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Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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One of Forbes.com’s 10 Best Conservation and Environment Books of 2016
We know that nature's theater bristles with industrious carnivores and omnivores--hawks that pluck cardinals right off a bird feeder, squirrels that grab eggs from crows' nests, and crows that grab babies from squirrels' nests. What makes free-ranging cats such an exceptionally dangerous threat to birds and other wildlife? The book describes a number of factors.---Natalie Angier, New York Review of Books
Peter Marra and Chris Santella base their case in the end on an appeal to the scientific evidence, which they set out as calmly as they can. . . . What they fear most, however, is the inaction of ordinary, decent people who have just not grasped how quickly the tapestry of the world's ecology is unravelling before our eyes.---Jeremy Mynott, Times Literary Supplement
Marra and Santella thoughtfully examine the severe ecological damage caused by feral cats and outdoor pet cats. Highly readable. . . . Cat lovers are presented in a sympathetic light throughout, making the book worth reading no matter a reader's position on free-ranging cats. (Publishers Weekly)
This deeply researched overview by conservation scientist Peter Marra and writer Chris Santella interlaces discussions of feline domestication and avian conservation with the science of decline and of feline spillover diseases. (Nature)
Marra and Santella make an impassioned plea for action in this compelling report on an often overlooked threat. (Scientific American)
Cat Wars is a work of commanding reasonableness, with plenty of facts and figures and the testimonies of experts to support its unpalatable conclusions. There are some fascinating digressions, too, including sympathetic profiles of activists on both sides of the debate in the U.S. (The Australian)
Cat Wars has a broader, more ecological focus, documenting the global impact of cats on wildlife, both by preying on animals and by transmitting diseases. . . . Marra and Santella explore the solutions (keeping cats indoors, catios--an enclosed area outside the home--and killing strays). . . . This is an important and eye-opening book that clearly says: 'keep Tiddles a house cat.'---Adrian Barnett, New Scientist
Cat Wars is valuable that it calls to attention a huge problem (set of problems, really) of which many people have, hitherto, been unaware--or ignored. (10,000 Birds Blog)
Cat Wars, a brilliantly crafted book, describes numerous scientific studies that link bird disappearance to free-ranging feral domestic cats. (NSTA Recommends)
From the Back Cover
"Very few people enjoy thinking about the calamitous problem of free-roaming cats and biodiversity, and even fewer dare to talk about it openly. Marra and Santella's book is therefore doubly welcome. It's not only important reading for anyone who cares about nature. With its engaging storytelling, its calmly scientific approach, and its compassionate handling of a highly fraught issue, this is also a book that a person might actually read for pleasure."--Jonathan Franzen
"Cats, most of them unowned free-ranging cats, kill as many as four billion birds in the United States each year. What, if anything, should be done about it? Cat Wars tackles this difficult dilemma. If you are a cat lover, a bird lover, a philosopher, an ethicist, or just anyone interested in gut-wrenching dilemmas, you will find this a gripping book."--Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
"Here, at last, is what native-ecosystem advocates have been waiting for--a complete, dispassionate examination of America's free-ranging cat debacle. It's all here--from the horrendous bird mortality to the cat-borne pathogens blighting wildlife and humans to the cruelty and futility of Trap-Neuter-Return. Everyone gets to speak--including the feral-cat lobby."--Ted Williams, environmental journalist
"The level-tempered approach of Cat Wars will win many advocates. Anyone interested in the broader topics of a healthy environment and healthy human society will benefit from reading this book. It's as powerful as TV ads featuring the crying Indian' in the antilittering campaign of the early 1970s."--Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest
"In Cat Wars, Peter Marra and Chris Santella lay out the extraordinary (and extraordinarily devastating) toll that America's favorite pet inflicts on America's favorite birds. At a time when native bird populations are in desperate trouble, and the number of free-ranging cats has never been higher, the authors bring clear-eyed science and commonsense solutions to one of the most polarizing issues in avian conservation. This is an important book, even if the message is not a comfortable one."--Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds
"A great overview of a complex and often emotional challenge. Cat Wars unravels yet another layer of the global decline in biodiversity and frames the potentially drastic consequences of inaction."--Grant Sizemore, American Bird Conservancy
"Cat Wars is a brave, engaging, and careful accounting of the cats we love and the devastation they inflict on birds and other wildlife."--John M. Marzluff, author of Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife
Top customer reviews
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The author's arguments would have been strengthened with greater acknowledgement of philosophical opposition from the likes of Marc Bekoff. The article by him listed in the references is hardly indicative of the depth of his arguments. The reasons and ideas of people that disagree to intensive invasive species management deserve more than a paragraph.
Additionally, there should have been more presentation of the numbers, or at least access to the research, that supports the idea that 80% sterilization can lead to reduction in colony size. It should also be stated that those 20% that are not sterilized, continue to breed and thus raise litters that are increasingly averse to humans. Yet, if all cats are to be bred in controlled environments, then genetic diversity suffers and the robustness of cats will decline. The authors offered no acknowledgement of this inevitability, or even that the methods of dog management have led to this problem.
However, as someone that works in animal shelters, I remained skeptical about the authors' understanding until the final chapters. The prescription for multi-modal approaches to free-roaming cat management should have been in the introduction. While I may disagree with the details ($20 licencing fee for individual cats is astronomically high when unaltered dogs are typically less than $10, and glossing over the fact that no-kill sheltering is dependent on donations is a much bigger impediment to the equation than is accounted for), the acknowledgement that removing cats from the outdoors does not and should not mean euthanizing all cats is the most important thesis presented in the book.
As a publication from a major university press, I finished the book disappointed. As a piece of popular science reporting, I found it useful and an important addition to the canon of feral cat management. It is certainly not objectionable in the way that many cat advocates have claimed, and I am sure that some of that is driven by the need for sensation to find an audience. Unfortunately many of the more important claims in the book fall into a similar category, particularly with regard to toxoplasmosis. In order to achieve a full buy-in from oppositional viewpoints, there needs to be greater acknowledgement of their own reasonings and the ability to verify claims made. Establishing a common ground is not enough to end a war.
Marcy Britton, Albuquerque, New Mexico