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Things that donors know: are cats to blame for the disappearance of sparrows?

My father asks: Do stray cats cause a decrease in the number of birds?

A cat hunts a sparrow. Illustration:
A cat hunts a sparrow. Illustration:

Flocks of sparrows were part of my childhood landscape, sparrows congregated in every yard, perched on food crumbs, wallowed in sand baths and nested in every free alcove. Today, from the window of my apartment I see quite a few crows, pigeons and, of course, invasive birds, but in the lawn next to the house there is not a single sparrow for medicine. Some blame the invasive species: sparrows and sparrows for the depletion of local bird species such as sparrows and nightingales, indeed sparrows take over the space and the nesting places of sparrows, but is it correct to put all the blame on them? It turns out that even in European countries that are free of species there is an alarming decrease in the population of sparrows and other birds in cities and in the countryside. Studies in the UK have revealed that the decline of the sparrow population is more severe in affluent neighborhoods and the researchers attribute this correlation to the change in land cover: paved surfaces and trimmed and well-kept grass provide fewer food sources and make it easier for stray cats and domestic cats to hunt. Is the cat responsible for the extinction of the birds?

What happens when you bring one cat to a desert island?

In 1894, a lighthouse began to operate on the tiny island of Stefan (Stephens Island ) in New Zealand. The lighthouse keeper, a nature lover named Lyall, raised a pet cat that brought him a small, unidentified bird that he had captured. Lyal sent the bird to an ornithologist who recognized that it was a new species of bird that does not fly and gave it the name Gedron Lyal (Lyall's wren) named after the discoverer. The cat continued to bring birds to the lighthouse and in the same year it was discovered, the bird disappeared from the face of the earth in the teeth of the same cat that discovered its existence. Birds that do not fly and whose habitat is a small and isolated island are prone to extinction, but it is not a case that the cat was the cause of the disaster.

Nutritionally, the cat, unlike the dog that is able to live on a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diet, is an absolute carnivore. The cat's digestive system is adapted to a protein-based diet, the liver is not able to store excess sugar, so the cat needs protein not only to build its body cells but also for a constant supply of energy. Accordingly, stray cats derive 52% of their energy from protein, 46% from fat and only 2% from carbohydrates, meaning that they subsist only on the meat they hunt or gather from carrion.

The domestication of the cat has not yet been completed

Unlike dogs Domesticating the cat is not perfect And man mainly cultivated cats that excelled at hunting mice so that the house cat of today retained a developed hunting instinct. A study on the stomach contents of our country's cats revealed that we mostly diversified the menu provided by the owners with a wide variety of wild animals: rodents, lizards and of course birds. A study in which cameras were attached to stray cats revealed that most of them (62%) succeeded in hunting and those hunters captured an average of 6 animals per day, with the most successful hunter reaching 17 preys per day. The cats succeeded in hunting 83% of the insects they tried to capture (mainly grasshoppers and butterflies), 76% of the amphibians, 69% of the reptiles, 64% of the mammals and only 17% of the bird hunting attempts resulted in successful prey. And yet it turns out that those 17 percentages of success add up to high numbers. In the USA, it is estimated that between one and a half billion and 3 billion birds are killed every year by cats' teeth (in addition to about 6 billion mammals, about half a billion reptiles and about 100 million amphibians).

And what about us? There are no research data on the number of wild animals killed in Israel, but the mild winter, generous assistance from cat feeders, plenty of accessible waste and insufficient sterilization and neutering operations make Israel a feline paradise. The density of stray cats on the streets of Jerusalem was estimated at 2,300 individuals per square meter, while the density of cats in British cities is about a tenth of that. Lots of cats also means lots of drawn claws threatening any bird. There are those who take comfort in the fact that the domestic cat's success rate in hunting birds is low and the physical condition of the birds that are killed is worse than average, so the predation shortens lives that are already close to the end.

