They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they’re… bloodthirsty killers.
Of course, dog lovers could have already told you that lurking beneath that adorable purr mechanism was the engine of a fine-tuned bird-slaughtering machine.
Only now it appears to have been confirmed by science. According to a recent article published in the Nature Communications journal, researchers at the Migratory Bird Center of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C. estimate that felines are responsible for up to 3.7 billion bird deaths per year in the U.S. alone.
That number still pales in comparison to the 20.7 billion small mammals – like rats, voles and chipmunks – who annually exit this mortal coil at the paw of some predatory kitty cat.
Scientists pored over previous studies that explored the role felines play in the mortality rate of birds and mammals across North America, and concluded that their participation in small creature genocide was far more involved than previously believed.
"The magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by cats that we report here far exceeds all prior estimates," the paper reads.
But you don’t have to start getting paranoid about that glint in Fluffy’s eye. Most of the damage, say researchers, comes from stray cats. There are anywhere between 30 million and 80 million feral cats roaming around the U.S. and the study suggests that each cat is capable of killing up to 200 mammals per year on its own.
People who abandon their pets play a large role in the problem, particularly the ones who think that dumping their cats on the street when they no longer wish to take care of them constitutes acceptable human behaviour. There is a word for these people but it is mostly unpublishable on this website.
When cats are forced to fend for themselves, they simply do what cats do to survive.
It’s also the reason feral cat outreach programs spay and neuter the strays that come into their orbit.
Like many domestic animals, cats are wonderful companions but they are also naturally predatory creatures and shouldn’t be vilified for it. Responsible cat parents can mitigate the bird-and-rodent-death problem by limiting the amount of time Fluffy gets to reenact scenes from The Ghost and the Darkness, backyard style.
Team Cat forever.