What's going on with stray cats in Hawaii?
Like most places on Earth, Hawaii has a cat overpopulation problem.
Cats reproduce very quickly, and can give birth to multiple litters in one year. The average litter is 4-6 kittens. You can probably see why the overpopulation problem has gotten out of control.
Hawaii has a massive population of free-roaming cats. An estimated 2 million cats live on the various different islands of Hawaii. That’s half a million more than the human population of the state.
Stray cats compared to feral cats
It’s important to note the difference between stray cats and feral cats. Stray cats are cats who have been socialized with humans, and have been abandoned. This means they are familiar with humans and are likely interested in contact with humans. Feral cats are cats who have either never been in the company of a human or who have been living outside for so long they are no longer interested in human contact. You can read more about the difference between feral cats and stray cats here! Together, they make up “free-roaming cats.”
For the purposes of this article, the words “stray cats” will be used to mean both feral cats and stray cats.
Hawaii government wanted to kill stray cats
Earlier this year, the Hawaiian government proposed a bill, HB 1987, that would have led to thousands of stray cats in Hawaii being put to death. It would have provided the funding for the cruel mass-poisoning of free-roaming cats in Hawaii, in a manner modeled after the way stray cats were killed recently in Australia.
Thankfully, the bill was shot down, thanks to citizens speaking up for the cats and signing petitions.
But why would such a horrifying bill be introduced in the first place?
Hawaii: The “Extinction Capital” of the World
In Hawaii, many species are rapidly going extinct. In fact, Hawaii has been dubbed “the extinction capital of the world.”
95 of 142 bird species that were unique to Hawaii and found nowhere else on Earth have gone extinct. 33 of the remaining birds are considered to be endangered. And 11 of those have not been seen for years and years … and are very likely extinct.
For example, the alala, or the “Hawaiian Crow.” Alalas were crow-like birds that native Hawaiians viewed as an animal who would guide spirits to the afterlife. However, alalas have not been spotted in the wild since 2002. Efforts are under way to breed the few remaining alalas – who live in captivity – and release them into the wild to bring the population back.
Throughout history, people from other lands have moved to Hawaii and brought non-native species of plants and animals – these are called “invasive species.” Invasive species can pose a huge threat to the native populations living there.
Dangers of invasive species
Invasive species pose a threat to ecosystems. Have you ever seen kudzu? Kudzu, sometimes used for medicinal purposes, is a vine native to Asia that was brought to the U.S. mainland in the late 1800s and is also in Hawaii. As an invasive species, it has rapidly taken over many natural areas. It leads to other plants being smothered or blocked from sunlight.
We love cats! Cats are only ONE of many factors believed to be contributing to the decline of bird populations on the islands, including habitat loss and mosquito-borne illness.
But many people consider them to be an invasive species of Hawaii. Government officials believe the ecosystem is not equipped to handle the number of cats currently living in Hawaii. The birds have not evolved to have defensive skills in place to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, when there are large numbers of free-roaming cats, they can damage local ecosystems. Cats are skilled hunters, and these instincts are hard-wired into them. Cats don’t only kill for food or to survive – they hunt because it’s deeply ingrained in them. A researcher tracked one cat who, over a 3-day period, killed 9 chicks of an endangered bird.
According to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, cats also carry a dangerous parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite doesn’t harm cats, but is deadly to many other animals such as birds. It causes organ failure and eventual death, and is nearly impossible to treat.
But none of this is the fault of cats! And killing cats to save other animals is not only ironic, but cruel.
Why Blaming Stray Cats Doesn’t Make Sense
Cats are just doing what cats do. It isn’t their fault that they exist, and we shouldn’t punish them for being born.
What we need is a solution that solves the problem right at its source!
Spay and Neuter
You may be familiar with programs such as ‘trap, neuter, return” (TNR). Cats will be caught and taken to the veterinarian to undergo spay or neuter surgery, and then returned to the place that they were caught from.
TNR programs do incredible work. However, they are expensive, challenging, and time-consuming.
Catching the cats can be challenging as they are often afraid of humans. And once they have had the spay or neuter surgery, they need time to recover before being released.
Spay and neuter is the most effective way to reduce population, but the way it is currently carried out needs an upgrade!
Spay and Neuter … Cookie?!
That’s why 600 Million Dogs is working on a Cookie to spay and neuter dogs and cats in just one dose.
The Cookie is in the research and development stage, but is being designed to be safe, effective, and permanent.
We should do everything we can to prevent more species from going extinct. However, killing animals to save animals is not a solution. Cats should not be brutally poisoned just because people believe there are too many of them.
Help support our efforts to prevent the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals across the world!