Is This Any Way to Thank the Cats?

by Beverly Berwald
A Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles ordered the City of Los Angeles to stop helping non-profit cat organizations with their humane program called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) which controls the cat population

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by six bird organizations against the City of Los Angeles. The plaintiffs want to get rid of the cats because they claim that millions of birds annually are killed by cats. But the plaintiffs don’t have any scientific evidence to support their claim. They’ve only made “projections” firmly rooted in their dislike of one species.
If the bird organizations had bothered to do their research, they would uncover the truth: Man (not the cat) is responsible for an overwhelming majority of bird deaths. Wetland ecosystems have been destroyed not only due to climate change, abetted by man, but also by agricultural and urban development. Those same wetlands serve as vital homelands to hundreds of species of birds and the plants and insects that support them. Millions more birds die as a result of: skyscrapers with their vast expanse of windows; disorientation of migratory birds due to brightly-lit cities; communication towers, deadly chemicals in pesticides, cars and trucks, as well as power lines. Thousands of birds also die because of air traffic.

Nature Is Responsible—Not the Cats

No one’s denying that cats are predators of birds. But, cats didn’t ask to be wired that way—the predator-prey relationship was designed by Nature. However, observe the obvious: felines are not very good at hunting birds especially because cats don’t have wings. Seriously. Far more successful predators of birds are other birds—especially hawks and owls—who are treacherous in killing smaller birds including the unhatched. Cats, on the other hand, are better at clearing away mice and that achievement is a double-win. With the mice evacuated to the fields, the snakes follow the same route in pursuit of their food supply, the mice. Score two victories for the cats: they keep down two populations: the mice and indirectly the snakes.
The complaint by the bird organizations against the cats is reminiscent of the irrational superstitions of the Middle Ages. And it should serve as a warning to those who want to clear out one species in favor of another. Remember the bubonic plague/Black Death that hit Western Europe during the 14th Century? The cats were being eliminated because of the unscientific link between cats and the Devil and cats and disease. One mayor of London had ordered the death of cats and dogs to test the hypothesis that they were the main carriers of the plague. Unfortunately, in the fervor to condemn the cat, the mayor discovered that another species flourished, flea-infested rats coincidentally with an increase in the number of plague victims.

Keep a Cat to Keep the Rats Away

Curiously, the wise men and women of the Middle Ages who lived with a cat — in violation of church and state — fared better. Their cats kept the rats away and hence, the fleas which transported the infectious plague that ultimately wiped out 34 million people. Take cats out of Nature’s finely-balanced equation and the rats always flourish. Today, the modern rats are carriers of much more than bubonic plague. In fact, present day rats are hosts to the fatal Leptospirosis and potentially deadly Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, none of us can be sure that an epidemic could be knocked out so easily. The key is prevention. Cats are our first line of defense. Ask any of the field reps for pest control companies, they’ll tell you that cats are far superior to all the toxic fumigants. The rats that end up surviving these deadly poisons produce a mightier breed of rat. Score another win for the cats.

Besides successfully tackling rodent over-population, feral cats are also serving the environment in other ways. Feral cats dispose of the rats in a more humane way. Instead of having to use poison bait—a cruel and antiquated way to banish the rats—felines also spare dogs and wild life (squirrels, birds, raccoons, hawks, etc. that eat the rats) from painful internal bleeding as a result of the poisons that are ingested. Score one more victory for the cat.

How Do You Compensate the Cats?

In view of the critical role cats play in controlling the population of disease-carrying rats, at the very least, cats deserve to be compensated for their service to the citizens of Los Angeles. That compensation will take the form of continuing the financial assistance to the humane groups and conscientious individuals involved in trapping, spaying, neutering and returning these ferals to their outdoor colonies. Cats and their caretakers deserve the official recognition by the Mayor, City Council, Supervisors, LA Animal Services, LA Health and Human Services for protecting the citizenry of Los Angeles. Our best ally in heading off a potential medical crisis of epidemic proportions are cats — they just may hold the fate of mankind in their paws.

Let the City Live up to Its Name

Therefore, we urge a reversal of the injunction by Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew, Jr. against the city. Let the city take the lead in honoring the cats. It puts the animal shelters in a better “light” because they are part of a program that saves rather than destroys the lives of cats. It sends a positive message to citizens about these same local animal shelters. With a more life-saving atmosphere inside the shelters, people may be more inclined to visit shelters when they’re ready to adopt a pet.

Let Los Angeles live up to its name, the city of the Angels, the enlightened ones, the guardians of life.

For a more complete discussion of the lawsuit against the City and homeless cats , try these links:
     Examiner Article Part I
     Examiner Article Part II