Commentary: PETA’s feral cat trap

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

In life, there are cat people. And there are dog people. Unlike liberals and conservatives, however, they often co-exist peacefully together.

But for all their value as household pets, cats in particular can wreak real havoc on wildlife—especially feral cats born outdoors and untamed by the loving human “companions,” as PETA people always try to depict themselves.

In fact, if there’s one issue where the haters at PETA twist themselves into knots trying to cope with a real-world problem while maintaining their “just leave the animals alone” BS, it’s the issue of feral cats, those often ferocious felines who are abandoned or born outdoors and who revert back to their “wild” ancestry as hunters and killers.

Their prey, unsurprisingly, are millions of songbirds, small mammals (mostly rodents) and even lizards or reptiles where available.

Anyone who’s ever watched even a pampered housecat come to life when a mouse manages to sneak indoors knows that Fluffy can instantly transform from couch creature to clawed killer in seconds.

Feral cats are like those domesticated mouse hunters, only bitten by radioactive spiders. As a result, according to research done by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, feral cats—of which there are millions in the United States—have become a serious and growing threat to the populations of numerous native birds, mammals and other wildlife.

Those numbers are much higher than previous studies suggested, according to Smithsonian scientists. Their on-the-ground research found that cats kill more than four times the amount of birds as had been previously estimated.

Here are a few data that support their concern:

  • In New Zealand, it is estimated that feral cats have been responsible for the extinction of six native bird species and more than 70 other species, as well as depleting bird and lizard species
  • In Australia, feral cats have devastated native populations of ground nesting birds, and smaller mammals and caused the extinction of several marsupials and mammals
  • On dozens of islands around the world, feral cats have been implicated in the extinction of hundreds of native species of birds, mammals and rodents; the only solution conservation biologists have pursued is ridding entire islands of all cats
  • In the United States, cats—especially feral cats—are the leading threat to native wildlife, responsible for the deaths of more than 3.7 billion birds and 21 billion mammals every year, including songbirds, mice, squirrels and rabbits

A major study by the Smithsonian in suburban Maryland in 2010 found that the vast majority of the deaths of juvenile catbirds occurred in the first week after the birds left the nest. Why? Cats were roaming suburban backyards and feasting on the inexperienced fledglings.

“Cats are natural predators of not just birds but also mammals—killing is what they are meant to do and it’s not their fault,” Peter Marra, a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute research scientist who conducted the study, said in a news release. “Removing both pet and feral cats from outdoor environments is a simple solution to a major problem impacting our native wildlife.”

Option 1 or Option 2?

Ultimately, there are two basic solutions to the feral cat problem: Trap-and-terminate, and trap-alter-and-release.

PETA’s preferred option—leave these noble, sentient beings alone—isn’t an option at all. If you want to continue to hear robins and sparrows singing each spring, that is.

As for the first option, that’s cruel and heartless, according to PETA. Wildlife biologists will acknowledge that when feral cats infest a wildlife ecosystem unable to adjust to the destruction of the species on which they prey, the only way to effectively halt the carnage is to get rid of the cats.


That’s the opposite of “leave them alone,” but PETA leaders can’t even bring themselves to embrace the other option: trap ’em, fix ’em and let ’em go.

“PETA’s experiences with trap-alter-and-release programs and ‘managed’ feral cat colonies led us to believe that these programs are not usually in cats’ best interests,” according to the group’s online policy statement. “We have seen firsthand and have received countless reports that cats suffer and die gruesome deaths because they are abandoned to fend for themselves outdoors.”

The gruesome deaths of birds and mammals at the end of a cat’s claws, of course, aren’t mentioned anywhere in their statement.

 “Having witnessed the painful deaths of countless feral cats, we cannot in good conscience advocate trapping, altering, and releasing as a humane way to deal with overpopulation and homelessness.”

There’s plenty more blah, blah, blah about the “horrific fates” awaiting homeless cats, the contagious diseases from which they suffer and all-too-short lifespan common to most feral populations.

Which leads to the million-dollar question: What do we do about them? Here’s PETA “answer,” a convoluted argument suitable for a legal brief—or maybe a mission statement for a new animal exhibit at Fantasyland:

“We believe that it can be marginally acceptable to trap, vaccinate, alter, and release feral [animals] when the cats are isolated from roads, people, and animals who could harm them, are regularly attended to by people who not only feed them but also provide them with veterinary care, and are kept in areas where they do not have access to wildlife and the weather is temperate.”

