Tuesday 20 May 2014

Pro-cat Versus Pro-wildlife Debate

Pro-cat Versus Pro-wildlife

It is time to end the pro-cat versus pro-wildlife debate.  The domestic, feral and stray cat together with all wildlife species have equal rights, as far as I'm concerned.  The domestic cat is integrated into the ecosystem of the countries where it exists.  This is certainly the case with respect to the feral cat.  In countries such as Great Britain the cat has existed for about 2000 years, being introduced by the Romans.  In America, the cat has existed for about 400 years on the basis that the European settlers brought European domestic cat with them in the early 1600s.
Photo by Feliciano Guimaraes

How long does an animal have to exist in the country before it qualifies as being native to that country? One of the big arguments promoted by people who dislike cats is that they are non-native species.  The domestic cat is an introduced species into countries such as America but as stated these species of animal have been in the country for a rather long time. Also many other species have been introduced in countries such as America (e.g. the mongoose) yet these animal species are rarely mentioned in this debate.

It is non-productive to argue that native species of wildlife are more valuable than the domestic or feral cat.  It doesn't get us anywhere.  The argument polarises people.  It is an emotive argument which very often introduces bias and when you have bias you get distorted conclusions even from scientists who we would expect to be highly objective.

Indeed, it is very difficult to come to objective and solid conclusions about domestic cat predation on wildlife because thus far it has been impossible to work out accurately what levels of predation take place.  Studies confined to a relatively small area cannot be extrapolated to apply to a whole country. This is because certain areas are simply not representative of the whole country.  In addition the sort of people who wish to take part in studies may not and often are not representative of a typical cat owner.

For example, the cat owner who owns a cat who is a very good predator is more likely to take part in a scientific study about domestic cat predation probably because they are proud of their cat's prowess and have more direct experience of domestic cat predation.

In this debate, invariably the domestic cat is criticised quite heavily when the benefits of both the domestic and feral cat should be recognised in controlling what even wildlife advocates might call pests such as rodents.  The very existence of the domestic cat is based upon the simple fact that this nonhuman species of animal was an effective controller of rodents many thousands of years ago in the Middle East.

In America, in the great state of Maine, the early Maine Coon cats of the 1800s were moggie barn cats.  Their ancestors were long-haired cats from Europe.  These large, long-haired moggies became the magnificent Maine Coon, the most popular breed of domestic cat in the world.  The Maine Coon cat would not have existed in America but for the introduction of the species almost 400 years ago. Let's stop criticising the non-native domestic cat.

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