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Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Why our cats are a danger to species diversity and human health

In 1894, a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat named Tibbles. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was rendered extinct. Mounting scientific evidence confirms what many conservationists have suspected for some tim
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Princeton University Press
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Natalie Martinez
Sep 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book not only humanly makes no sense, it makes no sense from a scientist point of view. There is so much wrong with it that I don't know where to start. If I could give it a zero star I would. ...more
Mark Avery
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a cat person; I'm not a dog person either; I'm not really a pet person at all. I prefer my animals wild and free, or cooked and on a plate. And so I enter this subject, the impacts of domesticated and feral cats on wildlife, with a slight preference for hearing that cats are a problem and that careless cat-owners are to blame, rather than hoping to read that cats have had no impacts on the natural world.

This book will be slightly uncomfortable reading for many cat-lovers - and so I recom
Eric Wurm
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A scientific look into the problems associated with feral and outdoor cats, including biodiversity loss, extinction, spread of disease, zoonosis, and other such issues. This highly controversial topic has caused many to review the book unfavorably due to emotion, instead of reason or quality of writing.

It's a well written book with many scientific sources cited and an important issue that affects us all.

Update: If you are a crazy cat lady who takes umbrage with my review, I don't care. If you w
Sep 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book came to my attention and I read it to give it a fair shake and discuss it intelligently rather than simply opining. The real issue here is human behavior, not blaming every evil in the world on an animal. Yes, feral cat colonies are problematic; yes, non-native species negatively impact native fauna. That said, this book opens in a very intentional inflammatory manner and yet the phrases in the first chapter are "most probably", "likely", and "scientists don't really know". The authors ...more
Alli P
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a cat lover. And a responsible citizen so I read this to understand the situation. Cats are one of the worst invasive species, but not nearly as bad as humans. Well written, informative, I now understand the problem better. We need to educate the public about how to be responsible cat owners. TNT trap neuter return is not enough. We need to be more compassionate towards the problem and seek solutions. Glad I read the book. ...more
Sep 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
This belongs in the trash. Fake "science."
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Karen by: Katie Spicer
Before I review this book, I want to share that I love cats. I have 3 cats, none of whom are allowed outside. I was already aware of the problems of outdoor cats, both those suffered by the cat, those suffered by wildlife, and some of those suffered by humans.

Marra and Santella, in a very neatly and orderly fashion, took the issue of outdoor domestic cats and covered all the research, history, and future of our environment, the cat, and wildlife in a readable and interesting order. They begin w
Sandy  Kemp
Mar 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Lurid language (a chapter title is The Zombie Maker:Cats As Agents Of Disease) and unproven attempts to link schizophrenia to cats are just a couple reasons this dreadful book is ridiculous. Deserves zero stars.

This book is the perfect example of junk science.

Actual scientists know that correlation is not causation (talking about the schizophrenia thing here). Mr Marra particularly should be ashamed of himself as he purports to be a scientist.

The authors value birds over cats so they think al
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was quite the book to read following The Lion in the Living Room.

The Lion in the Living Room did a wonderful job of highlighting the strangeness of cat ownership. Here is an asocial animal that not only decided to live with us, but that we also embrace with open arms. Here is a disease carrier that we willingly ignore the warning signs of, an environmental disaster that we defend and in many ways encourage. Here is the cat.

The Lion in the Living Room presented compelling arguments for th
Sep 08, 2016 added it
Shelves: science
kinda makes me wanna get a cat
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer by Peter P. Marra is a thorough discussion of outdoor domestic cats. Each chapter focuses on an issue that arises when cats are allowed to live outside. The authors use their impressive list of references, many of which are peer-reviewed, to explain the science.

We are presented with clear research and data that indicate, without a doubt, that domestic cats kill wildlife and carry disease. Peter P. Marra presents the proposals for addressi
Feb 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
Picked it up as part of my thesis' literature, but too one-sided of a perspective to be of any use. Yes, cats can cause vulnerable species to go extinct horribly fast, but we should also keep an open perspective towards ethical, optionally controlled or monitored ways cats can exist in nature. ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a cat lover and love them for that wildness they retain even as they live with us in our homes. so this was a very hard book to read. The authors want us to face the fact that cats that are outdoors--as feral or abandoned or occasionally roaming--are taking a devastating toll on birds, small mammals, and reptiles. If we value biodiversity, we have to face this. Fortunately, more people are keeping cats indoors and I rarely see outdoor cats compared to years ago. But what to do about all the ...more
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my radar for a very long time. Perhaps not because it seems to have seriously ruffled the feathers of a great number of obdurate cat-owners, but because it presents an argument that I’d never really stopped to consider myself until the media furore that followed its publication exploded over social media a few months ago. Indeed, since then I’ve read several reviews in an attempt to gauge the general feel of this book but so polarised are opinions left in its wake, I’ve had ...more
Chris Casey
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a pretty eye opening book for me, especially so since I read it in the weeks that followed the passing of our two cats who we had for 14+ years each, and who each were outdoor cats, or as variously described in this book as 'community cats' or 'free-ranging cats'. Distinct from a feral cat, which is one that survives in the wild and no longer has any human contact, a free-ranging cat is one that benefits from human assistance, a bowl of food on the porch, able to come inside in bad weat ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm a cat person, but I agree that free-ranging cat predation is a problem. So I had no issue with the content of this book. It's a book with a message that needs a wider and less defensive audience.