Are you kidding me? Most people don’t enjoy that kind of lifestyle.

Proof once again, as if more were needed, that People for the Ethical treatment of Animals belongs out on some of those same islands that biologists have been so successful in ridding them of other destructive species.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

Prev 1 2 3 Next All

Comments (14) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

brooklyn  |  March, 11, 2013 at 09:35 PM

Hey, please do at least minimal research before firing off such an ill-informed piece. First, the study (and there is really only one that everybody uses) that states cats are killing billions of animals is based on bad science and funded by sources who have a vested interest in scapegoating cats. And second (and this one is just dumb), PETA is officially AGAINST feral and free-roaming cats, and they advocate for their eradication in most cases. They have in recent years dialed back the pro-kill rhetoric about ferals but remain officially of the opinion that all feral cats lead necessarily horrible lives and are better off dead. Who woulda thought, you agree with PETA. Next time, google it first.

Dan Murphy    
Everett, Wash.  |  March, 12, 2013 at 02:25 PM

Bad science? You'e accusing the Smithsonian of "bad science?" On what basis? Even if those estimates -- and that's all they are -- of feral cat kills are somewhat inflated, we're still talking about millions of wildlife snuffed out each year by the domestic and feral cat populations. That's a problem, don't you think? As for PETA, they say whatever they think gets them the most exposure, the most media coverage and the most contributions from the suckers who fall for their pitch. They're basically amoral, an organization that's all flash and no philosophy. They exist to perpetuate their own existence, and it's a crime that they do so by pushing a ridiculous "leave all animals alone" philosophy that demonizes honest, decent people raising animals for food. So no -- I don't agree with PETA on anything they've ever said or ever will say.

brooklyn  |  March, 12, 2013 at 08:12 PM

please re-read my comments, if you had done your research you would know that PETA opposes the existence of feral cats, they are perfectly fine with killing them all. they are NOT advocates of 'leaving them alone'. and please, please read the below link, it gives a good overview of the problems with the so-called study.

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 10:25 PM

The ONLY groups that support and condone the COMPLETELY INHUMANE practice of TNR are those that financially benefit from all the hundreds of thousands of dollars that PetSmart charities hand-out as "seed money" cash-grants and pleas for donations by exploiting suffering animals. The more suffering cat-mouths that they can all keep alive the more that they all benefit financially. This is ONLY about the money that they can all make by letting more cats and animals suffer. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HUMANE NOR ECOLOGICALLY CORRECT ABOUT TNR. Veterinarians and all others with the least bit of credible education and morality speak out strongly AGAINST TNR. I suggest some of you educate yourselves as well about this morally reprehensible TNR "business". You can start the process by Googling for these educational postings (include the quotes for each search-string): "The TNR Con-Game" "Be cautious about using any cats taken from outdoors for adoption" "Licensing and laws do nothing to curb the problem." (This one contains the ONLY solution that actually works!) and "Here's another fun aspect of TNR that TNR LIARS never bother to tell anyone"

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 10:39 PM

Vox Felina? What a joke. They exploit suffering animals just as much as all the rest that are in this for the money only. Their pages are loaded with pleas for donations as they parade tortured cats around, that by all rights, should have been put-down to end their suffering and torment. But oh no! Not if they can make a good poster-cat to raise more donations out of another animal's suffering! Their funniest recent posts are how they are all sickened by people that let their dogs (domesticated animals) attack trapped coyotes (native animals), calling this unconscionable. But they never consider, not even once, all the native animals that their domesticated cats attack and torture to death -- with their blessings and praise for each animal their cats torture to death. There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER between that dog/coyote scenario and what every last one of their cats do every day of their lives. They all have blind spots bigger than their brains. Which is easy, considering none of them have minds (nor hearts) to begin with. If you want any credibility whatsoever, you need to distance yourself from that group of bible-home-schooled cretins.

