Expert: Banning Cats as Pets May Have Unintended Negative Consequences

Expert Pitch

Bruce Kornreich, feline health expert and Associate Director for Education and Outreach at the Feline Health Center of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is available to discuss the controversy over New Zealand environmental advocate Gareth Morgan’s campaign to ban cats as pets and the larger issue of eradicating one species to protect another.

Kornreich says:“The interaction among species, both domesticated and wild, is a complex issue that has been the subject of research for many years. Efforts to understand the effects of the activity of one species on another often produce unexpected results; and what may seem like a simple cause and effect relationship between the activity of one species on populations of another has, in many cases, ultimately proven to be significantly more complicated than initially expected. “The effect of feline predation on native bird populations is an important issue. It is undeniable that cats do prey on birds, and that in some cases this predation can have negative impacts on native bird populations. It is important to point out, however, that some studies have shown that birds are much more adaptable to predation than initially thought, and that, in fact, in some cases feline predation may impart a survival advantage to native bird populations by controlling rodent or other potential predator populations, for example. Continued research is required in order to understand the potential effects of cats on not only birds, but other species as well. “While we are sympathetic to the emotions that may motivate some individuals to eradicate one species in order to protect another, we feel that this approach is a hasty one, and that it may result in unforeseen negative effects on the ecosystem that people with good intentions are trying to protect.

“Issues such as the control of feral cat populations, optimization of habitat for native bird species, and education of cat owners about the potential effects of cats on bird species certainly warrant our support, but we feel that the banning of cats in this case would be a rash decision, and one that may have unintended consequences for the ecosystem that Mr. Morgan obviously cares so deeply for.”