROMOTE BIRD AVIARIES instead of trying to fight the world and eradicate first cats, then maybe foxes, who knows....? As for people vouching not to have another cat, that was nice of them for trying to help you out, but they should examine your intent. Your reasoning simply doesn't seem fair in a large world like this one.
Mr. Morgan your reasoning is 'off'! You have the audacity to try and make an 'official' poll and petition over this? God created all creatures. Let them be! You can't control nature anyway! That's animal CRUELTY if you want my opinion, and why are you making your OPINION a movement? Did you have an unpleasant experience with a cat? Are you pro-birds for some ereathal reason that we can't guess? You start to see how your appeal is slightly unreasonable. If everyone carried out their opinions drastically, we'd all be fighting little wars like this over everything. If you are a bird enthusiast (which I SUSPECT is just an invented excuse to get rid of cats for the reason that maybe you simply don't like them), then why don't you simply PROMOTE BIRD AVIARIES instead of trying to fight the world and eradicate first cats, then maybe foxes, who knows....? As for people vouching not to have another cat, that was nice of them for trying to help you out, but they should examine your intent. Your reasoning simply doesn't seem fair in a large world like this one.
Why isn't he campaigning to ban plate glass windows and buildings? Skyscrapers kill 200 birds a day, more than any cat ever could... http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4134773/ns/us_news-environment/t/plate-glass-blamed-billion-bird-deaths-year/
Okay, you want to SAVE all your birdies....well how about all the bird poop these creatures leave behind.....unsanitary....and ridiculous! I'm all for my cats being indoors to protect them, but banning them is just not right or fair, just because you don't like them.
"I say to Gareth Morgan: Butt out of our lives," Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs television show Campbell Live. "Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family."
In Canada, there was a petition to ban the dog breed called Pit Bulls, because they have caused injuries to both people & other pets and sometimes death to other animals. Since there are people on both sides of the problem (just like this cat & bird problem) the issue must be looked at carefully. Sometimes the little dogs come up to the big dog & they fight, little dog gets injured. Sometimes it's the owners fault for not training the dog properly, not leashing it or having a place for it to be secure in their yard. To me, this is a smiliar problem with your cats & birds. Since I am a cat lover, I would always spay/neuter my pet, and yes, they go out in my yard, up the tree, cackle at birds & when they were younger have brought home some little birds, dead or nearly. Sorry, but since cats are a predatory creature, birds excite them, however, as my cats are older now, they still climb the tree & cackle at the birds, but are getting too slow to actually catch them. Also, they are well fed so do not hunt birds for food. Instead, I have toys to play with them, which all pet owners should do. Anyway, perhaps the bird population can be "helped" by trying to re-populate those species which are known to be in decline, it's called CONSERVATION, and guess what, not a lot of countries are doing it, much to the demise of animal species around the world. The shark fins being harvested by Latin & Asian countries for the coveted shark fin soup is decimating the population, yet the Asians in Canada see no reason to stop this horrendous act and since our govt has already tried to stop the soup being served, now they are forming a group to stop them from making laws. Who is right? For the sake of playing devils advocate, anyone who decimates a whole population of animal, without considering the after effect, is playing with fire. No one can determine what will happen when a whole species is gone, but predictions have been made, such as if the sharks are all gone, so will be the #1 predatory animal of the sea, leading to other problems, not to mention that most of the actions are criminal in nature, with Costa Rica taking money from wealthy Asians to fin the sharks illegally. Morally & ethically we should not be trying to play "God" with animal species, instead, CONSERVATION is the key. If you want shark fin soup, then grow some sharks for that purpose, if you want birds, mate some to keep the species alive. Why is this such a hard concept to learn? Cats are necessary and so are birds, makes some rules for pet owners & get some people to breed the birds. Killing off one species is the worst thing to do. Leave the cats alone!
Why have a knee jerk and irrational solution. Keep your cats indoors and take control of the feral cat problem through Trap Neuter and Release/Relocate. If you eradicate your invasive cats, you will cause a huge population explosion in your invasive mice and invasive birds. We the humans are the ultimate in invasive species and unfortunately we brought the commensal species like rats, mice, and cats with us. It will be nearly impossible to go back to the way it was before. So make the best of it, restore the native habitat, fix cats and let them hunt the mice.
What a complete nut case, I would never not have a cat. Get Rid of Gareth Morgan!!!
I think we are all missing the problem, it's us people. Ever since the 1400's, we have traveled the globe and brought about the destruction of many places. We killed what we needed, and then what we didn't kill became a threatened by our towns, cities, farms, ranches, chemicals, smog, pollution, and lastly, our own pets. If we truly care about helping the environment, then get out of that area, stand outside it, and protect it from urbanization. Or do as the U.S. does and reserve large tracts of land where settlements can't be built in the parks except under special permit. You want to preserve what's left of NZ, then eradicate cats from the wild areas of NZ. If you won't do that, then ever so slowly you can all watch that beautiful island urbanize and erase all the wildlife still there. It's the cold truth people, we are the destroyer of environments, whether directly or indirectly. We, and our creations.

However, even though we and our creations are a threat, this isn't the first time one species or one branch of the animal kingdom came to dominate. The Dinosaurs likely encroached on the natural habitat of previous animals and eventually (over thousands and millions of years) became the dominate species. we did the same thing, just faster.

But to end on a good note, this urbanization in many places has slowed or stopped. it seems that there is a glimmer of hope to save most of what's left for the future.
This article is demonizing cats and giving fuel to cat haters. It is also out of date with modern environmental science.
Our modern day cat (Felis silvestris catus) became ‘domesticated’ seven to nine thousand years ago. As a result when we moved to new habitats, so did they. How long does it take for a species of animal that has migrated, to become 'native' to a new habitat: one year, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand or one hundred thousand?
In determining the answer to this question scientists are now observing how native species interact with introduced species. They are looking for the point in time when the native prey species develop specific survival adaptations against the introduced, or recently migrated, predator. The thinking goes that if the native prey responds to a species, by developing adaptive behaviour and defences, then the more recently arrived species is then considered to have gained native status.
Most birds, insects, reptiles and other mammals have indeed developed adaptions against the Felis silvestris catus. As such our modern day cat, in most areas and in respect to most other animals, is now a native animal in its own right.
Mr. Morgan states that cats are "natural born killers." Try to take my cat and I'll show you another species possessing that property.
Cats might be a problem; however, rats are a bigger one.

Post a Comment