Every now and again the bird lobby produce some study that supports their objectives. They use it to promote their objectives one of which is to get rid of the cat from the outdoors anyway possible. The bird lobby people say cats slaughter birds and exterminate species of birds. They tend to exaggerate and to disseminate misrepresentations to further their cause. (see also: Domestic Cats Do Not Decimate Bird Populations). There is a battle between cat lobbyists and cat lovers. I feel a need to provide some counter arguments in defense of the cat.
A recent example is quoting a study by Shannon E. Grubbs and Paul R. Krausman called "Observations of Coyote–Cat Interactions". The abstract (summary) for this study states that in tracking 8 coyotes (yes just 8) they observed over a period of 790 hours the coyotes interacting with cats on 36 occasions. On 19 of these 36 occasions the cat was killed by the coyote. 790 hours by the way is 33 days. So, on average about one coyote over a period of about one month killed 2 cats.
The scientists say that of the 45 instances that they saw the coyotes feeding they were feeding on cats 42% of the time. That comes from the American Bird Conservancy website in quoting the study. The immediate question is how many other instances of feeding in total were there over the 33 days? And what did the coyote eat on those other occasions?
On the basis that this is an accurate representation of the hunting and feeding activities of the coyote the American Bird Conservancy say that cats should be kept in to protect cats and birds. They also argue that TNR is a failure and that is supports the decimation of birds. TNR can work if conducted widely. It really needs a large scale approach.
However, other studies conflict with the one conducted by Shannon E. Grubbs and Paul R. Krausman and used by the American Bird Conservancy.
Studies by Gerht 2006, Gerht and Riley 2010 and Morey et al. 2007 concluded that the feral and domestic cat made up 1-2% of the coyote diet. In some studies about 8% of coyote scats (feces) contained cat remains. It is probably fair to say that these other studies are more accurate as the sample size in the Grubbs and Krausman study is very small, I would argue.
Also it has to be pointed out that the coyote will eat birds and attack ground nesting birds. What percentage of the coyote's diet is birds? It would be interesting to make a comparison with cats. Also it may be the case that the coyote attacks cats when preferred prey is absent. The absence of some prey may be due to human activity. If that is the case the bird lobbyists' arguments are self-serving and distortions of what is really happening.
The American Bird Conservancy don't mention these things. They give the impression that the cat is the prime prey for the coyote when this is far from the truth. Rabbits and rodents probably top the list of prey items.
There is no doubt that the domestic and feral cat is at risk of being killed by a coyote in the USA. This must be a factor for the cat's caretaker. A secure outdoor enclosure is probably the best compromise.
However, the bird lobby really should try and strike a more balanced approach to promoting its cause. They will not achieve much by exaggerating and misrepresenting information.
See also: Can a cat escape a coyote attack? And How Feral Cats Affect Wildlife.
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