Feral Cats: Disease, Dangers and Wild Birds

Wild bird advocates have again placed blame on free-roaming cats for spreading disease and killing birds, among other things. Feral cat advocates point to other, more significant, factors than cats.

By Darlene Arden | Posted: September 24, 2012, 10 a.m. EST

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Feral Cat -- Dilute Calico

Wild bird advocates attacked the idea of feral feeding stations, saying they overflow with food, left unattended to attract diseased wildlife. “Responsible feeders never leave bowls of food, but come, feed, count heads, pick up bowls and leave,” says Marci Kladnik, of Catalyst for Cats.
A new press release from the American Bird Conservancy claims cats carry rabies, are dangerous to humans and kill birds. The release states that Trap Neuter Return (TNR) may lead to un-inoculated cats spreading disease, and that TNR cats don't die off because of attrition. A little fact-checking and discussion with people involved in TNR paints a different picture.

Animals That Spread Disease
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and some bats carry strains of rabies. Wild animals accounted for 92% of reported cases of rabies in animals in the United States in 2010. Feral cats fear people and tend to avoid them; the odds of these cats encountering a person close enough to spread disease is low.

The press release talks about Toxoplasmosis, a rare disease in the United States. The highest risk of human infection comes from eating raw or undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables. The release also mentions plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is usually caused by rodent or flea bites.

Dwindling Wild Bird Numbers
The numbers of birds dying from habitat loss to development, collisions with plate glass windows, hunting and cat predation are an educated guess, as is the effect on the survival of individual populations and species of birds. Trapping and killing feral cats is inhumane, ineffective and outdated, and does not address the sources of the problem.

Feral Cat Colony Populations
“Many of the feral colonies Catalyst worked with back in 1990 [have] completely disappeared through natural attrition,” says Marci Kladnik, board member of Catalyst for Cats, a Santa Barbara County, Calif., nonprofit organization dedicated to feral cat welfare.

“All of our current managed groups are either stable or dwindling in size. Locally thousands of feral cats have been TNR'd (including vaccination and flea treatment) over the years, and not one of them has come up with rabies or plague. Even in the private sector, if either of these viruses was found by a veterinarian, it would be all over the news.”

Responsible owners, continued TNR, education and meetings between the bird and cat people to discuss the issues would go a long way towards easing the situation, not the knee-jerk reaction of killing cats.
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Reader Comments

Walt    Ludowici, GA

10/17/2012 5:54:39 AM

There are some really stooooopid peeps in the world to believe such garbage

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

9/26/2012 10:31:27 PM

What about the doves? Aren't they birds. If they want to pick on some species who kills birds, why not pick the human species? There are states that have legalized hunting of
Doves. I am against that. They are docile and don't bother anybody, yet they are shot for sport. I have two cats. One indoor cat and one ferrel that I have tamed so he comes in the house, yet loves to hunt mice at night. We live in country with a nice field next to us. The ferrel cat was pretty wild when I captured him and had him neutered and shots all given. It has taken me 6 months for him to trust me but now he is so loving. I can't imagine anybody killing this wonderful black cat.

Tammie    Mulberry, FL

9/25/2012 8:17:38 PM

I don't understand why the cats keep getting the blame for everything! If people would take care of their pets and throw them away there wouldnt be near the population of feral cats are there is now! If the cats are being fed they are not killing of the stupid birds. What about the animals that kill and eat the cats? Thats ok I guess. Its just crazy, get off the bad cat craze and look at the real problem, it the PEOPLE and their lack of MORALS that are causing issues, and they are teaching to their kids!!!

Tammi    A, TX

9/25/2012 6:54:11 PM

Blame people for the numerous wildlife population declines that now exist in the world and don't punish the cats for it!

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