A Siamese cat ready to jump

Polish Academy of Sciences labels cats as invasive species

Polish Academy of Sciences labels cats as invasive species

A controversial move that has expectedly caused a ruckus, but from a scientific point of view it’s true

The Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) has entered a contentious territory after, earlier this month, it updated its database of invasive species with a new member – the domestic cat. The reason behind the new addition has been defended with the argument that cats cause a lot of harm and damage to local birds and other native wildlife.

The decision somewhat expectedly proved quite controversial with cat owners in the country who have caused quite the uproar, according to media sources. At the centre of it all has been a biologist by the name of Wojciech Solarz, who works at the Institute of National Conservation of PAN.

He was the person who added Felis catus (the scientific name of the domestic cat) to the database thus bringing the number of invasive species in the country to 1787. He stated that cats kill some 140 million birds in Poland every year.

Foreign felines

According to Euronews, Mr Solarz said he had not been prepared for the public backlash, but he believed the passions may have been fueled by some media reports that gave the false impression that his institute was calling for feral and other cats to be euthanized.

As for categorizing cats as "invasive", the Institute notes that Felis catus is a species domesticated probably around 10,000 years ago in the cradle of the great civilizations of the ancient Near East – an area known as the Fertile Crescent.

Farmers there saw the usefulness of the cats in controlling the mice populations, plus they were kind of sociable. That, and the fact that according to research the domestic cats are descended from the African wild cat makes it alien to Europe from a strictly scientific point of view.

Despite the controversy, the institute's decision is part of a growing scientific consensus that domestic cats have a detrimental impact on biodiversity given the number of birds and mammals they hunt and kill.

However, the institute stressed that its only recommendation is that cat owners limit the amount of time their pets spend outdoors during the bird's breeding season.



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