It turns out that a cat also harms the birds it fails to catch, multiple activity of cats reduces the chances of survival of chicks whose parents have to devote precious energy to escaping and avoiding threatened food gathering areas. A study on swallows revealed that the danger of predators results in chicks hatching at a lower weight and thinness in a young bird reduces its chances of surviving and building its own nest. The very fear that the cat inflicts on the birds hurts them: it was found that a stuffed cat that was placed near the nest reduced the feeding of the chicks by a third. Cats harm birds of prey through competition: a mouse or lizard eaten by a cat will lack a hawk or a breather and a stray cat may harm a variety of wildlife by transmitting infectious diseases. Some studies in the USA and the UK have found that the effect of cats on the bird population is so severe that areas with a lot of cats are "ecological sinks", meaning that a constant flow of birds from neighboring areas is required to prevent the complete disappearance of the winged. The situation is even worse on islands where endemic species may become completely extinct due to predation. indeed, In several islands, a recovery of seabird populations was recorded following a determined activity to eliminate stray cats.

what can we do? Large-scale capture-sterilization and return operations of stray cats have been tried around the world with partial success. For a sterilization program to be successful, it must treat 75% of fertile cats each year and maintain such sterilization rates for years. In Israel, the sterilization efforts are not very vigorous and the result is very far from the percentages required to stabilize the population. as per Report of the state auditor "A policy of sterilization and neutering as a means of reducing the culture of street cats is only adopted by some of the local authorities, and it mainly depends on the authority's veterinarian and the budget available to him. In most cases, it focuses on responding to local nuisances
only, and not having a comprehensive policy and a long-term action plan", as mentioned, a sterilization operation that is not long-term is also worthless. The number of stray cats is increasing and with it the number of sparrows, nightingales and reptiles in the urban area is decreasing.

The domestic cat, as its name implies, should be found in the home and the solution lies mainly in educating the public to adopt sterilized cats and keep them in the home since even the well-kept and gentle cat in the home is a cruel predator in the yard. A simple means of protection is to wear bells around the cat's neck, thus improving the chances of the bird escaping it safely. Feeding cats is an act of compassion and kindness but the kindness is for the feeder who calms his conscience and not with the cats and certainly not with the creatures around him. Feeding stations cluster around them a large number of cats in a density that makes them a focus of infection with infectious diseases. A cat that is full (temporarily) thanks to a merciful feeder will continue to hunt and produce more and more hungry offspring.

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26 תגובות

  1. Since most of the respondents are "animal lovers"
    that you understood nature and environment conservation
    equivalent to their understanding of the biology of the object of their love,
    Rechev three links (out of thousands) to lists and articles
    that their preoccupation with the terrible damage that cats (and dogs) cause:
    The cutest-ecological-disaster-made-by-man/

    French only links to lists in Hebrew
    In the hope that the reading skills of the brawlers
    Greater than their understanding of the subject and maybe they will succeed
    to read, learn and understand their mistake.
    If there are those who read maybe later
    Stop waving in their ignorance...

  2. The problem is not with cats, with black and yellow birds they are more and more friendly and the Arabs too, before there were many pigeons near the house, now there are only crows and blacks left, nothing to do with cats in space

  3. Wow, what a terrible article and full of falsified facts...
    Simply insulting and spreading unnecessary hatred...
    Cats deserve humane and better treatment... and there are humane solutions such as castration and sterilization and more...
    Birds also deserve good treatment... their enemy is also humans.
    It comes together. When humans start to be more caring and less to hate and destroy everything for themselves maybe something will change.

  4. Wow what a bad and terrible article…. Too bad, you'd better write about other things… you had some nice articles… especially the music of early man.
    This article is just insulting and spreading hatred for cats... when it is clear that you have no real knowledge on this sensitive subject... only hatred and antagonism for cats.
    and a superficial opinion from all kinds of selective information gathering. And the studies are superficial and self-interested.
    Cats deserve rights like everyone else and they have a big soul...
    And there are much more humane solutions to the whole population explosion issue. (Improving spaying and neutering, raising public awareness, and many things that those who are more involved in the field know...)
    And despite their hunting - they are not the ones who cause real damage to sparrows or any other life.
    And even if the opinions on this differ - the writing in this article is terrible and spreads hatred.
    The real cause in my opinion is the destruction of human nature.
    Pollution of water sources, destruction of open spaces, massive transportation, and much more...
    And even if they were an influential factor - there is a more correct and true way to write about it. And more correct actions to be taken to mitigate the problem and the superficial and dangerous advice you wrote... for the sake of the cats (who suffer a lot on the streets in excruciating agony - no, Israel is not a paradise for them, believe me). And also for the birds.

