The Dark Side of Housecats

( – Beware the neighborhood cat lady. Well, not her exactly but her feline companions according to a National Public Radio (NPR) essay published last week. According to the author, Manuela López Restrepo, cats are a major “threat to biodiversity.”

Restrepo, maintains that it’s when the cats are allowed to move around outdoors without supervision that the damage is done. Once outside, the cat’s native hunting instinct takes over and it will kill and eat a combination of more than 2,000 different kinds of birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects. Restrepo, raises an extra level of concern for the almost 350 different species that cats will hunt that are members of the “species of concern” for potential extinction list. Among these are the north tail bobwhite quail, the little brown bat, Newell’s shearwater birds and green sea turtles.

Once outdoors the housecat’s diet will become widely more diverse than the store bought food they’re likely eating indoors. Restrepo wrote that the feline diet could include as much as 9% birds, 6% mammals of one sort or another and 4% will be comprised of reptiles. She labels cats as “generalist predators” which makes them one of nature’s more issue-causing invasive species.

Expressing concern for the potential extinction of some species, we only need look to the past. A past NPR study determined that cats along with other predators played a key part in the extinction of just under 750 vertebrae species. As a result, exerts advise all cat owners to keep their animals inside as much as possible and under close watch when allowed to venture outdoors. They say the only ‘hunting’ someone’s cat should be doing is of vermin or insects that make show up indoors.

It should be noted that an indoor cat is not without its dangers as well. Cat scratch disease (CSD) can prove harmful to a human that has been bitten or scratched by a cat. The skin break could lead to a Bartonella henselae bacterium infection. The virus is transmitted to cats most commonly by fleas and can cause neuroretinitis; swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, blurred vision, fever and headaches.

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