Join WisconsinCAT as we seek to make No Kill a reality for Wisconsin's cats

Our response to a UW-Madison resource-policy study...


We are students at the UW-Madison, and are enrolled in a non-renewable resource policy class there. As our "end of the semester project", we'd like to as you a few questions about the proposition to reclassify feral cats in the state of Wisconsin. ANY feedback you could give us would be greatly appreciated, as we are looking to analyze the conflict around this issue and determine how it might best be resolved. Thank you for your time.

Here are the questions:

1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Feral cat populations pose a significant threat to songbird population survival in Wisconsin."

Disagree. “Free-roaming” cat populations are all that have ever been measured. I’ve heard Stan Temple estimate that there are 1.2 million working farm-cats in Wisconsin. They are included on all of Stan’s “free-roaming” cat numbers.

I actually have this on videotape from a copy of “Wisconsin Magazine” filmed in 1989, right when Stan and John began their study. They studied farm-cats, not feral cats. This is really important information that most have not absorbed. I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it.


Feral cats pose a minimal threat to Wisconsin’s songbird POPULATIONS. They pose some threat to individual songbirds that they can catch. These are not population impacts, they are individual death of an individual bird. Has anyone ever done a real Ecological Impact Study on feral cats in Wisconsin? Nope. Please let me know if I missed real data somewhere.

I could go on about the classification problems with “free-roaming”, “feral”, and “domestic cat” and all the ways feral cats have been unfairly and unscientifically demonized throughout this campaign. Stan Temple never studied feral cats, their behavior, or their feeding patterns. If he claims different, he should publish it and let our side offer critical review.

2. What is your official position on question 62 - to reclassify feral cats as an unprotected species?

Dumb, unnecessary, and a social crime. Cats are not classified as wildlife. They are classified as domestic animals based on their genetic make-up (felis catus) and are protected under state law no matter where they are, what they are doing, and whether someone can see their microchip or not. They are also classified this way to make sure that we as the responsible humans that brought them here do not abdicate our responsibility to care for them and treat them with mutual respect and dignity. They came here to help us keep our farms from getting infested with disease-ridden rodents that also came from lands far away (Norwegian rats and English field mice, for example).

3. What would your agency recommend as an acceptable solution to the issue at hand?

First we need to calm everyone down and remind them that they are reacting to Mark Smith’s proposal, not an actual scientifically measured emergency. This was a misinformation campaign loosely based on a report that’s over ten years old, based on data never published or peer-reviewed. The proposal was worded in a way to make people feel that feral cats were responsible for damage caused by free-roaming rural and farm-cats, not ferals. At least, that’s all Stan ever measured or studied.

I recommend we start by getting our facts straight and stop overreacting to the political boorishness of a hunting lobby that wants to make old estimates seem like fresh data. I recommend the media begins to do its job of sorting out these critical details that make all the difference in the world.

But for now, I recommend everyone clear their calendar for June 25th and make plans to get to the Feral Forum that will be held at the Monona Terrace Convention Center here in Madison. We will be inviting anyone who is interested in breaking down what we know and what we can do about it.

Spay/neuter education is the most powerful tool we have. We need to use it a lot more. We also need to start applying resources to targeted TNR programs so that we can minimize the problems we already have today.

There are many tools, but one more incidental death-rate impact will not alter the deep ecology of Wisconsin as it relates to cats or birds. But I’m sure you realized nobody was planning organized “hunts” or “kills”. This would be loosely organized “shoot-em-when-you-can” kind of stuff. Does anyone think that actually helps anything (outside of hunters, of course)?

4. Do you feel that natural resource management in the state of Wisconsin is representative of your opinions on how wildlife should be managed in the state?

No. It is clear that the Conservation Congress is controlled exclusively by the hunting community (less than 12% of the state, and they behave quite differently than the larger population) that gets to pretty much call the shots in terms of how the DNR hears from the public. This means that clean water, air, and soil are not the first thing the DNR hears about when they “listen to the people”.

The DNR responds to the CC and the NRB, not the people of Wisconsin. Just look at the proposals on the ballot this year. Lower the hunting age, bear-baiting, crossbow hunting, feral cat hunting, tree-stand politics. Didn’t hear much on mercury levels.

Yeah, this represents the natural resource needs of our entire state…

5. On a scale of one to ten (ten being the most severe threat), where do exotic species rank as a threat to endangered species?

Depends, depends, depends. On an island feral cats are a HUGE problem (which is where so much of the studies condemning cats come from). That’s way different from the continental Untied States where domestic cats are a serious part of the deep ecology of our continent. Eradication is not even on the table (is it?). So it becomes an issue of management and control.

Each species poses different risks, threats, and potentially benefits. Domestic cats are unique in that we co-evolved, brought them with us to do important work, and allow them to have such a prominent role in our social lives. These are not snails or mussels and cannot be simply dealt with in that context.

Domestic cats in Wisconsin are an immaterial threat when compared to habitat loss and contamination of resources. Our need as humans to destroy nature when it suits us and destroy animals when we feel they commit similar crimes is immoral and lacks integrity.

6. Why do you believe question 62 passed through the spring hearings?

Because this was a vote in the hunter-dominated Conservation Congress, not a public vote on November 2nd. Most non-hunters NEVER go to this, based on their experiences in dealing with this mob. They learned what the CC was about during the Mourning Dove vote, another case where public will was trampled by the narrow interests of the bird-loving hunters’ lobby.

In that case as well as this one, thousands of voters poured in from out-of-state rod-and-gun clubs to insure their hollow victory. They set the CC up this way so that they could always defeat public will on contentious issues. Until the out-of-state voting is eliminated, this vote means nothing and the Congress will have a tough time convincing anyone of the integrity of such a system.

Less than 0.2% of Wisconsin’s’ citizens participated in this farce (assuming all voters were actually citizens, which we KNOW they weren’t). Oh yeah, they were also severely misinformed based on all of the information I had provided above.

This all had much more to do with “cat-politics” than conservation. I hope you can all see that now. But go check these “studies” for yourself. Read them. Its eye-opening how different what was studied is from what was presented.

Thank you!


(BTW, we were super-happy that they were interested and taking the time to get all sides of the story! UW students have been cool about not making up their minds too early, despite the Stan Temple influence at the UW-Madison campus and throughout the local media)