If you read the news regularly, you'd think it's open season on cats. Frequently there'll be a news flash from the American Bird Conservancy or kindred organization alerting us to what overzealous bird hunters cats are --and more recently the federally-funded Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute joined in. It published a study in the journal Nature Communications reporting that U.S. domestic cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice, voles and other small mammals each year.
According to Merritt Clifton of Animal People – a nationally recognized keeper of animal statistics – their study is deeply flawed on many levels. For one, it dramatically inflates the U.S. domestic cat population by at least 124 million cats. And one of the scientists who conducted the study -- Nico Dauphine -- was arrested in 2011 for trying to poison neighborhood cats. She was convicted and sentenced to do 120 hours of community service, spend a year on probation, and pay a fine of $100. Yet -- in spite of this -- the Smithsonian kept her on staff and allowed her to continue doing “research” on cats. Her sentence is a sham when compared to the calls to kill outdoor cats for threatening birds -- as a human she should have known better.
Surely no one likes to think about animals killing animals but it happens -- and cats are by no means the only animal that does it. Most species do -- including dogs and humans. But only cat predation makes the evening news.
Unbridled attacks on cat behavior veiled as scientific “research” need to be stopped. And the media – who pick the studies up as chapter and verse and report them as “news” need to recognize them for what they are -- propaganda from organizations with anti-cat agendas.
And as a culture, we must remember that cats are part of our ecosystem and as such, they should have the same rights as any other species. Several years ago the San Francisco SPCA published a “Cats Bill of Rights” and it’s worth revisiting now: These are the basic rights all cats should have:
· The Right to be recognized as a unique and important species
· The Right to have their individual lives cherished and protected
· The Right to be free from cruelty and abuse
· The Right to receive aid and comfort including food, water, shelter and medical care
· The Right to a fair share of public resources for the care of companion animals
· The Right to be treated as equal members of the animal kingdom
· The Right to be represented accurately and humanely by those who speak on their behalf.
It goes without saying that many individual cats already enjoy these rights – yet as a group they continue to have these rights violated. All too often a different standard applied to their behaviors than to other species. How sad!