RE: The Smithsonian study on feral cat colonies.
There are a few things you need to know before you start exterminating feral cats and it has to do with Scientific Studies which sound so very accurate and pristine. They are neither and Scientific Method, though the holy grail of science, is fraught with the same problems any theory has when you try to practically apply it. It simply doesn't work a lot of the time.
The number one problem with Scientific Method and Studies is their scope. By definition when you start a study, you create a statement of purpose which is to prove let's say a certain substance is a good moisturizer. You then choose a representative number of subjects from YOUR available pool. This is very important because if you are doing the study in Iowa, your pool is liable to be more limited than in Miami and have very different previous exposures to sun and weather. Right there you can see how the study is going south, no pun intended, fast. You then have to balance the study, and that is an art that most scientists do not excel at that makes or breaks the study, because if it is not balanced between the test group and the placebo group, you have just skewed the study toward a single conclusion.
The secondary problem with these studies is once begun (paid for) they cannot be altered. So, if while studying how effective this substance is as a moisturizer, you happen to notice it cures skin cancer, no where in the documentation or final study can you make a statement of any kind saying it seems to cure skin cancer. That is when it becomes more diabolical. You would then have to take the part of the study which indicates it cures skin cancer (and cannot be published in the study) to present for another study but your study belongs to the company who PAID for it so you have to get their permission. Are you beginning to see a problem? If they stand to make more money using this as a moisturizer, why would they allow this substance to become a cure for skin cancer that now requires a doctor and prescription and a complete loss of the money they put into the first study and their new product. You work for them and you get paid by them and they own your work. Not only that, but in the great world of pure science it is publish or perish and whether you get published or not is dependent on whether you agree with the University or Museum's stance on a particular issue and whether you go along with the prevailing attitude because in the short, no study happens without money and you don't get money unless you agree with the people (those wonderful philanthropists like the Koch brothers) giving the money out for grants. The last thing you want to do is publish or do a study that offends your big donors over in the sports department.
Now let me move to the Smithsonian study which is badly skewed. I love all animals even rats. They are very intelligence, social creatures with a history of disease and destruction all the way back to black death in Europe and throughout Africa and Asia. I bring them up because rats are not native to North America and neither are house cats. Neither is your common house mouse native to North America. Both of these rodents cause millions of dollars in damage and cause disease. Both rats and the house mouse, were imported and the common house cat is their biggest predator. Both of these rodents are capable of living outside, so they are not just found in a dirty house. Quite the contrary, they push out the native species of mice, the most common being the white footed deer mouse from their natural habitat.
You may not recognize the white footed deer mouse but it has gotten a lot of press lately. It is only carrier of hantavirus identified so far.
“In mid-1993, the deer mouse (P. maniculatus) was first implicated as a potential reservoir of a type of hantavirus responsible for an adult respiratory distress syndrome, leading to several deaths in the Four Corners area of the United States. Subsequent isolations of the virus thought responsible for this illness have been made from several Western states. The source of the disease is thought to be through human contact with urine, feces, or saliva from infected rodents.” http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/whitefooteddeermouse.asp
The white footed deer mouse has moved into the house mouse category and proves to be a bit more destructive as they really do eat anything.
This study was designed to focus on songbirds alone and not the other species that feral cats predate (eat).
So let's look at your songbirds, many of which are also invasive species introduced to North America that push out the native birds that the Audubon society will scream their lungs out about the feral cats eating but fail to mention who and what is taking over their territory, pushing then into areas they are not able to live in and making them easy prey. Let me just give you a reference from a government study which if you read the whole thing will have you wondering just how many “native” birds are left.
Between 1872 and 1874, the Cincinnati Acclimatization Society spent $9,000.00 (a small fortune at that time) to set 20 species and 3,000 individual song birds loose. Henry Ford set 400 to 500 European song birds free on his estate in Dearborn, MI in April of 1913 but because it was a private estate, no data is available. The study is available at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1824&context=usdaarsfacpub and you can skip to page 49 for the songbirds. You might want to peruse the game bird section which is the first 48 pages.
The domestic feral cat was and is the main predator of both the introduced rat and mouse and the song birds. Both the rats/mice and songbirds are decimating the native populations of mice and songbirds. Are you beginning to see what the study did not cover?
There's more. The big scare tactic in the study was toxoplasmosis. The study neglected to mention this little tidbit from the CDC:
“Toxoplasmosis is considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States. More than 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry theToxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.
- Blood transfusions or solid organ transplants
- Carelessly handling cat litter, which can lead to accidental consumption (eating) of infectious particles
- Eating contaminated soil
- Eating raw or undercooked meat (lamb, pork, and beef)”
I most likely got mine not from cats but from a love of raw beef. Too bad it took me 62 years to become a vegetarian.
And before you really go panic, you should know the Mayo Clinic says: “Toxoplasmosis (tok-so-plaz-MO-sis) is a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. This organism is one of the world's most common parasites.” or in other words, it is everywhere and you aren't escaping it.
In short, a none native species (cats) are predators for two destructive and disease carrying non-native species (rats and house mice) and native species of song birds are caught in the middle. No one is studying the effects of the non-native species of song birds on the native species because most people don't know their little finches and sparrows don't belong in this country.
Remove the colonies of feral cats and watch the colonies of rats and mice bloom. Now you may ask how badly....and I say, ask the Australians. With no natural predator for mice and the Aborigines killing and eating the cats, mice overran a section of Australia. The one documentary I saw, a rancher reached his arm into a feeding trough for his horse came out covered in mice. They were a dozen deep where ever there was a seed or anything they could eat. They left the ground without a stem of a plant because they eat the whole plant down to the roots if they can't find enough seeds.
Once those rats and mice bloom, you can kiss the birds goodbye because rats eat eggs and baby birds. They can easily climb into nests whereas a cat is too heavy to crawl out on the thin limbs where the bird nests. Rats attack in mass and are very intelligent. They hunt and scavenge all night and the list of diseases they carry make toxoplasmosis look like a walk in the park. Ground nesting birds will be the first to go and are, of course, the easiest prey for feral cats. But, most ground nesting birds are also the prey of hunters and if cats reduce their population, you just might have an outcry to kill all feral cats.
Unless you have a way of controlling the population of rats and mice (which so far, no one does) you might consider patting that feral cat on the head instead of killing it.
Now, let's see a study on non-native snakes as they really, really love a nice bird for dinner....