Cats are in a human-made trap. It’s our duty to get them out of it.

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When I was kid, I thought I didn’t like cats. It didn’t help that every time I got near one, my eyes got itchy and my nose ran. My cat allergy disappeared around the time I went to college, where I volunteered at the local animal shelter and got a new perspective on felines. In the second year of my PhD program, I went to the East Bay SPCA and adopted a 3-year-old former stray.

I love my cat. She is 40% sweetheart, 40% terror, and 20% judgmental staring statue.

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It looks like I’m sleeping, but I am watching your every move.

I am an ecologist, an ornithologist, and a bird-lover, so I know some things about cats that a lot of cat lovers may not. It all adds up to this: humans have put cats into an ecological trap, and we continue to do so, often with the best of intentions. It is not the cats’ fault. It is our human duty to get them out of this trap, for the cats’ sakes and for wildlife.

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The incredible story of the Black Robin

This is the Black Robin (Petroica traversi), a species found only in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand:

Black Robin. Photo originally by schmechf, modified by Wikimedia Commons.

Black Robin. Photo originally by schmechf, modified by Wikimedia Commons.

This was the total world population of Black Robins in 1980:

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Five birds. That’s not great—and it gets worse. Guess how many of those were adult females?

One.

Almost any conservationist would tell you that this was a hopeless situation. You can’t restart a species from one female—especially when that female is a whopping eight years old already, in a species that generally lives four years.

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