What Your Cat Is Thinking

Cat owners speak to their cats, attribute many complex emotions to them and chide them when they bring small dead rodents into the house. People don’t pause to ask what is going on in the mind of the cat during these interactions, and perhaps that’s just as well. The role of a pet is to be relentlessly anthropomorphized.

But for any who may wonder what their feline companions are really thinking, “Cat Sense,” by John Bradshaw, provides the best answers that science can give for the time being.

Dr. Bradshaw, a biologist at the University of Bristol in England, has studied animal behavior and cats in particular for the last 30 years. The starting point of his analysis is that cats are still essentially wild animals. They wandered into our encampments when we first started to store harvested grains, which attracted mice.

Unlike dogs, which have been greatly changed by domestication from their wolf ancestor, cats have almost never been bred for a purpose. They caught mice well enough, and their kittens made attractive companions. So cats have stayed much the same, with any evolutionary trend toward domestication constrained by frequent interbreeding with wild cats.

To this day the population of domestic cats is maintained in a semiferal state by the practice of neutering. About the only males available for domestic female cats to breed with are the wildest and least people-friendly tomcats who have escaped into the feral cat population. Some 85 percent of all cat matings, Dr. Bradshaw writes, are arranged by cats themselves, meaning with feral cats.

Read more at The New york Times

That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think

A domestic cat with a European rabbit. Domestic and feral cats are significant predators of a wide range of prey species, including rabbits.

For all the adorable images of cats that play the piano, flush the toilet, mew melodiously and find their way back home over hundreds of miles, scientists have identified a shocking new truth: cats are far deadlier than anyone realized.

In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.

Read more at The New York Times