Writing man Jonathan Franzen gave an interview to The New Republic today about how much he loves birds, which is weird but cool, I guess. However, what is NOT cool is his vile anti-cat propaganda, wherein he claims that “cat people” are preventing bird people from stopping outdoor cats from murdering all the birds.
I would like to see any large national prominent bird organization take on the problem of outdoor cats. Nobody wants to do that, because everyone’s watching their cat videos, and everybody loves cats, and is sentimental about their cats. But those cat people tend have a lot of time on their hands, and they tend to make life very difficult for anyone to point out what an ecological catastrophe cats are in North America.
Not indoor cats though, right?
No! Indoor cats are great. I like an indoor cat. They’re beautiful animals. I just don’t like to see them killing birds, which is what they will do if you let them outside.
This is a popular concern among conservationists: Cats, bloodthirsty murderers all, are killing our precious birds. Up to 3.7 billion birds a year, apparently. Bird advocates argue that “a runaway and invasive population of cats” is threatening biological diversity, and that they must be stopped somehow. (More on that later.)
Preserving the environment is obviously good. We shouldn’t allow companies to ravage the earth, or sell bits of national parks to them for this purpose. Preventing pollution is good. Fighting climate change should absolutely be our number one priority because it poses an existential threat to mankind. Environmentalism and conservation are extremely noble and laudable pursuits.
But cats, including domestic pet cats who are allowed to roam outside, are not a threat to the environment, nor a threat to mankind’s survival. They are only a threat to birds.
Some caveats: As a lifelong cat owner, I believe it is generally not a good idea to let your cat outside. If you live in an area populated by dangerous animals like coyotes, you are insane if you let your precious kitty out. Back home, my family cat Spencer is free to roam the Oxfordshire countryside with little threat of being murdered by a bigger, meaner animal, but this is not true in much of America, where you have bears and Huckabee sons and so on. Wherever you live, there is much more that can threaten a cat outside, like diseases and cars, than inside. Outdoor cats may also leave little dead animals on your hallway carpet, and that is gross.
But what if you have a cat that has previously lived outdoors, who yearns to breathe the sweet outdoor air once more? If you take the necessary precautions, keep the cat up to date on vaccinations, and are sensible about it, I think it’s perfectly fine to let your cat out if you choose to. If you have a cat that goes outdoors and you care about birds, you can put a humiliating bell on your cat and stop it from being able to hunt effectively, too.
The bigger problem for birdheads is feral cats, rather than domestic cats that are allowed outside. The American Bird Conservancy, for example, criticizes the use of the Trap, Neuter, Release program, in which feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed to prevent them reproducing, and then released back into the wild. This prevents them from being euthanized while helping to control populations and reducing the strain on shelters, which will never have space for all the feral cats out there, most of which aren’t suitable for a domestic situation.
Without TNR (the cat one, not the magazine that interviews writer men), though, what’s the solution? Kill the feral cats, because they’re killing your bird friends? Yes. According to a New York interview with Franzen in 2013, he is fine with killing feral cats:
“The bird community’s position is, we need to get rid of the feral cats, and that means cats must die,” Franzen says. “We feel bad about that, but we can morally justify that position, with all of the birds that they are indirectly killing.”
The fuck??? All Franzen is doing here is saying “I like birds more than cats, so we should preserve them, even if it means killing cats.” That has nothing to do with nature. You just picked the animal you like more.
My cat, Digby, was a TNR cat—you can tell by her clipped ear, which is a painless procedure done to show that the cat has been neutered—and she became the most loving and insanely good house pet ever. Why should she have been killed just because Jonathan Franzen likes to look at some damn birds, who don’t even know he’s a famous author, with his stupid tiny binoculars?
The point isn’t even whether it’s “good” or “bad” to let cats kill birds. It’s whether we should kill a lot of cats to stop that happening, out of some misguided commitment to Nature. I’m sorry, but if you love nature so much, recognize that cats are in fact doing hella nature when they’re ripping a sweet little sparrow’s guts out.
Nature means survival of the fittest, and if cats are killing birds in the billions and threatening bird species, maybe your shitty Crested Flimcock isn’t meant to survive. If you want to do nature now that you’re rich and don’t have to do a job, focus on climate change, which could kill all the birds and all the humans too. Leave my damn cat alone.