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Franny Syufy

Response to "Cats as Killers" Media Frenzy

By February 4, 2013

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The portrayal of cats as ruthless killers really enflamed my hot spot, and I felt I owed it to the cats of the world to write my response

Photo of cat with dead mouse
Photo Credit: © ayors

Back in the day, when my own cats were indoor-outdoor, I admit that on rare occasions one of them would bring in a dead bird, but more often a mouse, which is a much easier prey, as well as, absent feathers and beaks, much tastier and easier to digest. Even though they were well-fed at home, I would liken their occasional kill to my family going out to an ice cream parlor on Sundays for some sinful but yummy "death by chocolate" ice cream.

Even though many of recent studies involved tracking pet cats on their outdoor activities, the resultant debates have pitted bird lovers and ornithologists versus TNR feral cat colony caregivers and groups such as Alley Cat Allies. The latter are most often supported by cat lovers and advocates such as myself. News anchors salivate over this kind of debate. It sells newspapers as well as advertising on radio and television. Your own opinions may vary, and you are welcome to share them in the comments. However, I must ask that you don't indulge in personal attacks or vulgarity. We can all agree to disagree, like reasonable people.


February 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm
(1) Steve says:

These idiots who say cats are really killers are so stupid. The real killers of society are those nutcases shooting up and killing humans.

February 5, 2013 at 2:17 am
(2) whitecato says:

i hate it when they feature cats as villains in cartoons, and mice as heroes. mice are pests!!!

February 5, 2013 at 4:17 am
(3) E says:

Yes, cats kill birds. Sometimes. What about the fact that feeding birds tends to alter their migratory habits, or that using pesticides causes damage? Methinks cats are a great distraction from those two items.

February 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm
(4) Jaquiblue says:

Birds, especially certain breeds like pigeons , can be pests in and of themselves. There are parks in the northeast that are no longer family friendly because of all the goose droppings.

Yes cats are predators, and yes they kill birds on occasion. The birds they kill are usually the weakest, or else they would have been able to fly to safety.

Sure it’s safer for the cat if s/he is an indoor only cat, but some cats refuse to remain inside and will get out whether their human parents want them to or not.

TNR programs can work if given a chance. What is really needed are more free or low cost spay and neuter programs and better education for cat owners. Cats won’t get fat if they’re altered. Birds aren’t all pretty songbirds that brighten our environment. Both creatures are part of Gaia’s bounty and both need to be respected for what they are.

February 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm
(5) Franny Syufy says:

whitecato, consider the fact that those cartoons are so popular because the cat lovers love them. Sylvester is one of my favorite, and he sometimes has a heckuva time with Tweety Bird. In fact, I have dozens of Sylvester coffee mugs, Christmas decorations, and other collectibles.

February 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm
(6) Franny Syufy says:

E and Jaquiblue, great points! Jaquiblue, I completely agree about the need for more S & N programs, but education is the key IMHO. And, YES your last sentence is spot on!

February 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm
(7) Susan says:

I do not like it when the news talks about feral cats and pet cats as if they are running around killing every bird they can find! It is natural for cats to kill birds. It is also natural for cats to kill voles, mice, rats and other small creatures. That is their “job” and has been for as long as they have existed. We kill cattle, pigs and chickens, to name a few. Yet eating meat is very harnful to the enviornment. That is almost never explored on the “commerical” news stations. I support TNR and I feel the news media is really giving it a black eye.

February 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm
(8) Soozn says:

My cats have killed an occasional vole- much to my joy and that of our landscapers.

February 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm
(9) cindyinsavannah says:

I LOVE cats, but it is foolish to defend them from their basic biology, they are predators and house cats are the only predator that will kill for fun and not food. Over the years I have had my indoor cats catch lizards, bugs, and 1 lost fieldmouse, play with them until they stop moving, because they are dead, and then just wander off and leave the remains, which are no longer fun. Do I think the cat is evil, of course not, that is a cat being a cat! it is the owners responsibility to protect outdoor wildlife from their cats with a simple bell on their collar.

February 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm
(10) Dee says:

We have indoor cats and one outdoor cat the brother of one of ours. He spends most of his time on our deck, did bring us a gopher once but never a bird. We love our cats and their brother.

February 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm
(11) leslie says:

now I heard everything – these people have nothing better to do – cats are doing what is natural to them – and they keep rodents in check
leave the cats alone -

February 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm
(12) Joanne Wegiel says:

In the past two years our shop cat has caught and killed over 200 mice in the field and alley outside our store. In this same time she has caught one bird. I have four cats at home. On average we find about three dead birds a year in our yard. I simply do not believe the statistics that have been all over the news lately about the number of birds supposedly killed each year by cats.