Amy O.    
Waco, TX  |  March, 12, 2013 at 10:44 PM

Mr. Murphy, I agree with your first sentence; that's about it. Here is another resource that you missed, and it deals directly with the "junk science" recently released by the Smithsonian. Yes, the Smithsonian lost major credibility (and donors) from their slanted and deceiving report about Trap-Neuter-Return, feral cats and the true destroyers of wildlife - humans. Hell, I'm from as deep in the heart of Texas as one can get, and I know many ranchers who greatly appreciate the role their barn cats play in killing rodents and snakes. I believe you saw that Smithsonian report as an excuse to justify killing cats – and PETA applauds you, no doubt. I urge you to ponder the first sentence of your own article – we must find a way to peacefully co-exist. For you to propose the mass-slaughter of cats is significantly worse than cats hunting birds… the cat reacts from instinct, yours is deliberate killing for convenience. Trap-Neuter-Return humanely reduces the number of outside cats, plus provides a rabies vaccination for the cat (that’s pretty important here in Central Texas). I encourage you to look at this from my point of view for just a moment: "Trap-Neuter-Return provides a controlled group of non-reproducing, rabies-vaccinated mousers." The cats aren’t replacing themselves with offspring, so their numbers naturally decline. That’s what I think we both want, right? Less outside cats. However, your solution (kill 'em) is short-term and has failed repeatedly, but my solution (TNR) is long-term and proven successful. Besides, God didn't give cats wings so birds should be able to fly away if they're smart enough. Survival of the fittest. #TNRWorks

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Since it appears that bliss-ninnies like Amy O. will remain blissfully ignorant by not going outside of their own circle of psychotics, here's a run-down of "The TNR-Con Game" list of FACTS (it will require more than one posting) Here's how these ignorant, self-serving, and uneducated TNR-advocates are destroying all life on our planet. The TNR CON-GAME FACT: Trap & Kill failed because cats cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control. FACT: Trap, Neuter, & Release (TNR) is an even bigger abject failure because these man-made ecological disasters cannot be trapped faster than they exponentially breed out of control, and they also continue the cruelly annihilate all native wildlife (from the smallest of prey up to the top predators that are starved to death), and the cats continue to spread many deadly diseases that they carry today -- FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO VACCINES AGAINST THEM. Many of which are even listed as bioterrorism agents. (Such as Tularemia and The Plague -- Yes, people have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA. No fleas nor rats even required. The cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own.)

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM

FACT: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY _NOTHING_ HUMANE ABOUT TNR. Nearly every last TNR'ed cat dies an inhumane death by road-kill, from cat and animal attacks, environmental poisons, starvation, dehydration, freezing to death, infections, parasites, etc. And if very very lucky humanely shot to death or re-trapped and drowned (the two most common methods employed on all farms and ranches to protect their gestating livestock's offspring and valuable native wildlife dying from cats' Toxoplasmosis parasites). This doesn't begin to count the thousands of defenseless native animals that cats skin alive and disembowel alive for their daily and hourly play-toys. The only difference in destroying cats immediately and humanely instead of trapping, sterilizing, then releasing them to an inhumane death; is that money isn't going into an HSUS or SPCA board-member's pocket, veterinarian's pocket, cat-food company CEO's pocket, or a drug-company CEO's pocket. And that's the ONLY difference!

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:07 PM

FACT: Cats are a man-made (through selective breeding) invasive species. And as such, are no less of a man-made environmental disaster than any other caused by man. Cats are even worse than an oil-spill of continent-sized proportions. They not only kill off rare and endangered marine-mammals along all coastlines from run-off carrying cats' Toxoplasma gondii parasites, they destroy the complete food-chain in every ecosystem where cats are found. From smallest of prey gutted and skinned alive for cats' tortured play-toys, up to the top predators that are starved to death from cats destroying their ONLY food sources. (Precisely what cats caused on my own land not long ago.) FACT: Hunted To Extinction (or in this case, extirpation of all outdoor cats) is the ONLY method that is faster than a species like cats can exponentially out-breed and out-adapt to. Especially a man-made invasive species like these cats that can breed 2-4X's faster than any naturally occurring cat-species.

