What're we gonna do about all these cats?
The story of cuddly killers and their winged prey
We have a story for you asking a question about America’s most beloved invasive species. In this newsletter, we also have a report on Search Engine’s first live meet-up.
What are we gonna do about all these cats? This week ,A question that has launched a battle between bird-loving ecologists and ardent, cat-defending activists. We hear from people on both sides of the war, and from one person who sits exactly in the middle.
This story features possibly my favorite guest we’ve had on Search Engine, Kalden. We recorded the conversation with him last summer, it’s nice to finally air it.
We reference a documentary in our reporting called Here, Kitty, Kitty. It’s worth checking out in its entirety, and it’s available for free on the Internet Archive. A documentary that’s also enjoyable just as an accidental time capsule of life in America in the early 2000’s.
And here’s the home of Alley Cat Allies on the internet.
An eye-opening email from a listener who works in wildlife rehabilitation
I’m a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator and songbird supervisor at the Wild Bird Fund in NYC. I’ve worked there for 5 years and I’m currently in the middle of getting my vet tech license to further my clinical experience, specifically with birds.
The issue of cats and wildlife is something we deal with daily at our clinic- rabbits, squirrels, hawks, songbirds, and even pigeons come in with severe cat attack wounds. Deep punctures full of bacteria, and due to the immense amount of bacteria in the cats mouths, if these birds aren’t given amoxicillin in 24hrs, they will likely die from sepsis (if not from the severity of their wounds, stress, shock, etc).
I wanted to reach out with this point of view, simply because although the scientific studies/data collected on cat attacks are crucial, numbers fail to reflect the true devastation of euthanizing a migratory bird that has traveled thousands of miles, only to have a compound fracture from being attacked by a cat. Or seeing a mourning dove torn to shreds, providing fluids and antibiotics, only for it to die the next day due to an infection in the blood caused by cats. During spring (baby bird season) we receive cat attack fledglings daily.
In NYC, we are at a constant battle with feral cat people and outdoor cat having people- it’s not about being pro cat or pro wildlife. These birds, mammals, reptiles, insects are an important and extremely special part of our ecosystem. Cats are our fault, our problem- and it’s up to us to figure out solutions and keep our cats inside (which is safer for them too!).
Tristan included some photos of her bird patients (nothing grisly, I promise!)
How did the Search Engine real life meet-up go?
We did the meet-up in Brooklyn in January and it was immensely fun. Some guests from past episodes came: Kelefa Sanneh, as did Manny, Noah, and Devan from the Chicken Bones Investigation Department.
We got to meet listeners who came from as far away as Washington State and Kansas City. I spoke to one hundred and fifty Search Engine fans who showed up with ideas, feelings, and questions about the show. I also gave a small speech with too many disclosures and internal Search Engine statistics.
It really made us curious about how to do more live events in the future for premium subscribers, so if you are one, stay tuned, and if you haven’t yet signed up, please consider!
Search Engine is a listener-supported project. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Jonathan Franzen on the cats v. birds donnybrook
Celebrated American author and passionate birder Jonathan Franzen published a piece for The New Yorker recently about cat advocacy and the “No Kill” movement. It’s worth a read, he actually goes out on a trap, neuter, and return mission:
There ensued a long vigil. The two occupied traps, draped with towels, were silent. All across the city, more kittens were being born. Raff’s days begin before six in the morning, but she hates to quit before she’s filled her quota. “It’s luck, not science,” she said. “Some places, we have to go three times—the cats are too smart. They’ll sit outside the trap and just look at it.”
Close by us, a cat in heat let out a yowl. Another sat for a long while by the trap, just looking at it. Toward eleven o’clock, a curtain stirred in the problem house. We were still being observed.
“Let’s give it five more minutes,” Kroh said.
“You guys can go,” Raff said. “I’ll sit in my car and watch.”
“She’ll get that third one,” Kroh assured me.
“It’s very addicting,” Raff allowed.
There’s something wonderful, to me, about knowing that Jonathan Franzen, one of the great American novelists, sometimes spends his times in Los Angeles trapping feral cats to better understand the strange country we’re in.
That’s all for us this week. We’re not publishing next week but we’ll be back the following.
Thanks for listening,