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10 October 2013


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Is there a petition we can sign to make people use math and science?

Geoffrey Hooker

A couple of years ago in the spring, one cat on our farm had kitten. Another queen did not. We rehomed one, and another died as a kitten. This same queen had four kittens that fall. Three found new homes; one ran away while we were looking for homes.

The next spring, there were four queens who had kittens. One litter had three live and one stillborn. The other experienced queen had four kittens. Of the two first-litter queens, one had four (three survived), and the kittens from the other were eaten by the other queens. So four queens produced 10 kittens that spring (six found homes; the other four were fixed and one of them is my inside cat now). They had about 9 more viable kittens that fall.

They were briefly up to 30 the next spring before settling back down to around 10, with one given away. The farm total is at 7 now. (The oldest queen tried to have kittens around New Years and did not survive.)

And we have never had problems with mice eating the cattle feed.

Evelyn Black

Would love to see the New York Times source article supporting the 50 - 1000 descendants, but have to be a subscriber to be able to read it. Any chance you could provide it on your blog?


I am sure we are not the only ones tired of this kind of sensationlism around important animal programs. This fake stat is one that has irritated me for a long time. It is actually tempting to be a curmudgeon about it, and STOP listening to anyone who quotes or publishes it. They identify themselves as not having thought at all about the statistic, and not caring very much about real, living animals. Only as we begin to focus more programs and projects on animals, do we begin to have a good sense of how many there are and of what would serve them well.

Joyce Madsen

I thought you meant these all-too-common fake statistics:

Christie Keith

Joyce Madsen, that's not a fake statistic; it's a mis-categorization of cats as "adopted" who should have been categorized as "returned to habitat."

Programs that alter feral cats and return them to their habitat should be embraced exactly the same as wildlife rehab programs are, because they are humane and life-saving -- something your "better off dead" PETA friends will therefore oppose.

I do think outcomes for all animals should be recorded accurately.

That said, while I don't know if this is the case in this community, if I lived somewhere that being "accurate" would mean community cats would inevitably be slaughtered, anyone not drunk on Ingrid's Kool-Aid would view this as an admirable form of civil disobedience.

Cynthia Eardley

I try to focus on how well TNR controls cat populations in neighborhoods and how well much more the public is spaying/neutering pets than it did in the past, thanks to many low-cost programs, grass roots outreach and good old Bob Barker.

No question that cats are good at breeding, but as noted above, many hazards to offspring keep the populations down (which may be why they are prolific). In my view, if we decide that cats have value and proceed from there to control populations humanely, we arrive logically at TNR.

Fred Hammes

The statistics we use amount to a potential 420,000 kittens in seven years. However, in my TNR presentations, I always stress that this is NOT the actual number of kittens you will have under your porch in 7 years if you don't S/N. The mortality rate is extremely high. Around here, close 98% of community-born kittens die in early kittenhood. I back up these facts with graphic photos of things I see on the streets.
The problem with rapidly reproducing cats is not so much that they are rat-like vermin that will lake over the world, but that it really does suck to have so many kittens die.
I work with the Humane Society on statistics and economic costs of rounding up and euthanizing mass numbers of cats.
Well-managed, TNR'd colonies simply make more sense. Sure, you like to watch the kittens romp around in the spring. They're cute and all. Do you like to watch so many suffer and die?
When they do overpopulate, and you want Animal Control to come in and "get rid of all your neighbors' cats" do you have any idea what the cost to the taxpayers is?
TNR just makes sense, and it's true, promoting community kitties as filthy, overbreeding vermin certainly doesn't support the cause at all.


Using unsubstantiated statistics in order to make a point just makes animal advocates look like fools. It's all very well to attract the OMG! brigade, but if you're trying to argue with authorities and politicians, it doesn't help the argument that you can't be bothered to use good figures.

I challenged a national group in Australia about statistics they'd posted on their site which were clearly wrong and their response was, "well, it doesn't matter, its what we believe", which doesn't bode well for trying to develop a reputation as an concerned, but informed citizen, as opposed to the barking mad variety.

Susan Fox

It's also important to be accurate in describing them. And they are not "appealing wild animals". They are an introduced species and a feral domestic animal, exactly the same as so-called "wild horses". Their treatment should in no way be included as some kind of equivalent to the rehabilitation and release of actual wildlife.

And, unfortunately, TNR and managed colonies do not address the overwhelming peer-reviewed scientific evidence that unowned cats are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds and small mammals annually, not just in the US, but in other places like Australia and a number of islands. As a cat lover I don't like this at all, but since I live in the evidence-based world and have been able to consult with wildlife biologists who have seen the studies and made a recent one available to me, I have had to accept that reality. At the very least unowned/feral cats need to be removed from areas that have endangered species of genetically wild animals.


Susan, you've veered off into opinion and areas where there are multiple interpretations possible of both data and definitions.

It's my opinion, for example, that being responsible for deaths is irrelevant if those deaths don't have a population impact on bird species. In other words, would those birds have died anyway? For example, are cats killing birds that would have/could have been killed by another predator or exposure after slamming into a window or becoming ill? Were the birds old and past reproducing? If so, what's the population impact? Do we know? If not, we can't make any judgments on the impact of cats on a species. We can just make hysterical appeals to emotion about ZOMG cats eat birds!

There are LOTS of other issues in the data we have that can be looked at that way. It's not a question of "I saw a study and now I know."

Additionally, if you go back and re-read what I wrote, I included "appealing wild animals" as a category of how people look at a species, not an actual descriptor of the cat. But I would still question your absolute statement that just because cats are an introduced species in the US or Australia, that would preclude them from being wild animals. Wild species get introduced all the time.

I also don't agree that all free-living cats are "feral." They're not. Many of them are indoor-outdoor or outdoor owned pets, or loosely owned pets. Others are former pets who now live on their own. Others are the offspring of former pets who were born wild. And still others are multi-generation wild-born cats.

To lump them all together is pointless and does nothing but muddy the waters.

Finally, advocating the "removal" of cats from areas where there are endangered of sensitive species is a gross oversimplification of what can be an extremely complex environmental mix. Sometimes when you remove a single predator, you unleash another just as bad or worse.

We need to be more rigorous in how we talk about these situations, and not give in to the temptation to be black and white in our thinking any more than we should stand by when people make stuff up just because it serves their purpose.


I would also like to mention that we humans, also an introduced species, cause more death and destruction to birds and other animals through our use of chemicals, destruction of habitat, to name a couple. The birds in my yard are at much more risk from the hawks than from the outdoor cats.

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