What kept me from giving this book more stars were issues of quantity, tone, and editing. Overall, the substance here felt like a magazine feature article. It just wasn't sufficient for a whole book. As other reviewers have noted, it gets repetitive. Example: In chapter 8, the authors say, "The advan
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Peter Mara and Chris Santella for having the courage to address the problem of free-ranging and outdoor cats. I love my cats but understand and appreciate this clear and lucid presentation of the facts and scientific findings that supporting the argument that free-ranging cats can decimate birds, wildlife, and human health. It is a tough story to tell, making it unpopular to many, but it is a story that must be told and spread.
Margaret Bowman
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well-researched (and cited) and well-written overview of the impacts that outdoor cats have - on the environment, on public health, and even on the cats themselves. You will never look at a cat outdoors the same way again.
Apr 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution, nonfiction
I was led to this book by The Science of Birds podcast, episode called Cats vs Birds. The main point of this book is that there are way too many outdoor cats, and outdoor cats kill a lot of birds (billions every year) and are vectors of serious disease affecting humans. People are either strongly pro-cat (we’re talking outdoor cats) or pro-bird, and never the twain shall meet. Solutions such as TNR (trap-neuter-release) barely put a dent in the problem—there are just too many cats, and no way to ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This week 3 cats were killed on the roads of my daily commute to work. As I write this, all 3 are still laying there unclaimed, now rotting, five and three days after being hit. Two are laying on the road in front of homes that presumably house their "owners". The third is in the middle of a four lane divided highway, but within 100 yards of a farm where it probably lived. You never, ever see dogs that are hit and killed by cars, left laying on the road until they rot. This is all I need to know ...more
Joan Colby
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
The war is really the birders against the cat lovers. While cats definitely decimate wildlife, so do raccoons, foxes, coyotes and so on. People who keep pet cats should confine them indoors or on screened porches. Feral cats are another matter. It is probably best not to feed them, anymore than you would feed coyotes or squirrels. In areas, where coyotes thrive, they are a check on cats. It seems the more we interfere with nature, the more damage is done. The cases cited against cats regard area ...more
Kimberly  Edwin
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love both cats and birds. Cats allowed outside kill birds whether you see them do it or not. Feral cats maintained in colonies are a very bad idea, for both the cats and the surrounding wildlife. The feral cats are exposed to every form of human wickedness, and can be killed by dogs and humans, run over by cars, etc. etc. In what universe is this considered good for cats? Either take them in, adopt them out, or euthanize them. I don't understand the mentality of feral cat colony fanatics, exce ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In Chapter 5 ("The Zombie Maker"), Marra writes about the truly horrifying effects of toxoplasmosis (cats are vectors for the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii) which include a kind of brain damage that makes an organism lack appropriate fear of predators, and in fact causes them to be drawn towards predators. One must wonder if Marra hasn't got some similar affliction, walking straight at the wackadoo feral cat "caretakers" and cat-fanciers with this book, with statements like, "...the most desirable ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book certainly makes one paws, and wonder. (Get it, Pause.) I've understood for a long time that feral cats can have an effect on other mammals, birds, lizards. I was not aware of the diseases they can transmit to other species. I was particularly interested in what Marta wrote about The Hawaiian Black Crow, which is now extinct in the wild, but is being successfully bred in or near Hilo. But, and this is a BIG BUT, it has not been successfully reintroduced into the wild. Peter Marra attrib ...more
Astrid Yrigollen
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
A smart person here on Goodreads told me , “ There are too many good books out there waiting for me to read to waste time finishing bad ones.”
Or ones that you just don’t enjoy I imagine.

I care for and have Ferals fixed that live near me and I catch them and have them fixed when I can out of my own pocket but I am NOT a cat lady. I have 2 cats that are indoor only. Why I need to explain that I have no idea other than the fact I wanted to see if I could learn more about my furry feral feline frien
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who owns a cat, or has anything to do with cats, should read this. Marra systematically reviews all of the scientific data around the issues and impacts of free-roaming cats. This is a HUGE environmental issue, and whether any of us like the facts or not, the data doesn't lie (even when interpreted as conservatively as possible) about the huge impacts free-roaming cats are having on wildlife. I greatly appreciated the compilation and analysis of scientific studies (interspersed with per ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a good book for anyone interested in preserving wildlife, but especially for cat lovers, as the book demonstrates repeatedly that keeping all cats indoors is paramount to their health and ours.

Many birds are in serious decline because of glass towers, habitat loss and outdoor cats. Just keeping cats as indoor pets only and finding a way to get feral cats off the streets would help wildlife immensely.

My only real criticism of the book is that I wish the potential solutions chapter had a
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
It's difficult to objectively judge a book that takes such a controversial stance, especially considering the authors are predisposed to be biased in their presentation of the subject(with one being a naturalist, and one a birder).

I personally found the book to be an enjoyable read. Facts from studies are given fairly clearly. At the end of the day, regardless of your stance on the issue this book still holds value as an educational resource.

My main complaint in regards to the writing (and why t
Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it
As a person who enjoys the outdoors and is concerned about climate change and species extinctions, I am open to the argument that introduced predators are destructive and should be controlled.

This book got an extensive write up in the NY Times - and I am wondering why. With its sensationalist title, alarmist chapter headings, and uneven writing, this book does not successfully advance its assertion that domesticated cats are responsible for native species decline around the world and should liv
Catherine Symchych
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I am a firm believer in keeping cats indoors, and have always done so with mine. I’d hoped to get some persuasive speaking points and data to use with those who let their cats roam or support ferals, but came away with nothing new. I think the discussion on plague and rabies overreaches, thereby weakening the other arguments that I would have otherwise been amazed by. Overall a real disappointment.
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