For a couple of years now, Australian scientists have been "field testing" a poison that they call “curiosity.” Get it? Curiosity killed the cat? Ha ha, right? Ugh.
You see, they developed it as means of controlling the nation’s feral cat population.
Now, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gregory Andrews, recently appointed as Australia’s first threatened species commissioner, is planning to champion the use of curiosity to control feral cats, which environmental advocates allege are decimating native wildlife populations.
Curiosity contains a poison that stops the flow of oxygen in the blood, and it’s considered a "more humane" way to kill feral cats. They put the stuff in meat and leave it out for the cats to eat.
More humane than what? Leg hold traps? Rat poison? Shooting them?
How humane is it make a cat suffocate?
My first question when I read about curiosity was, "What collateral damage could this poison inflict?"
According to the Morning Herald article, one official is saying that more research is needed to see if other animals such as marsupial carnivores could be at risk from the bait.
Well, thank God somebody’s thinking about potential unintended consequences. It’s pretty clear that government officials and wildlife advocates aren’t.
The long-term goal of the government and wildlife groups is to eliminate feral cats from the entire continent.
Yeah, good luck with that.
There are groups in Australia doing trap-neuter-return programs, but they’re few and far between. Even those groups seem to believe that TNR works fine for small urban colonies but not for larger colonies in rural areas. Some groups seem to be very keen on making the distinction between "wild" and feral cats, and they’re ensuring everybody and anybody that they work with "wild" cats but not with feral cats.
First, I don’t know why some groups are so scared to be associated with feral cats. Do they get death threats when they advocate for community cats, or are they just too cowardly to speak up for animals who can’t speak for themselves?
Second, I don’t buy the idea that TNR programs don’t work in rural areas. Having lived most of my life in Maine, where about 90 percent of the state is considered rural, I’ve seen organizations doing great work with TNR, which has had a very positive impact on the feral cats, both in terms of the colonies’ general health and the decrease in population by natural means.
TNR can be done and it can successfully control cat populations. But it’s not a short-term solution, and that’s what the cat haters want. Research has proven time and time again that simply killing feral cats creates a vacuum into which more cats enter, thereby boosting the colony population again — and the cat vs. human arms race just rolls on.
I don’t live in Australia, and I’m not a scientist, so maybe there’s something I’m missing here. I am, however, educated and well-read enough to understand that eradication efforts like poisoning a problem species often have unintended consequences. There’s a litany of research pointing this out.
I wish the anti-cat lobby didn’t have such a big share of airtime, here in the U.S. and in Australia. I also wish that pro-wildlife groups and feral cat advocates could work together to create a meaningful and humane program to manage feral cat colonies and protect native wildlife.
What do you think? Is curiosity a good way to control feral cats? If you’re in Australia, could you tell us about the real situation with feral cats and what, if any, groups are actually working together to create a humane and logistically sensible feral cat control initiative? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.