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Cats and the environment: Is Fluffy really a major threat?

April 3, 2009 | 10:31 am

Cat_opt Cats come in many colors, but they are not very green.

Fluffy, it turns out, is a serious threat to birds and other wildlife. But especially birds, which are in steep decline, according to a recent State of the Birds survey, which lists among factors predation by non-native animals and house pets (mostly cats).

As a kid I used to watch my family's two Siamese cats stalk alongside a short brick wall in the backyard. They'd wait for a sparrow or jay to land and pounce with about a 3% success rate. We did not consider them to be threats to the avian population, but apparently they were not helping.

Today, backyards are increasingly important as bird havens — even as human populations, the most serious threat  to all wildlife, swell and pave and construct and pollute. But as the Seattle publication Crosscut points out, there are 77 million pet cats in the United States alone.

Crosscut cites a New York Times op-ed piece that implies cats, with their insatiable appetite for fish, represent a threat to fish stocks. "The pet food industry now uses about 10% of the global supply of forage fish," the piece states.

Lastly, cats are believed responsible for spreading disease to wild animals and even marine mammals, which can become affected by parasites found in cat poop delivered to the ocean, along with kitty litter, via sewer systems and storm runoff.

All of this is certainly worth considering, when seeking your next pet.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo is a handout from the 2000 Orange County Fair

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