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Where did you go? Out. What did you do? Nothing.

The jig is up for Booker T, Archie and others who used to have private lives all their own when they went outdoors, before University of Georgia researcher Kerri Anne Loyd put cameras on them for her study of 60 cats and their secret lives. Now their secrets have been revealed.

Up until recently, Booker T, Archie and 58 other cats from Athens, GA went out and came back in with no one being the wiser to what they’d been up to, like children gone out to play before the days of parental scrutiny and supervision.

Amy Watts of Athens, GA cooperated in the study by allowing her cats Booker T and Archie to wear Kitty-Cam cameras during their unsupervised jaunts outdoors.”I knew that Booker T’s favorite place to go was down in the storm sewer,” she said when the video report shown here was made, “And now I know what the storm sewer looks like. It’s kind of frightening. I wish he would never go down there again.”
Archie surprised her by leading a double life of his own, visiting a second family. “Got a whole other family,” Amy said. “They held open the door for him, and he walked in. He just hung out in the house. I feel like one of those women on the talk shows: ‘My husband has two wives.’ My cat has two families.”

The video report from the local Athens NBC affiliate does not mention the many hours out of the 2,000 that likely involved lying around on the porch or lawn, but focuses on predatory and dangerous behaviors seen from the 60 cats in the study, along with Booker T and Archie’s innocuous activities. The study is intended to support the prevailing academic, wildlife advocacy and conservationist position that free roaming cats are a threat.

 

 

According to her biography at the Hernandez Wildlife Desease Lab at UGA website, “Kerrie Anne’s dissertation research focuses on the threat to suburban biodiversity posed by free-roaming domestic cats. Partnered with National Geographic Remote Imaging, she used point-of-view, animal-borne video cameras to monitor the outdoor activities of 60 owned, free-roaming cats in Athens, Georgia. She analyzed hunting and risk behaviors (crossing roads, encountering predators, contact with other cats, etc.) to address questions related to predation of cats on native wildlife as well as about the type and frequency of cat risks. Dr. Hernandez and Kerrie Anne are both interested in improving the welfare of both cats and wildlife and expect impactful educational materials to result from the “KittyCams” project. Kerrie Anne is expected to graduate Summer 2012 and is looking forward to a rewarding career in academics.”

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From wikipedia, Robert Paul Smith’s 1957 classic book: Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing is a nostalgic evocation of the inner life of childhood. It advocates the value of privacy to children; the importance of unstructured time; the joys of boredom; and the virtues of freedom from adult supervision. He opens by saying “The thing is, I don’t understand what kids do with themselves any more.” He contrasts the overstructured, overscheduled, oversupervised suburban life of the child in the suburban 1950′s with reminiscences of his own childhood. He concludes “I guess what I am saying is that people who don’t have nightmares don’t have dreams. If you will excuse me, I have an appointment with myself to sit on the front steps and watch some grass growing.”




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3 comments

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    May 16, 2012 8:56 amPosted 2 years ago
    Pippa

    Re the wildlife issue, humans are the biggest threat to wildlife as we take their habitat. Cats always get 100% of the blame for attacking wildlife, but there are other species who do this. An introduced species of aggressive birds has destroyed many of the small native birds in our area. On a lighter note I had to laugh at the cat with two homes! Very funny.

    Reply
  • May 20, 2012 3:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Peter J. Wolf

    I have to take issue with the claim that the “prevailing academic, wildlife advocacy and conservationist position [is] that free roaming cats are a threat.” Dig into the issue, as I’ve done for the past few years, and what you’ll find is very little rigorous work and plenty of pseudoscience. And more than a little marketing, PR, and politics.

    Indeed, as this story notes:

    “The video report does not mention the many hours out of the 2,000 that likely involved lying around on the porch or lawn, but focuses on predatory and dangerous behaviors seen from the 60 cats in the study, along with Booker T and Archie’s innocuous activities.”

    It’s no surprise that much of the focus is on the cats’ hunting habits—plenty of drama to sell to the mainstream media.

