Audubon Afternoon

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

Please join us for a book talk by Pete Marra, co-author of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer.

Pete Marra, Director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Program will be discussing his recent book “Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer.”

Pre-order books: “Cat Wars” may be purchased online with a credit card or Pay Pal by clicking here. Copies will be available at the event for purchase with cash or check only. All books will be ready for pick-up at the Audubon Afternoon where Pete will sign copies. 

About Cat Wars

In 1894, a lighthouse keeper named David Lyall arrived on Stephens Island off New Zealand with a cat named Tibbles. In just over a year, the Stephens Island Wren, a rare bird endemic to the island, was rendered extinct. Mounting scientific evidence confirms what many conservationists have suspected for some time—that in the United States alone, free-ranging cats are killing birds and other animals by the billions. Equally alarming are the little-known but potentially devastating public health consequences of rabies and parasitic Toxoplasma passing from cats to humans at rising rates. Cat Wars tells the story of the threats free-ranging cats pose to biodiversity and public health throughout the world, and sheds new light on the controversies surrounding the management of the explosion of these cat populations.

This compelling book traces the historical and cultural ties between humans and cats from early domestication to the current boom in pet ownership, along the way accessibly explaining the science of extinction, population modeling, and feline diseases. It charts the developments that have led to our present impasse—from Stan Temple's breakthrough studies on cat predation in Wisconsin to cat-eradication programs underway in Australia today. It describes how a small but vocal minority of cat advocates has campaigned successfully for no action in much the same way that special interest groups have stymied attempts to curtail smoking and climate change.

Cat Wars paints a revealing picture of a complex global problem—and proposes solutions that foresee a time when wildlife and humans are no longer vulnerable to the impacts of free-ranging cats.

Peter P. Marra has written more than 175 scientific publications, is the coeditor of Birds of Two Worlds, and directs the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Chris Santella is the author of many books, including the Fifty Places travel and outdoor series and The Tug Is the Drug. His writing has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and Trout.


"We know that nature's theater bristles with industrious carnivores and omnivores--hawks that pluck cardinals right off a bird feeder, squirrels that grab eggs from crows' nests, and crows that grab babies from squirrels' nests. What makes free-ranging cats such an exceptionally dangerous threat to birds and other wildlife? The book describes a number of factors."--Natalie Angier, New York Review of Books

"Marra and Santella thoughtfully examine the severe ecological damage caused by feral cats and outdoor pet cats. Highly readable. . . . Cat lovers are presented in a sympathetic light throughout, making the book worth reading no matter a reader's position on free-ranging cats."--Publishers Weekly

"This deeply researched overview by conservation scientist Peter Marra and writer Chris Santella interlaces discussions of feline domestication and avian conservation with the science of decline and of feline spillover diseases."--Nature

"Marra and Santella make an impassioned plea for action in this compelling report on an often overlooked threat."--Scientific American

"Cat Wars is a work of commanding reasonableness, with plenty of facts and figures and the testimonies of experts to support its unpalatable conclusions. There are some fascinating digressions, too, including sympathetic profiles of activists on both sides of the debate in the U.S."--The Australian

"Cat Wars has a broader, more ecological focus, documenting the global impact of cats on wildlife, both by preying on animals and by transmitting diseases. . . . Marra and Santella explore the solutions (keeping cats indoors, catios--an enclosed area outside the home--and killing strays). . . . This is an important and eye-opening book that clearly says: 'keep Tiddles a house cat.'"--Adrian Barnett, New Scientist

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia is committed to reducing the causes of bird population decline in our region through education, field experience, research and dialogue. We are pleased to offer this program to the public as part of our Bird-Friendly Communities outreach which also includes our Cats-Safe-Indoors initiative, Audubon at Home habitat restoration program, long-term wildlife surveys andeducational outreach.

Sadly, humans kill billions of birds in the U.S. annually by allowing domestic cats to roam free or by sustaining feral cat colonies. We hope that Pete Marra’s presentation opens a community-wide dialogue about how to humanely address the issue of outdoor cats in our region.

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