Cats Kill Animals

The cats kill animals debate erupted again last week. There was a study published in the journal Nature which suggested that cats were killing a lot more animals in the US than we had thought:
We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact.
This is one of those stories we really knew about but ignored, like there being all sorts of stuff we'd rather not think about in cheap burgers. The fact that cats are keen to kill animals is an unfortunate characteristic of an otherwise lovely animal. Most wildlife charites are desperately keen not to alienate cat lovers. The RSPB finds gamekeepers a much easier target, despite a top estimate of 100 million songbirds lost to cat predation in the UK (Source: Songbird Survival)*. I think the RSPB says on its website that it's not keen on cats (although it's difficult to tell), but that only an estimated 20% of the animals they kill are birds. So that's all right then. They're more anxious about habitat loss affecting bird populations, which is less contentious, of course. As usual, there are no reliable numbers. The RSPB estimates there are 8 million cats in the UK, plus an unknown number of feral cats. A local friend lost her cat so set up a trap to recapture it (ok - a bit weird, but go with the story). She caught a different (feral) cat every night for two weeks. Like when I realized the population densities of Grey Squirrels, I was stunned. Chris Packham wrote a sensible blog about cats last year, recommending 3 easy steps to reduce cat predation: 1. Keeping cats indoors at night cuts predation in half. 2. Fitting a new style beeper collar also cuts bird predation by 45-50%. 3. Get our cats neutered. A neutered cat is less likely to roam (and, of course, multiply! - Ed). Most of the cat owning folk I know do at least one of he above, but I wonder if we shouldn't be doing something more obvious. How about tackling the feral cat problem, where the finger of blame is increasingly pointing? Would we tolerate wild dogs wandering about, particularly in the numbers cats seem to be? Come on, RSPB; let's have some research and, if necessary, some action. *this seems excessive - the median estimate seems to be around 55 million. Still a big number.