Be Your Own Birder

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

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  • Author: Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Pages: 212

Be Your Own Birder’s Thoughts

The issue of cats vs. birds is a contentious one for birders, cat lovers, naturalists, pet owners, conservationists, and wildlife officials. Cat Wars thoroughly discusses how cats impact birds and other wildlife, including humans, citing various historical accounts, scientific studies, ornithology reports, disease outbreaks, and other sources, even while acknowledging that free-ranging cats – though disastrous to birds – are not the sole factor leading to species’ extinctions and other conservation concerns.

The book follows the evolution of the domestic house cat and island histories where cats have made dramatic ecological impacts, as well as the growing concern about unchecked cat populations as “one of the most successful invasive species on earth.” Yet at no time do the authors belittle either side of this divisive issue, and in fact they readily encourage both cat lovers and bird lovers to work together for the best solutions. If that is done, there is optimism for birds and all wildlife, as “Nature is resilient given the chance.”

Trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs are discussed with relatively objective views, with acknowledgement that “there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution to removing free-ranging cats from the landscape.” Ultimately, the message that “the greatest obstacle to convincing humans to take greater responsibility for their pets and act more responsibly on behalf of their environment … is the growing ignorance and indifference about the natural world” resonates with readers and can connect both bird lovers and cat lovers alike.

A detailed set of footnotes lends even more credibility to this well-researched book, though there is no suggested reading or follow up list. Sixteen pages of color photographs, charts, and other illustrations help readers visualize the discussion and research, and a detailed index makes referencing a breeze.

There is no need for war between those dedicated to birds and those dedicated to cats, and indeed many bird lovers are devout and conscientious pet owners as well. Reading Cat Wars can help us all understand different perspectives and come together for the good of our shared environment and the animals we all love.

Worth reading? Yes – 9.9/10!

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