  5. It's amazing how much hatred for cats the author of the really unscientific article has, and some of the commenters.
    Cat feeders save cats from dying and starving to death. Satisfied cats will hunt fewer birds and birds than hungry cats. That is why it is mandatory to continue this blessed activity, while continuing to sterilize and neuter cats, and of course continue to return them to the place they were taken from.
    I suggest that the hateful and sadistic commenters undergo mental therapy to find out who abused them mentally and emotionally and caused them to lose their morals, conscience and compassion.

  6. The solution is budgetary. castrate and sterilize. It is simply atrocious that they encourage not to feed street cats who suffer such a difficult life. Man domesticated this animal and left it to fend for itself. To encourage to see suffering and turn a blind eye with a righteous pretext. Sad and disgusting.

  7. What an inflammatory and cat-hating reporter, not to mention the collection of ignorant nonsense. We remind the writer that the cat is a protected animal according to law, they must not be harmed, captured or moved from their place, and their feeding must not be disturbed. The scientist has become an unreliable and irrelevant website not today, and it is better to change his name to a skeptic.

  8. To Moshe, what a pity for your hatred of cats and you spread nonsense about them, really sad
    As you know, people have caused most of the ecological disasters, but why take responsibility when you can blame an animal that cannot defend itself, right?

  9. The most problematic 'cat' is us:
    1. Switching to synthetic grass in yards and public areas prevents food from sparrows from attacks and more..
    2. Uprooting cypresses and planting deciduous trees deprives them of important nesting sites and shelter.
    3. Frequent pruning of ornamental trees for design - prevents nesting.
    4. A sterilized cat (marked by a clipped ear tip) that is fed, will eat *much* less if at all.

  10. All those who write that cats should be eliminated or destroyed, stop thinking you are God! The most difficult problem of humanity is the arrogance and the thinking that we are above everyone, including the cat, instead of being egotistical and thinking only about our own ass, we should take care of the cats and spay and neuter them in order to prevent their unnecessary suffering, as well as feed them and prevent them from getting sick and starving, so not the solution It is not to kill an innocent animal that behaves according to its nature, but to take care to reduce as much as possible the damages we caused and to help them in every possible way! And if there's an animal that needs to be eliminated, it's people

  11. The sparrows' grounds are the sort - the sort a bird invades the grounds sparrows nest in during incubation and destroys eggs.

  12. (Not to mention vegans who raise cats but don't eat animals themselves)
    All cat lovers are shaken by the facts that are being revealed all over the world because cats and rats brought by women are responsible for the mass extermination of local animals.
    The cat is not mentioned in the Bible (in retrospect, some claim that their name is an island, but there is no proof of this) and it was not in Israel from time immemorial as the enthusiasts claim, who knows how many animals they exterminated in Israel before a real review was done.
    Cats don't destroy rats and mice as cat lovers like to say, simply because there are mercenaries on the streets who make them miserable and on the way, while the cats are sleeping, also the rodents that multiply unhindered.
    Cats transmit Toxoplasma to humans, which is suspected to have the ability to affect cognition and cause birth defects.
    Good luck with the sterilization, the only places that deal with cats successfully are the ones that destroy them, whether due to severe weather or simply humane culling that reduces their population to a manageable size.

  13. Sparrows and stock parrots are birds that were not in Israel and these took the place of the sparrows

  14. I have been feeding sparrows in my yard for 16 years. I hung a device on a tree where I put organic millet for them. Every morning the birds wait for me, and when they have chicks they also join. Every day dozens of cats come to my place and lie in wait for the birds. And these are cats that my neighbors feed, that is, satiated cats.
    Birds have predators from the ground and the sky. The ravens also love to prey on chicks in the spring.
    I miss the birds

  15. Studies show that since man took over many habitats, there has been an exponential decrease in the amount of wildlife in these areas.
    We must reduce the wave through the spread of man.

  16. The article reinforces the usual misconception and relies on information that is not relevant to Israel. There are dozens of errors here that show a lack of understanding, very low scientific abilities of the writer and speculations from the map to a new message. Based on these hypotheses, he also tries to justify serious harm to animals through the method of castration and sterilization.