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:10 PM

FACT: In _TWELVE_YEARS_ Alley Cat ALL-LIES of NYC have only reduced feral cats in their own city by 0.08% to 0.024% (as the months go on that percentage becomes more insignificant), allowing more than 99.92% to 99.976% to exponentially breed out of control. Here's how Alley-Cat-ALL-LIES' deceptive math works: If you TNR 4 cats and 3 get flattened by cars this translates to 75% fewer feral-cats everywhere. Alley Cat ALL-LIES can't even reduce cats in their own city, yet they promote it as a worldwide solution. Then even bigger fools fall for it and promote it. FACT: When researching over 100 of the most "successful" TNR programs worldwide, JUST ONE trapped more than 0.4%. Oregon's 50,000 TNR'ed cats (the highest rate I found) is 4.9% of all ferals in their state. Yet, by applying population growth calculus on the unsterilized 95.1% they will have trapped only 0.35% of all cats in their state sometime this year. Less than 0.4% is a far cry from the required 80%-90% to be the least bit effective.

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:16 PM

FACT: Their mythical "vacuum effect" is a 100% LIE. A study done by the Texas A&M University proved that any perceived "vacuum" is just the simple case that CATS ATTRACT CATS. Get rid of them all and there's no cats there to attract more. I proved this myself by shooting and burying hundreds of them on my own land. ZERO cats replaced them FOR OVER 3 YEARS NOW. If you want more cats, keep even one of them around, more will find you. That university study also found that sterilized cats very poorly defend any territory. Non-sterilized cats, being more aggressive, take over the sterilized cats' resources (shelter & food if any). If there is any kind of "vacuum effect" at all, it is that sterilizing cats cause non-sterilized cats to restore the reproductive void. FACT: During all this investigation I have discovered something that is unfaltering without fail. Something that you can bet your very life on and win every last time. That being -- IF A TNR CAT-HOARDER IS TALKING THEN THEY ARE LYING. 100% guaranteed!

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:22 PM

Since Amy O. is also highly ignorant to how rabies works, here's some further reading for her feeble mind: Anyone associated with TNR aren't adhering to the mandatory REQUIRED BY LAW SIX-MONTH QUARANTINE for any animal when harvested from the wild and intended for any sector of the pet-trade. This is why rabid cats and kittens are now being adopted direct from shelters (Like this one example of hundreds, Google for: rabid kitten adopted wake county) The 10-14 day holding period for bite & scratch cases is ONLY meant to see if they were infectious at the time of the incident, but DOES NOT IN ANY WAY prove that that cat does not have rabies. The incubation period for rabies can be (on average) from 21 to 240 days. And in some cases as much as 11 months. One rare case being 6 years. This is why when you take your pet to another country they MUST quarantine your pet for a MINIMUM of 6 months to be relatively sure (not 100% certain) that you are not bringing rabies into their country. Giving a rabies shot to an animal that already has rabies and has not been quarantined for AT LEAST 6 MONTHS FIRST does NOTHING to ensure that that animal does not have rabies! Now add on top of that that anyone who feeds these cats is training them to approach humans for food (contrary to them always claiming feral cats run from humans). What happens to the child or foolish adult that reaches down to pet or try to pick up that now seemingly friendly "cute kitty"? The wild animal lashes out and bites or scratches the hand that has no food for them.

USA  |  March, 12, 2013 at 11:24 PM

Google for: feral cat attack rabies Don't be surprised at the number of search-hits you get or the horrendous stories that go with them. The number of suspected rabies cases and the then required mandatory rabies shots for each individual costing them well over $1000 out of their own pockets, has been growing as exponentially fast as cats breed. Ask a cat-feeder to pay for your shots and lost work-time and suffering? Neither they, nor shelters, nor the local government who supports TNR carry ONE PENNY of liability insurance for the deadly dangers they are bringing to their communities by allowing them to feed and TNR stray cats. Two recent reports even document rabid cats entering a home through their pet-door and one even came through their ceiling searching for human-supplied foods -- one attack so bad it required hospitalization for the family. Let's make 2013 the year where ALL aspects of TNR are ILLEGAL nationwide. It's the only solution.

April, 07, 2013 at 05:19 PM

If what you say is true - what would we do with the explosion of birds? Not much thoughts about that is there? Then again, your industry doesn't think much - like with Mad Cow.

Total Nutrition

In today’s swine industry, the efficient use of supplemented energy is paramount. This is not only important in performance but ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Generate Leads