“Felines Fatales” [Incite, September-October] did “incite” me—to let my subscription expire. Feral cats are a serious problem, but Ted Williams’s piece was as vitriolic and over the top as the behavior of the “caterwauling” and “hissing” cat advocates he despises. Audubon has drawn a line: You can love birds or cats, but not both.
Since 1995 the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon has spayed/neutered more than 38,000 feral or stray cats in our area and worked to raise awareness about the importance of responsible cat care, for wildlife’s sake and for the prevention of future generations of feral cats. We’ve partnered with the Audubon Society of Portland on public-service announcements, written articles for our website and newsletter, and supported efforts to ensure that feral cat colonies aren’t located in important natural areas. Ted Williams creates the impression that you cannot engage in Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) and also care about native wild birds. In fact, both activities are driven by compassion for animals. TNR isn’t a perfect solution, but it can be powerful in educating audiences that have long been out of reach to bird conservation organizations about how irresponsible ownership leads directly to avian mortality and proliferation of feral cat populations.
Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon
“Felines Fatales” provides important information about the impacts of free-roaming cats on North American birds, but it uses polarizing “cats versus birds” rhetoric. Ted Williams suggests that organizations, such as Portland Audubon, that work collaboratively with feral cat advocates must only be doing so because we have no choice. On the contrary, we adopted our position after much deliberation about the same arguments and ethical and legal considerations cited by the author. We also examined our experience handling thousands of cat-caught birds at our wildlife rehabilitation center. Finally, we talked with our colleagues at the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and other local cat advocacy organizations. We came to a different conclusion than Mr. Williams about how best to advance an agenda to reduce cat predation on wildlife in our community. We believe that working in partnership with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon to promote responsible pet ownership will achieve far more to protect both birds and cats than perpetually debating the merits of managed feral cat colonies. Our partnership doesn’t preclude removal (lethal or nonlethal) of cats in wildlife areas to protect critically imperiled species or on islands, and we don’t suggest that it’s necessarily the right solution for other communities. But it is a partnership that is built upon mutual respect and support for each other’s values. For more perspective on our efforts, click here.
Audubon Society of Portland
Ted Williams responds: I’m not sure what the facts I accurately reported “implied” or why Mr. Sallinger believes the issue is not “cats versus birds.” I respect his opinion, but here’s mine (and National Audubon’s via board resolution): TNR is a symptom of the gross ecological illiteracy that blights this nation. It’s cruel to cats and dangerous to people and wildlife. (As I write, a TNR colony at Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, is being rounded up because rabid cats are biting children.) Meeting people halfway is usually sound advice, but when the people you meet are completely wrong, you become 50 percent wrong.
Several issues ago Ted Williams wrote about how palilas [“Last Chance,” Incite, May-June] are just one of the many species native to Hawaii that are critically endangered by introduced species. “Feline Fatales” suggests feral cats are just another invasive species and will only add an extra hoop for the palila and other Hawaiian birds to jump through.
I adore cats. But I’m also a passionate bird lover whose cat isn’t allowed outside. During the spring and fall migration every year, I visit Maine’s Monhegan Island, a birding “hot spot” in the Atlantic Flyway famous for its rarities and vagrants. It’s also home to many pet cats that roam free. Birders have horror stories of the rare species they’ve seen hanging from cats’ mouths. And this small island is a microcosm of the horrific situation described in “Feline Fatales.”
Ted Williams, you’ll be bombarded by hate mail. But you’re one of the bravest environmental journalists and advocates out there, and you write the truth.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust
Where do you stand on cats versus birds? Log on to Audubon’s blog, The Perch, and weigh in on the “The Great Feral Cat Debate.”
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