In Defense of Cats: Those Toxic Planet-Killing Pets

A gang of hooligans. (ThinkStock Photos)

Cats are having a Britney Spears moment. After a few years of being the hottest thing on the Internet, they're now being blamed for everything wrong in the world.

Why is everyone hating on cats? Some guy in New Zealand wants them banned from his country. Some other guy in England says they're destroying the planet. And now a study in the U.S. has earned cats the title of "cold blooded killers."

All because--get this--cats kill birds. We already knew this from cartoons. The shocking thing here is that cats are much better at getting the job done than we realized. Our massive street cat population may be responsible for wiping out up to 3.7 billion birds a year--that's 15 percent of the country's bird population, according to research published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications. On a grand scale that could cause a damaging environmental ripple effect.

One solution is to lock the roaming street cats up and cut down on the 80 million wild felines hunting for bird food. But house cats cause their own problems: they've been singled out by eco-activists for devastating the ocean floor with their can-a-day fish habit. Those same lazy blobs of fluff, we're told, may also be driving us certifiably crazy.

So dogs won. Cats are out and all because they're just not green enough. That self-cleaning creature who can live in a wall for a month isn't "earth-friendly." They're too good at hunting and gathering. They don't die easily. They like food.

Is this really grounds for all the cat hate? Perhaps, fellow cat lovers, we've forgotten why these pets exist in the first place: to perch in teacups and fill our calendars with joy. Really--cups or no--they're actually good for our emotional and mental health.

Cat owners have better hearts. Their babies have sturdier immune systems. And everyone's generally more relaxed than they would be if they were being woken up by a particularly loud bird, or if they were being asked in dog-face "why would you abandon me again?" every time they left for work.

Cats use their vocal cords efficiently and systematically. They don't require all of your energy, because they're not as emotionally needy as other pets. That means they're energy-savers. How's that for green?

And when it comes to pollutants, cats are nature's exterminator. They don't even need to kill a rat to send the signal to local vermin to keep away. It's a lot cleaner than fumigating your house.

Also they entertain themselves with a shadow and a personal challenge to reach the top of the fridge within the year. They practically hold your coat out for you when you leave the house, and when you come back, they act like they've been watching Murder She Wrote and knitting peacefully all day. They fill your house with the feeling of dim-lit cozy lighting. Plus, they see in the dark so you don't have to leave the lights on for them. And do birds or dogs poop $30 cups of coffee? No, that's a cat thing.

Another reason to lay off cats: They get women. If cats could vote, we'd have a female president by now. "Cats approach female owners more frequently, and initiate contact more frequently (such as jumping on laps) than they do with male owners," researcher Manuela Wedl of the University of Vienna told Discovery News. "Female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners."

And lest we forget, cat people are original recyclable tote bag carriers, the plant-lovers, and the persecuted pet-owner. If we were a Muppet, we'd be Kermit. We're that green.

But we're not bystanders in an anti-cat conspiracy. We're at least partially responsible for all the bad press our pets have gotten lately. We made them play piano, we videotaped their every move, we silkscreened their faces on to pillows and sold them on Etsy. That was a few years ago. Now they're starring in our Superbowl commercials, they've got their own film festival, they're high fashion muses. We've created cat monsters in our own image, overexposing them like some run-of-the-mill pop star. Can we blame them for falling out of step with the planet's natural order when we humans haven't been much better?

Let's stop the anti-cat sentiment before someone tries to ban kittens here. We owe it to our cats. Not just because we've exploited them, and not because they care about what we think (most of them don't even keep up with the news), but because they're smarter than us. At least those 80 million feral cats killing birds put the work in before they feast. You know what mine does when he's hungry? He points his face at me in between naps. Someday these creatures are going to rule the world--if they don't already.

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