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March 1, 2013

Results of the Outdoor Cat Conference

Group explores wildlife conflicts, solutions

  • The Outdoor Cat Conference brought together people with diverse outlooks to discuss conflicts with outdoor felines. iStockphoto

Complex issues surrounding cats outdoors continue to surface as important social, scientific and moral concerns. That's why The HSUS convened a landmark conference in Los Angeles in December 2012, co-sponsored by the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, the Found Animals Foundation, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. (Skip down to the conference presentations.)

"The Outdoor Cat: Science and Policy from a Global Perspective" brought together leading experts to take the measure of contemporary research and science concerning outdoor cats, and to advance the integration of such evidence into better policy that protects cats, birds and other wildlife. For bird advocates and cat advocates, it represented a step forward toward a common goal.

Immediately following the conference a group consisting of speakers and program organizers met and discussed the development of a consensus statement addressing the issue of outdoor cats. The group, which included representatives of the varied interests and viewpoints present at the conference, agreed on the following statement:

"Issues surrounding outdoor cats are complex and set in contexts that differ greatly from place to place and time to time. In some locations, the presence of outdoor cats can have significant conservation implications for wild birds, mammals, and reptiles, especially those that may already be experiencing population declines.

Those approaching the issues from a concern for cats, their welfare and management, on the one hand, and those approaching them from a concern for wildlife and its conservation, on the other, often appear to be divided by their different priorities. But they share a fundamental concern for animals and the environment, and a respect for evidence; many also agree on a moral imperative to respect non-human life. There is thus much common ground between those whose interests originate primarily from a concern for animal welfare, and those whose interests originate primarily from a concern for wildlife conservation. Current management options focused on outdoor cats, including trap-neuter-return (TNR) and lethal control, at best help mitigate only a fraction of the impacts cats have on wildlife or the suffering of unowned and stray cats. We have not yet achieved the understanding, nor do we currently have available the necessary resources to resolve all the various forms of conflict associated with outdoor cats.

To redress the knowledge gap, further research should be a priority, especially with respect to developing new contraceptive tools, but society’s focus should also include optimization of existing management tools and greatly expanded public education to increase awareness and encourage more responsible pet ownership—prevention invariably being better than cure, especially, as in this case, where the cure may be elusive. It is important to develop a scientifically as well as ethically well-founded consensus on how to manage conflicts with outdoors cats, explicitly bearing in the mind the diversity of contexts within which management needs to occur. Strategies built on this consensus are most likely to be developed through constructive, collaborative engagement between those with expertise in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. While cats continue to suffer, and wildlife species continue to decline in the face of multiple threats, all stakeholders have a shared duty of care to work together in solving these problems."

Conference presentations

The conference presentations are available for download below in PDF format.
 

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