Scientists and animalists are concerned about the possibility that wild cats would be protected under the Animal Welfare Bill. This is especially true for those who care about feeding small cats in Spanish parks or alleyways. The cat can adapt to any environment, even if it is abandoned or escaped. They are excellent hunters and have a high reproductive rate. There are very few exceptions. Scientific evidence has shown that cats, both those with owners who spend hours outdoors and feral cats, pose a threat to other species.
The biologists are clear in their warnings. The biologists' warnings are strong. "The predation by domestic cats is one of the leading causes of death for small mammals and birds," said Martina Carrete and Miguel Clavero in an article they published after learning about the parliamentary initiative. According to the article "Domestic cats and their effects on biodiversity" by Arie Trouwborst (Netherlands), published two years ago, the species felis catus kills between 100 and 350 million birds annually in Canada. In Australia, it is 377 millions. In the United States, it can reach 4,000 million. There are not enough studies or data available for Spain. According to SEO BirdLife, there are approximately 10 million cats living in cities and parks.
The reptiles are the ones who suffer the most when birds are endangered. These reptiles are killed twice as often by cats each year. Miguel Clavero, a researcher from the Donana Biological Station (CSIC), says that there is ample evidence of their serious impact on the Canary Islands. These 'pussies" also have an impact on protected mammals like the lynx.
Clavero says that feline leukemia (which is transmitted by cats) was about to decimate the Donana lynx population. Clavero says that the males attacked them in order to defend their territory, and they were infected. Because intensive monitoring is carried out there, it is documented. There will be many other cases that go unnoticed.
Other countries that have conducted studies on the effects of loose cats include Belgium, France, Poland, and the United Kingdom. It was found that the deadly attack affects 136 million birds in Poland and three times as many mammals each year. According to the British report, "Wildlife predated the domestic cat", domestic cats take home an average of three dead animals each month.
Despite the fact that feathers are scattered in areas where cat colonies are established at dawn, Spain has not yet debated the impact of these feathers on ecosystems. Scientists were prompted to react by the possibility of a national law being introduced in certain autonomies to protect cats who are allowed to go free (having a legal status that is different from that of a dog). Theirs sparked outrage among animalists.
Eva Aznar, head La Gatoteca (an association that works for the rescue and reintegration of abandoned cats), says, "We are concerned by all the alert that has been generated from biologists." "Those of us who take care of urban cats don't like the fact that they are spread by colonies and that they must live in poor conditions at risk of getting sick or dying," Aznar said. This is already a reality.
Aznar, who is working with the association to prepare the campaign "Don't Touch My Cats", said that the proposal by the defenders free-roaming cat owners is about regulating the problem in an ethical and functional manner. We are very concerned by the rejection of a draft which values the fact that the best national method is to capture, sterilize, and return the animal. Our goal is to decrease the number of felines and end their suffering.
Aznar claims that there are approximately 1,500 colonies in Madrid. Clavero refutes the claim that colonies are treated as natural entities, when in fact they are feeding points created by someone who provides them with food. "Cats do not live in colonies. The provision of food is what keeps a social group together.
Advocates for cats downplay the danger these animals pose. Aznar says that while they may hunt down an animal, it is not their most important claim. The scientists respond. "Cats are exceptional hunters, and even though we feed them, it's been proven that they hunt many animals instinctively." Juan Carlos Atienza is the head of Environmental Governance at SEO BirdLife. We are not against cats but they must be kept in their homes and identified and sterilized. This is not about animal slaughtering. It's about animal welfare.
Reality prevails over all, even resources. Atienza says that it is obvious that 10 million cats can't be managed. Each city council must have a plan for reducing these numbers. They will also need to assess the speed at which they have to act. It is vital that no cats are allowed in habitats of endangered or protected species.
CSIC scientist Clavero is also skeptical about its content: "To ensure there are no cats on loose, in certain cases the capture sterilization and release could be successful, but it would require a large investment in a large geographic area and it isn't clear. Clavero says that the law is feasible.
Aznar says that the contrary is true. It is better to have a person in control of the population. Nature knows what it does best.
There is still much to be done in the draft law. The last known draft did not include the scientific comments regarding the control of cat population. It will then be returned to the Council of Ministers. Atienza says, "We believe that we are in a very sensible place."