A Feral Cat Defends His Own Kind: I’m Not the Invasive Species. Humans Are.

Our feline “guest columnist” goes mano a gato with an anti-cat Licking County politician.

Tom the Tabby, as told to Randy Edwards
Illustration

Hey you! Yeah you, Licking County Prosecutor Bill Hayes. I’m not yowling! I’m trying to talk to you from this spot outside your bedroom window at 3 a.m.! Is this a problem?

Call me Tom. I’m a cat. You’d call me feral, but seriously, can you look into my enigmatic eyes and tell the difference between me and your typical house-bound domestic shorthair?

But my mind strays. Let’s talk, mano a gato, about your suggestion, a couple of months back, when you were running for county commissioner. You were asked for a solution to the feral cat “problem” in Licking County, and your unscripted best was to suggest a hunting season on my kind. Hiss! You’re trying to forget that shot from the hip, aren’t you? I would, too, if I were you. Probably cost you the election, not that I’m any kind of political pundit. I’m just a cat.

I’ll be honest, your modest proposal made me cough up a furball. You walked back that idea pretty quick, but not until you’d captured the attention of Field & Stream, the hook-and-bullet magazine that offered some tacit support for a season on cats, justifying anti-cat rhetoric in defense of wild birds. They’re not the first to put cats in the crosshairs, based on studies that claim domestic cats kill between 1.3–4 billion birds each year, in the U.S. alone.

But my tail stood straight up when the Field & Stream writer quoted some advocate from the American Bird Conservancy, who called domestic cats the “world’s most harmful invasive species.”

Oh, really? Let’s consider the facts.

There’s a serious problem for sure. Wild birds are disappearing from my menu —er, from the landscape—at an alarming rate. In a single lifetime (a human lifetime, of course), the bird population dropped by 2.9 billion breeding adults in the U.S. and Canada.

Cats are part of the problem, but habitat loss is most likely the greatest cause. How else to explain the more than 50 percent decline in grassland birds? Could it be tied to the fact that 99 percent of North America’s original grassland has been paved over or plowed under?

Have you ever seen a cat driving a bulldozer or a cement mixer? Planning a new subdivision where once there was woodlot? And we don’t drive cars, which kill up to 340 million birds annually. Or erect houses, skyscrapers, bridges or communication towers—all death traps for birds. And climate change? That’s all on humans and a global threat to birds.

So, Bill, I’ll try to wean myself from my love of roasted sparrow with bacon and grapes. You see what you can do about urban sprawl, wanton consumerism and climate change. Because it seems to me that the “world’s most harmful invasive species” walks on two legs—when they’re not driving an SUV. 

This story is from the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.