February 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm
(13) gerald doherty says:

Leo is my 5 year old male cat. When he was younger he caught
birds but now that he is older and wiser he realizes that it is
mostly fultile to try to catch the ever evasive creatures and lets
them sing and play to their heart content in my yard. I tell him what
a good boy he is to now hurt the birds and he looks up at me and \

February 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(14) Carolyn Timmerman says:

My cats are all indoor cats, always. They love laying in the window, especially when it’s warm. They show little interest in birds, nor do birds that nest in the bush outside my window cause them any reaction. If the squirrels get silly, they sit up & take notice; or butterflies get their attention. I do have a problem with my oldest boy, who brings me presents in the middle of the night. I cannot tell what excitement is demonstrated when my ChrisCat wakes by standing over me with his prize, which is quite alive. Jumping up & screaming, scrambling to move my covers, is just the impetus to get my aerobics in. The mouse gets a chance to run for cover, & my ChrisCat is left looking sad, forlorn, wondering why I am not thrilled with his gift…

February 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm
(15) Lois says:

I think that we as humans killl a lot of animals to eat…cats were bred to kill to eat…they do not kill to be mean they kill to survive…unlike humans that kill to be mean..

February 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm
(16) Irene says:

Everyone gets excited b/c cats kill birds (and rodents, who can carry some serious germs). People tend to forget that feral dogs are also a danger. Programs that spay and neuter feral cats then release to let them live out a lifetime are a logical solution to a problem created by PEOPLE. When we are not responsible pet owners and don’t spay and neuter, then don’t like it when we find ourselves with dozens of kittens we don’t want and can’t afford to feed we blame the cat. Some cats will not stay inside, most will if that is how they are raised.
It also occurs to me that, as sad as it is to see dead song birds, how much more bird poop would we have on everything if some were not dispatched by cats? A friend of mine, a major cat hater, says cats kill “7o million songs birds a year”. I don’t know the accuracy of this statement but I’m not sure how much happier he would be if those 70 million birds were on his porch and car.

February 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm
(17) spectrekitty says:

I know I’m going to sound conspiracy-minded here, but this new attack on cats has me worried. More cats may occupy households than dogs, but many of these households have multiple cats. And we all know that there are plenty of cat haters out there.

In New Zealand, there is actually a movement to get cats banned – not to kill them off, but to require spaying & neutering, & allowing the cats that are already there to live out their lives, and when all the cats have died off, end of problem – or so they think.

I read an article somewhere that supported with statistics the fact that cats are not the main danger to birds. Unfortunately, I can’t find that article now that it’s needed.

To stand on a soapbox for a minute, cats have always been persecuted – except maybe in Egypt. I have no idea, of course, how anybody could not look at the sheer aesthetic beauty of a cat and not be awed. Anyway, there was a dire consequence for a previous persecution of cats: it was called “The Black Plague.” I like to call it “The Cats’ Revenge!”

And I am in complete agreement with whitecato’s comment above. One thing I abhor is to hear someone tell a joke that celebrates cruelty to a cat – I know you’ve all heard one at some time. Though I love all animals, I am tempted, the next time I hear such a joke, to say, “Now tell that joke again, only tell it with a dog in the cat’s place!” Those same joke-tellers would find that to be heinous.

Sorry for the rant, but this thing could snowball, and I’m really afraid of what we’ll go through before it’s all over.

February 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm
(18) Dee says:

I get upset when my outdoor kitties bring me a bird or squirrel but they are wired that way. If people would quit destroying wildlife’s natural areas, there would not be a killing problem. They would not be in the middle of populated areas where people and domestic cats coexist. Cats have done what God created them to do since their creation. Man is the real enemy.

February 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm
(19) Pamela says:

The people who say that cats are killers are cat haters and dog lovers. Every animal has a survival instinct, and cats who live outside all the time, with no one to care for them, must kill their food. Almost every cat I had growing up always brought us a “present” as we called it: a chipmunk or a mouse. I’ve even watched the “game” that cats play with chipmunks as they slowly kill them; it NEVER made me think that cats were horrible killers. One of my cats, who can go outside, often brings my husband and me a little mole; I’ve even seen her reach in the hole and pull one out.

February 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm
(20) Lynn D'Ovidio says:

I am so tired of the same old worn out stories about cats being the enemy of everything in this world including our unborn children. Man is the greatest cause of the decline of any breed in our world. Just look at the Lions, Tigers, Big Apes, who kills more of them than anything else? MAN. Same as birds, our encroaching on their habitat causes more harm to birds than a million cats would. TNR does work, but nothing will wipe out cats in the wild because too many irresponsible people keep turning out their unfixed pets because of loss of their homes, or just not wanting the animal anymore. Or a half a dozen other reasons, and as long as that keeps happening, it will be impossible to stop the reproduction of cats in the wilds. So instead of wasting all this time and money on studies that don’t mean anything, maybe the money should be used towards education and prosecution of irresponsible pet owners.

