Polish Institute Labels Cats 'Invasive Alien Species'

Biologist Wojciech Solarz defends move spurred by bird deaths
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 26, 2022 1:35 PM CDT
Cats Make Poland's 'Invasive Alien Species' List—to Uproar
One of seven cats that keep the company of the visitors at a "Miau Cafe" finishes a cake in Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 13, 2018.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

(Newser) – A Polish scientific institute has classified domestic cats as an "invasive alien species," citing the damage they cause to birds and other wildlife. Some cat lovers have reacted emotionally to this month's decision and put the key scientist behind it on the defensive. Wojciech Solarz, a biologist at the state-run Polish Academy of Sciences, wasn't prepared for the disapproving public response when he entered "Felis catus," the scientific name for the common house cat, into a national database run by the academy's Institute of Nature Conservation. The database already had 1,786 other species listed with no objections, Solarz told the AP on Tuesday.

Invasive alien species No. 1,787, however, is a creature so beloved that it often is honored in Poland's cemeteries reserved for cats and dogs. Solarz, a dog owner, described the growing scientific consensus that domestic cats have a harmful impact on biodiversity given the number of birds and mammals they hunt and kill. The criteria for including the cat among alien invasive species, "are 100% met by the cat," which was domesticated in the ancient Middle East probably around 10,000 years ago, he said. In a television segment aired by independent broadcaster TVN, the biologist faced off last week against a veterinarian who challenged Solarz's conclusion on the dangers cats pose to wildlife.

Dorota Suminska, the author of a book titled The Happy Cat, pointed to other causes of shrinking biodiversity, including a polluted environment and urban building facades that can kill birds in flight. "Ask if man is on the list of non-invasive alien species," Suminska said, arguing that cats were unfairly assigned too much blame. Solarz told the AP that some media reports about the listing created a false impression that the institute was calling for feral and other cats to be euthanized. The institute published a post on its website citing the "controversy" and seeking to clarify its position. It stressed that it was "opposed to any cruelty towards animals" and was only recommending that cat owners limit the time their pets spend outdoors during bird breeding season. (Read more cats stories.)

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