Sunday, December 21, 2014 · 3:08 p.m.

Are cats really the killers researchers claim?

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A recently released study claims domestic cats kill billions of birds and mammals every year. (Photo: Wikipedia)

All across the country, on all the national news outlets, journalists have been buzzing this week about a study just released by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The study claims that housecats kill an average of 2.5 billion birds and 13.8 billion mammals every year. The study was authored by Dr. Peter Marra, Scott Loss and Tom Will.

With all due respect to the three learned men, I don't buy it.

Let's do some math: The study says cats kill an average of 13.8 billion mammals per year. Although the study said the number might be as high as 20 billion, I'll use the lower figure.

Divide 13.8 billion by 50 states, and that equals 276 million mammals per state. We'll use Tennessee to further our example, so divide 276 million by 95 counties. That equals 2.9 million mammals per county each year. That equals nearly 8,000 mammals per day. And, using the same math, they would have also killed more than 1,400 birds per day.

Tell me, do you think cats could have killed nearly 10,000 birds and mammals every day in Hamilton County last year?

The scientists have a plethora of support and verification of their scientific methodology and credibility. But with no apologies, I'm throwing the BS card.

I think they likely set out with a preconceived notion of harm and filled in their facts and figures, perhaps subconsciously, to prove what they thought they already knew ... and to scare the hell out of the rest of the world.

Don't get me wrong, my family has a cat that roams the world outside more often than inside. He regularly presents us with bloody presents on our porch. When he presented us once with a bluebird, I thought my wife was going to yank his tail off.

I also know, however, that the majority of the time, when our cat comes meowing at the front door to come inside, he runs directly to his food bowl, waiting on me to fill it. It is very clear that, MOST of the time, he has obtained absolutely no outside meat.

Cats, especially feral cats, are a problem. They do impact our wildlife populations. And I do believe in spay and neuter programs. Our cat is neutered.

But, let's face it, even if cats do eat a few thousand or million mammals and birds every year, I'm betting most of those creatures include mice, rats, sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. These are all creatures that are already overpopulated or at least would be if not for the cats. Starlings, which aren't even supposed to be in America to begin with, cause untold amounts of crop damage and even disease in areas where they are grossly overpopulated.

Dr. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, one of the leading bird conservation organizations in the U.S., said, "The very high credibility of this study should finally put to rest the misguided notions that outdoor cats represent some harmless, new component to the natural environment. The carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed. This is a wake-up call for cat owners and communities to get serious about this problem before even more ecological damage occurs."

Those who know me know how much I care about wildlife. They also know I am not necessarily a great lover of cats.

But as for all the recent hoopla over "cats running rampant" in our country, I think it is much ado about nothing.

Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports. The opinions expressed in this editorial belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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