February 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm
(21) Bambi Lynne says:

Cats do what all cats do…..they hunt. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, etc., all hunt and are all cats. Are they ruthless? No, they are surviving using their natural instincts. Truthfully, the most ruthless, cunning, cold-hearted killer on the planet is a human being.

February 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm
(22) Carolyn says:

Birds, if they’re healthy, fly and cats haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I don’t think many cats catch healthy birds – they do catch mice, voles and other small rodents. My own cat is strickly indoor – when she goes out, she’s in a cat carrier. Why do people HATE cats? I’ve never understood that. Don’t see how they could love dogs and hate cats.

February 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm
(23) Franny Syufy says:

Hear hear! Lynn and Bambi, and if you read the linked article, Are Cats Ruthless Killers?, you’ll find that I made that exact statement many times. We humans have brought cats when we invaded the bird habitats, and loss of habitat is the greatest cause of the decline in bird population. And as others have commented, cats will most often kill mice, rats, and voles, none of which are in danger of extinction, as far as I know.

February 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm
(24) Rochelle says:

I am currently trying to have the caretaker at our local Audobon arrested or at the very least removed from his job. I have lived here for over 20 years in a national forest area. In the 6 years he’s been here 5 of my indoor/outdoor cats have been cruelly killed and deposited on my lawn for me to find. The Audobon society funds the campaigne against cats, along with the Smithsonian and PETA. PETA is not your cats friend. I hear all the time I should keep my cats indoors. They get depressed and vengeful if they can’t go out. They are not the lawbreakers and should not be denied rolling in the sunshine, racing halfway up a tree or going exploring allowing them feel to get in touch with their inner lion. I love birds too, and have several feeders. I can’t remember more than 2 bird catches in 20+ years. Alleycatallies.com has a petition you can sign demanding an end to this junk science about cats. Please go there and sign the petition.

February 8, 2013 at 7:46 am
(25) bernadette abrams says:

Do people have nothing better to do than ATTACK CATS?? Cats have been hunting forever, it’s natural to them. Why don’t these people who are going after cats etc. go after the people who are killing, stealing, raping, etc. Every day you turn the news on you hear of the killing, stealing, etc. How many times when you turn on the news do you hear of a CAT ATTACK? They are sweet, loving pets, people, groups, etc. need to “Leave them alone!!!!”

February 8, 2013 at 10:12 am
(26) Diane says:

Cats keep the vermin under control…I rarely have seen a cat catch a bird…when cats were persecuted in the middle ages, they had the bubonic plague because of the explosion of rats/mice and their fleas…no kitties to keep the vermin down. I say, let’s hear it for the killer kitties!!

February 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm
(27) nancy says:

I have been managing three cat colonies –totaling twenty cats–for the past five years. Two colonies are adjacent to a wetlands area with many lovely birds. The third, and smallest colony, is in a residential suburban neighborhood. Only ONCE in five years have I been gifted a dead bird by any of the cats. It was a young–and most-likely unhealthy–bird that may have perished anyway. The cats have, however, left me about a dozen woodland rats over the same time period. (They have never killed a squirrel and are terrified by the squirrels who regularily run across their backs and chase them away from their food.)

There are so many birds visiting the cat feeding stations that we now provide bird food. Birds include sparrows, wrens, finches, cardinals, bluejays (these chase the others away!) robins, crows, and woodpeckers. I have, however, on too many occasions witnessed red-tail hawks swoop in and kill a bird. It’s a terrible sight! One of my friends managed to rescue a young crow that had been injured by a hawk. The crows were amazingly appreciative! I have also seen hawks kill birds in my yard. I, and most of my TNR colony friends are bird enthusiast. I spent many wonderful days walking the trails at Cornell University’s ornithology center (Sapsucker Woods), and have greatly enjoyed “birding” over the years.

This is not to say that cats don’t kill birds. Cats are predators. But one should not generalize. Not all cats like or are even capable of catching a bird. My personal experience is that feral cats that are well fed have little interest in using up their precious energy to seriously hunt difficult-to-catch avians. They are too concerned with becoming a meal on the food-chain themselves.

February 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm
(28) Franny Syufy says:

Thanks Nancy! It’s always nice to hear from someone in the trenches. I am a bird enthusiast too, and we have a wealth of birds of all kinds in our forest, many of which I’d never seen before in our former home. I love the red-tailed hawks, but they are raptors and a large one can carry away a small cat. That’s one reason we don’t let our cats out on our deck or in our fenced garden area unsupervised. Bless you for all you do for the ferals!

February 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm
(29) Ann says:

My cats are not killers. We had a lizard in the kitchen and one of my cats looked at it and then went to sleep. The other one walked behind it for 1 and 1.2 hours just walking with it. I finally put it outside. These are not killers for sure.

