I'm currently reading Dr. John Bradshaw's Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend .... For cat lovers, this book is a virtual encyclopedia of the recent research into cats, covering cat behavior and cat genetics. Bradshaw acknowledges two main things that work against cats. One has to do with the damage feral cats do. The other has to do with the irrational antipathy many people seem to feel toward cats. It seems to be akin to the antipathy some people feel toward spiders or snakes. While felineophiles see cats as remarkably beautiful and fascinating creatures, other people find cats weird, creepy, and worthy of suspicion or even fear. 

In truth, Bradshaw's research has shown that feral cats are the problem, not the family cat who is allowed to roam. Feral cats do about two kills a day just to survive. Few family cats kill more then twice a week, an amount that might even be justified in terms of replacing the natural wild predators who shy away from areas settled by humans. 

Many wildlife lovers don't make the distinction between tame and feral cats and portray the problem as simply a cat problem. If their antipathy is mild, they will insist on all cats being kept indoors and on being neutered. They may also insist on obliterating all outdoor cats. This is a probem because there really is no practical way to distinguish between a feral cat and a family pet who managed to get outdoors.

Poisons and bullets don't ask questions. 

Another problem cats have is their independence and aloofness, which makes them unappealing to the sort of family that likes dogs. Cats socialize with their family whenever they feel like it. Dogs pretty much have to be pried away from the family. 

Dr. Bradshaw feels that, in order to save the cat, we need to genetically re-engineer it. 

Imagine a cat that's eager to please, that wants to spend all its time with the family rather than prowling the neighborhood, that you can take for a walk and heels like a dog, that fetches small sticks, that you could take hunting with you. 

Think that's impossible? Look at what mankind has done with dogs. We've turned a wild animal, the wolf, into the modern dog. 

We've been very successful breeding cats. However, we've pretty much bred them for their coats and for the flat face. We've never even tried breeding for things like personality, affection, loyalty. Perhaps trying is all we need to do to make cats more like dogs.

My question is this: Should we nip the catness out of cats?

Tags: cats, dogs, genetics, heredity

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He may be correct about unnatural selection, but failure to neuter may have lead to all the feral cats in the first place.

The HSUS estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. At this time, there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters, so these numbers are estimates

source.

This is actually been getting better each year....but that's 80 thousand a week.

He may be correct about unnatural selection, but failure to neuter may have lead to all the feral cats in the first place.

Yeah, but that was then and this is now. The feral cat problem began before veterinary medicine and surgery. We can't go back and change that. 

He says that some group needs to start a cat breeding program and that fertile cats need to be the basis for such a program for the reasons he gave. Otherwise, cats will get worse, not better.

The neutering of ferals tends to end up neutering the least elusive cats, selecting for cats who become ever-harder to capture and neuter. He understands why people want to do it and it can reduce a population but at the expense of making the ferals worse behaviorally, and those genes will slowly infect the house cat population.

 I live in a rural area and feral cats are not an issue. I think they could become prey to bobcats, owls, hawks, gators, coyotes, bears, or foxes. They seem to thrive better in the burbs, or urban environments.

All but the largest predators are prey as well. House cats are far more prolific than most of their predators, who tend to have rather large ranges and thus have rather small populations. Consequently, I don't think cats have that many serious threats in rural areas. Certainly not enough to threaten extinction. I would think farmers generally tolerate them as more acceptable than the vermin they kill.

I think we can rule bears out. They only put out much energy on significant kills (deer or elk, for example). The land simply can't support that many of them and I'm pretty sure farmers do their best to drive bears away or even kill them when they become unafraid of humans.

A fox would probably regret tangling with a feral cat and even if it managed to kill the cat, would probably find cats a largely undesirable prey item as long as small rodents, rabbits, reptiles, birds and bird eggs, etc., were widely available. Creatures, in other words, without sharp claws and teeth. One encounter would probably put the fox off cats for life. 

I would think that the #1 enemy of rural cats is large dogs or terriers Jack Russell sized on up. (Terriers are muscular and very game fighters and probably won't be deterred by most cat defenses.) Small and medium-sized dogs are likely to have a very unpleasant encounter, much like the fox. In general, dogs don't have the same degree of killer instinct cats do.

I think that is largely to do with feral cats surviving much better if they can supplement their hunting by scavenging our food waste.

"(Terriers are muscular and very game fighters and probably won't be deterred by most cat defenses.)"

We had a short legged Jack Russel that figured out exactly how to neutralize our cats defences. He would run up to the cat then suddenly turn around ,about a meter away, and run backwards into the cat to protect he's face from its claws. He was just wanting to play but it used to seriously piss our cat off .

I would find cats much less interesting if they behaved similarly to dogs.  I am both a cat lover and a dog lover, but it's because they are both entirely different creatures in terms of temperament/personality.  To be honest, I've never actually heard of people complaining about cat populations, either domestic or feral, as a problem for wildlife.

I live in a rural Midwestern town, so there's generally lots of space for outdoor cats to roam and hunt if they want to.

We have two cats in our home, one of them a rescue from a shelter and the other a stray that I helped to tame.  The stray is my favorite *because* she is still somewhat wild and aloof.  But when she does want to be around, she's very affectionate.  It would not be the same if cats were made to be different.

As a side note, she does hunt and occasionally will bring back a rodent to the doorstep once in a blue moon.  However, I have seen her hunt a baby rabbit and carry it out of its nest.  We have reason to believe that she fought with a gopher and killed it, but we aren't 100% sure about that.  So, she's an accomplished hunter even as a house cat.

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