    A. Contrary to all the examples given in which the cat is an invasive species, in our area the cat has existed since time immemorial and its semi-domesticated version has existed for at least 12 thousand years. The animals here are well used to it.
    B. If the cats in our area had a part in harming the scope of any animals it would have been evident a long time ago. The fact is that the damage happened relatively recently with the appearance of invasive species and not for thousands of years with cats.
    third. There is a study done in Israel that mainly proved the opposite - cats mainly kept food from feeding points in their stomachs and only a few hunted a little. Only one cat out of about 100 turned out to be a real hunter. Of course, this did not stop the researchers from claiming the opposite of what the facts showed and claiming that the cat is dangerous to nature and that they should be abused by sterilization and castration.
    d. Cats are active in a very small space. Males are active over a slightly larger area and only a few of them wander away from their feeding points. The damage done by cats is very limited and even their potential damage is not even close to one percent of the damage caused by humans to wild animals.
    God. Spaying and neutering cats is animal abuse that never achieves its goal - no matter how much you sterilize, as soon as you stop they will immediately return to full extent according to the carrying capacity of the surface cells - simply because this is their natural space. You can't kill all the cats or sterilize them all. In a country like Israel, no, and it's just abuse.

    In short, as usual, dealing with the subject is pseudoscientific and really unscientific and based on nothing and no knowledge they try to justify serious harm and abuse of animals.

  17. Cats exterminate everything birds, reptiles, insects, arthropods, amphibians and the list goes on.
    At this rate, only cats and jacks will remain. The Animal Cruelty Law is the biggest disaster that has happened to Israeli wildlife and nature. People who see nothing but themselves and their cats and it doesn't matter what it costs, not to mention people who are harmed by it because of the cat feeders. Just a terrible ecological disaster.

  18. Your conclusion does not connect to your claims. For your information, cats do not transmit diseases and certainly not those that pass to people. And if the authorities take care to perform sterilization/neutering and take care of adapted places for feeding cats then there will be less suffering on the streets, less burden on people whose only sin is compassion and maybe there will be more birds. Personally, it is not clear to me how you arrived at the figure that a cat succeeds in hunting birds at a rate of 17%. In my opinion this is a high percentage and even if it is true, I doubt if the poor cats in Israel exterminate birds.

  19. The reason why the mass killing of cats in Europe worsened epidemics is that they carried ticks in their fur and after the cats were suddenly killed en masse the ticks looked for another carrier to latch onto and transmitted diseases to humans. If we prevent the cats from breeding in the first place everything will be fine.

  20. Sorry, what else are you relying on other than the story of the lighthouse on a desert island? Do you have more proof? Most street cats are weak from starvation, dying at a very young age. When are they enough to destroy birds? And the absolute majority of feeders also take care of spaying and neutering cats.
    What is the subtext of your text? If spaying/neutering doesn't help, and there aren't many people jumping on board to adopt stray cats, what do you actually suggest?
    In fact,
    What about the accelerated construction and cutting down the trees?
    Where exactly will our beloved sparrows live, if there are almost no trees?
    It's so easy to blame a cat. It is not so easy to hold contractors and real estate sharks accountable.

  21. Extensive studies all over the world show that cats are
    a negative factor for the natural environment and a wide variety of animals,
    That's why in the paragraph: "….. capture-sterilization and return ….."
    There is a gross error in the "return" yes for anyone who deals
    In nature and preserving the natural environment it is clear that
    Domestic cats must be removed from the environment, removed without "return"!
    In Israel, the "animal lovers" are pressure groups
    that prevent the authorities from removing nuisances
    So with cats as well as with dogs that have gone wild,
    The result is that "animal lovers" donate
    for fatal damage to the natural environment,
    It is worth adding and remembering that
    Because cats are carriers of the tocoplasma parasite
    which may harm pregnant women
    And known for its effect on cat feeders.
    Therefore again: the place of domestic cats in the home
    and those outside must be removed (without "return")
    In most cases today there is (human) management of the natural environment,
    An important part of management is the elimination of harmful factors
    Like cats and dogs...

  22. It has become fashionable to attack the cat feeders. Most feeders spay and neuter stray cats. No scientist has the guts to talk about overpopulation being the #1 cause of extinction.

  23. It should be remembered that cats also help exterminate disease-carrying pests. In the Middle Ages in Europe, cats were almost completely exterminated from the streets and this led to the spread of deadly plagues.
    I didn't quite understand from the article whether the cats also help in reducing the invasive birds, because if so then it should be blessed, right?

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