February 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm
(30) doreen meyer says:

Cats are predators–just as my GSP focuses in on and chases birds, cats are programmed to go after small fast-moving birds and mammals(mice, voles, rats). The problem isn’t that cats are predators–we know that. The problem is that too many people ‘dispose’ of their house pets, or pets’ offspring, by abandoning them–and thse animals quickly join feral colonies, reproduce, and raise more feral cats–all of whom are still predators(even when fed).
If we had laws demanding that all animals (cats, dogs, ferrets, potbelly pigs, etc) be sterilized/neutered BEFORE SALE to anyone, there would be little problem…for all animals…and fewer animals would be abandoned, drowned, left at the roadside to be run over, or killed outright. We need more stringent laws about pet neutering to decrease the numbers of all animals ‘let loose’ in America.

February 10, 2013 at 11:39 am
(31) terry says:

I love both cats and birds, so for me it is not an either/or situation. My only issue with this study was to try and understand what the point of it was? To demonize cats? To protect birds and small mammals? It DOES make a difference. Feline bird kills are incidental as their primary prey are ground-bound. There is however another animal that, coincidentally or not, has an identical, yet inversely proportionate diet to that of a feline….birds of prey. Birds of prey feed more often on small to medium birds and then on small mammals. Coincidentally the very same groups that are interested in avian welfare are the same groups that want to keep birds of prey as a protected species and they also want cats to be named a primary threat to bird populations. Any attempt to have cats labelled an “invasive species”, well, it won’t fly, so to speak. Primarily an invasive species has been used to describe any species that has been “introduced ” that has no known predator. Cats do have predators. There is an attempt to label them invasive species on the grounds that they are a threat to birds that nest on the ground. Well, cats have been on the North American continent for hundreds of years now and any adjustments on the part of other species have certainly already been made- fact that birds that nest on the ground have long been prey to foxes, racoons, coyotes, seems to be ignored. Birds are not stupid. This study’s primary purpose is to influence public policy making. With extrapolations based upon estimates serving as both the starting point (est. feral cats) and the ending point (est bird/ small mammal kills), these numbers could be projected on and on and on. The only limit being imposed is the limit of believability. I don’t know where the information from this study was collected from, but I DO know that in my “hood” it is the Peregrine Falcons that are making a dent in the songbird population and NOT the cats.

February 11, 2013 at 5:02 am
(32) ayors says:

I was shocked when I saw the picture of my cat Annie with the mouse. I’d forgotten I had sent it in. Thank you for using it. She hasnt been able to use her mousing skills lately as no mice have ventured indoors.

Look forward to your emails – keep them coming – always interesting info

February 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm
(33) Franny Syufy says:

Hey there, Ayors! It’s good to see that Annie’s still alive and well. She is such a beautiful girl and that photo is a great illustration. I’ve used it a number of times on my website, but I’m glad she is no longer able to catch mice.

February 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm
(34) sam hansen says:

Now with Our two killers Sir Elton a reformed Feral, and Ringo a Tuxxie that grabbed My Bride by \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\[I’m not going there. The two of them are strictly indoors period. Oil Steam in Winter, Air Conditioned in the Summer. On occasion We open the Skylight in the kitchen for a change of pace. Sir Elton will be 11 human years this March 25th, and Ringo will be 11 human years September 1st, Sir Elton gets Natural Balance to keep His Boyish figure, and Ringo gets His Wellness Animals with feathers in a can minus the feathers. So here You are “TWO INNOCENT FELINES”. The only thing they hunt are their “TOYS”. As Always Sam.

March 13, 2013 at 6:05 am
(35) Bubbles says:

Humans raise cattle to eat them too. Some slaughter them inhumanely in the name of religion and we could do very well on Lentil burgers. A cat is a cat is a cat. They are predators. Yes, they also hunt for pleasure. Instinctively.Why this big fuss. Don’t like cats>….okay….go try controlling other beings, perhaps other people. That’s what people who hate cats hate about them, in my humble opinion. They are creatures of integrity and won’t be told.

April 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm
(36) Xen says:

“house cats are the only predator that will kill for fun and not food”

Wrong. Very wrong. Orcas, wolves, weasels, dogs, hyenas, foxes, spiders and brown bears overkill. Do some research first.

February 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm
(37) JessMarie says:

It infuriates me not end when the “cats are evil” crowd starts shouting and yelling and refusing to listen to the facts. Fact: Humans have removed most of our native cats species – domestic cats are filling a void. Fact: Cats kill more rodents than birds. Fact: Bird feeders hung 2 ft off the ground near a bush is basically handing a bird to a cat.


February 21, 2014 at 3:02 pm
(38) Franny Syufy says:

JessMarie, thank you for your comments. And thank you for the link to your website. I read your fact sheet there, and was highly improssed. It was a breath of fresh air after reading all the vitriolic garbage spewed by cat haters.

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