In 1894, a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat named Tibbles. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was rendered extinct. Mounting scientific evidence confirms what many conservationists have suspected for some time—that in the United States alone, free-ranging cats are killing birds and other animals by the billions. Equally alarming are the little-known but potentially devastating public health consequences of rabies and parasitic Toxoplasma passing from cats to humans at rising rates. Cat Wars tells the story of the threats free-ranging cats pose to biodiversity and public health throughout the world, and sheds new light on the controversies surrounding the management of the explosion of these cat populations.
This compelling book traces the historical and cultural ties between humans and cats from early domestication to the current boom in pet ownership, along the way accessibly explaining the science of extinction, population modeling, and feline diseases. It charts the developments that have led to our present impasse—from Stan Temple's breakthrough studies on cat predation in Wisconsin to cat-eradication programs underway in Australia today. It describes how a small but vocal minority of cat advocates has campaigned successfully for no action in much the same way that special interest groups have stymied attempts to curtail smoking and climate change.
Cat Wars paints a revealing picture of a complex global problem—and proposes solutions that foresee a time when wildlife and humans are no longer vulnerable to the impacts of free-ranging cats.
Peter P. Marra has written more than 175 scientific publications, is the coeditor of Birds of Two Worlds, and directs the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Chris Santella is the author of many books, including the Fifty Places travel and outdoor series and The Tug Is the Drug. His writing has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and Trout.
"We know that nature's theater bristles with industrious carnivores and omnivores--hawks that pluck cardinals right off a bird feeder, squirrels that grab eggs from crows' nests, and crows that grab babies from squirrels' nests. What makes free-ranging cats such an exceptionally dangerous threat to birds and other wildlife? The book describes a number of factors."--Natalie Angier, New York Review of Books
"Peter Marra and Chris Santella base their case in the end on an appeal to the scientific evidence, which they set out as calmly as they can. . . . What they fear most, however, is the inaction of ordinary, decent people who have just not grasped how quickly the tapestry of the world's ecology is unravelling before our eyes."--Jeremy Mynott, Times Literary Supplement
"Marra and Santella thoughtfully examine the severe ecological damage caused by feral cats and outdoor pet cats. Highly readable. . . . Cat lovers are presented in a sympathetic light throughout, making the book worth reading no matter a reader's position on free-ranging cats."--Publishers Weekly
"This deeply researched overview by conservation scientist Peter Marra and writer Chris Santella interlaces discussions of feline domestication and avian conservation with the science of decline and of feline spillover diseases."--Nature
"Marra and Santella make an impassioned plea for action in this compelling report on an often overlooked threat."--Scientific American
"Cat Wars is a work of commanding reasonableness, with plenty of facts and figures and the testimonies of experts to support its unpalatable conclusions. There are some fascinating digressions, too, including sympathetic profiles of activists on both sides of the debate in the U.S."--The Australian
Table of Contents:
1 The Obituary of the Stephens Island Wren 1
2 America’s Dairy Land and Its Killing Fields 10
3 The Rise of Bird Lovers and Cat Lovers: The Perfect Storm 29
4 The Science of Decline 49
5 The Zombie Maker: Cats as Agents of Disease 75
6 Taking Aim at the Problem 95
7 Trap-Neuter-Return: A Palatable Solution That Is No Solution At All 121
8 A Landscape with Fewer Free-Ranging Cats: Better for Cats, Better for Birds, Better for People 144
9 What Kind of Nature Awaits? 168