Cats have found their place in American family

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Besides the dog, no creature has warmed the hearts of the American family more than cats. I know it, you know it, people love cats, and it's easy to see why. The cuddling, the purring and their Meow-nificent mannerisms, such as their compulsive desire to lick themselves make them absolutely adorable. Some people even prefer them to dogs because they are far cleaner, and require less attention. Cats have found their place in American family life and are often considered by many as the, dare I say, purr-fect pet. However, this often blinds us to their true nature. Let's be honest here, cats are killing machines.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, "This kid is crazy, my baby would never, she's an angel.” But seriously, As great as cats are, the average cat kills almost 200 animals every day. If you then consider the millions of feral cats and outdoor cats in the world, we have a serious problem. A recent scientific paper estimates 1.3 to 4 billion birds and 6 to 22 billion mammals are killed in the world annually by cats. Cats are indiscriminate killing machines, they don't just kill mice and birds, they kill everything. The figure for reptiles and amphibians killed by cats is estimated in the high millions. This number for reptiles and amphibians however, varies by region. The number tends to be higher in areas like Australia where there is a high reptile density.

Eighty different species are at risk of decline due to predation by cats. There is an especially high risk on islands, where the isolation of species puts them at a high risk of extinction. In fact, 13 percent of bird and reptile species that have gone extinct on islands were due to cats.

Now I'm not saying people should not have pet cats. Cats are great, but please, for the sake of our planet's other animals, don't let your cat outside. Keeping your cat indoors will prevent it from killing birds for fun, and it will keep it from mating with other outdoor cats and possibly increasing our feral cat population. If you have to let your cat go outside because it destroys your house or you don't have the indoor space for it, fine; but there are some ways you can help. Making sure your outdoor cat is spayed and doing something as simple as attaching a bird safe collar to your cat can help minimize its impact. This is not a foolproof method. Cats are skilled and will still kill wildlife. The Audubon society, however, estimates that bird safe collars reduce the number of animals killed by a cat by four times. I prefer the bird safe collar method over having your cat declawed. Using the collar could alert animals, while leaving your cat with claws to defend itself from outdoor predators.

Your personal cat aside, feral cats also pose a risk to public health. Feral cats can carry a multitude of diseases, and can even attack people. Supporting local efforts to manage feral cat populations is the most important thing you can do to help the problem. Making sure not to feed feral cats and reporting any feral cat that you see can help local groups manage their populations.

What's the take away from all of this? I don't hate cats, cats are great, but please, for the sake of all the other species on this earth, take actions to make sure your cat does no harm.

(Stephen Tranghese is a wildlife management and political science student at the University of Rhode Island.)

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