The subject of non-native or invasive species covers animals (including insects, fish and any eggs produced by non-native species), plants (including their seeds), as well as bacteria and fungus and is very complex. These organisms have been introduced to non-native areas both intentionally and unintentionally. The harm they cause may be to native species, the environment, the ecosystem, and/or the economy and it may have a ripple effect, compounding the damage.
When referring to cats as a non-native species, which cat haters often do, perhaps reference is being made to the fact that cats were originally domesticated in the Near East roughly 10,000 years ago, then further refined in ancient Egypt a few thousand years later. Humans took them aboard ships for rodent control, people fell in love with them as pets and, fast forward, cats everywhere.
Whether or not cats meet the definition of non-native species (legally, they don’t) can be debated but certainly there are free roaming cats who live part or all of their lives outdoors and come into contact with wildlife. And an alarming number of people, and I can’t stress this enough, hate them.
Setting aside the violent nutters, some people hate cats because they see the predation. That is, look out window, see cat carrying dead bird, hate cat. It’s rather more difficult to envision a rainforest being destroyed thousands of miles away and the associated displaced, dying and dead animals and plants so, less connection, less hate. That’s my theory anyway.
Then there are those who choose to believe that cats are responsible for killing millions, billions and kajillions of birds, despite the flawed basis for these projections.
To be clear, I am strongly in favor of keeping cats indoors when not being leash walked or enclosed in a catio type structure outdoors. I also recognize this is not possible for feral cats, homeless cats, cats in war zones, cats in severely impoverished areas, etc. Trap/neuter/return programs and colony caretakers aim to manage and eliminate these populations over time but again, cat haters choose not to accept the facts.
Where I stand on this complicated issue: On the one hand, I feel we have an obligation to prevent extinction of living organisms and I recognize that non-native species and cats, to an extent, play a role. On the other hand, killing is anathema to me. I’d like to see all the non-lethal options comprehensively addressed before anyone talks about killing. Let’s stop destroying our rapidly diminishing wetlands and, where possible, resurrect them. That’s just one example but a significant one, even if only considering birds:
Many birds are dependent on wetlands for a majority of their life, and 80% of the threatened and endangered bird species rely on wetland habitats.https://t.co/M0bRCZ8srS
If saving and restoring wetlands sounds like hard work that would require teams of regional experts, involvement of local and federal officials and lots of funding, yeah I get that. But it doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. And again, this is just one example of non-lethal means of supporting native species.
I also understand that removal of non-native species, keeping them alive, transporting them back to their native areas, possibly thousands of miles away – if the native area is able and willing to accept them, is a logistical nightmare and I can’t even imagine the pile of money required. And given that the entire effort could be undone by someone releasing an unwanted exotic pet or, in the case of plants, a strong wind, it seems overwhelming. But unless each individual case is evaluated on its own merits, how will we know? It’s no good painting every scenario with the same broad brush when lives hang in the balance.
I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on this issue. My hope is to provoke thought and further discussion. Thinking about things in new ways is how problems get solved. And preventing extinction is worth some challenging thinks.