American cats kill billions of birds

imgresWe know this but don’t often admit it: cats are killing machines

In all fairness, some of us like our cats for this reason – ridding our houses rodents or other pests, or at least deterring them. But if you are really, really sensitive about the issue of animal cruelty, letting kitty prowl about outside puts lots of birds and small animals at risk. A story on NPR exposed the ugly details about this. Millions of details, as it turns out:

“Previous studies had suggested that cats kill about 500 million birds a year. Marra’s group came up with something very different. ‘We estimate that cats kill somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds a year,’ Pete Marra says. ‘For mammals, it’s upward of about 15 billion.’

‘Cats are really hard to count,’ says Marra, an animal ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. He and his colleagues actually got a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to try to estimate the number of animals being killed by people, including through the effects of human activities, buildings and pets. They looked at things like wind turbines, cars, pesticides and — domestic cats. Marra says Americans own about 84 million of them. ‘And of those, about 40 to 70 percent are allowed to go outside,’ Marra says. ‘And we estimate that about 50 to 80 percent of those are actually hunters.’

“That means as many as 47 million pet cats are out there killing prey. Marra says they also looked at cats he calls “un-owned” — feral cats, barn cats and strays. Based on previous studies, he estimates there could be anywhere from 30 million to 80 million of those in the U.S., most of them out hunting. The next challenge was to try to figure out how many birds and small animals all these cats were killing. They looked at all the available data, and when they finished crunching the numbers, Marra says, he was shocked by what they found.”


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