    A few comments regarding predation, the most often cited “threat” posed by free-roaming cats…

    Aggregate figures such as those promoted by the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Society, and others, are essentially meaningless. These “estimates” can typically be traced to small—often flawed—studies, the results of which are subsequently extrapolated from one habitat to another, conflating island populations (where the presence of cats can have dire consequences) and those on continents, combining common and rare bird species, and so forth.

    In their contribution to “The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour,” researchers Mike Fitzgerald and Dennis Turner thoroughly reviewed 61 predation studies, concluding rather unambiguously: “We consider that we do not have enough information yet to attempt to estimate on average how many birds a cat kills each year. And there are few, if any studies apart from island ones that actually demonstrate that cats have reduced bird populations” (Fitzgerald & Turner, 2000).

    Something else to keep in mind: predators—cats included—tend to prey on the young, the old, the weak and unhealthy. At least two studies have investigated this in great detail, revealing that birds killed by cats are, on average, significantly less healthy that birds killed through non-predatory events (e.g., collisions with windows or cars) and (Møller & Erritzøe, 2000) and (Baker, Molony, Stone, Cuthill, & Harris, 2008).

    As the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds notes, in refreshingly straightforward language: “It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations” (n.a., 2011).

    I don’t expect to see any mention of these studies in Kerrie Anne Loyd’s work, though. Indeed, I don’t buy for a minute the suggestion that she and Dr. Hernandez are interested in improving the welfare of cats. Rather, I expect Loyd will follow in the footsteps of her colleague, Nico Dauphine, who routinely used her position in the scientific community to grossly misrepresent the threat of free-roaming cats—right up until the time she was found guilty of attempting to poison cats outside of her DC-area apartment building late last year. (Which I blogged about here: http://www.voxfelina.com/2011/10/nico-dauphine-found-guilty-of-attempted-animal-cruelty/).

    As I say, the “prevailing academic, wildlife advocacy and conservationist position” has surprising little to do with rigorous science. It’s more a witch-hunt than anything else.

    Peter J. Wolf
    http://www.voxfelina.com

    Literature Cited
    • Baker, P. J., Molony, S. E., Stone, E., Cuthill, I. C., & Harris, S. (2008). Cats about town: Is predation by free-ranging pet cats Felis catus likely to affect urban bird populations? Ibis, 150, 86–99.
    • Fitzgerald, B. M., & Turner, D. C. (2000). Hunting Behaviour of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations. In D. C. Turner & P. P. G. Bateson (Eds.), The Domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour (2nd ed., pp. 151–175). Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Møller, A. P., & Erritzøe, J. (2000). Predation against birds with low immunocompetence. Oecologia, 122(4), 500–504.
    • RSPB (2011). Are cats causing bird declines? [Electronic Version]. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/birddeclines.aspx

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    • Visit site
      May 20, 2012 7:43 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Editor (Author)

      Hello Peter,

      I used the wording “prevailing academic, wildlife advocacy and conservationist position [is] that free roaming cats are a threat.” purposely. The position that cats are a great threat to wildlife is just that; a stance, a position, a presupposition, a flimsily supported given.

      Students entering wildlife studies and conservation programs just accept the notion blindly, and things get worse from there.

      .As you know better than I, studies are conceived to advance that position, and study results are interpreted and framed to support the position. The results are always a foregone conclusion based on the initial bias. Even a casual reader like myself can see this by reading any study synopsis, or by reading between the lines in any news story touching on the subject.

      I agree wholeheartedly with you that there’s a witch-hunt mentality stemming from the cats-as-menace notion. It’s been apparent to me since I first began working at this site a little over a year ago. Before then, like many people, I had no idea that the cats-as-menace position had so insidiously infiltrated and established itself across academic, nonprofit and governmental institutions.

      This video, along with the basic story associated with it, has popped up at several news outlets and none that I have encountered have bothered to note the real purpose of the study or provide any background on Ms. Lord. They’re selling the cats-as-predator story under the guise of a fluff piece on kitty’s adventures when he’s out of sight.

      I, too, have noticed the second-front approach in the war against free roaming cats of pretending to have cats’ best interests at heart. This is second story I’ve seen in the last month to have done so. The other was the one about coyotes.

      Thank you for commenting, and for posting citations. I have the greatest respect and admiration for your passion and work on this issue.

      Karen

      Reply

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